3.46 As the Minister noted (Q 389), DTI has been actively
encouraging RDAs to establish Science Councils to help build coordinated
regional capacity in SET. Most RDAs have either already established
such bodies or are actively planning to do so.
3.47 The first Science Council was set up in the North West
in 2001. Its aims were, as Dr Brown of Arthur D Little Ltd noted:
to lead the development of a science strategy at a regional level;
to help secure commitment and resources for the science base;
to act as an advocate for science and its role in the regional
economy; and to develop an effective productive relationship between
the SET base and Industry (p 268). While, as intended, the
Council had a degree of independence from the RDA, the remaining
link was important. As the NorthWest Science Council noted, the
RDA was in a unique position to bring together the partners, facilitate
progress, and channel the necessary resources and commitment into
action and results (p 146).
3.48 Close behind the North West, the North East set up a
Science and Industry Council in December 2001 (p 139), adding
"Industry" to the title to underline the Council's practical
purpose. The LDA had an Innovation Steering Group which not only
served as a Science Council but also took in the creative industries
(Q 251). SEEDA had just established its Science Council (Q 250).
3.49 As we saw during our visits to the North West (Appendix
6) and the North East (Appendix 8), and as reinforced by the Science
(and Industry) Councils' written and oral evidence (p 139,
p 146 and QQ 261-276), both Councils have made an impressive
start. The business involvement and lead have been key in setting
them up, but their strength lies in the amalgam of senior representation
from business, academia and the public sector (including the NHS).
3.50 A Science Council provides an RDA with a regional mechanism
for the in-depth assessment of SET aspects of regional policies.
Because the businesses and universities are based in region but,
by their nature, also have everyday contact with the national
and international scene, such a Council is well-placed to assess
SET matters in the light of both regional circumstances and national
considerations. It can thus play a key role in advising the RDA
on SET generally and on related funding allocations. Moreover,
such a Council provides a clear channel to serve current and emerging
industry needs in key clusters, as well as a means of connecting
with national SET activities and policies such as Foresight.
3.51 We recommend that all RDAs should have a regional Science
Council or similar body and that RDAs should collaborate in assisting
those Councils to network and make good connections with national
SET and Innovation bodies and policies.