The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology maintains its criteria for funding research and development projects are appropriate.
Forst makes the claim in reply to innovator Bruce Simpson's complaint of wrongly targeted R&D funding, Simpson, also the editor of online IT news bulletin Aardvark, had failed to get funding for an online authentication technology. He suggests funding based on the difference between planned R&D expenditure this year and the previous year's spend discriminates against ventures with mature developments.
Apportioning of scientific funding has growth as an important objective, says Tony Hadfield, Forst's manager of new and emerging sectors.
“The grants for [Forst's] private sector research and development scheme, GPSRD, under which [Bruce Simpson] must have applied, is aimed at increasing private sector R&D,” which is at present at a discouragingly low level, he says. This is the basic reason for a funding structure discouraging investment in companies or individuals who are not increasing their R&D budget. “You have to get the business to a certain size to be able to compete internationally,” Hadfield says. That growth is achieved by continuous innovation. Otherwise the company has the prospect of stagnating and becoming risk-averse.
“There has to be a significant degree of technological risk,” he says, answering Simpson’s criticism that Forst invests in “long shots” rather than proven ventures. “Otherwise it’s a straight subsidy for ‘business as usual,’ and we don’t do that.”
Hadfield acknowledges that some areas of Forst funding have been a little weak on investment in IT-related projects. “The Technology for Business Growth scheme has been putting a little less than 20% of its investment into software development projects, and we’re going to ramp that up. With the GPSRD, there is a reasonably sizeable percentage going towards software,” he maintains, though he is unable to quote a precise figure.
But again, he stresses, funding is based around technological innovation and risk. "If someone says 'I've got a great new widget here,' they may be right, and it may have a big potential market; but if it's based simply on a different use of existing technology, we probably wouldn't fund it. There needs to be uncertainty and a methodical resolution of this uncertainty; that's what research and development is about - at least according to the OECD's Frascati definition, which is what we use."
He says he does not know the details of Simpson's proposal, so is unable to comment on whether it may incorporate genuinely new technology.