Science split over DTI plan

December 7, 2001

The science community has given a cool welcome to plans for a government directorate dedicated to technology transfer.

But it is split over the decision to leave the Office of Science and Technology in the Department of Trade and Industry.

An internal DTI review last week recommended a directorate be set up in the DTI to strengthen links between the research community and industry, headed by a director general of science, technology and innovation. It is unclear who would fund the position or whether schemes such as Foresight would move out of the OST.

Peter Cotgreave, director of Save British Science, said he had argued to the DTI that the OST would be better placed as a stand-alone ministry. He said it was odd that a review that concluded that the first priority for the DTI was to strengthen the science base proposed no changes to its funding.

But Lord May, president of the Royal Society and former government chief scientific adviser, said he was relieved that the OST was staying in the DTI. "The outcomes look good. They've not messed around with the OST, which has been demonstrably working well." He said moving the chief scientific adviser to the cabinet would leave the research councils without a permanent secretary and could risk the ringfencing of their budgets.

Robin Jackson, policy adviser at Universities UK, said he hoped the new science director would rationalise and simplify the knowledge transfer schemes run by the DTI and the OST.

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