Vulnerable research departments in universities should be supported by regional development agencies if they do not receive funding under the research assessment exercise, the House of Lords recommended this week.
The science and technology select committee warned that national science policy was jeopardising economic development in the regions. Research of local importance may not win a top RAE rating, so it often loses out on funding, the Lords said.
The report, Science and the RDAs: SETting the Regional Agenda, says:
"Although outstanding research achievements undoubtedly add strength to the science base in a region, many of the important problems that face business on a day-to-day basis may be solved with less stratospheric levels of expertise."
National policies tend to focus research funding in London and the Southeast. Without local science, engineering and technology research, RDAs would have nothing to turn into economic value.
A priority for the government, said the Lords, was a single science policy to integrate national and regional science policies by the end of 2004. A national forum would be the umbrella for all science policy, to ensure both regional and national dimensions were considered.
Lord Oxburgh, select committee chair and a former rector of Imperial College London, said the RDAs' attempts to boost regional economies were further stymied by central government controls.
"What we've found are highly motivated business-led bodies that are frustrated in their task of boosting their regions by having to tick boxes," he explained.