With the budget not too far away, it is that time of year when organisations up and down the country are putting last-minute submissions into HM Treasury.
Give more money into this, lower tax here, or there, they say. Very few, if any, will call for this or that to be cut. And while some might seem like a last throw of the dice, eleventh hour changes are not unknown.
Yesterday the BioIndustry Association (BiA) published its submission advocating a Citizens Innovation Funds. It is not a bad idea – giving tax breaks to wealthy individuals to invest in innovation; not unlike an ethical pension fund. The idea has been very successful in France according to their paper.
Underlying the idea, of course, is the perennial concern over science funding and how to boost it in lean times such. But also perhaps, a desire to promote greater philanthropy by those who still have money.
Yet, while I am not unsupportive of the idea, I did wonder what a true Citizens Innovation Fund might look like.
Indeed (without wishing to open an argument around the use of apostrophes) should it not be the ‘Citizen’s Innovation Fund’ – a fund to support ideas that the public suggest or put forward through a competition? Or a pool of money to help get service-user led and controlled research off the ground? We know that the latter is in particular neglected in the UK and is vulnerable in the current climate.
Brave, radical? Some might say foolish. For, whichever funding model you prefer, one might argue you end up with the same thing. A pool of money with which to take a huge punt at an idea.
But in my alternatives there is at least some additional merit in the funds, the idea, and it’s advancement, remaining in the hands of, and owned by us citizens. A Big Society approach to research if you like – always assuming that that term is still alive.