On Friday 27 October, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation agreed that plans for the NOC to become an independent research institute, should move into preparation phase.
The NOC will now progress all the activities required to demonstrate readiness to transition to an independent institute. This will include, for instance, creating a non-trading company limited by guarantee (non-trading means the legal entity would be set up but not actually operate at this stage) with a Board, which will then engage with NERC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to agree the terms of the transfer.
‘Readiness to implement’ will then be tested and the resulting Business Case submitted for ministerial review and approval in 2018. Until final approval is given and a transition period completed in 2018 NOC will remain with its current legal status part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which in turn will become part of UKRI on 1 April 2018.
This change will allow the NOC’s valued world-class science and innovation to be sustained, and its impact enhanced, into the future. The NOC will continue to work together in partnership with NERC / UKRI. The new structure will make the NOC stronger, more agile and financially more resilient, with more freedoms and flexibilities to deliver its mission, and to do so with a greater range of external partners and funders. The mission, purpose, and scientific integrity of the NOC will be protected and the detail of managing future and ongoing options, risks and issues will remain at the forefront of the process.
NERC Council continues to affirm the importance of sustaining long-term funding to its research centres. This will remain the case, regardless of the changes in ownership and governance.
NOC Executive Director, Ed Hill, commented, “We have been talking with NERC and Government for a considerable time in regard to independence. Whilst the permission from the Minister is not a final decision, it is an important step in our journey. Independence would give the NOC the flexibility to work more closely with a broader range of partners, whilst retaining our focus as a world-class science organisation, expanding income sources and allowing us to play an even greater role in marine innovation.
I am confident that this is the right direction for the NOC and will enable us to develop and grow as a world-class science organisation, continuing to be able to attract and retain high performing science and technical talent.”
Further information about the NERC centres can be found on the Natural Environment Research Council website.