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Technology Transfer

Volume 227: debated on Monday 28 June 1993

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36.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what specific measures he will take under the Technology Foresight programme to increase technology transfer.

The Technology Foresight programme will promote technology transfer through a new partnership between science and industry. Improvements in working relationships between academics and industrialists have been a major feature of foresight processes overseas. This programme will help the Government to determine their own priorities for spending on science and technology.

I think that the Minister would agree that the Technology Foresight programme looks constructive on paper, but that, as in science itself, translation from theory into practice is not always easy and requires resources and imagination. In view of the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Office of Science and Technology, can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that funds have followed the transfer and that he has the necessary funds to launch and promote the programme? What measures has he taken to encourage to join his steering committee people with the creativity, imagination and commitment to ensure that the programme translates from theory into practice?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point. It is perfectly easy to describe the process, but what really matters is to get it established well and working well. My Department is now involved in a series of regional visits across the country, discussing how best to take forward the programme—officials have doubtless been to Leeds to discuss it with the relevant players there. It is essential that we have the involvement of those working at the laboratory bench and those in industry who really understand markets.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the more industry is involved in the Technology Foresight programme, the more likely it is that industry will pick up the fruits of that programme and carry them through to the marketplace?

My hon. Friend makes an essential point. The Technology Foresight programme here must be like the successful programmes abroad and not be dominated by Whitehall; it must be led by practitioners in the field including scientists, engineers and industrialists. We at the centre should simply be the secretariat for the process. That is the intention.