NRI takeover is a 'model for others'

May 3, 1996

The first takeover of a public sector research establishment by a university happened this week when Greenwich University officially took possession of the Natural Resources Institute from the Overseas Development Administration.

Lynda Chalker, minister for overseas development, said at the handover ceremony that the university takeover was "a model for others to follow".

Acquiring the NRI is a major step in Greenwich University's ambitions to build a major new campus in the Medway Towns in Kent. The institute's 360 staff occupy imposing buildings in Chatham Maritime.

Greenwich is the sole owner of NRI. But a company has been hived off from the institute, whose ownership will be joint between Greenwich, Edinburgh University and Wye and Imperial Colleges, both part of London University.

The company, NRInternational, will begin trading on August 1. It will act as a professional project management and marketing agent for NRI and will manage major multi-disciplinary projects. Its acting chief executive will be John Prescott, principal of Wye College.

The NRI's acting head is David Wills, dean of the faculty of the environment. Greenwich acted sufficiently quickly to ensure that the NRI was included in the latest round of the Research Assessment Exercise.

The privatisation had raised fears that the NRI's mission, to help developing countries, would be eroded. But Baroness Young, chancellor of Greenwich, said that the handover was "a huge opportunity for new joint developments in research, technology transfer and training programmes to the benefit of the developing countries and other parts of the world".

Baroness Chalker said: "I am very pleased at the outcome of the privatisation process. The future of NRI and its staff is secure. An invaluable source of multi-disciplinary skills is preserved for the aid programme. Existing links across the UK science base are greatly enhanced."

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