Memorandum submitted by Dr R D Worswick,
Government Chemist and Chief Executive, LGC
LGC is the UK's largest independent analytical
laboratory. It occupies a unique position between the regulator
and regulated, providing advice, validation, consultancy and research
services to customers in both the public and private sectors.
The company has a unique structure, with its shares jointly owned
by the management and staff, 3i plc and the Royal Society of Chemistry
(RSC). The RSC advises the Government chemist and DTI on the discharge
of the Government Chemist's duties and monitors LGC's independence
and quality of science.
With its headquarters in Teddington, and its
North West base in Runcorn, LGC employs over 400 staff, including
those in its subsidiary companies, University Diagnostics Ltd
and Pipeline Developments Ltd. LGC also has European offices in
France, Spain and Sweden.
The Government Chemist is appointed at LGC by
the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to fulfil specific
statutory duties as referee analyst in cases of dispute, and to
provide advice for government and the wider analytical community
on the implications of analytical science for matters of policy,
standards and regulation.
2. THE 2000 SCIENCE
The origins of the White Paper in the Office
of Science and Technology are all too clear in its emphasis upon
the academic science base as the engine of innovation. The approach
risks disproportionate emphasis on the supply side, and sails
close to discredited linear models of innovation. It is disappointing
that the strategy takes little evident account of the widely differing
capacities of industry to respond to an increased drive from the
science base. We have an innovation policy that addresses primarily
the technically sophisticated companies, and even they are stretched
More help for universities to become drivers
of innovation will be effective only if their skills in identifying
potential for wealth creation are improved and if the other players
along the innovation chain are positioned, resourced and prepared
to be driven. The White Paper does nothing to counter the damaging
bias of knowledge transfer schemes towards the supply side, and
their limited reach. Current innovation policy takes insufficient
account of industry developments (restructuring, delayering, globalisation)
that influence receptiveness of the knowledge transfer message.
There is room for doubt whether the new "Reach Out"
fund will enable universities to find many new industrialists
ready to grasp the helping hand. It is becoming increasingly difficult
to find a receptive ear in delayered companies for a message about
extramural innovation. Technically sophisticated SMEs with established
relations with major companies and the science base are a soft
target for innovation policy.
Again, business incubators and science parks
are clearly effective for technically-based spin-outs, but they
do little to foster innovation in established companies. There
is, moreover, room for doubt whether universities are well placed
to provide local technical support for any significant span of
industry. The culture of science base training, often part time,
for local industrial staff and close contact with local industrial
requirements departed with the polytechnics; it has been replaced
by one that values liaison with more technically sophisticated
companies, wherever they are to be found.
Few would dispute the priority for science policy
of the greater pressure on material resources and the environment,
for sustainable development, for sound science in responding to
consumer and environmental concerns that threaten competitiveness,
for priority accorded to biomolecular science and its underpinning
disciplines. All these have clear implications for innovation
in chemical and biochemical measurement. Science-based risk assessment
is central in responding to consumer and environmental concerns
within trade and competitiveness policy. Government's £38million
annual expenditure on the National Measurement System was a striking
omission from the 2000 Science and Innovation White Paper.
No fewer than 75 per cent of companies across
the pharmaceuticals/agrochemicals, chemicals/petroleum, medical/health
and food/drink/tobacco sectors declare that chemical and biochemical
analysis is an essential business function. The turnover of the
UK analytical business exceeds £7billion. It follows that
innovation in analysis is an important component of the national
performance. The declaration by Foresight that UK analysis was
"lagging behind" stimulated activity to raise the level
of play, through the Royal Society of Chemistry, EPSRC and DTI.
It is important for Government to sustain and extend this new
drive for analytical excellence in parallel with using it to drive
innovation within the new strategy.
The requirement to secure wider innovation benefits
from Government's R&D spending on defence has long been recognised,
but there are opportunities too in departmental research programmes
in health, food, safety and the environment. Risk assessment is
commonly their focus and analytical science their cornerstone.
It follows that the innovation most likely to be drawn from these
programmes lies in analytical science, perhaps through novel operational
approaches, instruments, test kits and sensors. The current pressure
to keep regulatory science and advice clearly separated from industry
could be seen as a barrier, but an initiative to improve the scientific
support for risk assessment would be a valuable contribution to
improving the public's perception of government's dealing with
science. There is, similarly, significant potential for wider
analytical innovation from Government's research into fighting
crime. Drawing the Home Office meaningfully into a UK science
and innovation strategy is a clear requirement.
RTOs can drive innovation more effectively than
universities and yet the White Paper is silent about them. A broader
industrial audience could be reached through knowledge transfer
schemes delivered through RTOs, who have a clearer understanding
ofand closer connections withindustry sectors than
the science base. The examples of Germany and Holland show how
effective intermediary organisations can be in this mode.
Intermediary organisations and consultants are
more secure and credible sources of advice on technical processes
and problem solving than universities. Independent market research
commissioned by LGC shows that academic institutes were thought
to provide added value to only 14 per cent of companies questioned.
Knowledge transfer clubs seem to have fallen undeservedly from
favour in innovation policy, but have much to offer with good
management and the use of IT.
The RTOs are also well placed to contribute
to industrial training in technology, perhaps in collaboration
with the science base. The Science and Innovation White Paper
misses a trick in neither acknowledging nor seeking to capitalise
upon their value.
20 December 2000