Tagged / UK Government Policy

UK Government policy week on the Blog: R&D People and Culture Strategy

The R&D People and Culture Strategy was published by the UK government in July 2021. The strategy sets out the government’s ambition to build the research and innovation workforce the UK needs, working in a positive and inclusive culture.

People are at the heart of research and innovation. This strategy sets out a vision for attracting, retaining, developing and valuing the full diversity of people needed for an inclusive, vibrant research and innovation system that can fuel the UK’s recovery from the pandemic.

In her foreword, the then Science Minister Amanda Solloway described the strategy as a ‘call to action’. Building on work by people and institutions across the sector, the strategy sets out a step-by-step approach to foster the research and innovation culture needed.

The strategy has three priority areas:  People, Culture, and Talent. The outcomes required are:

People: Redefining what it means to work in R&D in the 21st Century

• Attracting enough people with the right skills, across all roles
• Dynamic, varied and sustainable career paths
• Great leadership skills at all levels

Culture: Co-creating a vision of the culture we want to see in the sector

• A positive, inclusive and respectful culture
• Recognition and reward of all the people and activities that lead to excellent research and innovation
• Bullying and harassment is no longer an issue in the sector
• People feel confident to engage with and contribute to research and innovation
• Frameworks, assessment and incentives at an institutional level that encourage positive behaviours and support an inclusive culture

Talent: Renewing the UK’s position as a global leader in R&D by attracting, retaining and developing talented people

• People from all backgrounds are inspired into careers in research and innovation by the UK’s talent offer
• The UK will be the most exciting place in the world for top research and innovation talent

Short- and long-term goals are set out in the strategy.

UKRI is developing an ambitious programme of work to support the delivery of the strategy, working collaboratively with partners to drive forward lasting change.

UKRI First steps

Among the near-term actions set out in the strategy, UKRI will work to:

  • create a good practice exchange to develop, test and evaluate ideas to improve culture sourced from the community, bringing together people from across the sector to work creatively
  • launch a consultation on a new deal for post-graduate research students later this year, seeking input on funding, access, models and career routes
  • pilot experimental approaches to public dialogue and community-led research and innovation
  • co-design with partners a joined-up talent offer, open to a diversity of people across all career stages, connecting sectors, disciplines and working cultures.

UK Government policy week on the Blog: UK Innovation Strategy

Innovation is central to the largest challenges the world faces, from climate change and an ageing society to global pandemics.

Universities work closely with businesses, charities and others to support research and facilitate commercialisation. The interaction between universities and business is therefore vitally important for innovation.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published its Innovation Strategy, setting out its long-term plan for delivering innovation-led growth.

Innovate UK and UKRI are supporting the strategy while universities and other research organisations are expected to play a key role in embedding and implementing its objectives.

The four Pillars

The strategy has four key objectives – referred to as ‘Pillars’ – to support the development of the UK as a global hub for innovation by 2035:

  • Pillar 1: Unleashing business – We will fuel businesses who want to innovate.
  • Pillar 2: People – We will make the UK the most exciting place for innovation talent.
  • Pillar 3: Institutions & Places – We will ensure our research, development & innovation institutions serve the needs of businesses and places across the UK.
  • Pillar 4: Missions & Technologies – We will stimulate innovation to tackle major challenges faced by the UK and the world and drive capability in key technologies

Some key takeaways from the strategy include:

Commercialisation of research

There is a real focus on commercialisation and using the UK’s research base to take new ideas and technologies to market.

The strategy outlines how the government plans to support commercialisation activities – both in the early stages and in the acceleration of deployment and scaling up. As part of this, UKRI will establish a UKRI-wide Commercialisation Funding Framework, which will include offering long-term, stage-gated funding to commercialise new and improved technologies, products, processes or services.

Navigating university-business relationships:

Business-research partnerships play an important role in driving innovation activity at a local and national level. The strategy outlines ways in which the interactions between universities and business can be more easily navigated, opening up opportunities for collaboration.

As well as the creation of ARIA (see yesterday’s blog post!) there are plans for UKRI (via Innovate UK) to develop a simpler way for businesses to access and understand opportunities and support.


The government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda also plays a key role, targeting R&D interventions to the needs and strengths of specific regions.

The strategy discusses enabling places with emerging research and innovation strengths to deliver greater local economic benefits, linking this to local sector strengths as appropriate.

This includes helping places to develop effective investment strategies and an R&D prospectus, aligned to local and regional opportunities and national priorities.

Tackling major challenges

The government plans to direct innovation through a suite of ‘Innovation Missions’ focused on some of its most pressing national priorities and global challenges – such as the climate and biodiversity crises, demographic change, and pandemics.

Innovation Missions will translate these challenges into tangible problems, and bring together the insights and resources of government, industry, civil society, and academia to tackle them.

Find out more about the Innovation Strategy on the Government website

UK Government policy week on the Blog. What is ARIA?

ARIA stands for Advanced Research and Invention Agency and is set to be the Government’s newest funding agency. “But don’t we already have UKRI” I hear you say? Well yes, but ARIA will supposedly complement the work of UKRI, while building on the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap published in July 2020.

ARIA will exclusively focus on projects with potential to produce transformative technological change, or a paradigm-shift in an area of science. While it is anticipated that most programmes may fail in achieving their ambitious aims, those which succeed will have profound and positive impact on society. ARIA will be headed by leading scientists and innovators with the remit of engaging in high risk and high reward transformational research, adding a new capability to the UK’s innovation architecture.

A Government Bill is currently passing through parliament to establish ARIA as a statutory corporation. The Bill sets out ARIA’s functions – ‘focused on conducting “ambitious” scientific research with a tolerance to failure, and on developing, exploiting and sharing scientific knowledge, such as translating basic scientific research into more commercial technologies. It enables the Secretary of State to provide ARIA with funding.’

ARIA will be based on the principles of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) now renamed DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The idea is that this new research body will be independent and sit outside the structures of UKRI and be given a greater degree of independence from government in its decision-making than other government-backed funders. At present, £800M is promised in total over 4 years with £50M in 2021-22.

ARIA will use a range of innovative approaches to funding researchers, which is likely to include the ability to run prizes; take equity stakes; and issue small grants rapidly without lengthy open competitions.

You can read all about it here.

UK Government policy week on the Blog: UKRI and Research England

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:

  1. Research assessment (e.g. the REF; the Future Research Assessment Programme).
  2. Research culture (e.g. research metrics; open access; research integrity; interdisciplinary research; high-performing research; public engagement).
  3. 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/.