3 Other activities and innovative
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
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 Liaison Committee, Third Report of Session 2007-08,
Work of Committees in 2007, HC 427, para 74 Back