Government policy towards biotechnology has come a long way since the Spinks Report. Spinks advocated centralized coordination of policy, an approach deliberately rejected in 1981 by the Government in favour of continued pluralism, with each of the scientific research councils and various ministries 'doing their own thing'. This has led to considerable diversity of activity, and during these eight years more has in fact been achieved than is often recognized. But it also created an overlapping of responsibilities with concomitant friction and bad feeling that has wasted time and resources. The paper argues that some degree of friction is inevitable. By their nature new technologies cut across existing disciplines and blur institutional boundaries. The traditional approach has been to muddle through, allowing new institutions to emerge and adapting the old as seems appropriate. Lack of resources, however, argues against too brash a competitive approach. The paper suggests that strategic or precompetitive research should be seen as a complement to, rather than competitive with basic research, and cautions against too radical a restructuring of institutions at the present time.