Lang praises ROPAs

June 28, 1996

More than 250 research projects worth Pounds 18 million have received the Government go-ahead in an initiative to encourage links between industry and universities.

Announcing the awards last week, Ian Lang, president of the Board of Trade, said that backing for such projects under the "Realising Our Potential Awards" scheme totalled Pounds 90 million.

This year's response from researchers to the ROPA programme has been "tremendous", he said, adding that research councils had received 900 applications. The number of applications has risen eve though the councils halved their involvement in ROPAs this past year.

Mr Lang said that a higher proportion of ROPAs had gone to high-quality research departments with ratings of 4 or 5 in the research assessment exercise than is the case for other research council grants.

This follows concern that projects of poor quality are being funded through the ROPA scheme.

In a wide-ranging speech to the Social Market Foundation in London, Mr Lang said the shift of the Office of Science and Technology to the Department of Trade and Industry a year ago had helped to "place science and technology in the context of trade and industry". He also posed the question of whether science is the business of government and said he believes the answer to be a "resounding yes".

Mr Lang said that 90 per cent of research funded by the Pounds 1.3 billion science budget is basic or strategic in nature and much of the remainder is in the medical, agricultural and environmental areas. He said: "Much of this research would not take place unless funded by Government. The outcomes from these basic types of research are in the nature of public good. Basic research is, by definition, research without a specific end in view and here experience shows the market does not, indeed cannot, operate. "Firms will not, and cannot be expected to support research where the resulting benefits cannot be captured for use solely or even mainly by an individual firm."

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