The Technology Strategy Board
20. The Technology Strategy Board was transferred
to the new OSI as part of the Innovation Group. Established in
October 2004 to implement a recommendation made in the DTI 2003
Innovation report, and expanded on in the Science and Innovation
Investment Framework 2004-2014, the Board's role is "to
operate on a cross-Government basis, advising the Secretary of
State for Trade and Industry on business research, technology
and innovation priorities for the UK, the allocation of funding
across these priorities and the most appropriate ways to support
them". It fulfils
this role through the development and delivery of the Government's
technology strategy and oversight of the DTI-led technology programme,
which invests £200m a year in collaborative R&D projects
and Knowledge Transfer Networks. The Board consists of a mixture
of business people, venture capitalists, regional members, a Research
Council Chief Executive and high-level representatives of the
DTI and Government, including Professor Sir Keith O'Nions.
21. The Technology Strategy Board was granted a wider
remit in the Science and Innovation Investment Framework: Next
Steps document which accompanied the March 2006 Budget, to
"stimulate business innovation in those areas which offer
the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity".
At the same time, it was announced that "plans for [the Board]
to operate at arm's length from central government are being developed".
The timescale for this project envisages the new body being formally
inaugurated in April 2007 and then fully operational by July.
It will also move from London to Swindon as part of this change.
The period of appointment of the current members which was due
to expire in October 2006 has been extended by a year to cover
the period of change.
22. Some criticism has been voiced about the effectiveness
of the Board. When its first annual report was published in November
2005, commentators noted that "much of the strategy is still
up for discussion" and "something is happening though
few people seem to know quite what".
In March 2006, the Board was accused by an editorial in Research
Fortnight of being 'amateurish'.
The Board implicitly acknowledged some truth in this criticism
of its performance when it stated in its latest annual report
that "we believe that during this second year the Board and
the activities it supports have started to make a real impact".
We note that in the recent Budget the Government announced "a
number of initiatives to strengthen the impact of the TSB",
including targets for collaborative research with the Research
Councils, £100 million for collaborative R&D, new innovation
platforms, two new Knowledge Transfer Networks and the use of
secondees from industry.
23. We have raised concerns that there should be
effective oversight of the Board itself as it moves to become
an arm's length organisation with a current budget of £200
million to deploy. The Minister for Science did not answer this
question directly but assured us that "in terms of the overall
strategy, in terms of the broad priorities, we want quite a lot
of ministerial engagement on this".
The quinquennial review of the Board is still some time away.
We are anxious that it not be delayed because of the change in
status. We recognise that the changes announced in the Budget
arose from early conclusions of the Sainsbury Review (see further
below), but we are not convinced that that Review has addressed
this issue. The need to appoint new members in October 2007
should provide an opportunity for a review of the Technology Strategy
Board's activities in order to inform decisions on new appointees.
We recommend that this review be carried out before October.