Foresight scheme faces row over cash

The Government’s Foresight programme came under attack this week from industrialists who claim the project is underfunded. Foresight aims to bring business and universities together to talk about future technology. Launching the next round of the programme to members at a reception in London, industry minister John Battle said the Government was ‘totally committed to […]

The Government’s Foresight programme came under attack this week from industrialists who claim the project is underfunded. Foresight aims to bring business and universities together to talk about future technology.

Launching the next round of the programme to members at a reception in London, industry minister John Battle said the Government was ‘totally committed to Foresight’.

But some of those present voiced fears that lack of funds risked compromising the pace and scope of the panels’ work.

‘They are getting Foresight on the cheap,’ said one Foresight panel chairman, who claimed that shortage of money for administrative back-up was adding to the pressure on those drawn in to take part.

‘The truth is, the people you want on these panels are not the people who have time to be on the panels. If you do manage to get the good people, everyone is under enormous pressure. If you don’t you are wasting time,’ he said.

Those in industry involved in the panel discussions remain generally positive about the new contacts set up with other experts within related disciplines and inside Government, but some people doubt whether this enthusiasm will continue.

‘The Government should pick just one project from each of the 16 sector areas under discussion and put serious cash into it millions of pounds inviting industry to bid to come on board,’ said one panel member.

So far £30m of Government funds has been made available for Foresight Challenge projects addressing priorities that came out of earlier panel discussions.

But recommendations for more substantial funding have been rejected.

New Foresight teams will start meeting in April 1999.