LONDON--A plan to have British industry pick up the cost of "near-market" research may jeopardize the jobs of thousands of agriculture and food researchers at state-funded institutes.

Officials at the British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are reviewing the department’s $200 million annual budget to find which portions should be transferred to industry over the next two years. That approach parallels a recently announced policy that the Thatcher government would support R&D only when the research would otherwise not be done by the private sector. The policy has already brought changes in the Department of Trade and Industry, and energy department officials are reviewing work on breeder nuclear reactors.

Trade and industry department officials have stopped awarding grants to individual companies for production innovations and new development in microelectronics, software products and opto-electronics. The money saved has been kept within the department’s $750 million-a-year R&D budget and re-directed...

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