Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Glaxo Wellcome


  1.  Glaxo Wellcome is a research-based company whose people are committed to fighting disease by bringing innovative medicines and services to patients throughout the world and to the healthcare providers who serve them.

  2.  In 1999, Glaxo Wellcome invested £1.269 billion on research and development, of which £507 million was in the UK. Currently Glaxo Wellcome employs 9,270 staff in its R&D organisation, with 4,500 based in the UK and 2,700 in the US.

  3.  In 1999 Glaxo Wellcome led the UK's R&D Scoreboard for the fifth successive year1, but despite this significant investment, we estimate that we carry out less than 1 per cent of the global research that is relevant to our business. Access to the 99 per cent of knowledge outside our business and access to the best scientists and engineers are critical for our success.

  4.  Glaxo Wellcome—or at that time Glaxo Group plc and The Wellcome Foundation Ltd—therefore supported the objectives of the 1993 White Paper.


  5.  At the time of the publication of the White Paper Realising our Potential: a strategy for science, engineering and technology in 1993, there had not been a government strategy for science and technology or any significant pronouncement, for over 20 years. It therefore fulfilled a clear need to create a national strategic vision around which government could recognise the need and importance of science, engineering and technology in the knowledge-driven economy. The objectives of the White Paper appeared to receive cross-government support, when published.

  6.  Over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a significant increase in the interaction between university and industry. It is arguable whether this would have happened anyway. But this is not the point—for the first time in some years the UK Government recognised the positive contribution science could make to people's lives and the UK economy.

  7.  The cornerstone of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's inquiry is "to inquire into and examine the impact of the 1993 White Paper—Realising our Potential". We would urge that care be taken not to judge this impact in terms of "success" or "failure". Rather it must be looked at in terms of an on-going strategic vision of the role science, engineering and technology play in a modern society and how the UK can continually review, develop and harness its research strengths.

  8.  In this paper Glaxo Wellcome hopes to highlight areas where there has been a significant impact but also identify where expectations have not been met or opportunities lost. We hope these will be viewed in a constructive light—the object must be to build on the 1993 White Paper and develop UK science, engineering and technology policy to address our needs today and develop a sustainable strategy for the future.

  9.  Science and innovation strategies can never stand still. Science and technology has moved forward rapidly since 1993. Perhaps the best illustration of this is on two fronts. First, the human genome project was still at the concept stage, yet it will be completed in an initial form this year. And second, the impact of the internet across society, enabling access to information that, in 1993, was not widely envisioned.

  10.  It must also be remembered that other countries are striving to enhance and improve their science, engineering and technology base. If the UK is to remain at the forefront of scientific research we cannot afford to stand still. The UK must sustain investment in research infrastructure and be able to train, retain and attract the best scientists.

  11.  As a global company, Glaxo Wellcome seeks interaction with the science and engineering base for three principle reasons:

    —  to access new knowledge that is of relevance to our business, especially in understanding the underlying cause and progression of disease, but also related to other aspects of our business wherever appropriate;

    —  to identify and recruit leading researchers and technically trained individuals that support our research effort; and

    —  access to vocational and applied courses that allow our staff to update their skills.

  12.  Whilst Glaxo Wellcome interacts with and supports the UK science, engineering and technology base in a variety of ways, the common denominator of all our collaborations is excellence.

  13.  As the leading company investing in R&D in the UK, Glaxo Wellcome believes and actively supports the research base. In 1999 over £17 million was spent supporting external collaborative research by our UK R&D organisation, covering research projects, Professorial chairs, supporting research and vocational training and clinical research fellowships. Access to an industrial environment is also important for the training of new research scientists, whether they subsequently enter an industrial or academic research environment. Glaxo Wellcome therefore currently supports over 260 active PhD studentships linked to 54 different universities across the UK and provides over 240 one-year placements for undergraduate students between their second and third years with full-time contracts. Finally in 1999 some £35 million was spent in the UK universities, hospitals and institutes to support the critical areas of clinical research and therapeutic trials.


