An independent review of the UK research and development sector led by Sir Paul Nurse will report on how the entire “ecosystem” could be improved and futureproofed, a statement from the government has confirmed.
The government announced it had commissioned the report in the UK Innovation Strategy. The review led by Sir Paul – the Nobel Prize winner, Nobel Laureate, and director of the Francis Crick Institute – will publish its findings in spring 2022.
Sir Paul will tell ministers whether the organisational research landscape can make the UK a “science superpower”. Ministers want UK researchers “at the forefront of critical and emerging fields of science and technology”, able to “drive economic growth and societal benefit”.
The entire sector is in Sir Paul’s purview. “From pioneering, visionary blue-skies research to practical support for innovators to commercialise or implement their ideas”, ministers want funding, structures and bureaucracy to enable a “cost-effective…agile and sustainable system”.
The assessment will consider the operations of universities, research institutes, laboratories, funders, public-sector bodies, not-for-profit organisations and private-sector research companies.
The reviewers will also work “closely” with the Welsh government, the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland executive – with ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to “agree” a joint UK response to the report with the three devolved administrations.
Critically, ministers want Sir Paul’s review to compare how UK research, development and innovation (RDI) compares to international competitors – and what ideas to cherry-pick from overseas.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) sits atop a structure of research councils and funding agencies that cumulatively distribute £8 billion in public money across England – and in specific contexts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy are responsible for a large segment of devolved research funding.
To this ecosystem of funders, the government plans to introduce a new blue-skies research funding agency, Advanced Research and Innovation Agency (ARIA).
UK research also receives millions of pounds from other government departments like the Department for Health and Social Care – non-governmental bodies like Network Rail – charitable bodies like the Wellcome Trust – and private sector companies like AstraZeneca.
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