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Climate cash: Ed Davey interested in commercialising Met Office data

November 9, 2011

The Met Office may be able to make more money from the scientific data it collects.

That is according to Ed Davey, who spoke this morning at the House of Commons Select Committee hearing in the ongoing inquiry ‘Science in the Met Office’. Davey, who sits in BIS and covers the postal service among other things, replaced David Willetts at the session, who had been scheduled to give evidence. Davey was less interested in the science itself than how much cash it could bring in. The Met Office earns around 15% of its income from commercial activity at present. And while Davey said there was no target figure, he added, “if the Met Office could develop its commercial arm, there are attractions to that”.

Davey said BIS would give extra support to commercial activities at the Met Office. “One other reason for developing joint ventures is to attract private investment,” he said. “Maybe in a new model we’d be able to see more examination of those options.”

Of course, this raises a big question for UK science funding. If the Met Office were to increase the proportion of its revenue from private activities, would that revenue stay at the Met Office? Or could it be used elsewhere? If a rise in private revenue could mean a reduction in its budgetary allocation, where could the spare cash go? Perhaps to fund more climate research?

Climate scientists may find themselves more likely to come into money than nematode behaviourists, but a little extra could certainly go a long way.

Davey confirmed to the committee that the government had “no plans” to privatise the Met Office.

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