Construction Industry Council fears plans for membership fee could distract innovation body.
The Movement for Innovation has been criticised for proposing to extend its lifespan and charge a membership fee.

Chairman Alan Crane said the charge, which will range from £250 to £5000, would allow the movement to continue its work and offset lost government funding.

Industry figures have expressed concern that the moves will lead the movement to concentrate too much on raising funds. Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts said: "Responding to financial imperatives is not what the Movement for Innovation is supposed to be about."

A prospectus inviting construction companies and individuals in the industry to become part of the "M4I Club" will be sent out in three weeks. Crane said membership would enable companies to have greater access to working groups and demonstration schemes.

At its launch in November 1998, the movement was described as a "sunset body" with a limited life. It was expected to wind up in 2001. However, it is understood that it now wants to continue until 2003

Crane denied claims that creating a membership club would artificially increase its lifespan but agreed that the forum would go on longer than originally anticipated.

He said: "In September 1999, I said we had a two-year programme of things we wanted to do. When we cannot see that we have anything else to contribute then we will die, but no way are we at that stage.

"I see at least a couple of years ahead as being necessary, then who knows what will happen?"

The government has handed over £1m to the movement since its launch, but will in future only supply matching funds.

Crane said £1m would be needed to run the movement over the next two years. He denied that fundraising would distract the board.

He said: "We are not doing this just to raise money but to broaden the movement.

"One or two people have hitherto said we are a bit detached from the industry. Now they will have the chance to be part of us."

Companies and individuals were asked to express interest in the club at the movement's conference in May. So far, 80 firms are known to have responded. Crane said he would like membership to reach 300-400.

He rejected claims that the club would find it difficult to act independently because it was dependent on contributions from the industry. He said: "We are part of industry. We were never intended to be an independent body.

"It is not the movement's job to come up with innovation but to encourage the industry to try different things. How could we encourage change from outside the industry?"