The March 2006 report “Science and Innovation Investment Framework: Next Steps”, published alongside the Budget, announced that the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) would have a wider remit to stimulate business innovation in those areas that offer greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity, and that plans for it to operate at arm's length from central Government would be worked up. I am today announcing a number of decisions to take forward this proposal.
The present advisory Technology Strategy Boardhas made an excellent start in delivering the new Technology Programme. Over 500 projects have been supported, mobilising over £750 million of resources devoted to research and development in new and existing sectors of the UK economy.
I have concluded that the right way forward bothto build on the success of the TSB and ensure the technology support programme continues to be delivered in an efficient and effective way is to create an executive arm's length body. Subject to the approval of Parliament, the new body will be established by Order in Council, as an executive-non departmental public body under the Science and Technology Act 1965. It will be business focused with a business-led board. It will work closely with Government Departments to ensure that policies and spending programmes contribute fully to the technology and innovation agenda, creating real commercial advantage for UK business.
The objectives of the body will be to promoteand support research into, and development and exploitation of, science and technology and new ideas for the benefit of business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. The establishment of the new body will provide improved strategic focus, better operational flexibility, and greater consistency and coherence in the delivery of our technology support programme, as well as an improved ability to work with third parties.
The main role of the new body will be to deliver a programme of Government financial support through collaborative R and D and knowledge transfer to encourage business investment in, and use of, technology across all sectors of the UK economy. It will provide leadership to Government Departments and Agencies and work with the Regional Development Agencies, the Research Councilsand the Devolved Administrations on technological developments and innovation of importance to UK industry. A key role of the new body will be to promote close working between Government and business in developing and exploiting new technologies. The new body will be asked to advise Government on areas where barriers exist to the exploitation of new technologies, and put forward recommendations as to how they can be removed, but responsibility for the overall direction of innovation policy will remain with Ministers.
Graham Spittle, the present Chair of the Technology Strategy Board, has agreed to chair the new body. This will help to ensure that the successful work of the TSB is carried forward. Mr Spittle has a tremendous record driving innovation in business and I greatly appreciate the leadership he has provided to the TSB in his current role.
Following a general review of possible locations against a set of objective criteria, including a number of specific sites proposed by the Regional Development Agencies, the Government have decided that Swindon should be the primary location for the body. I expect the new body to be formally inaugurated in the first half of the 2007-08 financial year.