Input to HoC Science and Technology Committee inquiry - UKRI

13 December 2016

We support the Government’s commitment to maintain and build on the world-class research and innovation taking place at our leading universities. However, the scale of change being proposed to the UK’s research funding architecture is significant, and takes place at a particularly sensitive time in the wake of the Brexit vote. Care must be taken to ensure we continue to have a successful system that allows us to punch above our weight internationally.

As an essential part of the dual support system we particularly want to ensure the Research Councils are able to retain their identities and autonomy in order to continue to support excellent research in the UK and play a key role in sustaining the UK’s position as a global leader in science and research.

We welcome the added legislative protection for dual support in the Higher Education and Research Bill through the introduction of the balanced funding principle. How the principle of ‘reasonable balance’ in funding for the Research Councils and Research England is determined will be critical. The combination of stable core funding and competitively awarded grants ensures the diversity and breadth of research in the UK.

The Haldane Principle should be respected throughout UKRI, ensuring the allocation of research funding, and the decision making processes and procedures relating to research more generally, remain with those who have the appropriate scientific expertise and experience.

Russell Group universities deliver outstanding research hand in hand with excellent teaching and this is central to the student experience they provide. With Ministerial responsibility for teaching and research now split between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Education (DfE), clear mechanisms to ensure UKRI and the Office for Students (OfS) work closely together will be essential in order to ensure the higher education sector continues to benefit from clear strategic leadership.

There is a risk that the efficiencies gained through merging Research Council back office functions may be offset by the costs of setting up and running UKRI. It will be important that costs are contained here. It will also be important to secure a smooth transition from the current system to the new one and particularly to ensure key tasks, such as preparations around the next Research Excellence Framework (REF), are not disrupted.

Innovate UK must not be integrated into UKRI without its concomitant funding. Innovate UK should not be seen as the only Council of UKRI with responsibility for innovation; indeed, there may be opportunities for better alignment or closer working between Research Councils and Innovate UK on innovation activities under UKRI.

 

Input to HoC Science and Technology Committee inquiry - UKRI

Care must be taken to ensure we continue to have a successful system that allows us to punch above our weight internationally.

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