Bidders for research institute pull out

October 26, 1995

Some of the potential bidders for the Natural Resources Institute have pulled out because of changes made in the run up to privatisation by its owner, the Over-seas Development Administration, writes Aisling Irwin.

Since the ODA announced last year that it was to sell the NRI, it has decided to cut 140 staff and focus more on applying research in developing countries than originating new research.

Reading University, which was one of eight institutions invited to bid for the institute, says it has decided to pull out because the changes shift it towards being a consultancy rather than a research institute. Vice chancellor Roger Williams said: "We are a university with strong research aspirations. There are dimensions of the NRI which remain attractive. However, the overall package came in the course of the last few months to seem progressively less attractive to us."

The eight groups reached a shortlist last spring for bidding for the insitute, which is based in Chatham Maritime in Kent. The deadline for indicative bids was last week. Warwick University has also pulled out, saying that the changes at the institute were one factor, although not the major one.

One university that has gone ahead with its bid is Greenwich, which is bidding with Imperial College London, Edinburgh University and Wye College. Vice chancellor David Fussey said that Greenwich was happy with the changes that had been made. Greenwich would probably keep the institute where it is, an issue that is important to local politics. "We are not considering a wholesale relocation," he said. But he said that there was "a possibility but not a strong one" that some parts would be moved.

The University of East Anglia has bid along with the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre, under the title of Norwich Research Park Consortium. Geoff Brown, pro vice-chancellor, said: "Our thinking is that the institute would move. Most likely it would serve our purposes best if it was to move here."

Also bidding is the University of Wales with Serco International, a task management contractor which has worked in areas from air traffic control to higher education. Other possible bidders include Nottingham and Leicester Universities, Cranfield University, and the Scottish Agricultural College.

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