The work of the Committee in 2007-08 - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

3  Other activities and innovative practices

37. As the Select Committee whose remit covers 'Innovation' we aim to be innovative in our own practices: for example in this Report we have allotted space to individual Members to contribute their thoughts, something not done before.

38. Throughout the Session we have actively sought views from communities involved in further and higher education, skills, science and innovation policy, for example by holding a horizon-scanning event at Westminster. This was facilitated by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), whose mission is to "transform the UK's capacity for innovation". The sessions looked at broad areas of the new Committee's remit: innovation, further education and technical training, universities and competitiveness, use of evidence across Government and promoting good science. We found the session very informative, highlighting the priorities for the future programme and would like to repeat the exercise in 2009.

39. As a Committee aiming to be innovative we aim to use our inquiries to tackle important questions of the future. The presentation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill during the 2007-08 Session shows that our predecessor, the Science and Technology Committee, showed foresight and we hope to emulate this, for example in our analysis of new technologies such as Plastic Electronics Engineering and whole new fields such as Geo-engineering.

40. During the summer recess the Chairman conducted a series of September visits, continuing a practice started on the Science and Technology Committee. This is instrumental in building relationships between the Committee and stakeholder communities and a useful way of following-up previous inquiries, for example by visiting the Medical Research Council. The Committee continues to publish a quarterly update on its work in the magazine Science in Parliament, as did the former Science and Technology Committee.

41. We have made attempts to widen the participation in our inquiries to increase the variety of evidence received. Our inquiry into After Leitch: Implementing Skills and Training Policies was launched in Leeds with an evidence session focussed on planning and delivery of skills in the Yorkshire and the Humber region as a case study, held at the Town Hall. We have encouraged Members to act as rapporteurs, and as part of the After Leitch inquiry Gordon Marsden MP organised a meeting in Warrington, reporting back to the Committee.

42. The engineering inquiry has included two online consultations: the first was intended to gather input from employers and the second from young engineers and prospective engineers. The latter was launched with an event at Lambeth Academy, which runs the new engineering diploma, at which students from the Academy and the London Engineering Project had the chance to meet inspirational engineers: Dr Maggie Aderin of space engineering firm Astrium, John Armitt in his capacity as Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Richard Noble, from the Bloodhound land speed record team and Joe Milnes from UKAEA Culham. We also broadened our witness panel by using video-conferencing as part of our first evidence session on geo-engineering.

43. A number of our inquiries have opened with seminars designed to explore the issues and make our final report as pertinent as possible. This occurred for the inquiries into Biosecurity in UK Research Laboratories, Renewable electricity-generation technologies (held at the UK Energy Research Centre, Imperial College London) and Engineering (held at the Royal Academy of Engineering).

44. Lastly, we have to put on record the fact that we have had problems during the year with Members leaving the Committee and not being replaced. This is an issue not unique to our Committee: the Liaison Committee stated last year that "We have been concerned by the length of time it has taken in some instances to appoint and replace members of select committees. We urge the Leader of the House, the Committee of Selection and the Government and Opposition Whips to liaise more closely, and work together in order to speed up the nomination process."[34]

34   Liaison Committee, Third Report of Session 2007-08, Work of Committees in 2007, HC 427, para 74 Back

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