This week on the BU Research Blog we are taking a close look at the UK Government’s policies and mechanisms to support research. We will look at the R&D Roadmap, the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), the levelling-up agenda, the UK Innovation Strategy, and the R&D People & Culture Strategy. Today, we’re looking at UKRI and Research England and considering their missions and plans.
UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) was launched in April 2018, following a recommendation by Sir Paul Nurse’s review of the research councils and aims to increase integrative cross-disciplinary research. It is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It brings together the seven disciplinary research councils (including ESRC, AHRC and NERC), Research England and UK Innovation. UKRI, which is led by Chief Executive Officer Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, brings these nine councils together to deliver an ambitious agenda. The UKRI Corporate Plan sets out UKRI’s goals, ambitions and objectives, as well as providing examples of how UKRI is working in partnership to tackle local, national and global challenges. The plan sets out the four elements of how UKRI will deliver on its mission, these are:
- to convene and catalyse by listening to and connecting diverse communities to create new combinations, and working in partnership with others
- to incentivise the development of a research and innovation system that realises its vision via its choices, policies and behaviour
- to invest in people, ideas and infrastructure
- to conduct high-quality research and innovation
The UKRI Corporate Plan is delivered through the nine councils, each of which has a Delivery Plan. These are summarised in the UKRI Corporate Plan; however, if you are applying for funding from one of the councils (such as AHRC or EPSRC) then it is important to read that council’s delivery plan as that will explain what the council’s priorities and what research they want to invest in. You can access all the Delivery Plans here: https://www.ukri.org/about-us/what-we-do/delivery-plans/#contents-list.
Research England is one of the nine councils brought together by UKRI. It oversees the functions of UKRI in relation to university research and KE in England. This includes: research and KE grant funding in England (e.g. QR and HEIF); developing and implementing the Research Excellence Framework (REF); overseeing the sustainability of the higher education research base; managing the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund; and administering HEIF and the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF).
Research England’s Delivery Plan set out its mission as to “create and sustain the conditions for a healthy and dynamic research and KE system in universities, while driving the transformation in university capacity and capability that will deliver the government’s target of 2.4% of GDP invested in R&D by 2027.” The approach is to understand and support university success and use this information to create a more healthy and dynamic university system in England and to deliver strong outcomes for the economy and society.
Research excellence is a key focus of Research England (and UKRI). Universities are encouraged to cultivate and implement an open research agenda; foster the development of early-career research talent; promote equality, diversity and inclusion; and broaden the skills of the next generation. Research England’s work in terms of research excellence is split into three areas:
- Research assessment (e.g. the REF; the Future Research Assessment Programme).
- Research culture (e.g. research metrics; open access; research integrity; interdisciplinary research; high-performing research; public engagement).
- People (e.g. equality, diversity and inclusion; postgraduate researchers).
You can read more about Research England’s work in each of these areas of research excellence here: https://re.ukri.org/research/.