Developing skills, leadership and the infrastructure for the UK research base
- Published: Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00
- Written by Research Councils
Within the UK, and indeed globally, the research landscape is changing and evolving, and part of the collective focus for the Research Councils currently is to understand, be responsive to, and seek to shape this rapid change.
We know that research and innovation is the engine for growth and productivity and we will continue to invest in excellence wherever it is found, in every sector and region of the UK economy.
"The UK research base is truly world-leading…the UK Research Councils have played no small part in ensuring that prime position.”
These are the words of Sir Paul Nurse in his recent review of the UK Research Councils. Building on this success, it is our vision to ensure that the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business through our excellent research base and strong collaborative links to business and industry.
Our in-depth knowledge of our portfolio of investments in research, skills, and infrastructure can be a vital source of intelligence for businesses. With this understanding the Research Councils bring leadership and strategic focus to tackle many of the pressing challenges the world faces.
Brokering relationships for a strong, sustainable economy
Working with organisations in the private, public and charitable sectors, we facilitate and enhance user engagement and collaboration with the research base. Research Councils broker partnerships and facilitate collaboration between researchers, research users, industry, funding partners - including Innovate UK and the UK Funding Councils - and others. This approach has allowed us and our funded researchers to forge strong relationships with over 2,500 businesses, ranging from SMEs to major multinational corporations. These partnerships are addressing current industry challenges, and developing products and services for the future.
The strength and reputation of the UK research base attracts business and industry from around the world.
These partnerships are not just created on the national level but span the globe. Through the Global Challenges Research Fund and as a main strategic delivery partner of the Newton Fund, we will continue to identify opportunities for longer-term engagement and collaboration that seek to address the challenges being faced on a global scale. This will broaden the interactions between business and universities not just nationally but internationally, including the opportunity to work more closely with, and develop capacity and capability within developing countries.
Collectively, the Research Councils broker relationships through a number of tools and mechanisms, including Gateway to Research, the portal which gives access to information on the research that we fund, as well as our investment in the Catalysts and Catapults programmes, which translate research into business opportunities. Effective brokerage between academic researchers and users is crucial to maintaining the strength of the UK research base, whilst addressing the UK productivity gap and facilitating business growth. Through this investment and support we create opportunities to broker relationships to build a strong and sustainable economy for the whole of the UK.
High performance computing capability to support business
Government investment of £116m has been awarded to STFC’s Hartree Centre. IBM will further support the project with a package of technology and onsite expertise worth up to £200m.
This will create a new cutting edge cognitive computing centre, allowing Hartree to continue to support businesses. Partnerships already exist with SMEs and firms such as Unilever and GSK, as well as with Jaguar Land Rover (via the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory).
Knowledge Exchange Hubs for theCreative Economy
The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy connect excellent research in the arts and humanities with creative and cultural organisations, including SMEs in the creative sectors. They generate knowledge exchange opportunities, foster entrepreneurial talent, stimulate innovation and contribute to the growth of the UK’s Creative Economy.
Collectively, the Hubs are reaching new audiences in the academic and business sectors, and the creative and cultural industries. The Hubs have drawn over 350 businesses, 320 academics and 170 third sector organisations into new forms of collaboration.
The Hubs have delivered £4.3m into the development of 253 creative economy projects, resulting in over 140 innovative outputs to-date, including devices, software, hardware, platforms, methodologies and services, 43 of which have either been launched or are near to launch.
Incentivising and influencing
Research Councils invest in the right people in the right places to ensure strong national research leadership across all disciplines. This is not just about supporting the skills and future health of the UK research base, but also providing wider business and industry with the highly skilled workforce to underpin the success of their organisations.
Collectively we provide funding through doctoral training partnerships that empower UK Higher Education Institutions with a greater autonomy to develop their own collaborative partnerships, tailored to their user needs, building on their research strength and their regional, national, and international aspirations.
Research Councils together
RCUK also recognise the need to work collaboratively not just between academic researchers and industry but also across disciplines. As new opportunities and challenges emerge, it is important that the UK builds on our existing strengths. Our commitment to this is being actively demonstrated by the movement towards operating as a single collective organisation by enhancing the capabilities and capacity of Research Councils UK. Our aim is to establish an organisation with clear accountability and responsibilities, and build upon the foundations of our existing strategic partnership approach, to maintain our support for the UK’s world-class research base.
Across the Research Councils we recognise the need to reduce complexity as stated in the Dowling Review¹. We continue to build on our partnerships with other funding organisations to provide streamlined and efficient support across the innovation system.
Continuing to develop the success story
The UK Research Base enters this period of change from a position of strength. The Spending Review 2015 saw the government commit to ensuring the UK remains a world leader in science and research by investing £6.9 billion in capital and protecting today’s £4.7 billion resource funding. This underpins a world-class research base that is the engine that drives growth, improves health and increases quality of life in the UK and beyond. The Research Councils recognise that the landscape for research is changing rapidly and are committed to working better together, strategically and operationally to ensure the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business.
Business-led innovation to reduce risk to UK infrastructure
Infrastructure is the backbone of the UK economy yet is vulnerable to the effects of climate change including more extreme weather events. The Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme (ERIIP) works with infrastructure owners and operators, environmental consultancies, regulators and policymakers to provide the knowledge they need to manage these risks. Current members include National Grid, EDF Energy, HS2, Temple Group, Transport Scotland, Atkins, Arup, HR Wallingford, and the Environment Agency.
NERC is investing £5m over five years to ensure the latest research is translated into innovative solutions and tools to address the challenges facing UK infrastructure.