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


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Imperial Chemical Industries Group plc

  There is much to commend in the objectives of the White Paper.

  ICI strongly supports investment in the academic science base, as this is very much the engine for future (longer-term) growth potential. We would caution funds allocated for infrastructure renewal are "selectively" allocated, perhaps taking account of REA ratings in order to ensure that we maintain and enhance our world-class establishments.

  Increasing the PhD stipend is a sound move and should go some way towards encouraging British students to pursue post-graduate training.

  The move to provide funding to attract top researchers in to UK academia is laudable; however, it is not clear how this will be handled within the existing infrastructure. Will the funds go towards enhanced salaries or to assist research activities?

  We strongly support the move to provide a more focused approach to career development for fixed-term contract researchers.

  ICI has over the years assisted in the non-vocational training of university researchers working on collaborative projects with the company, eg CASE students, teaching company associates and sponsored post doctoral fellows. We would be pleased to make some of our training material more generally available.

  The proposed Science Ambassadors programme will undoubtedly receive support from our UK based science and engineering professionals. Many have been involved with the BAAS and the neighbourhood engineers programme over the years.

  ICI has since its foundation in 1926 worked closely with the academic sector and prides itself on the mutual trust between company researchers and their academic collaborators. This has largely been in the area of basic underpinning science and technology.

  The introduction of the Higher Education Reach out to Business and the Community seems to offer potential for universities to carry forward projects to "proof of principal" stage and we look forward to identifying opportunities for ICI to further engage with UK universities. We will also address the specific support to SMEs through promoting as appropriate through our supply chain network.

  The creation of Foresight generated tremendous energy across the industrial/academic sectors and helped considerably in developing an improved mutual understanding of "needs and deliverables".

  It is good news therefore that a new Foresight fund is to be launched. However, £15 million seems too little for investing in the target areas identified by the "Foresight community".

  As we stated in our submission to the Common's S&T Committee on "Are We Realising Our Potential"

    "The reports produced by the individual Foresight panels and the overview summary report were exemplary and established an excellent platform for investing in the science and technology of the future. However, I would suggest that the level of investment is still rather short of that anticipated through the first Foresight phase. I take as an example, the highest priority identified by the Chemicals Panel, ie creation of a "Centre for Applied Catalysis". This was granted a Foresight Challenge award of £3m over 4 years. Hardly world-class?"

  Increased funding for Faraday Partnership is welcomed as we see this as a means to developing an applied research centre network in the UK akin to the Fraunhofer Society in Germany. This greatly facilitates University to Industry technology transfer (and subsequent commercialisation).

8 January 2001

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