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Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-90)



80.  Have you taken on extra staff for Science Year?

  (Mr Tomlinson) We have a team that is located in Tufton Street, and many of those are on relatively short-term contracts and are funded through the monies that were given to us by the DfES to run Science Year. When Science Year ends, many of those people, although not all of them, will depart.

81.  Have you had to use some of your normal budget to employ these extra people, or is it all paid from extra funds?

  (Mr Newton) It is all paid for from the DfES. We have allocated some of our programme money towards projects that relate to Science Year, so some of NESTA's education programme money has been allocated to the Science Year project; but the total operating bill has been picked up by DfES.
  (Mr Tomlinson) We have secured almost an equal amount to the DfES grant as support from other bodies. For example, we have managed to put in to nearly all primary schools a digital microscope which has been supplied free of charge to schools, and that was nearly 1.8 million from the company concerned; so we have managed to find other sources of funding.

82.  Getting back to the idea of this 24-month year, if it is extended would you retain management of it? Is that your proposal?

  (Lord Puttnam) We will sign a new contract with the Department and see it through.

Bob Spink

83.  Your sponsoring department is Culture, Media and Sport. Notwithstanding the source of funds, do you not think that your activities indicate that you probably need to build strong relationships with perhaps the Department of Trade and Industry or the Department for Education?

  (Lord Puttnam) We have built a very strong relationship with the Department for Education over the last 18 months. We have a good relationship with the DTI, which could be advanced upon. The DTI has been tremendously supportive in the creation of Futurelab.

84.  What input does DCMS have to your activities?

  (Mr Newton) To be frank with you, very little. They do not have the power to issue policy directions in the way they do with the other Lottery distributors, so there is no formal mechanism by which they would seek to influence our policy. In fact the informal mechanisms are much more to do with a sharing of information about their policy priorities and how there are occasions where they interrelate to ours. Those where they do not are not a problem.

85.  Do you share with them important financial decisions before you go forward?

  (Mr Newton) No. We have been given the power to take our own decisions on pretty well everything. The only decisions they take are the appointment of new trustees. Historically we have reported a great deal of detail in order to help them with their information-gathering about objective-setting and so on, but none of our decisions are subject to DCMS approval.

86.  Your objectives and your mission statement are very clear. You have a business plan, and you are going to send us a copy of the latest one. They are not involved in your day-to-day activities or even sharing your major financial decisions, so why do you have to hold regular liaison meetings with them?

  (Mr Newton) We see it as our responsibility to keep them informed about what we do, partly because of the historical statutory thing, but partly because there are important areas in which our interests overlap, particularly in relation to the creative industries and some of the more specific arts issues. There are those areas where it is important that we seek to influence their policy, if you like, rather than vice versa.

87.  How much of your work is geared towards entertaining people—the creative industries—and how much is work and funding geared towards wealth creation eventually, or academia and wealth creation?

  (Lord Puttnam) I would say it is 80:20 in terms of the wealth creation sector.

88.  It is 80 towards wealth and 20 towards entertainment.

  (Lord Puttnam) Yes, but I'd challenge the distinction. Creative industries are probably one of the best performing sectors that we have at the moment.

89.  It is 80:20, and yet your major responsibility and reporting line and communication is through DCMS and not through DTI or the Department of Education.

  (Lord Puttnam) Simply because DCMS inherited the responsibility for monitoring Lottery resources.

90.  Are you happy with the structure as it is, with DCMS, or do you think it can be developed in some way?

  (Lord Puttnam) The most honest answer I can give is that if we get our additional resources, I would be delighted to develop it; if we do not, I would like to have a good long think about it.

  Chairman: We have come to the end of our questioning. Thank you very much for coming. You know this Committee maintains a great interest in NESTA not just on the science and technology side but the arts and its structures and relationships. That has been clear in the questioning today. We will continue to monitor you and see how it goes. We may produce a report from this but I will see how the Committee feel about that. I cannot thank you enough for being frank in answering our questions. Your enthusiasm certainly comes through and we wish you well. If we can help in enterprises, that is the spirit in which we have engaged with you today. Thank you very much.


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