Supplementary memorandum submitted by Professor John Beddington, Government's Chief Scientific Advisor (SFS 31a)
1. In paragraph 16 of your written evidence, you refer to the average internal rate of return in R&D projects evaluated in developing countries. Do you have comparable figures for the UK?
The widely quoted figure for the average internal rate of return of research in developing countries of 43% is drawn originally from A Meta-Analysis of Rates of Return to Agricultural R&D, by Alston et al, a copy of which is attached.[i] The distributions of rates of return are assessed with reference to factors such as the commodity researched, the geographical region the research is carried out in, and the type of institution funding the research.
The 43% figure is the median rate of return to agricultural research in developing countries. There is no comparable figure given for the UK specifically, however the same source estimates a median rate of return to agricultural research conducted in developed countries of 46%. The mean of the rate of return estimates for developed countries is higher than that for developing countries (98% versus 60% per year). The authors conclude that the rate of return to research may be higher when the research is conducted in more developed countries.
As the authors note, these figures should be treated with caution due to the inherent uncertainties with characterising the benefits of research, and the high degree of noise relative to the signal in the meta-analysis. The rates of return are affected by a number of factors, which can be grouped broadly into four categories: the way the rate of return is measured, the type of research being evaluated, the characteristics of the analysts performing the evaluation and the way the evaluation is conducted.
2. Is the Pesticides Directive the first EU directive to use hazard rather than risk-based criteria?
Issues of hazard and risk are relevant to a wide range of legislative areas in the EU, and a variety of approaches to risk assessment are used across these. A comprehensive examination of these areas would clearly be a major undertaking. In responding to the Committee I have therefore focused on those areas most relevant in the context in which the issue was raised during my session with the Committee. There are two examples in particular I would highlight:
· The safe use of chemicals is dealt with under the REACH (Registration Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances) legislation, EC Regulation 1907/2006, which includes both hazard and risk provisions, but overall is considered to take a risk-based approach.
· The Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) includes provisions which are clearly hazard-based. The Directive includes a list of around 1300 substances that are not permitted at any concentration. The list is constructed based on the hazard posed by the substances i.e. those substances that are classified as category 1 or 2 carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins (CMR 1 & 2) are included on the list.
However, a risk-assessment approach is used to set limits for allowable levels of other substances such as preservatives and colourants, which are not CMR 1 or 2.
Thus hazard criteria have been used in at least one previous EU Directive, the Cosmetics Directive.
3. In paragraph 33 of your written evidence, you refer to a total spend by the BBSRC of £185 million in 2007/08. Please could you supply a more detailed breakdown of this figure?
BBSRC has provided the detailed breakdown below of its food and agriculture spend by research area (Section A) and Institute (Section B), as well as information on the relevance of BBSRC funded research to UK agriculture (Section C).
A. Funding by research areas
BBSRC estimated spend in 2007/08 on research relating to agriculture and food was £184.6M. Table 1 shows the breakdown of this into research areas. Of the total, £66.4M was on research predominantly relating to plants, £48.8M on research predominantly relating to animals (livestock and fish), and £30.3M related to food manufacturing, food safety and (human) diet and health. A substantial proportion of this research (44%) is defined as strategic and applied research.
Table 1: BBSRC research spend relating to agriculture
and food - by science area
1 This analysis excluded all spend that does not relate to food and agriculture. The large portfolio of generic biochemistry, cell biology, genetics and structural biology research that underpins all areas of bioscience but which is not specific to food and agriculture or related systems have been excluded.
2 Figures are based on the primary area associated with individual research projects and exclude the overlaps that occur between science areas, therefore actual spend in any one area (including overlaps) will generally be higher.
3 Basic and Strategic/ Applied research are defined based on the Frascati coding of individual research projects, as used in annual analyses for the Office for National Statistics (ONS). According to these definitions, BBSRC does not support Pure Basic research, but does fund Orientated Basic research that aims "to produce a broad base of knowledge likely to form the background to the solution of recognised/ expected problems or possibilities".
B. Funding of BBSRC research institutes
The above figures (Table 1) refer to spend in UK universities, Research Council institutes (including BBSRC institutes) and other eligible institutions. Of the £184.6M total, £71.8M was spent at BBSRC institutes. Table 2 shows the BBSRC funding relating to agriculture and food at the BBSRC research institutes; Table 3 shows total income for the BBSRC research institutes, from all sources and for all research areas.
Table 2: Research relating to agriculture and food at BBSRC institutes (2007/08)
Table 3: Total income of BBSRC institutes (2007/08)
Source: BBSRC Annual Report 2007-08
1 Includes BBSRC-sponsored Institutes receiving core funding from BBSRC in
2 BBSRC capital funding includes a representative proportion of total BBSRC capital funding to the each Institute, based on the proportion of research spend included in this analysis. Percentages of total BBSRC capital funding included here are as follows: 100% (IAH, IFR, IGER and RR); 90% (JIC); 80% (RI); 10% (BI).
3 BBSRC funding includes Core
Strategic Grant funding, research grants and capital.
C. Relevance to UK agriculture
The majority of BBSRC research spend is of direct short or long term applicability to the UK agriculture and food sectors, as well as being of international relevance. BBSRC has a small number of programmes in agriculture and food research concerned solely with international development, primarily relating to sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, and with co-funding from DFID. Most of these grants, awarded through the Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development initiative, started after 1st April 2008 and therefore contributed only £0.1M to the total research spend in 2007/08. Total commitment to this initiative is £6.83M, of which the BBSRC contribution is 33% and the remainder from DfID.
[i] Not printed.