Puttnam scouts for talent

July 24, 1998

Individual scientists and artists are likely to be the main winners of grants from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

Helping people to reach their full potential is the first of Nesta's three stated aims. The organisation's role will be fleshed out in the next few weeks when its chairman and trustees meet for the first time.

In its response to the Nesta proposals, the Royal Society advocated supporting creative individuals to develop their talents in whatever direction they choose over five years. The idea is copied from the United States, where MacArthur fellowships are given on the basis of recommendations from about 100 talent scouts whose identities remain secret.

Nesta also aims to turn ideas and innovation into marketable products and services. This could help the organisation, which has Pounds 200 million from the lottery, to raise more cash.

The body is duty-bound to seek gifts of assistance, money, land and other property. It is proposed that anyone who receives funding from Nesta should be required to feed back a proportion of any royalties. However, some senior figures are sceptical about whether any significant amounts of money will be raised in this way.

Projects for the public appreciation of science, technology and the arts will also be supported by Nesta. These could include funding artists-in-residence in research laboratories, building links between scientists and schools or community groups, or setting up touring exhibitions that link science and art.

Nesta will be headed by film-maker and Labour peer Lord Puttnam. Eight trustees have been appointed so far: Chris Evans, a biochemist and entrepreneur; Clive Gillinson, managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra; Francois Matarasso, a researcher on the social impact of the arts and author; Genista McIntosh, executive director of the Royal National Theatre; Dame Bridget Ogilvie, who officially retires as director of the Wellcome Trust in September; Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and professor of astronomy at the University of Cambridge; Carol Vorderman, television personality; and David Wardell, director of the Intellectual Property Development Confederation.

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