Francis Crick Institute comes under MPs’ microscope

A cross-party group of MPs is keeping a “close eye” on the development of the multi-million pound Francis Crick Institute

June 10, 2014

Andrew Miller, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, said that it has requested six-monthly reports from management about progress on “one of the largest pieces of capital investment in recent years”.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators in Blackpool, Mr Miller said that the institute was “expensive” thanks to the “government’s decision to locate it in central London”.

The Francis Crick Institute, a multidisciplinary medical research institute based at King’s Cross, is scheduled for completion in autumn 2015.

Mr Miller said that the finished facility “ought to be impressive, at a total cost of over £600 million”. Half of the capital cost has come from the Medical Research Council, he added.

The committee is also following closely developments in school science, where Mr Miller said there is a “devaluation” of practical skills, which could affect the future scientific workforce. 

Earlier this year Ofqual, the examinations regulator, announced a move to a pass or fail system for practical work at A level and the decoupling of practical marks from overall grades.

The move caused “general outrage” among the scientific community, said Mr Miller, adding that ministers had stood by the decision despite evidence from scientists that they had “gambled” with the “future UK workforce”. “We will therefore continue to consider this matter over the coming months,” he said.

“In the meantime, we suggest that [the government] must do better if the UK is to maintain its standing as a global scientific powerhouse,” he added.

Mr Miller, who is planning to stand down as an MP at the next election, said that science occupies a “far more prominent place in government” than it did 22 years ago when he first arrived at Westminster.

But he said there is “no room for complacency”. He added that the UK research base, although strong, remains “behind the international curve” for delivering economic return from investments in research and is slow to commercialise the “best innovations”.

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Reader's comments (1)

Other than for a limited few leading academic specialisms development of university Research Council and Hefce QR funded research into products and services has seemingly not realised full potential for the UK economy, and perhaps needs a more robust intermediate stage to effectively engage with the emerging exciting Catalysts centres venture. Maybe establish more bridging-type Public Partnerships Private (PPPs) co-funded with industrial and commercial sponsors as Research Institutes, and thereby better utilise successful university research subject coalitions (e.g. those consistently rated 4*), and additionally perhaps place many more Doctoral centre trainees in potentially innovative SMEs.

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