Manchester Joint Research Council was created in 1944 by the University of Manchester and the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Its activities were suspended in 1964, and it was formally wound up in 1972.
The Council resulted from long-standing concerns within the University of Manchester about its relations with local industries. In 1938, the University of Manchester had issued a pamphlet, A Partnership between Science and Industry, which had emphasized the role of the University in training students for employment in industry. In 1943, the University set up the Science in Relation to Industry Committee, chaired by Ernest Simon, to investigate post-war policy on scientific research, particularly in relation to industrial needs. The Committee issued a report in early 1944, and this was followed by four important meetings in spring 1944 arranged by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). A report of these meetings entitled, Science and Industry, was published in 1944, and it highlighted the importance of better links between higher education and industry in the post-war world. The report included papers by Lord Riverdale, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the DSIR, on 'Research and Industry: the Need, the Ways and the Means'; A.P.M. Fleming, Metropolitan Vickers, on 'Research Workers: their Education and their Place in Industry'; Andrew McCance, Colvilles Ltd. Glasgow, on 'The Application of Research; and Sir Edward V. Appleton of the DSIR on 'Fundamental Research: its Practical Importance'.
Discussions in 1944 between leading members of the Chamber of Commerce (Henry Hinchliffe, Chair) and some lay members of the University (e.g. Raymond Streat) and the Vice Chancellor (John Stopford) and other senior academics were also instrumental in the Council's creation.
Also of relevance was the Barlow report (1946) which led to greater commitment by central government to expanding the number of university graduates in science and technology. The committee, chaired by Sir Alan Barlow, had reported in a white paper, Scientific Manpower (Cmnd 6842), that there was a substantial need for extra research and training in the post war period, and recommended a doubling of student numbers over a ten year period to meet expected needs of industry. The government accordingly made large funds available for the support of research, especially in the emerging fields of physics, computing, radio astronomy, fluid dynamics and nuclear engineering. At Manchester, the 1945-46 session saw a huge increase in the numbers of honours students in science and technology.
The outcome of the Chamber of Commerce discussions was the establishment of the Manchester Joint Research Council, a co-operative venture between the University of Manchester and the Manchester Chamber. It met for the first time on October 9 1944. Aspiring to build closer links between academic science and technology on the one hand, and business and industry on the other, in postwar Britain, its objectives were:
- "1. To bring science and industry closer, and particularly to help smaller firms to find sources of scientific and technical information and assistance;
- 2. To spread new knowledge, and to accelerate its use and application;
- 3. To encourage research;
- 4. To initiate discussions, pursue special interest inquiries and investigations on industrial, scientific, and related subjects, including the consideration of economic and sociological problems."
The Council was unique, in that no other similar body existed at this time and it quickly became instrumental in promoting Manchester as the new centre of direct university-industry co-operation, specifically in terms of new technologies.
The membership of the Council comprised 32 members, 16 appointed by the University (lay and academic, including Faculty of Technology), and 16 by the Chamber (officials and representatives of local industries, including research directors of major firms with Manchester operations such as ICI and Metropolitan Vickers). Members of the Council included A.H.S. Hinchliffe, the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Sir Raymond Streat, the Chair of the Cotton Board and Chair of the MJRC 1948-1955, Charles Garonne Renold (Renold Chains Ltd.), an important lay figure at the Manchester College of Technology, Sir Ernest Simon, Chair of the University Council and head of the Simon Engineering Group; academic members included Michael Polanyi, Willis Jackson, Douglas Hartree, George Burkhardt, P.M.S Blackett. The driving forces in the early years were Jackson, Hartree, and Renold. Two honorary secretaries were appointed, one by the Chamber and one by the University; initially James Ainslie and William Mansfield Cooper, the University's Registrar. George Burkhardt, a member of the Chemistry Department, took over from Cooper in 1950 and he continued in this post until the dissolution of the Council. Associate Membership was introduced for staff from local firms, who were invited to promote relevant topics for discussion.
The Council was financed by grants from the Univesity and the Chamber and with small subscriptions from Associate Members (interested individuals in local industry). Donations were raised from industry for particular projects and an annual grant from the Department of Science and Industrial Research (DSIR) to cover work such as the 'Industry and Science' research project.
Activities included visits to the research departments of local manufacturing industry, demonstrations, exhibitions, seminars and conferences with published reports, education and training, surveys and statistical research, and liaising with the relevant government department, the Department of Science and Industrial Research (DSIR).
Notably, the Council was instrumental in developing a greater awareness of industrial needs, as well as promoting the case for more graduate scientists and technologists. Among the Council's key projects was a DSIR-funded survey of the relationship between science and industry in the Manchester area, which published its report, Industry and Science, in 1954. The work of the MRJC after this focused on the ‘supply, recruitment and use of scientists and technologists’, and the Council worked towards publishing a monograph entitled the 'Careers of Managers', as part of an on-going collaboration with Roger Clements and Ely Devons in the University Faculty of Economic and Social Studies. A later report The Choice of Careers By School-Children by Clements was published in 1958.
The Technical Information Service was the major area of the Council's work in later years. Established by the Council in conjunction with the DSIR in 1959, the Technical Information Service was originally run from the Chamber of Commerce. Its purpose was to provide advice to local firms on technical issues and to publicise the latest technological developments. During this time, it claimed to have dealt with some two thousand problems from industry. When the DSIR and the Ministry of Education established a National Technical Information Service, the service moved to The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology to become part of the Bureau of Industrial Liaison, in 1964.
In the twenty two years of its existence, the Council made a significant contribution to raising awareness about industry's requirements for graduate scientists and engineers. At the University, an increase in funding and graduate numbers coupled with the close links between physics, electrical engineering and applied mathematics saw expansion into radio astronomy (Jodrell Bank), fluid dynamics (Barton Laboratory), computing (partnerships with the NRDC and Ferranti), cosmic rays and nuclear physics (the University linear accelerator), projects which exemplified the era of Big Science.
By the mid 1960s other similar bodies had grown up nationally through the new Industrial Liaison Centres. Increasingly, government was becoming involved in the wider issues of industrial education and training. The change in government of 1964, saw the absorption of the DSIR into the new Ministry of Technology, and this took a more activist role. It opened a regional office in Manchester in 1965. In this environment, it was felt that the MJRC was no longer the appropriate body to promote its original objectives. As a result the Council suspended its activities at a meeting on 16 November 1964. The MJRC was eventually formerly wound up at a meeting on 12 May 1972, not having met in the interim period. Some of the Council's monies were redistributed to the Research Consultancy Service at the University. The final edition of Technical Information Centre News was published in November 1966.