Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
WEDNESDAY 13 JUNE 2007
Q260 Chairman: I am sorry, are you
saying the industry is developing these technologies that they
think the customer wants.
Mr Burt: That is certainly one
aspect and the other aspect is working alongside the centres of
excellence, where technologies have been developed in the laboratories
and the government institutes, and pulling those through. But
the disadvantage with the current system is that, more often than
not, (a) there is no mechanism to enable early engagement between
industry and the centres of excellence, and (b) there are really
no formal funding mechanisms to take that through. It is often
a question of industry assuming it is making the right liaisons
in the first place, and that is down to industry's initiative,
and then hoping that it carries the right ones through to the
Q261 Chairman: Whose role is it to
do that coordination? Is it industry's role? Is it the Government's
Mr Burt: At the moment it is happening
through industry's initiative. Industry is very much looking for
the Government to give better links and clarification across agencies
because, more often than not, there may well be a technology in
one agency that would be very applicable to use by others where
commercial products are needed and that cross-agency link is certainly
Q262 Chairman: Mr Gallett, in terms
of looking at the oceans, traditionally things like fishing have
been the main exploitation of the oceans. Whilst you have said
that fishing was in reasonably rude healthwhich was a comment
you made earlier, as far as the UK is concerned and its competitiveness
with Europewhere are the new areas of exploitation of the
oceans that we are looking at?
Mr Gallett: If you are talking
about industrial exploitation, I think there are several areas.
The first one is oil and gas. That is a very strong area and it
is one of the things that has often been neglected from a view
of a marine world. Most of the UK expertise lies in sub-sea technology.
We are now operating, not in the UK itself but using UK people,
UK firms, UK expertise, in over 2,000 metres of water, where you
are putting a well-head, effectively, on the sea floor and connecting
it up which is a major task in that sort of water beds. The area
that I see growing dramatically is offshore fish farming. We have
recently run a conference, for instance, in Malta on that particular
subject. I think it is one of the growth areas. There is agreement
around the world, there is a recognition, that the world is going
to be short of protein in the near future. There are no more wild
fisheries or very little to exploitin fact those are declining
in general terms. The land production of protein is also maximised
at the moment. One great thought there is that a lot of it will
now become offshore fish farming, where you do not have a lot
of problems with detritus and the other problems that are familiar
with farmed salmon, for instance, in lochs and fiords.
Q263 Chairman: Do you have anything
to add, Dr Rayner?
Dr Rayner: Renewable energy is
probably one area that should be included. Offshore sources of
renewable energy and marine sources generally.
Q264 Chairman: Is this using the
ocean itself, using tidal power?
Dr Rayner: Using tidal power,
using wave power, using tidal stream, using the temperature differentials
in the ocean, not necessarily as a direct source of power but
there are now schemes using cold water from the oceans as an aid
to cooling buildings, for example. There are lots of areas which
are open for exploitation.
Q265 Chairman: Mr Burt, are there
new areas of exploitation of the oceans? Nobody has mentioned
health, for instance. I thought that might have been an area using
marine products for health and for chemicals.
Mr Burt: There are significant
unknowns in the oceans which could be exploited for the health
industry. It is very early days and it is really just feasibility
studies at this stage.
Mr Gallett: Marine bio-technology
is another area of great interest. Some of the mechanisms in the
ocean are still unknown but quite a lot of them have perhaps usefulness
in the bio-technology area. The main link considered in that is
that the source will be the marine bodies but not in great volume.
Once you have extracted what you need from it, you can then grow
that in a laboratory. In terms of a large-scale resource, probably
not; but in terms of new ideas for marine bio-technology, certainly.
Q266 Chairman: Are you all heavily
involved, for instance, in the climate change agenda and in terms
of what is happening to the deposits of carbon?
Mr Gallett: Yes, very much so.
Q267 Chairman: Is that a growing
part of your business?
Mr Gallett: Yes, I think so. Dr
Rayner mentioned renewable energy and I was going to mention that
as well. It is the key one, I believe, but also another area of
interest is the disposal of carbon into the ground through carbon
capture and storage. Most of that would go under the seanot
in the sea but under the sea. That is using the same technologies
that the oil and gas community has already developed for developing
the UK continental shelf, for instance.
Q268 Chairman: Will we ever get the
Peterhead project off the ground?
Mr Gallett: A good question, sir.
I do not know. Scotland was very annoyed about that when I was
up there a couple of weeks ago.
