A ministerial Foresight Group is to be set up to combat industrialists’ lack of interest in the Technology Foresight programme.
Foresight seeks partnerships between industry, academia and Government to identify new technologies and markets.
The ministerial group will aim to provide top level coordination of the programme throughout the Government, and will be supported by renewed efforts to involve industry, particularly small business.
The recommendations stem from an audit of the Foresight programme set up in May by trade and industry secretary Margaret Beckett.
Announcing the move last week, Beckett said the audit found that ‘linkages between departmental and Foresight activities are not as strong as they might be’.
The ministerial group will be chaired by industry, energy and science minister John Battle and will include representatives from, as a minimum, the Treasury, the Departments for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Education and Employment, and Health, and the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Offices.
In an interview with The Engineer, Battle said the aim was to put Foresight ‘not only at the centre of what the DTI is doing but throughout Government as well’.
He wanted to challenge ‘the whole notion that our society is good at ideas but incapable of turning them into business practice and generating wealth’.
The audit also calls for improved dialogue between departments, research and funding councils; greater involvement of trade associations and other business organisations and the identification of business leaders willing to act as spokesmen for Foresight as a way of ‘increasing business awareness and engagement in Foresight’; and for the Office of Science and Technology, the DTI Innovation Unit and the Treasury to consider setting up a group to look at the role of financial services organisations in supporting small high-tech firms.
Battle interview, page 16