The annual publication of Forward Look to provide clear and up-to-date statement of the Government's Strategy for science, engineering and technology

14.  The Forward Look was one of the key innovations of the White Paper. Its purpose, replacing the annual review, was "to give the industrial and research communities a clear and up-to-date statement of the Government's strategy". This is something that was warmly welcomed and when published, assisted in clarifying the importance each government department placed on science and technology. It is also likely that it encouraged those departments who were not already doing so, to crystallise their objectives from such spending.

  15.  However there are a number of concerns relating to the Forward Look. In particular there are two key issues:

    —  although presenting a holistic picture of funding, it appeared that departmental strategies were developed in isolation of each other; and

    —  the Forward Look has not been published annually since the 1993 White Paper—the momentum generated by its appearance was lost following the last publication in 1996.

  16.  GlaxoWellcome believes that the Forward Look should continue. However, perhaps for the reason that it was only published for three years, its impact is questionable. This is best illustrated by the fact that total civil departments expenditure on SET has dropped in real terms from £1,922.1 million to £1,288 million between 1986-87 and 1998-992. This period coincides with key issues such as the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistant E. coli, BSE and the use of GM crops. Unless there were dramatic gains in research efficiency, the decline in spending is counter-intuitive considering the need for decision making to be based on sound scientific advice.

The creation of Technology Foresight (now Foresight)

  17.  The Technology Foresight programme has been positive on a number of fronts. Most importantly it has created a framework for identifying opportunities in terms of both markets and emerging technologies. It has drawn in a number of players into the process and created a mechanism that allows representatives of diverse communities to express and discuss the technology developments.

  18.  However there have been a number of criticisms of the programme, including:

    —  the haste with which the first iteration was carried out;

    —  the poor penetration to reach those who would benefit from it most, especially in the industrial sector;

    —  the lack of an on-going strategy after the publication of the 15 panel reports in Spring 1995—this led to a loss of momentum, poor communication and slow implementation by government; and

    —  the relatively small impact of the recommendations or outcomes in terms of government strategy and expenditure on the science base, especially in terms of civil department spend.

  19.  However Glaxo Wellcome believes that the programme should continue and must be a stronger tool for development of government policy. The current round of Foresight has introduced a number of new concepts—such as re-orienting the panels and introducing the knowledge pool, a resource which is open to all. Re-invigorating Foresight is essential if the on-going programme is not to stagnate.

The abolition of the Advisory Council on Science and Technology and its replacement with the Council for Science and Technology "to help ensure that the Government benefits from outside independent and expert advice when deciding on its own research spending priorities"

  20.  The replacement of the "ACST" with the "CST" is not the key issue. That must be the impact such an independent advisory body, whatever its name, has within Government and the perception of it as a leader in the external environment.

  21.  Undoubtedly in the first four to five years of its establishment, the profile of the CST was low and consequently its role and influence unclear. However in 1997-98 its modus operandi was reviewed and a more open approach to its work programme adopted. In 1999 and 2000 there have been a number of reports that have been both hard hitting and influential in their impact3. This has originated from work programmes established in 1998 and should continue in the future.

The reorganisation of the Research Councils with modified management structures and new mission statements which made more explicit their commitments to wealth creation and the quality of life

The creation of the post of Director-General of the Research Councils and the absorption of the functions of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils into the Office of Science and Technology

22.  We welcomed the reorganisation of the Research Councils (RCs) with modified management structures and new mission statements which made more explicit their commitments to wealth creation and the quality of life and feel that significant benefit has come from these changes.

  23.  Of all the RCs, the EPSRC4 arguably leads the field in consulting on research needs with different communities. Each Council, although not organised in identifical fashion, has created mechanisms to actively engage researchers in shaping forward strategies, whether based in academe or industry. The EPSRC for example annually publishes a "landscape" document outlining research areas, following extensive consultation with "user" communities.

