MPs blame industry for failure

May 12, 2000

Teaching, page 37 Industry must take the blame for the UK's relatively poor record of innovation in engineering and physical sciences over many decades, the government believes.

A recent House of Commons science and technology select committee said the problem was not the result of research weakness, but was due to industry's failure to develop and take advances through to the demonstration stage, marketing and launch.

In its response this week, the government said it agreed with the committee's conclusion, signalling an official acknowledgement that innovation in engineering and physical sciences operates very differently from the predominantly research-led mechanism for the biomedical sciences.

The MPs also criticised the level of support for exploitation of academic research. The Higher Education Funding Council for England, with Reachout, has earmarked Pounds 76 million over four years for this, but MPs believe this is too little to effect the culture change needed to encourage university industry collaborations.

The government said Hefce intends "in due course" to initiate a third stream of core funding for universities to further enhance their knowledge-transfer activities with business, alongside funds for research and teaching. Future funding in this area will need to be considered as part of the current spending review, it said.

The committee also voiced deep concern about "increasing confusion" over the plethora of government initiatives aimed at encouraging stronger links between universities and industry.

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