F2000: once more with feeling

June 13, 1997

Technology Foresight has worked well and was worth the effort, but simply repeating the exercise in 2000 will not do, says a report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

According to POST, Technology Foresight, which was set up by the previous Government to link public spending on science more closely to wealth creation, has successfully forged links between industry and science in universities, across disciplines and between companies.

The programme, which has cost an estimated Pounds 6 million so far, is influencing research priorities in the areas most directly under the control of the Office of Science and Technology, the research councils. But its impact on other government departments has been limited.

It is also thought that the programme's message is not getting through to company boardrooms. R&D is still a lower priority for UK industry than for many of its competitors.

POST wants Foresight to work with other policies which seek to influence research investment. While Technology Foresight generated ideas, changes in fiscal and regulatory policy may be needed to persuade companies to take a longer-term view.

The report also notes that Foresight Challenge, designed to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, has so far only supported 24 of more than 500 proposed schemes.

With the Government undertaking a review of Foresight and a new exercise planned for 1999/2000, POST says the programme has been unusual in the extent to which it has focused on priority setting in research councils and universities. "Indeed some have gone so far as to see it as aiming at the wrong target," says the report. "Rather than continue in this vein, one option would be to direct F2000 towards contributing to a 'cultural' change in industry, among investors and managers."

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