In September 2023, NCUB launched the Researcher Career Mobility Taskforce, aimed at enhancing researcher mobility across sectors in the UK.

This collaborative project developed the evidence base and formed recommendations to bolster the movement of researchers between academia and industry.

Since the launch, NCUB has collaborated with policymakers, delivery bodies, universities, and businesses to translate the Taskforce’s vision into tangible actions and unlock impact.

The Taskforce’s vision calls for action across the pillars of the research system. Nationally, it makes the case for researcher mobility to be a design feature of public policy; calling for policy to enable and reward researchers moving between sectors across their careers. It calls for scaled public support for mobility, through well-resourced schemes and programmes.

The Taskforce challenged organisations to embed mobility into their organisational strategy. This would then enable them to facilitate staff mobility into and out of their organisations and reward it within processes. Among researchers and researcher developers, we called for the promotion and adoption of more diverse careers, with increased access to support and resources.

Six months on from the release of the Taskforce report, Pathways to Success, significant progress has been made across these areas.

Notably, through our engagements with government, we’ve secured additional data collection methods to better measure mobility. The bi-annual Research and Innovation (R&I) Workforce Survey, delivered by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), will now build a picture of the sectors that researchers have worked in, and where they intend to move onto.

Improving measurability was a key call of the Taskforce, after analysis that calculated the number of researchers who have worked in different sectors faced significant challenges, with data on researcher careers and intentions poor. In NCUB’s analysis, we estimated that 20-25% of university researchers have had experience outside of universities, and that around 44% of researchers in the private sector previously worked in higher education. The addition of mobility questions to the R&I survey will enable us to make this data more accurate and track progress from 2025, when the next wave of the survey reports.

Recommendations within both the Nurse Review and Spin Out Review further build the rationale for researcher mobility and call for improved intersectoral diversity. Calls within these reports demonstrate active consideration for enhancing mobility, aligning with our shared goal of fostering university entrepreneurial skills and collaboration.

In the last six months, we’ve actively engaged with universities and businesses through a series of conferences and workshops, maintaining momentum. Across the UK, these interactive and engaging events have served as arenas for sharing ideas and best practices, building momentum and forming new initiatives aimed at creating opportunities for mobility; from improving entrepreneurial skills in academia, to reviewing contract types.

Looking ahead, we remain committed to enhancing researcher mobility for a prosperous innovation ecosystem.

To mark the one year on milestone, we will report on the changing landscape within which researcher mobility takes place, on the changing rates and volume of researchers moving between sectors, as well as on progress against the Taskforce’s policy asks.

If your organisation has been active in this area and is working to enhance researcher mobility, or has a compelling impact story to share, we invite you to reach out share your story with us.