  24.  There has been concern that the approach taken by the RCs to engage with industry has led to a reduction in the amount of funds available for curiosity-driven or fundamental research. However as indicated in SET Statistics 1999, 60 per cent of Research Council (RC) funding supports "basic" research according to the Frascati definitions (see Table 1). Assuming the peer review mechanisms are equitable then the research funded is likely to be selected on the basis of quality and excellence rather than whether it is fundamental, strategic or applied.

Table 1


Type of Research Activity
% of £1.265 billion in 1997-98
Experimental development

  25.  Glaxo Wellcome has a number of examples where collaboration with the RCs is addressing a significant major need. These include:

    —  The Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research, Compton, Berkshire: Glaxo Wellcome provided £40 million over 10 years from 1994, to establish the Jenner Institute in collaboration with the BBSRC, the MRC and the Department of Health. The RCs are expected to sustain long-term support after the first 10 years, although the Institute must remain a centre of scientific excellence.

    —  Working with EPSRC, Glaxo Wellcome has stimulated the creation centres of excellence in combinatorial chemistry to support research and postgraduate training.

    —  The Industrial Quota CASE Awards, pioneered by EPSRC, provide an effective mechanism where young scientists can gain their doctorates carrying out research in an industrial environment, while ensuring academic rigour through strong links with their host university.

The launch of a new campaign to spread understanding of science among school children and the public

  26.  Earlier this year the House of Lords published a report on Science and Society6. This report crystallised the increasing view that it is not the public understanding of science that is key, but rather the two-way communication or engagement of the "public" with scientific developments. As Glaxo Wellcome's submission commented7 "a more realistic approach would be to encourage scientists understanding of the public".

  27.  There are three keys to ensuring an informed debate:

    —  first, an awareness of the scientific process, encompassing the core issues of uncertainty, hypothesis testing and debate;

    —  second, engaging young people in the debate on the application and advancement of science in a modern society; and

    —  third, that we provide a sound science education within the national curriculum framework.

  28.  We cannot expect every individual to have an "understanding of science"—indeed many scientists specialising in one field are largely ignorant of advances in others. But what all scientists share is the understanding of the process.

  29.  The "new campaign launched to spread understanding of science among school children and the public" has had mixed success, as can be seen in the recent debates surrounding GM crops. The associated furore can be equated to the outcry when the first heart transplants took place. These outcries were driven not just by the uncertainty in the public's mind, but significantly by the associated press coverage. It is difficult to see how the next contentious scientific issue can be handled any differently with the tabloid spin placed on most scientific reports today.

  30.  Glaxo Wellcome currently works both with the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI)—by supporting the Christmas Lectures—and the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS)—as one of two principal sponsors for Creating Sparks, with our funding centred on participative experiments to engage schools and families.

  31.  Both of these institutions have a particular focus, the RI around its lectures and discourses at its facility in Piccadilly and the BAAS in its reach across the country, especially focusing on its young people's section (BAYS clubs).

  32.  Whilst both the RI and the BAAS have areas of success as independent organisations, there is a strong argument for bringing them together. This would provide an opportunity to move away from the "professional amateurism" that has historically typified the UK efforts on engaging the public in science and create a well-resourced facility that would both have a significant base in London and outreach across the UK.

  33.  The joined body could be based at the RI in Piccadilly, for which a major refurbishment plan is being developed. However this would only be possible if the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory could be moved out of the building. The argument against this is history—there has been an active laboratory at the RI since its inception. However the laboratory already has strong links to University College London and moving this facility would give the excellent researchers therein, access to new and modern facilities that are singularly absent in their current Piccadilly home. Such a move could be supported by exceptional funding through, for example the Joint Infrastructure Fund and modern IT and communication links could ensure that the close historical association with the RI continues.


