Changes to the Research Landscape

The upcoming changes to the research landscape have been in the limelight once again. The Higher Education and Research Bill had its second evidence session on Thursday 8th September which touched on the parts of the Bill that will have implications for research.

The session was joined by Phil Nelson, Research Councils UK; Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Innovate UK and Professor Ottoline Leyser, The Royal Society. The following points were raised and discussed in the session.

  • UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) will allow for the research councils to be greater together than they are separately
  • It is important to ensure the individual identities of the different research councils are not lost under UKRI
  • How knowledge and research information transfers to government as a whole is crucial- aside from information exchange between research councils.
  • The UKRI is missing an executive committee, the Board will not be able to provide the correct oversight concerning detail and how the organisation will interact with government.  This should be included in the Bill
  • UKRI will help with the business view of research, it will help businesses use the latest knowledge and innovation
  • The Bill does a good job of offering assurances around dual support and the protection of it
  • The UKRI will help with disparities between councils that currently exist
  • The Bill should include more detail around how the Office for Students (OfS) and UKRI will work together, for example with the provision for PGR students. The Bill should precisely outline the involvement that research should have with teaching as a way to help the connection between the OfS and UKRI
  • The focus on interdisciplinary research will help with societal challenges
  • UKRI will also help with ensuring collaboration at a strategic level
  • There are concerns that Social Sciences and the Arts and Humanities may be at risk in UKRI. The Bill could do more to protect these areas.
  • If any changes to individual research councils are proposed, they should be consulted on

Additionally, Jo Johnson MP has written to Lord Selborne in response to the Future of Innovate UK inquiry by the Science and Technology Committee. The letter makes the following points

  • Bringing Innovate UK into UKRI will ensure we have the structures in place to exploit the knowledge and expertise we have for the benefit of the whole country
  • Collaborative projects, supported by Innovate UK, with two or more academic partners have twice the economic return compared to those with no academic partners
  • Innovate UK is not, and will not become, the commercialisation arm of the Research Councils
  • We have included multiple safeguards, such as specifying its business-focused mission on the face of the Bill, specifying a board which both balances both research and business interests and which will include a specific innovation champion.