Examination of Witnesses (Questions 144
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2008
BRUCE FRSE AND
Chairman: I welcome our first panel of
witnesses this morning to the Renewable Electricity-Generation
Technologies inquiry of the Innovation, Universities and Skills
Committee. Welcome to you all and particularly welcome to Dr Paul
Golby, the Chief Executive of E.ON UK and Co-Chair of the Energy
Research Partnershipwelcome to you, PaulDr David
Clarke, the Chief Executive of the Energy Technologies Institutewelcome
again, DavidProfessor Peter Bruce, the Professor of Chemistry
on behalf of the Royal Society of Edinburghwe are particularly
pleased that we have somebody down from Edinburgh; it will please
Dr Gibson this morning.
Dr Gibson: Does he have an interpreter?
Q144 Chairman: If you have an interest
in Dundee that will be even better. Dr Alison Wall, the Joint
Head of the Energy and Climate Change at EPSRCwelcome to
you, Alison. We are trying to find out way through the plethora
of organisations that are involved in this particular field. The
Renewable Energy Association said and I quote, "It is very
difficult for all but the most important observers to understand
the remit of each [funding body], where they differ and where
they overlap". Why is it so complex? David, may I begin with
you? Why is all of this so complex?
Dr Clarke: I think there is a
relatively simply answer which is that it has been set up over
a long period of time, it has been set up by a diverse range of
bodies at different times and the consequence of that is that
we have simply ended up with a very complex picture. Looking forward,
I think that we are seeing a slow process of rationalisation taking
Q145 Chairman: I am sorry, a slow
process ... ?
Dr Clarke: I apologise, I have
a croak. ... a slow process of rationalisation, integration
Dr Gibson: I thought you said "nationalisation".
Q146 Chairman: I did too.
Dr Clarke: For the record, I definitely
did not say "nationalisation".
Q147 Chairman: The left wing on the
Committee trembled at that particular point! Do you actually feel
that each of the funding organisations actually adds something
to it or does it just simply make it more complex and therefore
more difficult for companies to find their way through this funding
Dr Clarke: I think that it clearly
is a very complex picture and, in terms of where we are, each
of those groups has a pretty well-defined role and a pretty well-defined
remit, but the reality is that they do overlap. If you look at
three of the major groups which exist todaythe Technology
Strategy Board, Carbon Trust and now my organisation, the Energy
Technologies Institutewe all play in the same space around
technology demonstration and derisking of technology. We have
undertaken, partly under the auspices of the Energy Research Partnership,
to actually work our way through that and come up with a very
crisp and clear view that the outside world can understand of
how those three groups do operate together and what kind of projects
they fund. Those are the three major bodies but clearly you have
many others, some of whom appear in front of this Committee today
such as the Regional Development Agencies as well, all of whom
have different remits.
Q148 Chairman: Dr Golby, as Chief
Executive of E.ON, you have to make this a reality. Do you find
it complex, do you find it confusing and how could it be simplified?
Dr Golby: Firstly, let me apologise
for my lack of voice this morning.
Q149 Chairman: Are you all the same?
Dr Golby: Absolutely and I do
apologise. It may be that we need an interpreter even more than
my colleague! Yes, it is fragmented; yes, it is confusing. My
second job as Chair of the Energy Research Partnership, one of
the roles that we have taken on for ourselves is to try and make
some recommendations to Government about how to simplify this
and one of the key recommendations that we have made is to really
have a linear supply chain of the Research Councils at the front
end, pure research, the Energy Technologies Institute in Applied
Research and then the Environmental Transformation Fund at the
tail end in terms of deployment of technologies. I think we are
a long way from where we need to be. I agree with David; the landscape
is complicated, it is almost a history of political sound bite
that one can actually look at the various initiatives and date
back to, that was 1997, that was 1990 and so on and so forth,
and I think that, at the moment, we have quite a number of let
me call them pet schemes floating around which are subscale and
therefore are not delivering a bang for the buck, so to speak.
Q150 Chairman: Can you name one?
