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September 24, 2010

Nesta chief to quit as quango's fate hangs in the balance

The chief executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts announced he is quitting the post just days before a leaked government document revealed the organisation is not yet safe from abolition.

In a letter to leaders of science organisations dated 21 September, Jonathan Kestenbaum revealed that he is leaving NESTA to take over the helm of Five Arrows Ltd from owner Jacob Rothschild.

On 24 September, a document leaked to the BBC revealed that NESTA’s future is “still to be decided” as part of a government cull of arms length bodies.

There are 180 bodies on the leaked list that are to be abolished and a further 124 that will be merged, the BBC reports.

Although NESTA’s future is still up in the air its leader is departing at a crucial time.

“It will be a great wrench to leave NESTA but I have discussed it with the board and they understand that working with Lord Rothschild to expand and develop the investment company is an extraordinary privilege,” Kestenbaum wrote.

Bodies on the list to be abolished include the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property.

The Department of Health’s advisory bodies on HIV, AIDS, dangerous pathogens and its Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition will all be abolished and brought into the department. The same fate awaits its Alcohol Education and Research Council.

As previously announced, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Human Tissue Authority will also go.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England, the seven research councils and the Technology Strategy Board are on the list to be retained.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society of Chemistry is “ready and willing” to fill the gap left behind by the abolished quangos.

“The RSC’s specialist member groups offer much science and education expertise offered by bodies reportedly facing the axe, such as the Air Quality Expert Group, Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and numerous others,” said chief executive Richard Pike in a statement. “Should these bodies be abolished or combined, the collective expertise of the 46,000 members of the RSC stands ready and willing to assist the government in making sound, evidence-based policy decisions.”


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I have discussed it with the board and they understand that working with Lord Rothschild to expand and develop the investment company is an extraordinary privilege.

I am puzzled by this quango statement.

According to the Nesta website it states "NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts - an independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.

Our endowment status means we operate at no cost to the UK taxpayer."

A loss to NESTA but a gain for Five Arrows. Congraulations Jonathan. It is a time of huge change for many and if less money in public sector restricts talented leaders from progress then a return to private sector will enable them to continue good works without political interventions. NESTA is of strategic importance to the development and support of entrepreneuralism and innovation throughout the creative industries.

It is a significant presumption to think that the private sector will absorb the many 'talented leaders' that have been and will imminently be made redundant. I agree that a positive approach is required, but one that incorporates a greater sense of what is happening is preferable.

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