§ Mr. Dickens
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has received the annual report of the Science and Engineering Research Council for 1987–88; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
The annual report of the Science and Engineering Research Council for 1987–88 has been submitted to me under the requirements of the Science and Technology Act 1965, and a copy is being laid before the House today.
I was most interested to study the report on what has obviously been an exciting year for the council in fields ranging from fundamental work in astronomy to areas of great potential for future exploitation. I was particularly encouraged to note:
- (i) the increase in the proportion of the council's expenditure applied to grants for core sciences and engineering research in higher education institutions—from 30.9 per cent. in 1986–87 to 33.5 per cent. in the year under review;
- (ii) the development of the interdisciplinary research centre (IRC) concept, with the announcement of the first four centres during the year, at a cost of £25.7 million over six years;
- (iii) the rapid response of the council and its academic and industrial committees to the fast-moving developments in high temperature superconductivity—including the choice of this subject for the first of the council's IRCs and in addition the allocation of some £700,000 in grant awards, with the later commitment of a further £2 million early in the 1988–89 session;
- (iv) the council's participation, jointly with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in the first collaborative LINK programmes in molecular electronics; advanced semiconductor devices; eukaryotic genetic engineering; and industrial measurements systems–the total SERC contribution to these programmes totalling £14.3 million over five years; and
- (v) the deployment for high quality research by British scientists of sophisticated equipment such as the Liverpool university electron microscope capable of beam control over atomic dimensions; the high brightness lattice on the synchrotron radiation source at the council's Da resbury laboratory; transputer equipment at the national and regional centres, jointly funded with the DTI; and the 4.2 million William Herschel optical telescope on La Palma.
I look forward to seeing what progress has been achieved with these new initiatives and equipment in next year's report.