Research councils not plugged into UK plc, say MPs

June 16, 2006

MPs attacked the research councils for failing to take a co-ordinated approach to knowledge transfer this week.

In a critical report, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee said that the councils had to share more best practice and to do more to encourage universities to transfer their knowledge into businesses.

RCUK, the overarching body for the councils, came in for particular criticism for giving "no added value in this area".

Phil Willis, who chairs the committee, said MPs were concerned that the research councils operated in silos. "RCUK has a very laid-back approach to knowledge transfer across the whole sector. What we are trying to do is to get them to realise that this is a crucial area for UK plc."

Mr Willis said that the report highlighted the complacency of the research councils with regard to what is a key area of government policy: to make better use of basic science for wealth creation.

"The research councils spend £3.4 billion of taxpayers' money. They should accept that they have a role to play."

Too often they fail to meet the requirements of organisations that could benefit from knowledge transfer and focus on informing rather than consulting on what is needed, the MPs said. More research into the impact of research councils' knowledge transfer schemes was required, they said.

Philip Esler, chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, who is to chair the RCUKJknowledge transfer group, said: "The report is very useful and highlights areas of strength and those in need of improvement. Any organisation is capable of raising its game. I will infuse that attitude in the group."

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