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Ropa Scheme

Volume 264: debated on Thursday 19 October 1995

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the realising our potential award—ROPA—scheme. [38689]

I am pleased to announce that I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of a report on the first two years' operation of the ROPA scheme.It is clear from the report that the ROPA scheme is fully living up to expectations. It encourages academic researchers to collaborate with industry on strategic research, and it provides responsive-mode funding for them to carry out undirected, curiosity-driven research of their own choosing.Over the two years, there has been an excellent demand for ROPA awards with a total of 1,521 applications, resulting in 719 awards having been made, worth a total of some £71.1 million over the lifetime of the projects.ROPA scheme applicants have stated that they are involved in basic or strategic research projects funded by industry or commerce to the value of about £260 million. This in itself is a tribute to the excellence and relevance of much of the science and engineering based and industry's appreciation of it.The Government are committed to the need to ensure excellence in research. ROPA awards have gone to some first-rate scientists and departments to fund some innovative research projects. An analysis in the report shows that across all research councils, of those ROPAs which went to university departments within the scope of the 1992 research assessment exercise, 67 per cent. went to departments rated 4 or 5—the top two ratings—compared to 65 per cent. for councils' other grants. It also shows that the success rates of applicants to ROPA was about 47 per cent. overall, which is consistent with the range of success rates for councils other schemes—some 20 to 60 per cent.The scheme has been widely welcomed both by industry and by academics. The evaluation contained in the report shows that the scheme has been successful and has justified its introduction.