HC Deb 06 May 1999 vol 330 cc1083-4
15. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

If he will review ways to stimulate the creation of new companies in science parks around universities with the participation of university staff. [82373]

The Minister for Energy and Industry (Mr. John Battle)

The Government are aware of the important role that incubators and science parks can play in nurturing new companies, and have supported the setting up of UK Business Incubation as a centre to promote best practice among those nurturing young companies.

Dr. Palmer

I am grateful for the Minister's comments. I understand that Cambridge university attributes the flowering of science companies partly to the university's policy of allowing staff to use research from the university to start companies. I know that not all universities follow that practice. Given the importance of the generation of new technology companies, does the Minister think that Government recommendations on how universities might best promote such activity would be suitable, bearing in mind universities' independence?

Mr. Battle:

As well as making recommendations, we are developing policies on moving the excellent research and engineering base into the productive economy. There are some 50 science parks across the country, including Cambridge, Aston, Teesside and Warwick. We want a synapse between universities, commerce and business so that new products and processes are created, resulting in new jobs. There are two relevant policies. Some £60 million seed capital funding from the university challenge fund is matched by money from universities to enable them to turn research into good business. The £25 million behind the science enterprise challenge will encourage eight centres to develop entrepreneurship alongside the excellent science developed at universities.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

I am sure that the Minister recognises the achievements of Brunel science park at Brunel university in my constituency. I am sure that he also recognises that, when companies that have been nurtured in science parks outgrow the parks, they find it difficult to locate on suitable sites nearby and very often must relocate, causing local job losses. Can his Department suggest any measures that might alleviate that problem?

Mr. Battle

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's question. Indeed, I have visited Brunel. In answering, I shall simply recall an anecdote. A person in my constituency who developed a valve wanted to set up a business and asked for assistance. From working in a bedsit, he was offered 20,000 sq ft of flatted factory floor 20 miles away. People need small and appropriate assistance. We must combine assistance to universities with support through business links. That one-stop shop will support fledgling businesses, so that they are enhanced and thrive and develop to provide new jobs.

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