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Industry (Scientific Research)

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are his proposals to improve existing arrangements for the application of scientific research to industry.

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is seeking to help industrial firms to apply the results of research by constantly improving and extending technical liaison with industry. This will be done by its own stations: by the grant-aided research associations: by grants to regional technical information centres: by ensuring early publication of, and adequate publicity for results: and by making the world's scientific literature accessible through the new National Lending Library for Science and Technology.

While thanking the Minister for that comprehensive reply, which revealed that a lot of good work is being done, may I ask whether he is aware that many hon. Members consider that this Department of State in the second half of the 20th century is far more important than the Treasury? Is he aware that British light engineering industry, dependent as it is on machine tools, is being frustrated in its competition with the light engineering products of other countries all over the world because we are so backward in our machine tool industry? Will he intensify his efforts in getting the British machine tool industry to keep pace with light engineering techniques?

The Question refers to industry as a whole and raises particularly the problem of communications and how, so to speak, we can inspire the pagan to pay for his own conversion. The Department recently had two very successful conferences on this aspect of the matter. Many excellent ideas were brought forward, and we are working on a number of them.

While the Parliamentary Secretary has given a very good reply, as my hon. Friend said, may I ask whether he is satisfied that research is being used properly by small firms, in view of the Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy which takes the contrary view?

Certainly one is not satisfied. That is one reason why there was recently a conference in London, which I was able to attend, of the research associations on the application of research in industry, and a very successful conference in Swansea on "Science and Industry—the Problem of Communication", which was opened by my noble Friend, Lord Brecon.