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


APPENDIX 55

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Tyndall Centre

Funding

  The Tyndall Centre has a core five-year funding contract from NERC, ESRC and EPSRC covering the period 2000-01 to 2004-05. The total value of the contract is £10 million (ie, ®£2 million per annum) of which NERC contributes 50% and EPSRC 35%. The Centre was launched in November 2000. The Centre has also been successful during its first two years of operation in securing additional funding (amounting to nearly £1.5 million) from a wide range of national and international sources.

  The Centre will be formally evaluated by the Research Councils in quarter 2 of year 2004 and this evaluation will provide the basis for any recommendation for a second five-year funding contract from the Research Councils. We would therefore expect a decision to be made about future Tyndall funding towards the end of 2004. The level of prospective Phase 2 funding and the relative contribution from different Research Councils to such funding cannot be assessed at this stage. We do however wish to explore the possible involvement of the MRC, and maybe the BBSRC, in a future funding consortium since climate change clearly intersects with a number of the research areas of these two Councils.

"Towards a sustainable energy economy"

  This new initiative has only just formally been announced and it is too soon for us to know when and how input from the Tyndall Centre will be sought. We did submit some ideas back in the summer of 2001 about the desirable scope of such a new cross-council initiative and we are pleased that some of these ideas have been followed, in so much as the non-technical aspects of sustainable energy—planning, economics, behaviour, health, etc—will be considered. We also note that the OST document setting out the priorities of the Science Budget over the next few years specifically mentions that the new Energy Research Centre should work closely with the Tyndall Centre. We expect the form of this relationship to take shape during 2003. We note that the total funding for the new energy programme—®£28 million—is considerably larger (by a factor of three) than that of the Tyndall Centre.

Funding from DTI

  The annual budget from the DTI is £70,000 per annum and was granted at the onset of the Tyndall Centre for an initial period of three years. The award is specifically to cover the salary/overhead costs of a Business Liaison Manager and the activities associated with a Business Liaison programme. The aim is to design activities to allow UK business and industry to gain access to new strategic policy issues and emerging research results generated by the Centre, and others, and to help shape and prioritise future Tyndall research. The programme includes representation at selected Trade events and conferences; seminars to engage the Business community with Tyndall research activities and various communication materials.

Establishing research priorities

  The basic mandate of the Tyndall Centre was set by the Research Councils in the original tendering process of 1999, namely . . . ". . . to undertake inter-disciplinary research in support of sustainable solutions to climate change on both mitigation and adaptation agendas". Between 25 and 35% of our work is energy related. During its first year of operation the Tyndall Centre refined its research strategy through an extensive process of consultation inside and outside the Centre. This strategy was approved by our Advisory Board—drawn from business, government, science and civil society—and was published during the winter of 2001-02. It is viewable at: www.tyndall.ac.uk/research/strategy.shtml.

  The responsibility for implementing this strategy rests with the Centre Directors, assisted by the Research Management Team of the Centre—a group of about 10 senior scientists drawn from across the Centre's partner institutions. The setting and executing of research strategy is conducted largely independently of the funding Councils. The Supervisory Board, with whom we meet annually and which has a representative from each funding Council, monitors progress and performance and pays close attention to the Output Performance Measures of the Centre. They also seek to ensure value for money. The Supervisory Board has no concern, however, with the day-to-day running of the Centre.

Tyndall Centre management

  The investment of core Tyndall funds in research activities has been organised around three funding rounds. Round 1 projects (about 35% of available funds) started in 2001, Round 2 projects (about 50% of funds) started in 2002, and Round 3 projects (about 15% of funds) will start in 2003. Round 1 projects were subject to a competition internal to the Tyndall Centre's partner institutions; Round 2 projects were open to competition from any academic research organisation in the UK and the process was guided by an independent international review panel. The result was that about 55% of Round 2 funds have been invested in scientists and research groups outside the Tyndall Centre partnership. Round 3 proposals are currently under development and this process will proceed largely by invitation—to research groups both inside and outside the Centre—again informed by the external review panel.

  Various management structures have been established to ensure that the Tyndall Centre is more than merely a research network or a simple funding body. Although our partners are spread across nine research institutions, and our Round 2 projects engage a further 15 or so research groups in additional institutions, research is co-ordinated and monitored from the Tyndall Centre HQ at UEA. The management structures in place to ensure quality and monitor progress include:

    —  the appointment of four Research Theme managers, of senior scientist status;

    —  the appointment of four Senior Research Fellows who undertake integrative research drawing upon Tyndall projects;

    —  quarterly face-to-face meetings of the Research Management Team;

    —  a fortnightly internal e-bulletin for all registered Tyndall researchers for the exchange of news;

    —  an annual Tyndall Assembly for all Tyndall researchers and scientists;

    —  occasional 24-hour internal Tyndall cross-Theme workshops;

    —  regular meetings of Tyndall project scientists, organised by Themes;

    —  quarterly written reports from each Tyndall project;

    —  annual submission of Output Performance Measures to the Research Councils, collated from across all Tyndall Centre activities; and

    —  an independent Advisory Board of 24 members drawn from senior positions in business, government, science and civil society.

OTHER COMMENTS

  It is worth pointing out that the Tyndall Centre is in many ways a novel way of organising and conducting cross-Council and inter-disciplinary research in the UK. The Centre has some characteristics of a Network, some characteristics of an Institute, some characteristics of a Research Council Centre and some characteristics of a Research Council thematic programme. The management structures and reporting principles are therefore in many ways unique to the Tyndall Centre, as is the way in which the Centre has to relate to three different Research Councils. This latter requirement has shown up the different—sometimes radically different—ways in which different Research Councils operate and co-operate.

  Since we are working not just at the interfaces of traditional disciplines, but also at the interfaces between Research Councils, we have seen at first hand—and at times been disadvantaged by—the difficulties of funding truly trans-disciplinary research in the UK. We have established good working relationships with each of our three funding Councils and seek to share our experiences with them and with other academic research organisations. The Tyndall Centre "model" has also been noted in a number of European countries and we have received invitations to visit Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Norway to share our experiences and lessons. We are also leading, under the 6th Framework Programme of the EU, an initiative to establish a European Network of Excellence is the area of integrated sustainability assessment which again will benefit from the experience of the Tyndall Centre in the UK.

8 January 2003



 
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