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


Letter to the Committee Specialist from Mr J Stretton, UK Operations, Standard Life, on behalf of the Ageing Population Panel

  Thank you for the invitation to provide a written submission to the above Inquiry. I have asked that your letter be copied to the Panel members. They will reply to you directly if they have any points that they might wish to make in their personal capacities concerning the Initiative's past activities.

  The Panel has a number of general observations on EQUAL's performance to date, and comments on how EQUAL could be taken forward using the Foresight process.


  The Panel understands that EQUAL was set up as a cross-Research Councils' activity following publication of the "Realising Our Potential" White Paper. However, our overall perception is that the Initiative is not well known or understood beyond its immediate research community, yet the Initiative covers issues and challenges which have wider impacts.

  A list of EQUAL activities, which the Panel was given through other routes, indicates that research undertaken via the Initiative has done good work to date. Although each participating Research Council has responded well within its specific remit, the Panel does not perceive strong integration of activities across different Research Council-funded projects. Looking from the outside, there does not seem to have been any strong focus or any clear sense of direction. In other words, the Initiative appears to have suffered from a minimal attempt to co-ordinate research across this broad topic.


  Research into extending the quality of life is both sensible and appropriate. The Ageing Population Panel feels that there is much to be gained from continuing to explore issues under the broad title of EQUAL. Indeed, the Panel feels that a more structured EQUAL could be exactly the vehicle to further research objectives and take forward concepts identified through the Foresight process.

  However, if EQUAL is to realise its full potential, it must narrow down and focus its aims. It should develop a clear strategy, which includes an implementation plan (with an explicit timescale, measurable targets, and some notion of the potential for exploitation of the research). Its priorities should reflect (or at least explicitly accommodate) those priorities identified by the Foresight Ageing Population Panel—and other Panels within Foresight—so that EQUAL will not only be a series of research projects, but a working example of "Foresight in Action".

  To help meet the objectives, EQUAL should also extend its networking to facilitate links with the wider community, including business and commercial groups.

  The Panel recognises that for the Initiative to move forward in a structured and integrated way, more resources are likely to be required. It urges the Research Councils to consider how they might make specific resources available through ring-fencing.

24 January 2000

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