Chemicals firms lack R&D support

Lack of Government support for British universities may hamper the ability of the chemical industry to innovate in the future, according to the Chemical Industries Association (CIA). The first ever CIA innovation survey has highlighted concern among chemical companies that the Government does not invest enough in universities or research and development infrastructure. The companies […]

Lack of Government support for British universities may hamper the ability of the chemical industry to innovate in the future, according to the Chemical Industries Association (CIA).

The first ever CIA innovation survey has highlighted concern among chemical companies that the Government does not invest enough in universities or research and development infrastructure.

The companies surveyed complained that the grant system for Government-backed research is cumbersome, and that there is a lack of high-quality scientists. University-based research is also becoming more expensive.

From an international perspective, the CIA said the UK’s science base remains strong in most disciplines. However, lack of government support for both small and multinational companies carrying out research in the UK has affected the R&D investment climate.

`We still appear to be lagging behind the global competition and have no evidence that we are more effective in our R&D spending than our competitors,’ said CIApresident Dr Joe Blaker. `The message is clear – we are underinvesting in our future.’

The UK chemical industry invested 4% of its turnover – around £268m – on R&D during 1998. Of this, 5% – £13m – was spent in the academic sector. Of the chemical firms surveyed, 80% were involved in some form of R&D activity with universities, either as the funder or through joint work, including the LINK and Teaching Company Scheme projects.

Collaborative projects in which companies become the sole funder of university research were the most popular form of industry-academic cooperation.

Other methods include visiting academic positions, contract research, fixed-term university appointments and basic support.

The surveyed companies said that the business environment, university infrastructure and legislation are the three main factors taken into account when considering investments in R&D.