Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 73

Supplementary evidence from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)


The amount of funding EPSRC provides to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI)

  1.  In the published delivery plan, EPSRC has assigned £60 million of new commitment for the Energy Technologies Institute for the three year period April 2008 to March 2011. EPSRC has anticipated spend during this period of £21 million.

  2.  The allocation letter for the science budget 2008-11 asked EPSRC to fund, "The Energy Technology Institute at the agreed level of 60% of the DIUS contribution (with the remaining 40% being provided by TSB)". The level of the contribution required will depend on whether ETI recruits additional industry partners and the speed at which the ETI spend ramps up.

EPSRC's funding for the ETI is currently over and above the funding budget allocated to the Research Councils' Energy Programme. How long is this arrangement guaranteed? Is there a possibility funding will come from the Energy Programme budget in the future?

  3.  EPSRC Council has agreed the figures for the EPSRC Energy programme and for ETI for the three years of the spending review period and these are published in the delivery plan. The commitment for the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills to fund the public sector contribution to ETI continues for 10 years from the 12 December 2007.

Would the Energy Programme have benefited from the extra funds should they not have been allocated to the ETI?

  4.  Funding for ETI was included in the overall allocation discussions within EPSRC. There would have been other priority areas to consider for further funding as well as energy if EPSRC had not been asked to fund ETI.

Lines of communication between the ETI and EPSRC

  5.  Professor David Delpy is a member of the ETI Board.

Dr Alison Wall is a member of the ETI Technical Committee.

EPSRC has the opportunity to participate in ETI technical working groups, the Communications Group and the Finance Group.

Professor David Delpy and Dr David Clarke met recently for an informal discussion and they are likely to continue to meet occasionally.

ETI and EPSRC are both members of the Energy Research Partnership.


Our position

  6.  EPSRC strongly encourages the exploitation of the results of research. The grant conditions relating to the commercial exploitation of research are set out in the following three paragraphs.

  7.  Unless stated otherwise, the ownership of intellectual property, and responsibility for its exploitation, rests with the Research Organisation. The Research Council may, in individual cases, reserve the right to retain ownership of intellectual property and to arrange for it to be exploited for the national benefit and that of the Research Organisation involved. This right, if exercised, will be set out in an additional condition.

  8.  It is the responsibility of the Research Organisation, and all engaged in the research, to make every effort to ensure that any potentially valuable results obtained in the course of the research are exploited, and that there is a suitable return to the Research Organisation and the researchers from any such exploitation. The Research Organisation must ensure that all those associated with the research are aware of, and accept, the arrangements for exploitation.

  9.  Collaborative arrangements are expected to be put on a formal basis through an agreement covering the contributions and rights of the organisations and individuals concerning exploitation. Such agreements must be in place before the research begins. The terms of collaboration agreements must not conflict with the Research Councils' terms and conditions of research grants.

Information and advice

  10.  We are happy to offer advice on best practice but do not get involved in detailed IP negotiations. We signpost to other sources of helpful support and advice such as Business Link, Regional Development Agencies and model collaboration agreements through our website. We also make the academic community aware of opportunities available through the Technology Strategy Board and Energy Technologies Institute by publishing information and calls on our website and in our monthly newsletter.


  11.  The Research Council Follow-on Fund aims to help researchers bridge the funding gap between traditional research grants and commercial funding, by providing support for the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition and should place prospective business ideas in a much stronger position to secure further support from venture capital or seed funds.

  12.  Since the pilot call in 2004, EPSRC has supported 64 projects (with a combined value of almost £4 million) that have allowed researchers to explore the commercial potential of ideas produced from EPSRC-funded grants. EPSRC currently issues a call for follow-on proposals each autumn and individual awards are limited to a maximum duration of 12 months.

Research Council Business Plan Competition

  13.  The RCUK Business Plan Competition provides researchers who have ideas with commercial potential the skills, knowledge and support needed to develop a first-rate business plan. This is provided through expert trainers, coaches and mentors.

  14.  The competition is open to researchers based in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI's) or Public Sector Research Establishments (PSRE) that are eligible to hold Research Council grants from across the whole spectrum of academic research within the remit of the seven Research Councils—from the arts and biosciences, to environmental physical and social sciences to technology.

  15.  Postgraduates, post-doctoral researchers and academic staff who have a business idea arising from research and want to develop this further are encouraged to participate. Prizes of up to £25,000 are awarded to the business plans judged to have the best potential to help turn business ideas into reality.

March 2008

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