Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2

Submission by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)


  1.  EPSRC are the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing around £500 million a year in a broad range of subjects—from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.

  2.  The Council operate to meet the needs of industry and society by working in partnership with universities to invest in people and scientific discovery and innovation. The knowledge and expertise gained maintains a technological leading edge, builds a strong economy and improves people's quality of life.

  3.  The work of EPSRC is complementary to other research investors including other Research Councils, government agencies, industry and the European Union. The Council actively engage in and encourage partnerships and collaborations across disciplines, boundaries and the world.

  4.  EPSRC also actively promote public engagement in science, engineering and technology.


  5.  It is important to recognise that the UK pharmaceuticals sector has been highlighted by the DTI R&D Scoreboard as having an especially high R&D intensity, 14.6% compared with 13.0% internationally, and 2.2% for UK industry overall. It is second only to the USA's industry in this respect.

  6.  The Pharmaceutical industry has extensive links with UK Universities. The expenditure on research and development by industry within the pharmaceuticals sector is several times larger than the most generous estimates of the relevant public and charitable research spending in these sectors. The pharmaceutical industry is also a major employer of UK science and engineering graduates and postgraduates. It is inevitable, therefore, that the sector plays a significant role in the development of University research and training strategies.

  7.  As part of its strategy of engagement with industry, EPSRC visits players across this sector on an ongoing basis to increase its understanding of their businesses and to make industry more aware of the opportunities for active interaction with EPSRC policy and activities. This is in addition to the strong relationships with many companies through community consultation and direct participation by industry in peer review and policy panels, research projects and training. Interactions extend to, for example, the secondment of EPSRC staff to placements in pharmaceutical companies. A summary of our internal Pharmaceuticals Sector Brief, setting out our strategy for engagement with the Sector, is attached for additional information at the Annex 4.

  8.  EPSRC supports a wide range of research and training activities that underpin the pharmaceuticals sector to a total value on 1 April 2003 of £175 million. Figure 1 (overleaf) highlights collaborative research activities with those companies with five or more current collaborations on the census date.

  9.  EPSRC currently supports over 700 EPSRC funded grants underpinning the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors distributed cross the UK academic sector. Figure 2 (overleaf) shows the academic institutions with current EPSRC grant support of £4 million or greater relevant to the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors. The Sector is active in a wide range of collaborative research activities including Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres, Faraday Partnerships and LINK Programmes.

  10.  EPSRC has also established a number of Strategic Partnerships with industry where research is jointly commissioned to address areas of common strategic concern. The EPSRC/GSK Combichem Initiative was one of the first such activities and involved an open call for proposals for research in combinatorial and solid phase chemistry with £1.5 million of funding being split equally between EPSRC and GSK. Strategic partnerships R&D is commissioned through the rigorous peer review process required for Research Council funding.

  11.  EPSRC also supports a range of collaborative training activities with the sector at both masters and doctoral level. The Sector is a major recipient of Industrial CASE studentships where the studentships are allocated to companies who then chose the academic partner that hosts the CASE student. EPSRC allocated a total of 330 Industrial CASE awards in 2001, of which 59 were associated with the pharmaceuticals sector.

Figure 1


  Figure 1: EPSRC collaborative activity with industry on 1 April 2003 relevant to the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors (The contributions data excludes the £750k contribution made by GSK towards the joint EPSRC/GSK call for proposals in combinatorial chemistry).

Figure 2


  Figure 2: Academic institutions with major current EPSRC grant funding relevant to the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors (University College London does not include funding provided to the Royal Institution).

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