LONDON—Industrial, government and scientific leaders here are about to launch a new effort to decide how best to spend the U.K.'s research dollars. The tripartite forum—as yet unnamed—is expected to be announced shortly by the government, which hopes to attract a well-known industrialist as its chairman.

The idea for such a group came from the government's Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development (ACARD). The Council, a group of senior industrial and government research managers, is chaired by Sir Francis Tombs, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce.

The Council has wrestled unsuccessfully with the question of setting priorities for national R&D efforts since the late 1970s. Each time a program cut was considered, noted a former chairman, someone on the Council would rise passionately to its defense and the group would change its mind.

The new forum will spearhead a drive to persuade private industry to spend more on R&D. Greater...

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