Tory plan for ideas agency

December 8, 2006

A future Conservative government should set up a £1 billion agency to turn research ideas into products and services, a task force has recommended.

An Innovative Projects Agency would correct "the UK's relative weakness at innovation", the Conservative Task Force on Science, Engineering and Mathematics said last week.

The agency would take on the work of the existing Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Trade and Industry's knowledge-transfer programmes, the innovation budget, the UK high-technology fund, a slice of the Government's £1.6 billion research and development budgets and parts of the science and technology budgets of the regional development agencies.

The agency would not be a substitute or rival to the research councils, although some of their funds would also go to the programme, the task force said.

The agency would work alongside a new Knowledge Application Team, which would identify gaps in innovation.

Ian Taylor MP, chair of the task force, said the agency would "help change the anti-science culture in this country by showing that our scientists and engineers can provide solutions to social problems".

He said the agency would be judged on the number of research projects that led to socially or commercially useful products or services, but some failures would be acceptable.

The agency is based on organisations such as the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was set up in 1958 after the US was surprised by the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite.

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