Blair to fund new ideas from old

February 7, 1997

A Labour government would launch a multi-million pound scheme aimed at supporting young, emerging talent in the arts, science and technology, it was announced this week.

Giving a speech on the arts and culture, party leader Tony Blair said Labour would create a National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta). It would be funded through lottery funds from the proposed successor to the Millennium Commission. Further support would come through gifts or assignments of copyrights and patent royalties from successful artists, designers and inventors.

Nesta would be "a self-financing, 21st-century national trust for talent in Britain, backing human capital rather than buildings", said Mr Blair.

Mark Fisher, shadow minister for the arts, said copyright and patent donations to the scheme could cover "anything that attracts royalties", including designs, stage plays, music scores and scientific inventions.

Mr Fisher said Nesta would identify individuals, typically in their twenties and thirties, who might benefit from investment in the early years of their career: "We produce excellent designers, for example, but a lot of talented ones come out of training and founder in the early years. Architects in Britain - unless they are lucky enough to work for big, successful practices - often have to wait until they are 40 before they produce a whole building. In France they produce entire constructions at a much earlier age. We have imaginative inventors but are poor at nurturing their talent."

The scheme, however, was slammed by heritage secretary Virginia Bottomley: "This 'luvvies charter' confirms our worst fears. The scheme would be at the expense of local communities up and down the country." She accused Labour of already having spent Millennium funds several times over.

Film producer Sir David Puttnam, who played a key role in formulating the Nesta concept, said: "There is a beautiful simplicity to the idea of using old copyrights to stimulate new ones."

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