Putting Science and Engineering at the Heart of Government Policy - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 138 - 139)



  Q138  Chairman: Could I welcome our Panel of very distinguished witnesses this afternoon, welcome to you all. It is our first meeting with you, Professor Smith, so we are delighted you are here. We hope you are enjoying your role and you will enjoy this afternoon even more. If I could start with you, Professor Smith, the government is conducting a major debate at the moment to consider the strategic focusing of what it calls targeted research programmes. First could you tell us what you understand by targeted research programmes, and do you actually support the government's move in this direction?

  Professor Smith: Can I take you into the slightly wider context? When I came into this job there was some kind of legacy of dissatisfaction with the way that consultation processes took place in looking at priorities, in particular in the build-up to Spending Review, so one of the first things I did with the support of ministers was to say we should have a more public, as it were, consultation process, and I have listed a number of bodies—the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, et cetera. That originally was thought of in the context of a lead-up to a Spending Review, but we do not have a timetable for a Spending Review and we do not quite know when and how that process will take place, but I think what we were trying to do there culturally was to up-the-ante on a consultation and debate about priorities of every shape and form. So I think what Lord Drayson has been doing coheres entirely with that kind of strategy of seeking to be much more consultative and get views from a wide variety of sources on priorities.

  Q139  Chairman: So it was all planned?

  Professor Smith: Compatible with the planned process that I set in motion when I took up the job.

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