The work of the UK research councils - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Natural Environment Research Council (RCUK 04)


  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 review of strategy referred to on page 47

The NERC Strategy Next Generation Science for Planet Earth is intended to be dynamic, so that NERC is able to identify and respond readily to changing user needs and opportunities. The concept of a dynamic, rolling strategy also allows NERC to look beyond a fixed point in time (here 2012, five years after the current strategy was launched) so that, in effect, the planning horizon is always at least five years ahead.

NERC is currently piloting a process for refreshing the strategy annually, and this first refresh cycle will be completed March 2010. The Council will decide any changes to its strategic objectives or priorities (science and organisational) based on: (a) evidence of current performance in delivering the strategy; and (b) new external and internal drivers identified through ongoing stakeholder engagement and horizon-scanning.

2.   What is the level of increase for international subscriptions and support for overseas projects in 2008-09 caused by the depreciation in the value of sterling. What is the change in the first six months of 2009-10? How will the need for any increased resources be financed? Has NERC been compensated for variances from a base position by the Government?

  Additional costs as a result of weaker exchange rates for 2008-09:
£7.9 million ESA NERC has covered the first £1 million out of its science budget, the remaining sum has been compensated by BIS.
£0.5 million
£8.4 million
IODP Covered in full by NERC out of its science budget.

  Additional costs as a result of weaker exchange rates for first six months of 2009-10:
£6.7 million ESA NERC will cover the first £1 million exchange rate loss for 2009-10 out of its science budget, the remaining sum will be compensated by BIS.
£0.3 million
£7.0 million
IODPCovered in full by NERC out of its science budget.

3.   What problems have Programme Assurance Visits identified in 2008-09 and 2009-10?

  Programme Assurance Visits are a cross-council activity, led by BBSRC. In order not to duplicate information, BBSRC will provide a response to this question on behalf of all the research councils.

4.   What is the Council's view of the quality of services received from the Shared Services Centre?

(a)  NERC began receiving a limited range of operational services from the SSC ltd from May 2008 onwards covering IT support for Swindon Office, Recruitment support and Procurement support for strategic requirements.

(b)  The services provided by the SSC ltd are delivered, in the main, using existing processes and resources prior to NERC going live on the full Enterprise Resource Programme and are satisfactory in terms of quality during this transitional period.

5.   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
Total DEL
Revised EYF 1 April 20085.349
2008-09 adjusted published allocations 406.392
2008-09 provisional outturn416.980
2008-09 under/(over)spend(10.588)
Non-cash EYF allocation adjustment5.000
EYF 1 April 2009(0.239)

6.   How much did the shares listed at note 21 to the accounts cost?

  The shareholdings listed in note 21 of our annual accounts are the results of our commercialisation of science projects (spin-off companies) and have no cost.

7.   What proportion of invoices in September was paid within 10 days?

NERC received 4,564 invoices dated September 2009. Of these 40% were paid within 10 days and 87% were paid within 30 days.

David Bloomer

Director of Finance and Operations

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