Q269 Chairman: We will leave that
hanging. Dr Thompson, future demand for marine technologies. What
do you see in research terms? Where is the demand going to come
from and how are you going to meet it?
Dr Thompson: Energy is one area
where clearly the marine environment has a big part to play, both
in energy generation but also carbon storage. We see that as a
really important area. Another area is the whole issue of living
with environmental change and how we respond to technology to
cope with the environmental changes that will come about. There
are big opportunities there but also big challenges. They are
really the areas we see as most important. The other area is all
about transportation, marine transportation and more energy efficient
transportation, which is an area where there is a lot of opportunities
to improve the efficiency of transportation. Just look at carbon
budgets and how transportation contributes to the carbon loading
of the world, then there are big opportunities to look at more
efficient marine transportation systems.
Q270 Chairman: How well placed is
the UK science base and technology base to do that in research
Dr Thompson: It is always very
dangerous to say we are very well placed because you do not necessarily
know what is happening around the rest of the world. We have some
real strengths in the UK but certainly from an engineering and
physical sciences viewpoints we have some concerns. One of the
areas we are concerned about is the strength in renewable marine
energy. While we do have some strengths, we do not think we have
enough diversity in the UK, so that is an area where we have just
targeted to form a new research group through the science and
innovation awards, which was a funding stream we received from
the last spending review settlement. There we are looking to fund
three lectureships, three post docs and three students to come
together to form a new critical mass centre to increase the diversity
of researchers and groups that can tackle some of the challenges
in marine renewables.
Q271 Chairman: Will that be a co-located
Dr Thompson: It will definitely
be a co-located group.
Q272 Chairman: Where?
Dr Thompson: It is currently under
competition. There are a number of universities that have been
short-listed and we will wait to see where peer review says is
the best place.
Q273 Chairman: You cannot give us
Dr Thompson: I cannot give you
a hint, but there are some strong universities short-listed.
Chairman: Excellent. We will move on.
Q274 Dr Turner: 1991 saw the establishment
of a committee with one of the worst acronyms I have ever come
across: IACMST. What effect has this had on the coordination,
organisation and funding of marine science in the UK? Has it produced?
Mr Gallett: The problem to me
is that if you go back to 1984, when the Lords Select Committee
looked at it and, following that, set up the Coordinating Committee
of Marine Science and Technology which had a specific coordinating
role, that came out and produced a strategy for marine science.
On the date you gave, that ceased operating and was replaced by
the Inter-Agency Committee, which had far less teeth, far less
ability to coordinate. Its role was more to try to arrange for
the ability to coordinate. Within its remit I think it has done
extremely well but it did not enforce coordination, which the
original committee was intended so to do.
Q275 Dr Turner: It lacks any teeth
and it lacks any funding, so it is a talk shop.
Mr Gallett: It does more than
that. It has achieved quite a bit.
Q276 Dr Turner: What would you all
like to see done to improve coordination of the UK's marine science
activities? Do you think the IACMST can play a role in it? What
needs to be done to that body to make it effective?
Dr Rayner: I think it needs to
have more capacity to effect linkages and to enforce linkages.
As Ian Gallett has said, the problem at the moment is that it
is representative of the different bodies in government but it
has no ability to do anything other than talk about coordination
as opposed to drive coordination. If I look at the parallel in
the United States, in the United States the equivalent of the
IACMST has considerably more ability to drive that coordinating
process by virtue of having access to more funds which they can
Q277 Chairman: Which committee are
you talking about?
Dr Rayner: It is called Ocean.US
and it is a cross-federal agency body that represents all of the
US federal agencies that are engaged in any aspect of the oceans.
Q278 Dr Turner: The issue of coordination
and, if you like, the advertisement of a strategy and funding
cannot be disconnected, can they?
Dr Rayner: No.
Q279 Dr Turner: If marine scientists
acted as a coherent body and said, "Here are the things which
you think are vitally important right now" would that increase
your case for extra government funding and any other funding that
you could lever with it?
Mr Burt: We have seen, with the
Oceans 2025 initiative, a very good step in that direction but
it was a grassroots initiative. From the perspective of IACMST,
the coordination, the teeth and the funding are the key points
addressed here. I would say, across agencies, that it is very
tempting to think of marine science and technology as research
and technology within the Government but a cross-agency intiative
very much needs to bring in the industrial link. It needs to build
very clear bridges where industry can be incorporated into that
because there may well be cases where industry needs to engage
early in some of these programmes.