On Tuesday morning Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Designate of UK Research and Innovation, gave a speech outlining the vision, objectives and next steps in development for the organisation. The aim is for UKRI to be the best research and innovation agency in the world; a model which can be emulated by other countries.
You can watch the whole speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ8jJaBu-tA and access the slides here: UKRI vision speech slides. If you’re on Twitter you can follow tweets on this topic using #UKRIVision.
There was a significant focus on the importance to research of internationalisation and a global outlook. A new Rutherford Fund of £100m was announced (part of the already announced £4.7Bn to attract international researchers to the UK). The Rutherford Fund will be administered by the four national academies and UKRI. There will also be specific opportunities around the Global Challenges Research Fund (the focus is on tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals), the Newton Fund and the Industrial Strategy Challenges Fund (a second wave of calls will be announced later in 2017).
On the whole it was predominantly a reassurance that the strengths of the existing system will continue, such as a commitment to the dual support system. Mark Walport spoke a lot about how UKRI’s approach will be built on the Haldane report and principle, particularly in terms of excellence and rigour, global outlook, the importance of experts, data and evidence, etc.
Interestingly, the innovation driver was spoken about in terms of having evolved from STEM to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths). The arts element was illustrated via the importance of design in innovation, with an example given of the iPhone. This is a movement that is gaining momentum, particularly in the United States – read more here: http://stemtosteam.org/.
Four drivers for UKRI were confirmed as:
- Grand challenges linked to the world’s population and its impact on the Earth’s resources: in terms of population growth, ageing population, changing demographics, migration, climate change.
- Changing nature of research: as a result of increasing interdisciplinarity, big data, new tools and internationalisation.
- World of business and industry is changing: we are in the fourth industrial revolution with the fusion of physical, digital and biological science, a blurring of manufacturing and services, and the circular economy. Mention was made of the Government’s Industrial Strategy in driving this agenda.
- Society is changing: trust in the establishment and experts, the role of social media, globalisation, and “science meets public values” (benefits of public engagement).
Ingredients for the success of UKRI were noted as:
- Diversity (possibly an early policy priority for UKRI?)
- The importance of both fundamental and applied research
- Brightest minds
- Infrastructure roadmap
- Engagement and partnership with stakeholders government, industry, etc.
- Rigorous evaluation
There was mention towards the end of the speech about research intergrity and the importance of good conduct in research. UKRI will tackle issues of reproducibility of research findings, opennes, research communications and research careers (particularly diversity, incentives, etc.). When asked in the Q&A, Mark Walport reinforced the view that academics “should read the research rather than read the title of the paper or the journal in which it’s published”.
The UKRI vision was set out as:
Watch this space for further developments.