English regions need to know their place

August 9, 2002

Regional development agencies for England are now getting going, and the people who run them share an enthusiasm for innovation as the key to creating new jobs and industries. The problem is that the link between research and new or more productive business is indirect. But nobody doubts that state spending on research is the starting point on which lively university departments, and people capable of interacting with or launching businesses, depend. So a research assessment exercise that threatens to concentrate cash in the most prosperous regions of southeast England is a threat to other regions.

In an era when there is growing support for a European Research Council, it would be foolish to divide research funding in England regionally. Instead, the priority should be to ensure that companies can get access to innovation wherever it comes from. The regional development agencies should regard doing this - and if necessary getting funds for it - as part of their core mission, not trying to second-guess the funding and research councils about the best places to do research.

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