Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Research Councils UK


  1.  There is growing recognition of the need to provide more coherence to the UK energy research agenda. One mechanism being proposed to enhance connectivity and co-ordination of current and future initiatives is the establishment of a UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). This requirement has been identified in a number of recent publications, reports and proposals for additional funding.

  2.  This paper sets out the Research Councils' initial thoughts on the rôle and function of a UKERC. They are cast in the context of a wider cross Research Council research proposal on Sustainable Energy that will be funded as part of the Spending Review 2002 settlement.

  3.  The Group is invited to:

    (i)  endorse the proposal that a UKERC be established;

    (ii)  offer views on the role set out for it in paragraphs 5 and 6; and

    (iii)  offer a steer as to how the proposal should be developed.


  4.  The attached diagram attempts to summarise the complex research landscape, indicating how the existing major initiatives and activities could be organised to form a National Energy Research Network (NERN). Under such a model, the UKERC would act as the "hub" of a network that links other centres of excellence, research institutes etc. Establishment of a UKERC would add value to the currently diverse and uncoordinated research effort by:

    —  promoting interdisciplinary, integrated whole systems approaches to UK energy research;

    —  providing greater coherence, coordination and connectivity for all government-funded energy research activities primarily via establishment and operation of a NERN;

    —  providing a focal point for data and information on UK energy research funding;

    —  provide a capability for effective knowledge transfer of research outcomes to both business and policy makers eg Sustainable Energy Policy Unit; and

    —  providing views and advice on future research needs, strengths, weaknesses etc.

  5.  Other key activities of UKERC would be:

    —  to be a centre of excellence in its own right (UKERC cannot cover all aspects of energy research but would be expected to attract top scientists and provide the focus in at least one major research area);

    —  to undertake pre-commercial and policy-relevant academic research;

    —  to develop an international leadership role and, over time, acquire a status within government as the recognised coordinator for Energy R&D;

    —  to bring together key stakeholders (government, industry, Carbon Trust etc) and leading research workers to promote collaborations and maximise returns on investments;

    —  capacity building (eg postgraduate training);

    —  communication (website; engagement with all stakeholders and public); and

    —  to be a centre for hosting meetings, research seminar and workshops.

  6.  Research Councils are firmly of the view that UKERC should remain independent of the proposed Sustainable Energy Policy Unit.


  7.  Following the confirmation of Spending Review 2002 allocation for the cross-Council Sustainable Energy programme, a draft specification for the role and function of UKERC should form the basis of wide consultation that includes an open/town meeting. [Jan-March 2003].

  8.  Using feedback and input from an extensive and inclusive consultation exercise, Research Councils and other stakeholders and funders will produce an open call setting out the magnitude, scope, role and function, of the UKERC and NERN in the context of the cross-Council Sustainable Energy programme. Assuming agreement of approaches amongst all research funders, over the period March-June 2003 it will be necessary to:

    —  establish the UKERC/NERN Research Funders Advisory/Strategy Committee who will finalise the open call and define governance arrangements and other expectations; and

    —  issue an open call to host the UKERC and establish NERN that incorporates research funders requirements and expectations for reporting, governance and management.

  9.  In parallel with the above exercise, Research Councils agree that it will be necessary to set in train recruitment exercises for identifying and selecting:

    —  a high profile Research Director to head a research team that organises and manage at least the UKERC and NERN research portfolio; and

    —  an Executive Director responsible for establishing an administrative headquarters and the infrastructural arrangements for achieving the aims and objectives set out in paragraphs 3 and 4.

  10.  By January 2004, it would be expected that key personnel will have been appointed such that funding for the Centre's research programme and NERN can commence in April 2004.

December 2002

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