The Implications for Host Nations of Transnational Research Facilities
(Theme 3: The Evaluation of Collaboration and Networking in European S&T;)

Ms K. E. Barker
Dr M. Boden
Mr M. Klein
Prof. P. Stubbs

  • To collect and synthesise existing literature relating to the implications of hosting collaborative research facilities

  • To construct a typology of different transnational research facilities according to parameters such as size, type of research, financial structures and terms of participation

  • To develop and test a framework for the analysis of the impacts of hosting transnational research facilities

  • Ultimately, through improved understanding, to assist in the formulation of UK policy for international scientific collaboration

Main Results

This was a pilot project for the Stage 1 Initiative, consisting of 2.7 person- months over a nine month period, in order to explore the relevant issues. It has been successful in this aim, and has enabled the creation of excellent contacts within the UK and European scientific and policy- making community. Further work will be needed to develop the tentative conclusions that were reached, and this will be aided by a specialist workshop for policy makers and managers of transnational facilities planned for early July.

A wide range of transnational facilities in the UK and Europe were used as case studies: the Joint European Torus (JET), the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), the Institut Max von Laue-Paul Langevin (ILL), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European Centre for Medium- Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) and the Spallation Neutron Source (ISIS). Through interviews with facility managers and administrators we attempted to test an evaluative framework for assessing the impacts of hosting a transnational research facility, in particular probing the differences between perceptions of the benefits of hosting against the reality. In addition, we interviewed policy makers in the UK and the European Commission, and personnel at other relevant bodies: the OECD Mega-Science Forum, and the High-Energy Research Facilities Industrial Liaison Unit (HERF ILU) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

One of the parameters contributing to the typology of transnational facilities was size, measured in two ways: cost, and number of personnel employed. The project found that both are important for assessing the impact of a facility. The cost can be taken to mean the initial capital outlay, the yearly expenditure of the facility, or the total predicted summation of the two. For the impacts of a facility upon employment in the host country it is important to distinguish between positions for qualified scientists and engineers and senior administrators (who may form the "cadre" staff) and those for technical and support staff (usually "non-cadre"). The non-cadre (ie less skilled) are often drawn from the vicinity of the facility, whilst the cadre will consist of host country and overseas personnel.

We were interested in the organisational status of the facilities, and drew upon the OECD Megascience forum classification system which divides facilities into four different models: International Collaboration, Joint Undertaking, Private Company and Lead Country. The model of collaboration had little direct effect upon the hosting impacts, but other factors associated with the type of model employed did appear to be important for indirect effects. For example, the procurement practices of the facilities differed between open bidding and the operation of juste retour for member country firms. As expected, host nation firms benefit from the construction stage of a facility, but the impacts on the host thereafter depend to a large extent on the procurement policy employed. The European Commission Directive on Public Services may have important effects upon the procurement practices of Lead Country model transnational facilities.

Other factors explored in the final typology of facilities were: reasons for choice of site, objectives of the facility, disciplines encompassed, employment policy and working conditions. Fuller explanation of the research results can be found in the final report to ESRC.

Implications for policy and practice

It is clear that the policy debate about transnational scientific facilities has not been aided by the vagueness of the term "Big Science". In practice, it was found that any scientific project whose planned costs are above a threshold (which varies according to the administration) will be subject to political consideration, and thus be considered as "Big Science". As national budgets for science become constricted, and the costs of the necessary research equipment escalate, the threshold cost for political involvement has significantly decreased. Scientific arguments and political negotiations are coupled more than ever before, with smaller research facilities being considered for transnational collaboration, especially within the European Union. Establishing the degree of benefits/disbenefits associated with the hosting of such facilities is crucial for the international negotiation by policy makers.

This small project did not permit a rigorous economic analysis of any transnational facilities, but drew upon such studies published in the literature and commissioned by the facilities. It was evident that hosting nations can expect at least some direct economic benefit from the presence of a facility. Different factors affecting the size of the benefit include the procurement and employment policy utilised, along with size of the "Hosting Premium" that is negotiated. Longer- term benefits are dependent upon the closure costs of a facility (which will be enormous for JET).

A problem for the UK is the difficulty of attracting overseas personnel to work for UK salaries. The project concluded that it is useful to use an international structure in calculating wages (for example, adopting the UN scales). A cadre/non-cadre divide in the wage structure, together with enforced turnover of scientific staff, seemed to be a successful solution. Other recommendations for national policy makers are the consideration in advance of whether a mooted facility is in an area of national expertise, whether there exists a route to industrial exploitation of facilities, and the terms for closure.

References/Further Reading

Office of Science and Technology, "Economic Impacts of hosting international scientific facilities", 1993, HMSO.

OECD Megascience Forum, "Megascience and its background", OECD, 1993.

Malacarne, M, "Large-scale installations as focal points for innovation networks", International Journal of Technology Management" (forthcoming).

Klein, M., Barker, K.,Stubbs, B and Boden, R; "The Implications for Host Nations of Transnational Research Facilities." Final Report to ESRC, 1994.

"Research and technology development: achieving coordination through cooperation" COM (94) 438, European Commission

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