Science and Technology Facilities
55. Next Steps also proposed the merger of
the CCLRC and PPARC to create a Large Facilities Council, with
PPARC's grant-giving functions moving to the EPSRC. Following
consultation, it was announced that the new Council would be a
straight merger of the CCLRC and PPARC, with the addition of the
nuclear physics research activities of the EPSRC, and that the
new Council would not lose PPARC's grant-giving powers to the
EPSRC. In introducing the instrument which sets up the Science
and Technology Facilities Council, the Minister for Science told
a Commons Delegated Legislation Committee that:
The aim of the new council will be to create
a more integrated approach to large scientific research facilities,
including in international negotiations for long-term projects
involving several countries acting together; to obtain more value
from the knowledge and technologies developed as a result of the
new council's programmes; and to deliver both those goals using
the two science and innovation campuses at Harwell and Daresbury
as identifiable knowledge transfer centres that host UK-based
large-scale international facilities.
The new Council should begin operating on 1 April
2007 with Professor Keith Mason, currently of PPARC, as Chief
56. The STFC will have significant funds to expend.
At present, the Science Budget invests approximately £500
million in building and running large-scale research facilities,
mainly managed through PPARC and CCLRC. The OSI also manages a
separate Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF) worth about £100
million, which allows Research Councils to seek additional capital
for large-scale investments. The STFC will have a budget of around
£530 million for 2007-08. Transitional costs are described
as "modest", but the Regulatory Impact Assessment which
accompanied the Order predicted that there will no administrative
cost savings because of the shared service centre planned by the
There were concerns that the STFC would be hampered by CCLRC liabilities,
but we have been reassured by the Minister for Science that these
will not be transferred to the STFC.
57. The Regulatory Impact Assessment suggests that
"The OSI will address longer term funding after the DTI's
CSR07 settlement is known".
We asked Professor Mason, the Chief Executive designate, about
the likely budget of the new Council. He stressed that "if
we are to make a success of this new council and realise its full
potential we need to resource it appropriately, and that requires
some increasea modest increase".
He was confident that "in setting up the new council
the Treasury and OSI have both been very clear that the aim is
not to save money; the aim is to make the UK more effective in
the scientific arena and to allow us to compete".
We recommend that the funding for the Science and Technology
Facilities Council from the CSR round be an increase over the
combined existing budgets of its component parts in order that
it can achieve its potential.
58. The RIA prepared by the DTI identified the risks
of establishing the new Council to be that
funding may be diverted away from grants to support
facilities management and that Universities could also be disadvantaged
in favour of Government-run facilities as a result. This approach
could also lead to the risk of a potential conflict of interest
in grant giving for example in the future management of large
facilities which are currently operated by CCLRC on behalf of
During the course of our ongoing inquiry into UK
space policy, we received evidence suggesting that there could
be tension within the STFC between funding for large facilities
and funding for basic science within other programmes.
Professor Keith Mason assured us that "there is no conflict":
he averred "I am comfortable that we already have mechanisms
in place that can handle this transparently and achieve an appropriate
Keith O'Nions also assured us in January 2007 that "I think
you will be quite impressed with sort of advisory structure that
is being put together for STFC" and that "It is going
to be a very distinctive and exciting council".
He had previously described it as "a significant prize in
59. When the suggestion for the new Council was first
mooted, we were concerned at the lack of consultation within the
research community on the idea, even with key players at the existing
Councils. However, we have been reassured by the strength of the
support expressed in the consultation process for the Council
and by the Government's responsiveness to those elements of the
proposals which were raising concerns. We will monitor the
operations of the STFC once it has come into being and will look
for an opportunity to discuss its progress, work and administration
with Professor Mason once a reasonable period has elapsed.