  34.  These objectives and themes remain valid today. It is arguable that in the year 2000, the importance of science and technology in creating a dynamic and successful economy is greater than in 1993. A clear and consistent science and innovation strategy is the foundation of the UK remaining an attractive country in which to invest. It is also important both to ensure that the UK can capitalise on its investment in science and technology and provide the well-trained and entrepreneurial individuals upon which a modern economy depends. In the 1993 White Paper conclusion8 it states that:

    "The Government's strategy is to improve the nation's competitiveness and quality of life by maintaining the excellence of science, engineering and technology in the United Kingdom. It will do so by:

      —  developing stronger partnerships with and between the science and engineering communities, industry and the research charities;

      —  supporting the science and engineering base to advance knowledge, increase understanding and produce highly-educated and trained people;

      —  contributing, according to the United Kingdom's strengths and interests, to the international, and particularly European, research effort;

      —  continuing to promote the public understanding of science and engineering;

      —  ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of government-funded research.

  The science and technology programmes undertaken in support of departments' policy, statutory, operational, regulatory and procurement responsibilities will contribute to this overall strategy".

  35.  The key issue in delivering an environment in which science and technology based companies can flourish is that government policy is consistent across Whitehall. This relates not just to investment in science and engineering, but also in terms of the fiscal and regulatory environment. Therefore an excellent science base will avail nothing if there is not a stable economy and minimum regulation to encourage the establishment of small high technology companies and facilitate the appropriate exploitation of science and technology in larger ones.

  36.  It is essential that trans-departmental science and technology is effectively co-ordinated across government. The current and previous Chief Scientific Advisers have both worked effectively at co-ordinating the Chief Scientists and Prof Sir Robert May's guidelines on the use of scientific advice in policy making provide good guidance. However at the most senior level in government departments there is still a discontinuity with strategic investment in science policy.

  37.  In reality science, engineering and technology strategy still does not have the status, priority and power that it rightly deserves. To that end Glaxo Wellcome advocates the following reorganisation which would provide the necessary authority and central government leadership:

    —  the Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA), along with the Trans-departmental Science and Technology Group in the OST should be moved to the Cabinet Office, including the Foresight secretariat. This would strengthen the role of the CSA in co-ordinating and leading science across Westminster. It would also remove any confusion between the possible roles of the Director General of the Research Councils (DGRC) and the CSA (see next point) and reinforce the latter's role as the adviser to the Prime Minister;

    —  the DGRC should assume control of the OST. The OST should remain ring-fenced in DTI;

    —  the portfolio for science and technology should be represented at Cabinet level by a dedicated Minister.

  38.  If this re-organisation occurred the secretariat that supports the Council for Science and Technology (CST) should also move to the Cabinet Office. This would provide greater leverage to the respective roles of the CST and the CSA, both in terms of trans-departmental co-ordination and the latter's position as the principle adviser to the Prime Minister on scientific issues.


  39.  It is undoubtedly true that there has been a significant shift in attitudes across the science, engineering and technology base over the last 10 years. Academics are willing to both collaborate with industry and consider establishing start-up companies to exploit opportunities. Research of relevance to industry is no longer seen as of peripheral interest.

  40.  It is arguable that this change in attitude would have happened anyway, driven by what was happening in other countries, especially the United States, and fuelled by advances in science and technology. There has also been a blurring of boundaries between fundamental, strategic and applied research.

  41.  This question can only be answered through an experiment with a good control against which to judge any changes—obviously an impossible scenario. Many indicators that would be selected against which to judge success, such as an increase in the number of collaborations between industry and universities, would have happened anyway, but the 1993 White Paper spawned initiatives that are likely to have encouraged such links, accelerating the number created.

  42.  A more appropriate marker is whether the UK has improved its position in terms of stimulating the exploitation of research, in advance of our key competitor countries. For example, it could be claimed that the White Paper was one aspect that has led to a culture change both in universities and government that has stimulated the creation of biotechnology firms.

