This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

After the music stops....

So earlier this week, Monday in fact (I know I know, slack blogging) we convened the last steering board of a govt sponsored industry/academia group. We all sat round, reviewed the performance against the targets, looked at how we'd spent the tax payers £50k over three years, looked at the resulting projects and knowledge, and one and all agreed it was brilliant, wasn't it, and we should definitely keep doing this.

Then we tried to work out how.

It's very difficult sometimes to take the great efforts you've made and the brilliant results you have achieved out of a project or a short term funded network and turn them into something useful and permanent, and even with the best will n the world, I can see us not managing it in this case, maybe. And for what? £20k per anum! We could tuck that away in the miscellaneous accounts of some projects!

The network with modest funding allowed several innovative SMEs to remain engaged in large scale fund research efforts, by underwriting the costs of the proposals- these costs are very substantial- ironically, it takes 18 months to get an innovation project proposal through. You have to be VERY innovative in order to avoid being obsolete by the time the funding comes through. Looking that far ahead is a risk, plus, not every proposal gets funding, making engagement in this sort of thing a pretty dodgy proposition for a lot of smaller companies.

The proposals for continuation look like they'd be unable to manage that sort of effort though- as a purely commercial network there simply wouldn't be the motivation to bank roll such work, however modest the requests for funding. Hopefully we'll find a way to keep going with a drip feed of public funds. I know a lot of people have a real dislike for subsidised research, especially if it's someone else and not you getting the subsidy, but remember what this enables- real ground breaking research- risk taking stuff, stuff that if we didn't get a bit of seed funding to do, just wouldn't happen! Perhaps, as Michael Arrington suggested earlier this year the BBC is stifling start ups and entreprenurialism. It's bigger than the BBC though- it's the European way- we share risk, socially. All I'm saying is we can and do and have funded this research publicly, and to change horses now will definitely put us back a few years. So lets keep on with the model our society/culture/govt. has got and try and do the best work we can. All this fannying around trying to be nice to competitors in the open market is frankly absurd, and does them no good at all I'm sure- the independent web educational content provider market has hardly exploded since Jam imploded has it? or have I missed something?

Bugger, that one turned into a rant as well didn't it. Tsk.

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