Bright ideas needed for R&D cash

March 20, 1998

The government wants to hear from universities, research organisations and innovative businesses as it considers how best to stimulate investment in research and development, writes Julia Hinde.

In a joint document called Innovating for the Future, issued alongside the budget by the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry, the government says innovation and successful exploitation of new technology are crucial for economic success. But, with certain exceptions, UK industry spend on research and development has declined relative to other major economies over the past 20 years.

The document suggests numerous ways the government can help counter this, and asks for views from "key players" to feed into the DTI's competitiveness white paper, due later this year, and the next budget. Topics include improving finance for high-tech start-up companies, establishing new R&D tax credits, the treatment of intellectual property and increasing links between industry and science.

The document invites ideas to boost the attractiveness of science and engineering students to employers through, for instance, more emphasis on management training for undergraduates. It also ponders how to encourage universities to help staff set up businesses to exploit ideas.

Ray Baker, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said, "It is a brilliant idea for the government to take stock of people's ideas and to build on them."

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