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


Further supplementary memorandum submitted by Research Councils UK


  1.  All of the Research Councils involved in the cross Council "Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy" Programme (primarily EPSRC, ESRC and NERC) are of the view that the research challenges and opportunities required to underpin UK policy development demand whole systems integrated approaches. Creation of a UK Energy Research Centre, that draws on a National Energy Research Network, is a critical part of that programme and will serve to provide much needed coordination and cohesion of the many current and proposed UK research activities. It will also greatly assist in initiating and promoting the interdisciplinary collaborations required.

  2.  A total of £20 million has been allocated to the Research Councils for this programme. In addition, £8 million has been allocated to EPSRC in response to the PIU study that will be used to complement the investments in the cross-Council programme.

  3.  NERC is taking the lead in implementing the new programme and is chairing the Programme Management Group of Research Councils that received funds (EPSRC, ESRC and NERC) plus BBSRC and CLRC. Research Councils are also giving consideration as to how best to engage and involve other major players eg Carbon Trust and DTI. A Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) is being established to provide advice on emphasis of the research agenda for this first phase of the programme (the SR2002 settlement did not provide funding to fulfil all of the research areas identified in the original submission). The SAC will also draw on advice from the inter-agency High Level Energy R&D Group and any additional research themes identified in the forthcoming Energy White Paper.

  4.  In response to the specific questions raised in your 22 November 2002:

    —  "How much new money is being made available?" This is still to be confirmed by the Programme Management Group assessments are that between £8 million and £12 million will be required to establish the Energy Research Centre.

    —  "How will the money be directed?" Arrangements are still under discussion but the Research Councils are in the process of establishing a Scientific Advisory Committee that will advise on the priorities for the Centre both within the scope of the Spending Review bid and other ongoing energy research supported by the Research Councils and other agencies.

    —  "What sort of budgetary controls will be in place?" The detailed management arrangements for the Energy Research Centre have not been discussed at this stage, but is likely to involve an independent-dominated management board that will approve the Centre's research programme and networking activities. In addition, ongoing financial/management oversight will be maintained by the supporting Councils.

    —  "To what extent is this new money on top of existing expenditure and/or includes previous/existing funding streams?" Funding for the Energy Research Centre is all new money from SR2002. Research Councils can provide supporting evidence that pre-existing commitments, eg EPSRC £5 million per annum for SUPERGEN and £14 million (50% from the Carbon Trust) for Carbon Vision are unaffected and will be committed to research consortia that are linked to the Centre through the National Energy Research Network.

  5.  Research Councils are finalising the detail for the establishment of a website for the Programme that will be the source of information on developments and funding opportunities. The Programme Management Group is also currently discussing the first draft of an expressions of interest announcement for establishing and running the Energy Research Centre.

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