  43.  But bald figures on a number of biotechnology companies do not provide the whole picture. The 1999 Ernst & Young European Life Sciences Report9 noted that the UK had around 270 entrepreneurial biotechnology companies compared to less than 230 in Germany, whilst in 200010 this order was reversed, with Germany listing a few more than the UK's 280. Such direct comparisons are dangerous as they hide the fact the UK biotech sector is more mature in terms of both the size of companies and the numbers publicly listed.

  44.  Perhaps of greatest concern is that although many leading science and engineering based companies, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, have deepened their interactions with academe, the rest of UK industry remains aloof. The poor track record of investment in R&D by many sectors of industry in the UK remains a good indicator of this problem. With the exception of the pharmaceutical sector, chemicals, IT and other SET sectors continue to under-invest in R&D compared to competitors overseas as highlighted in the 1999 R&D Scoreboard11 (R&D investment as a percentage of sales in UK v overseas companies: Pharmaceuticals 15 per cent v 13.5 per cent, Chemicals 1.7 per cent v 6.1 per cent, Engineering and Machinery 1.6 per cent v 3.3 per cent. Electronic and Electrical 3.2 per cent v 5.3 per cent, Software and IT services 4.8 per cent v 13.6 per cent).

  45.  The recommendations of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on "Engineering and Physical Sciences Based Innovation"12 are pertinent to the problems of engaging companies in the benefits of science based innovation.


  46.  Glaxo Wellcome fully supports the objectives for the coming Science and Innovation White Paper set out by the Government in its consultation paper earlier this year. However there are two issues that must be addressed:

    —  the White Paper needs full support across government departments; and

    —  the need to invest in fundamental science of the highest quality is recognised.


  47.  There are five key aspects to a modern strategy for science, engineering and technology:

    —  investment in excellence to support leading research infrastructure focused on high quality research groups;

    —  a clear strategic framework for science and technology that evolves;

    —  consistent leadership from government and coherent implementation of science-based policies across departments;

    —  a stable macro-economic environment that supports a climate of innovation, entrepreneurship and risk taking; and

    —  a positive approach to engaging the public in debating and informing, but not dictating, the application of scientific research.

  48.  Underpinning all this must be a continuing focus on science education in schools. Without a good grounding in science and the ability to attract the brightest pupils into science, engineering and technology the science and innovation strategy currently being prepared will not have the desired impact. Glaxo Wellcome supports the steps being taken by the Government to address the key issues in science education—especially attracting new science teachers and focusing on what turns pupils off as they progress through school.

Investment in excellence

  49.  The UK must ensure that it maintains its investment in science, engineering and technology to produce both the next generation of leading scientists and the knowledge upon which industry increasingly depends. Glaxo Wellcome relies upon this dual supply of people and knowledge.

  50.  In 1998 Japan increased its investment in science by more than the UK's total science budget. This year the US President is requesting Capitol Hill to approve a 17 per cent increase in spending to support science. If approved, this will be the second consecutive year of double-digit science budget growth in the US. The UK must not only note that other countries are focusing on the importance of science and technology in creating a dynamic economy, but respond effectively by investing in high quality research infrastructure and leading scientists.

Clear strategic framework for science and innovation policy

  51.  The current science and innovation White Paper being developed by the UK Government should build and develop upon the 1993 White Paper. Neither should the 2000 White Paper be the last, the UK must continually adapt and evolve its policy as the rate of technological change accelerates and new social issues arise that have a significant scientific component.

Consistent leadership from government

  52.  The application of science is affected by many different government departments: the OST in the Department of Trade and Industry is responsible for funding research projects and postgraduate training; the DfEE is responsible for science education in schools and the block grant of the dual funding arm; HM Treasury is responsible for creating an appropriate fiscal environment in which entrepreneurial companies and larger companies can invest for the long-term; and other departments, such as MAFF and DoH, must invest in R&D to inform policy making.

