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


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

  Following our earlier correspondence, I am writing to offer brief comment in connection with your review. As I indicated at that stage, the EPSRC is a directly interested party and I hope that as a consequence, you will excuse us from making a lengthy response. There are however, two points where the experience of the EPSRC may be of value to the Committee, since these points arise from experience with the inner workings of the systems set in place in 1993-94.

  The first relates to the structure for the senior management within the newly organised research councils. Here I would wish to emphasise that the experience of the EPSRC has confirmed the value of the arrangements proposed in the White Paper. The combination of a part-time industrial Chairman and a full time academic Chief Executive has been found to be most helpful. The strategic directives imparted by an industrial Chairman can be of the greatest value; they have been particularly useful as the EPSRC has established its patterns of operation during the first years of its existence.

  A second issue relates to the structure of six research councils, which resulted from the White Paper. This has been found to be successful in allowing specific missions to be identified and organisational structures developed to fulfil them. Thus, major international collaborations can receive concentrated attention in the programmes for particle physics astronomy and space science (PPARC); underpinning conventional scale science in the university sector can receive concentrated attention (eg EPSRC). As with any structure which seeks to identify divisions within the fabric of science and engineering, there have been interface issues, but the individual councils working with the Director General of the Research Councils have given specific attention to managing such interfaces. Notable examples of initiatives of this kind are the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (jointly funded by NERC, EPSRC and ESRC) and the Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Tissue Engineering (jointly funded by EPSRC, MRC and BBSRC).

12 January 2001

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