Memorandum submitted by the Biotechnology
and Biological Sciences Research Council (RCUK 02)
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH
COUNCIL: ANNUAL REPORT AND ACCOUNTS 2008-09
Following your letter dated 20 October regarding
our latest annual report, please find our responses to your queries:
1. The Committee requests a note on the BBSRC's
commitment to a new national research facility in animal health
and the changes to the Institute for Animal Health as well as
the redevelopment of the Pirbright site and the implementation
of the Gilligan report (page 5 of the Annual Report)?
BBSRC is fully committed to a new national research
facility in animal health. Following approval of funding by BIS
Ministers in July 2009, the Institute for Animal Health (IAH)
is proceeding with the detailed design of the new facilities.
The works, which are planned to start on site in early 2010, are
due to take three years to complete.
In parallel with the development project IAH and
BBSRC announced, in September 2009, a new science strategy that
will see the focusing of IAH's research effort on viruses affecting
livestock and poultry, together with supporting scientific disciplines
onto a single site at Pirbright. This project will see specific
science categories that align to the new vision transfer from
IAH Compton. This strategy is fully in line with the recommendations
of the Anderson report to Her Majesty's Government and the Gilligan
and Beringer reports to BBSRC Council.
2. What is the Council's view of the quality
of services received from the Shared Services Centre?
BBSRC has yet to migrate its transactional services
to the SSC and therefore is as yet unable to answer this question
fully. However certain IT/IS core desktop support is provided
by the SSC and the quality of service is generally good. Strategic
Procurement is live in the SSC and focuses at this stage on delivery
of efficiency gains through rationalisation and renegotiation
of contracts within a framework of specific product or service
categories. A joint group between Research Councils and the SSC,
The Strategic Sourcing Forum, has been established to manage the
relationship between the parties. Specifically this forum oversees
and prioritises the pipeline of commercial activity, ensures that
the appropriate mix of commercial expertise and subject matter
knowledge is brought to bear and that implementation of new contracts
is effective. New contract arrangements have been finalised in
a number of key areas: such as travel, energy provision, stationery
and many others are in progress or close to conclusion. In addition
specific projects have been successfully supported such as the
acquisition of genome sequencing machines for The Genomics Analysis
Centre (TGAC); a new national capability based in Norwich.
3. Why was it necessary for 7.1 FTE staff
to be transferred to the employment of the RCUK Shared Services
Centre and immediately seconded back to BBSRC (page 43)?
It was agreed across RCUK that all employees in roles
identified as being in scope for transfer to the SSC would TUPE
transfer to the employment of the SSC on the same date (1 April
2008 for all staff with the exception of grants administration
staff who will all TUPE transfer on a future date). This was to
ensure a full and fair process of job matching occurred and to
avoid a situation whereby employees transferring from councils
at a later stage in the migration plan were put at a disadvantage.
Therefore the new structures were identified, staff were matched
according to the best fit against their present roles, and then
staff were "appointed" to new roles all on the same
However the requirement for staff actually undertaking
those roles is dependent on the actual migration to SSC of their
home Council, and therefore staff were immediately seconded back
to each of the Research Councils to continue in their present
job until their role transferred to the SSC.
4. What problems have Programme Assurance
Visits identified in 2008-09 and 2009-10?
The RCUK Funding Assurance Programme (FAP) provides
assurance over the direct costs and the control environment for
administering and managing grants at research organisations (ROs).
The programme is managed by the RCUK FAP assurance unit, which
is hosted by BBSRC. Experienced staff from relevant Research Councils
also contribute to assurance work on visits to ROs. During 2008-09,
there were 23 programme assurance visits to institutions, which
resulted in no unsatisfactory assurance ratings. The 2009-10 schedule
of visits is underway and will be completed by the financial year
end. At present, there have been three out of 14 visit reports
issued and there have been no unsatisfactory assurance ratings
A further assurance programme run during this period
has addressed the compliance with TRAC costing methodology, used
to calculate the full economic cost of research. During 2008-09,
three institutions were placed in sanction as a result of specific
areas of non-compliance with TRAC methodology, and all of these
institutions had their sanctions lifted at the end of the three
month period following a successful follow up visit. During 2009-10,
one institution was placed in sanction for non-compliance with
Within the review of TRAC, the three issues
which were identified most frequently were the operation of the
time allocation survey, the calculation of the infrastructure
adjustment and the ability of institutions to understand their
costs including operating adequate reasonableness checks of the
5. Why did grant commitments at 31 March
2009 decrease by £25.9 million to £455.1 million (page
This is to a large degree explained by an abnormally
high level of commitment in the preceding period. During this
preceding period a very large number of longer term commitments
were made, for example to Centres for Integrated Systems Biology.
In addition there was a fall in initiative funding.
This was as a result of current initiatives coming to an end that
had yet to be fully replaced by the award of new initiatives.
6. Have BBSRC's liabilities in respect of
the Roslin Institute crystallised?
To date there have been no claims against any
of the three agreements that were put in place as part of the
transfer of Roslin Institute to the University of Edinburgh and
there have been no indication of plans to call on any of these
at this stage. However, these agreements run until 2023 so could
well crystallise in the future. The three agreements were:
a declining contribution to direct redundancy
costs if grant income falls;
indemnity against direct costs of any action
against the university as a result of the past actions of the
indemnity for up to £1 million if
any fall in grant income of the NPU.
7. The Committee requests a note setting
out the level of End Year Flexibility the Council could call upon
at the start of the year 2008-09, the amount drawn down during
the year and the balance carried forward at the end of the year
| Revised EYF 1 April 2008||-0.759
|2008-09 adjusted published allocations
|2008-09 provisional outturn||444.394
|EYF 1 April 2009||-10.163
There was an agreed deficit opening EYF of £0.759 million
which was fully discharged during 2008-09.
At the request of BIS, to cover under spends elsewhere in the
science budget, BBSRC overspent its allocation by £10.163
million. This was achieved by bringing forward expenditure originally
planned for 2009-10. This negative EYF was recovered from the
8. What proportion of invoices in September was paid within
We paid 1,062 invoices during September 2009.
55% were paid within 10 days.
95% were paid within 30 days.
The average number of days BBSRC took to pay an invoice was
Director of Finance