Technology scheme `failing its promise’

Analysts claim Foresight programme is not living up to plans

The full potential of the Technology Foresight exercise is not being realised, says the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post).

Only 24 of 500 applicants won funding under the Foresight Challenge. Progress is slow in many of the priority areas and follow-through often depends on voluntary or part-time project champions, says a report from Post, which provides analysis of science and technology issues.

The 15 Foresight panels brought together industry and academia to recommend priorities for research. The panel reports have been used to redirect Government funded research.

Post says that they should have been used more to build on the research base rather than redirect it, and that an opportunity to implement a coordinated science policy across Government is being missed.

It argues that the priorities identified by the steering groups should be used for `picking winners’ and that `some of the more promising ideas should be taken through to technical demonstrators’.

Conversely, it warns against important areas missing from the priority lists being denied funding. Examples quoted in the report include nanotechnology and electric and hybrid vehicle technology.

The report says that changes in fiscal and regulatory policies such as the tax structure affecting research and development need to be made to encourage development of technology.

By David Fowler