Select Committee on Science and Technology Fourth Report


192. International collaboration in energy RD&D has many advantages such as exposure to the best of overseas innovation and technology and the participation of UK scientists in the best international research. It also enables the UK to take part in programmes that it would otherwise not fund and provides a critical mass, a benefit provided that the UK gets a proportional return. As Tom Delay from the Carbon Trust put it: "there are some technologies that really will only succeed if managed and invested in on a collaborative basis between nations, companies and so on".[321] Over-reliance on international collaboration could result in UK interests not being reflected in the technology or the timescale of the project. The Government also has a concern that components and services are sourced from overseas with UK companies losing out.[322]

193. The Government identifies three forms of international collaboration: the European Union's Framework Programme for Research and Development, the International Energy Agency's Implementing Agreements, and bilateral Memoranda of Understanding, such as that with US Department of Energy.

194. We considered the energy funding from the European Commission's Framework Programme in paragraphs 53-56. We are addressing this funding stream in our inquiry "UK Science in Europe: Value for Money?". We aim to establish whether Framework 6 and the European Research Area promote valuable collaborations or simply alliances of convenience, and whether research collaborations are flourishing in Europe outside of the Programme. We plan to report in summer 2003.

195. DTI has a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Department of Energy "to continue, expand, and maximise cooperation in energy research and development". It was signed in 2000 and runs for 10 years. The areas covered are fossil energy; renewable energy; waste management and the environment; energy end-use technologies; and policy research.[323] Sir David King told us the value of this agreement, although it is hard to believe that the US is being quite as generous as he implies.[324]

196. The International Energy Agency, of which the UK is a member, runs a number of international collaborative energy RD&D projects known as Implementing Agreements. Countries can choose to participate in these collaborations, or not. As of November 2002, the UK participated in all but six of the 42 programmes (including nine through EURATOM).[325]

197. There is a danger that international collaboration is seen as an alternative to a strong domestic programme. This cannot be allowed to occur. Britain needs the researchers to ensure that the UK can apply the research to its own needs; moreover the UK needs to develop researchers who are competent to take part in international collaborations. The UK can only play a significant role in international programmes if it is done from a strong national base. Participation in multinational ventures must be used to complement a strong domestic RD&D base.

321   Q 257 Back

322   Ev 105 Back

323   Ev 106 Back

324   Q 577 Back

325 Back

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