Best environment for research and innovation
At a time of national and global change it is crucial that the UK continues to provide the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.
We will work in partnership with government, universities, research organisations and businesses to achieve this. Both UKRI and the organisations we fund need to foster collaboration with countries and institutions around the world so that we leverage the best talent, ideas and resources. Researchers and innovators need partnerships to succeed, but they also need access to the right facilities and infrastructure.
Global cooperation and collaboration enhances the quality of research and innovation, avoiding duplication, providing economies of scale, and leveraging diverse and outstanding talent across disciplines and geographies. It creates new opportunities to export and attract inward investment, and provides a pull for the best international talent. It is a source of soft power for the UK on the global stage and, following the UK’s exit from the EU, presents an opportunity both to support continued collaboration with our European partners and grow our global connections.
We welcome the Government’s intention to continue to collaborate with the EU on science and innovation. The UK is a top five collaboration partner for each of the other 27 Member States, and we want to maintain and strengthen this relationship.
We will support the Government to establish an agreement on science and innovation that ensures the valuable links between us continue to grow, specifically in exploring the successor programmes to Horizon 2020 and Euratom Research and training. UKRI will apply four principles to identify the best opportunities for international collaboration:
- Excellence and impact: How the partnership would increase the quality of research and innovation outputs and any complementarity with UK priorities
- Alignment: Openness of the partner country to collaboration with the UK, including alignment of funding and support systems, ethical standards and legal protections
- Additionality: Whether government, working with the sector, can add value to the collaborative relationship
- Foreign policy: Including the role of research and innovation in diplomacy and reinforcing the UK’s influence across the world.
UK Research and Innovation will maintain the UK’s reputation for research and innovation excellence and will work to increase international collaborations by:
- Promoting the UK as a world-class destination to generate and access research and innovation
- Developing existing and creating new collaborative research and innovation programmes that target countries with high performing research and innovation sectors to engage in joint-funded bilateral or multilateral agreements
- Using the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund to develop relationships with international partners
- Building the capacity and capability of UK-based institutions, researchers and innovators to stimulate, consolidate and grow their international collaborative activity.
To support these existing activities we aim to implement a new Fund for International Collaboration, a non-ODA fund of £110m over three years to focus on establishing partnerships and conducting activities with developed countries. We will support the government to agree a far-reaching science and innovation agreement with the EU that establishes a framework for future collaboration following the UK’s exit from the EU.
The UK’s global stature in research and innovation is founded on the availability of internationally-competitive infrastructure. From the Diamond Light Source to the Royal Research Ship (RRS) David Attenborough, the facilities, resources and services used by the research and innovation communities to conduct research and foster innovation in their fields include:
- Major research equipment (or sets of instruments)
- Knowledge-based resources such as collections, archives and data
- e-infrastructures such as data and computing systems and communication networks.
Access to world-leading infrastructure supports research activity at all scales, from individual research teams to large international collaborations. For the UK research community, businesses and other users to deliver against our ambitions, we need to secure cost-effective access to key national and international facilities and capabilities that would be difficult or impossible to resource through individual organisations.
UKRI has launched a programme to create a long-term research and innovation infrastructure roadmap looking forward to 2030. This will chart our existing UK infrastructure (and key international facilities in which the UK participates), future needs (research, economic and social), and resulting investment priorities.
In addition the roadmap will:
- Identify future research and innovation capability priorities
- Identify opportunities for increasing inter-connectivity
- Support development of our long-term investment plan
- Promote the UK as a global leader in research and innovation
- Set out the major steps needed to realise the long-term vision.
This strategic approach to infrastructure will strengthen the UK research and innovation system and improve capital planning to prioritise resources for longer-term investment. The roadmap programme extends beyond UK
Research and Innovation. We will work with other key partners across government (such as the Met Office and the National Physical Laboratory), devolved administrations, academia and industry to understand and showcase the breadth of UK capability.
The UK is at a crossroads. We face unprecedented change, both in our future outside the European Union and also pressing and complex global challenges such as climate change and our ageing society.
At the same time, we are witnessing a seismic shift; experiencing a new industrial revolution as we move to embrace new technologies such as AI.
UK Research and Innovation is a new organisation, but the building blocks that have come together to create it – our councils - are world renowned. We are proud of the trust placed in our organisation to help deliver the Industrial Strategy and create a forward-looking knowledge economy that will power our nation in the 21st century.
But we cannot succeed in this vital mission alone. UKRI employs over 7000 people including researchers in facilities, centres and units across the UK, but this is dwarfed by the number of people we support in institutions and businesses.
We are part of a much wider research and innovation community, from the learned societies to the great charitable funders, from our celebrated universities to our vibrant R&D intensive businesses and agile and creative SMEs. It is the richness and diversity of this system which is the key to the UK’s success. We recognise we are just one part of this great enterprise and are determined to serve it well.