§ Dr. Ernest A. Davies
asked the Minister of Technology what he is doing to promote the development of industrial instruments.
§ Mr. Benn
I am instituting an Advanced Industrial Instrumentation Project to help instruments manufacturers develop technically advanced instruments for measurement and control in industrial processes. My Department will be prepared to provide up to £250,000 a year for three years to be spent in sharing with industry the finance required for transferring promising new concepts into working equipment. There will be arrangements for the recovery from sales of my Department's investment.
One of the principal means of raising productivity in the manufacturing and processing industries is the application of advanced methods of measurement and control. Such methods can reduce staff requirements, improve the quality of product and accelerate production, all of which can lead to considerable economies 403W in costs of production and, therefore, to a greater competitiveness for British products in home and export markets. The feasibility of these methods depends heavily on adequate instrumentation being available. However, instruments manufacturing firms, for a number of reasons, often face unusual risks and uncertainties when they develop new industrial instruments. In many cases these difficulties deter them from developing instruments which are essential for the evolution and application of advanced forms of measurement and control.
Accordingly I have decided to help the industry overcome these problems by sharing with it the risk involved in developing new instruments which represent a significant advance in technology and which can make an important contribution to higher productivity. I am, therefore, inviting instruments makers which are encountering such problems to apply to my Department for support.
In deciding which projects to back I shall, of course, have to be satisfied about the competence of the firms concerned to carry out the necessary work and exploit its results both technically and commercially. I shall also be looking for returns in terms of improvements in the balance of payments, through the replacement of imports and through the exports of the instruments developed under the scheme.
The scheme will be managed by my Department advised by a technical committee of experts from the Ministry and other non-commercial bodies. A partipants' panel will provide a forum for the exchange of technical information among firms taking part in the scheme.