Foresight gets praise

December 8, 1995

Completion of the first stages of the Technology Foresight programme in just two years was a "remarkable achievement" despite "some flaws" in the process, according to the House of Commons science and technology committee.

In a report this week, the committee says that almost all its witnesses commented favourably on Foresight's role in constructing networks between producers and consumers of research.

MPs on the committee, which is chaired by Sir Giles Shaw, agree with the Government that the next phase should concentrate on implementation.

Participants should be willing to "adapt or even abandon" the original results from the 15 sector panels and recommendation of the Foresight steering group.

They say that while it is "reasonable" to ask research councils to demonstrate that some spending is directed towards Foresight priorities, the initiative should not be used in "too directive a way".

The Government has allocated Pounds 40 million to the Foresight Challenge, a scheme managed by the Office of Science and Technology to take forward recommendations of the panels and steering group.

The report says that "as long as the Challenge Awards take advice from research councils and sector panels, the mechanisms for making the awards should be satisfactory". The committee warns that industry's support for Foresight will wane if the Government is not seen to allocate the necessary resources.

The presentation of information on the Department of Trade and Industry's expenditure on science, engineering and technology innovation in the "Forward Look", was unsatisfactory, it said.

The MPs also say that OST should require departments to provide detailed breakdowns of all categories of spending on science and technology. They want clearer information about how figures in the Forward Look relate to figures in departmental annual reports. "We are surprised that this has not already been done. This seems to be evidence that the transdepartmental coordination promised in the 1993 science White Paper is not working satisfactorily."

The committee is also concerned at the lack of a chief scientific adviser at the DTI and recommends the post should be recreated.

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