Memorandum submitted by the Economic and
Social Research Council
RD&D IN NON-CARBON
BY UK GOVERNMENT,
1. The Economic and Social Research Council
(ESRC) is the largest independent funding agency for social science
research and training in the UK. It funds basic, strategic and
applied research in higher education institutions and independent
research institutes through its responsive mode and through priority
investments, such as research centres and programmes, addressing
its seven Thematic Priorities. Socio-economic research on energy
is currently being funded under a number of the ESRC's Thematic
Priorities, including Environment and Human Behaviour, Economic
Performance and Development, Governance and Citizenship, Work
and Organisations and Social Stability and Exclusion (Tables 3
and 4, Annex A).
2. Following the completion of ESRC's major
10-year Global Environmental Change Programme in 2001, the main
current Programme of relevance is ESRC's new £3 million ESRC;
Sustainable Technologies Programme (2002-06). The Programme aims
to fund innovative social and economic research into the shaping,
development and use of more sustainable technologies and is part
of the UK Sustainable Technologies Initiative (STI) sponsored
by the DTI, EPSRC, DEFRA and the BBSRC. Commissioning of the first
round of research under the Programme has recently been completed.
Five of the six projects funded under the first round are focused
(in whole or part) on energy-related issues (Table 3). Commissioning
of a second round will commence later this year.
3. The ESRC's major activities in the energy
research field are all currently being conducted in close collaboration
and co-ordination with other key partners. These include the Tyndall
Centre for Climate Change Research (with EPSRC, NERC and DTI),
Sustainable Technologies (with DTI, EPSRC, DEFRA and BBSRC) and
SUPERGEN (with EPSRC, NERC, BBSRC and a range of other consortia
partners). ESRC's contribution to the Tyndall Centre for Climate
Change Research, represents its largest current investment in
energy-related research through its funding of research centres.
ESRC's current contribution to the Tyndall Centre as a whole is
£1.25 million over five years (£250k per annum) up to
2005-06. Information on the Centre's research is provided in Annex
4. In addition, the Centre for Social and
Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE) based at
the University of East Anglia is currently running a £2.15
million ESRC Programme on Environmental Decision-Making (2001-06).
Although most of this research is not focused on the energy sector,
the programme includes work of general relevance under the following
three main headings:
Multi-level Environmental Governance
and Environmental Policy Integration.
Social Capital, Equity and Justice
in Environmental Decision-Making.
Innovation in Decision Support (Tools
5. Some research at other ESRC funded research
centres, such as the Transport Studies Unit (University College
London) and the new Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability,
Sustainability and Society (BRASS, University of Cardiff) may
also be of more general relevance.
6. Energy Research is also funded through
a number of other schemes (eg responsive mode, other research
programmes etc) and a summary of other current relevant research
is provided in Table 4.
7. The ESRC welcomes the recognition of
the importance of socio-economic issues in the PIU's Energy Review
and the recommendation made by the Chief Scientific
Adviser's Energy Research Group that "there
should be further strategic investigation and appropriate research
into non-technical policy drivers, including regulatory as well
as social, commercial and economic drivers". The Council
has recently commissioned a number of energy research projects
as a part of the first phase of its Sustainable Technologies Programme
http://www.sustainabletechnologies.ac.uk/home for more information),
which is being conducted in collaboration with the cross Council
Sustainable Technologies Initiative. The Council is collaborating
with the EPSRC, BBSRC, and NERC in a supplementary call to the
EPSRC's SUPERGEN programme and is exploring the potential for
collaboration with the Carbon Trust and EPSRC on low carbon innovation.
The Council also believes that, subject to the necessary funds
being made available, socio-economic issues (including energy
markets, regulation, policy and planning, social impacts and public
acceptability) should form a part of the core integrative multi-disciplinary
research agenda of the proposed energy research centre.
OF RD&D FOR
8. Although there are currently a number
of, comparatively small, high-quality research centres conducting
research on the socio-economics of energy, the ESRC believes that
the scale of the research challenges ahead requires the expansion
and strengthening of current research capacity. It will also be
important to draw in perspectives from, and engage, the broader
social science community and develop further inter-disciplinary
research linkages outside the social sciences. The ESRC hopes
to explore the opportunities for strengthening such capacity in
collaboration with the other Research Councils as a part of the
follow-up to the SR2002 Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy proposal
(Annex B), building upon current work (eg under the SUPERGEN and
Sustainable Technologies Programmes).
ENERGY RD&D IS
9. The ESRC welcomes the potential opportunities
that the proposed creation of a UK Energy Research Centre would
provide to further enhance collaboration and co-ordination with
other Research Councils, government, industry and a range of other
key stakeholders in energy research (Annex B).
ENERGY RD&D AND
10. Although the ESRC is currently supporting
some international comparative and collaborative social science
research on energy (for example on environmental policy instruments),
the Council believes that there is a need for further such work.
Significant opportunities for such research exist through the
EU's Sixth Framework Competition, building upon work funded under
FP5. The ESRC also hopes that the proposed new UK Energy Research
Centre will play a leading role in promoting the development of
international collaborative work and that funding will be available
as a part of this initiative for international comparative social