To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what procedures his Department uses for determining the priorities for investment in scientific and technological research in Europe;(2) if he will outline his Department's responsibilities, and the procedures used, for allocating funds from this country for national, European and international research projects in science and technology.
The Department of Trade and Industry's responsibilities include support of firms through longer-term national collaborative research programmes and EUREKA—and for small firms, through the small firms' merit award for research and technology (SMART). The Department of Trade and Industry also plays a key role in the definition of European Community research and development framework programmes, and other international research programmes of interest to United Kingdom industry.With regard to resource allocation for support of industrial innovation, the Department consults widely with industry, and with research councils and universities on areas of research and technologies which are likely to be most beneficial, both at the national and international level. Hence during the recent negotiations on the framework programme, careful attention was paid to advice from the Advisory Council on Science and Technology and the Confederation of British Industry, and from industry through our own advisory committees. In this way the Department plays an active role in defining the priorities and objectives of the framework programme and in identifying appropriate areas of national expenditure. However, with a maximum of 50 per cent. support from the Department or the European Community, the key decisions are those of the individual firms participating in the programmes.The Department's policy is to ensure that expenditure is directed towards well-justified programmes of all types which represent good value for money. Framework programmes should have a clear European rationale and be complementary to national programmes and other international activities.