image 1The national Academies will be hosting a series of four PolicyLab events over the coming months, to consider changes on the horizon for UK research and innovation after the 2015 Spending Review, as well as the longer term prospects for research in the UK.

The 2015 Spending Review was broadly positive for UK research and innovation, with the £4.7 billion science budget set to rise in line with inflation up to 2020, and a flat cash settlement for Innovate UK. With budgets allocated, the research and innovation landscape now looks set to enter a period of uncertainty and change on other fronts.

At the Spending Review, the government committed to implement the recommendations of the Nurse Review. Shortly afterwards, a raft of changes to higher education, including the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework, were proposed in a green paper. The way that the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, operates is also set to change and a National Innovation Plan is expected to be published soon.

While the research community and policy makers are developing their views of what the future should look like, the Academies will be convening debates on some of the big issues through this series of public discussion events.

Research at the heart of government: opportunities and challenges

The Nurse Review recommended the creation of a new ‘umbrella’ organisation, Research UK, to sit above the Research Councils, and the creation of a Ministerial Committee to facilitate engagement between policymakers and research funders. These structural changes might position research and innovation more centrally in government, something that the community has long called for.

The first event in the series will consider the opportunities and challenges associated with this prospect. Will the research and innovation communities have a stronger voice in government decision making and economic policy? Will government start to play a stronger role in the direction of research and innovation priorities?

This event will take place at the Royal Society on Wednesday 23 March.

Building a better research system? Supporting excellence in post-Nurse structures

The Nurse Review’s recommendations aim to “ensure a successful research endeavour”, and enable better strategic coordination of the system. With the government committed to implementing the Review, the research landscape now looks set to enter a period of significant change, as the way that research is funded and governed changes around it.

The second event in the series will consider how the excellence of the UK’s research base can be maintained through these changes, and built upon in the future. Which principles have underpinned the success of the current system? How can changes be implemented in a way that minimises disruption while a new system develops? How can the opportunities for greater collaboration and cross-disciplinary research be realised?

This event will take place at the British Academy on Monday 18 April.

What is the future of innovation support in the UK?

A number of changes to innovation support were set out at the Spending Review, including the conversion of some of Innovate UK’s grants to loans, increased funding for the Catapult Centres and long-term support for the automotive and aerospace sectors. The government has since announced that it will look to integrate Innovate UK into Research UK.

The third event in the series will look across the current landscape for innovation support in the UK, to consider the government’s approach as a whole, and what the future of innovation support could look like. As the UK’s innovation agency, what should the purpose and scope of Innovate UK be? What should a long-term plan for innovation include? How can innovation success be determined?

This event will take place on Wednesday 4 May at the Royal Society.

UK research and innovation: visions for 2030

The first three events in this Policy Lab series address changes on the immediate horizon for research, but the final event takes a longer-term view. Each speaker will set out their vision for the UK research and innovation landscape in 2030, including what could be achieved and the policy changes that it would take to get there.

How can government build research and innovation into their long-term plans for the UK’s future prosperity? What challenges is the UK likely to face in future, and how we can build the UK’s research and innovation base to meet these changing demands?

This event will take place on Monday 13 June at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The UK national Academies after the Spending Review

Through these four events, the Academies will be building on their joint work in the lead up to the 2015 Spending Review. The Academies set out their views on many related issues in the joint statement Building a Stronger Future, and are continuing to work together to ensure the best outcomes for UK research and innovation after the 2015 Spending Review.