Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 367)

WEDNESDAY 13 JUNE 2007

MR IAN GALLETT, DR LESLEY THOMPSON, DR RALPH RAYNER AND MR RICHARD BURT

  Q360  Dr Turner: Do you have any shining examples to show how this has been operating or could operate?

  Mr Burt: Yes. I have a very good example. Our particular company has licensed the technology that came out originally from the Brookhaven Laboratory. That was assessed by a number of our US competitors, who deemed that it was too difficult to procure and to bring to market-place. Through our links with the UK laboratories, they identified us as a candidate company, we went over there about five years ago, licensed the technology, brought it over here using our money and, I would say, some DTI money at that stage, managed to bring a product to market-place which is still a world leader and the second generation is about to appear. We are quite happy to enter into royalty agreements and commercial exploitation agreements.

  Q361  Chairman: What is the name of that product?

  Mr Burt: That particular product is known as FASTtracka.

  Q362  Dr Turner: What does that do?

  Mr Burt: It is a fast repetition rate fluorimeter for monitoring the photosynthetic reaction of chlorophyll in the water.

  Chairman: I thought it was!

  Q363  Dr Turner: Being a scientist, you knew instinctively! It can be done but it clearly there was more that could be done.

  Mr Burt: Yes, and the initiative rests with the company.

  Q364  Dr Turner: It also sounds, from what you are saying, that there are less licensing opportunities arising out of British laboratories than from the US. Is that a fair comment?

  Mr Burt: There are an awful lot of opportunities both sides. You certainly see more opportunities of products appearing out of US laboratories now and coming on the market-place than you are in the UK.

  Q365  Dr Turner: Is that a function of the scale of US laboratory operations or a difference in approach?

  Mr Burt: It is a difference in approach. As I am sure you can imagine, there are many, many technologies being developed which are great for scientific purposes but not suitable for commercial exploitation. The market is not big enough and what have you. Certainly in the US some organisations ... For example, if you look at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research, where the funding is not government at all really—it comes straight out of the Hewlett Packard Foundation and they can spend their money on all sorts of prosaic things where it does not have to be part of a long-term programme—that lab is probably responsible for spawning four, five, six technologies which have appeared on to the market-place in as many years and has achieved significant revenue for those companies.

  Q366  Dr Turner: Do you think there will be an advantage to UK plc to mimic these approaches?

  Mr Burt: Commercially, I think we either have to mimic or better the approach. We do not want to be disadvantaged.

  Q367  Chairman: Thank you very much. Could I ask you for, literally, a one-word answer. In terms of organisation of marine science and its interface with commercial operations, do you feel the equivalent of a NOAA in the UK would be an advantage?

  Dr Rayner: Yes.

  Mr Burt: Yes.

  Mr Gallett: Yes.

  Dr Thompson: I am not qualified to comment.

  Chairman: On that note, could I thank Richard Burt, Ian Gallett, Ralph Rayner and Lesley Thompson. Thank you very much indeed.





 
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