  53.  It is essential that one government department does not inhibit another's policy objective at the very least and preferably all support key government-wide objectives.

  54.  The Government's commitment to innovation must also be consistently demonstrated in the policies and activities of public sector agencies. For example, the National Health Service has lagged behind health providers in other advanced economies in its take-up of new treatments and technologies. The Government has set up the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) with the welcome aim of providing faster access to modern treatments. However, early experience of NICE has given rise to concerns that its modus operandi could act as an additional barrier for new medicines to surmount, on top of the well-established requirements to demonstrate quality, safety and efficacy.

  55.  A fundamental problem with NICE's approach is its premise that everything that needs to be known about a new medicine can be established through expanded clinical trials. However, experience shows that the true value of a medicine can only be ascertained after it has been introduced into the healthcare environment and used extensively in every day clinical practice. Any attempt to reach a definitive assessment of the value of a new medicine before it is recommended for use in the NHS can only act as a significant disincentive to the introduction of innovative medicines into the UK, which would prevent real benefits reaching patients.

A stable macro-economic environment

  56.  If the UK does not sustain a stable environment in which new companies can be established and existing companies invest in R&D for the long-term, then all the UK's investment in education, research and initiatives to support innovation will be to no avail.

Debating and informing the application of science

  57.  The UK Government must heed the points raised in the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee's report on Science and Society13. Most importantly, as is already emerging, the relationship between scientists and the public needs to be reconsidered. Whilst the public should not be able to dictate the future direction of research, Government, industry and universities must be able to communicate what they are trying to achieve and take into account public attitudes.


  58.  The 1993 White Paper was a landmark in science policy. It represented the first government statement on the role of science, engineering and technology for around 20 years. This and the planned 2000 White Paper must not be the last. During the seven intervening years, there have already been significant advances in science and technology that are transforming the relationships between scientists in industry and academe and also between all scientists and the "public".

  59.  Whether all the changes witnessed over the intervening years can be put down to the 1993 White Paper is arguable. What is certainly true is that it brought together a variety of constituencies to discuss relevant policy and put in place a framework for exploiting science to economic benefit and focus on its role to enhance the quality of life of all in the UK.

  60.  Glaxo Wellcome, and other major companies, relies on the products of the science base—namely highly skilled people and knowledge. The 1993 White Paper has helped in focusing successive UK Governments to support science and technology. It is essential that this continues if the UK is to attract and sustain globally competitive industries.


  1 The UK R&D Scoreboard 1999: company data. June 1999. DTI (URN 99/215).

  2 Science, engineering and technology statistics 1999. OST.

  3 Review of S&T Activity Across Government, CST July 1999.
Technology Matters, CST, February 2000.
Science Teachers, CST, February 2000.

  4 The Academic Liaison Manager at GlaxoWellcome, is a member of the Technical Opportunities Panel in EPSRC.

  5 After Figure 3.3, SET Statistics 1999: A handbook of science, engineering and technology indicators, The Stationery Office, August 1999, Cm 4409.

  6 Science and Society. Third report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, Session 1999-2000.

  7 Paragraph 36. A Memorandum by Glaxo Wellcome to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Inquiry into "Science and Society". July 1999.

  8 Paragraph 8.2, page 68 Realising our potential: a strategy for science, engineering and technology, May 1993, HMSO, Cm2250.

  9  Page 4, Ernst & Young's European Life Sciences Report 99: sixth annual report, April 1999, Ernst & Young International Ltd.

  10  page 6, Ernst & Young's European Life Sciences Report 99: sixth annual report, April 1999, Ernst & Young International Ltd.

  11  The UK R&D Scoreboard 1999—Commentary and Analysis and Company data. DTI June 1999.

  12  Engineering and physical science based innovation. Second Report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Session 1999-2000.

  13 Science and Society. Third report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, Session 1999-2000.

June 2000

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