Dr Golby: The low carbon building
scheme is an example where the money available to it really is
not going to drive what is needed and that is just one example,
there are a number. I think that there is a need to stand back
from this and to actually do what we would do in private industry
and actually stop some activities in order to fund other activities
to an extent that can really start to deliver.
Q151 Graham Stringer: Are you saying
that there needs to be a humane cull?
Dr Golby: I think a humane cull
of some of the initiatives and some bulking up of other initiatives
in order that we can really start to get clarity and get funding
and delivery really working well together.
Q152 Chairman: May I bring you in
here, Dr Wall. What worries the Committee is that it is not just
simply a funding issue, this is a funding of research issue. We
have these two complications: we have limited budgets and we have
different organisations that have their finger in the research
pie. Do you feel from the Research Councils' point of view that
we are getting this proper bang for our bucks in research terms?
Dr Wall: If you look at the energy
and innovation landscape, the Research Councils are at the left-hand
end of the landscape, very much funding more speculative research,
through to some more applied research interfacing with the Energy
Technologies Institute, the Technology Strategy Board and the
Carbon Trust, but we do not really see any other major players
in the same part of the innovation space as we are in. We think
that we have a unique role. We spent part of the time yesterday
together as Research Councils thinking about how we best articulate
that role to the research community and then we obviously need
to make sure that we interface very well with other organisations
like the Technology Strategy Board and the Energy Technologies
Institute, which in part we can do through the Energy Research
Q153 Chairman: Professor Bruce, how
do actually see this landscape? Do you feel that it needs greater
clarification and unification, what and how?
Professor Bruce: From an active
researcher's point of view, of course we do not really have contact
with the whole range of bodies that are involved in this area,
so it is somewhat simpler than the complete landscape for us.
I have thought a bit about this and I think that some diversity
is a good thing. Funding opportunities for science in the States
have always been helped by the fact that there have been a number
of different bodies that one can go to and the benefit of that,
compared with having a single body, is that, with a single body,
you can have a uniformity of view whereas, if you have a number
of bodies, they tend to try to occupy different parts of the landscape
and that gives some diversity of policy towards research funding,
so we can fund different ideas and different things. I think that
we are in danger, if we continue in the way that we have been
doing, in other words if we see a further expansion in the number
of organisations, of it becoming too complex because our problem
is that we need to understand clear remits for each of the organisations
and then we know the way to address our research and to which
organisations to address our funding requests.
Q154 Chairman: Dr Wall, obviously
part of your funding now goes to the Technology Strategy Board;
that gets top sliced. Does that mean that there is less money
in your pot?
Dr Wall: Funding for the Technology
Strategy Board is not top sliced; we have been given targets to
fund jointly with the Technology Strategy Board.
Q155 Chairman: So, you do not give
them any money?
Dr Wall: No, we work with them
and then we jointly fund projects. The organisation that we do
fund is the Energy Technologies Institute.
Q156 Chairman: Is that top sliced?
Is there a definite amount of money which goes to them?
Dr Wall: I think that the amount
of money will vary on how quickly the spend ramps up to the Energy
Technologies Institute but we will be funding 60% of the public
sector share of that.
Q157 Chairman: In terms of the Research
Councils' work on the energy programme, does that mean that is
much more limited as a result of having to put money into the
Dr Wall: No. In our delivery plan
that we have just published, the Council has maintained the funding
of the rest of our energy portfolio and also funded the money
for the Energy Technologies Institute.
Q158 Chairman: The Renewable Energy
Association is concerned that academia might in fact benefit from
increased funding from ETI. Do you see that? Do you see the development
of ETI as a very positive move?
Dr Wall: Some university teams
will benefit from ETI funding and I think that it is positive
because it will help pull through the research and actually take
those technologies towards deployment.
Q159 Chairman: Do you feel that this
money should be ring-fenced?
Dr Wall: I am not quite sure what
you mean by "ring-fenced". I think we have felt all
along that the funding should be additional to that which we were
already spending on energy research.