Creating social and cultural impact

Creating social and cultural impact

Research and innovation must evolve if they are to meet the changing needs of society. The population of the planet is growing at an unprecedented rate and, in many countries including the UK, people are living longer than ever before.


Illustration of five forgotten female composers

Globalisation, ageing, advances in technology and the role of social media present new opportunities and challenges. Public services require high quality research and innovation to deliver effectively.

These challenges call for policy and solutions that take account of evidence from the research community and innovative solutions from our businesses and charities. They increasingly require multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, as well as enhanced collaboration across traditional boundaries and organisations. We need a research and innovation system fit for the future and able to respond to demographic, economic and environmental change on a global scale.

Viscount Haldane, in his report of 1918, called for regular discussion between the funders of research and those in government departments responsible for policy and research. This call was echoed in the report from Sir Paul Nurse that recommended the creation of UK Research and Innovation. We will work closely with government departments and encourage and support all of those in the research and innovation community to maximise the benefits of collaboration.

The UK Research Councils have a long and distinguished history of supporting research and innovation in low and middle income countries, an integral part of the UK’s development assistance goals. Their support has also played an extremely important role in training researchers in these countries. This long-standing record of international collaboration has engendered important goodwill, enabling UK researchers to become involved rapidly and effectively in international emergencies including the outbreaks of Ebola fever in West Africa in 2014-15, the Zika epidemic in South America in 2015- 16 and the earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

Knowledge cannot be contained in a vacuum. It must be shared. New knowledge is fascinating, empowering and potentially life changing. And the cultural richness of our country depends on our valuing the art, literature and history of the UK and of other countries around the world.

UK Research and Innovation will take a leading role in generating and putting into use knowledge to address societal challenges, both here in the UK and globally, and maximising the cultural impact of knowledge.

We will:

  • Identify and tackle the complex societal challenges that matter most to people, in partnership with them;
  • collaborate with like-minded partners in the UK and around the world, including government, non-governmental organisations and charitable foundations to support and strengthen research, innovation and capacity building in low and middle income countries;
  • provide agile responses to sudden emergencies where there is an urgent research and innovation need;
  • collaborate with other government departments to tackle societal challenges and to generate further knowledge to assist policy making across government;
  • work closely with the public, to understand their concerns and aspirations, to build trust and appreciation of the importance of knowledge, inspire future researchers and innovators, with the aim of delivering maximum societal value.

Working with the whole of government

To have most impact, a strategic approach to R&D across the whole of government, including the devolved administrations, is crucial. UKRI’s strategic objectives align and complement government departments’ aims for R&D. We will use our funding, expertise and convening power to work with the Government Office for Science and other departments to have the most influence and impact whilst respecting individual departments’ ownership and funding of their core priorities.

We want to build strong relationships with the devolved administrations on matters of national research and innovation strategy to ensure that funders across the UK can work effectively together on joint agendas, in a way that is sensitive to the differing policy contexts in the devolved nations.

We will support cross-government working using funding as a catalyst, and drive the closer alignment of R&D needs and priorities across government. We will:

  • Use the Strategic Priorities Fund to align shared research priorities
  • Support the Government Office for Science to ensure that departments’ statements of need are clear and useful
  • Engage with the departmental and devolved administration Chief Scientific Advisors to help ensure that the priorities of UK and devolved government departments’ priorities are aligned with their delivery plans

Communication and public engagement

The UK is proud of its rich research heritage, its spirit of innovation and its international reputation. Our vision is to ensure that with public support this continues to flourish. To realise our vision we must engage with communities across the UK and across the globe.

We must forge strong collaborations, strengthen trust and build understanding, and

  • listen and respond to a diverse range of views and aspirations about what people want research and innovation to do for them. We will ensure today’s discoveries ignite and excite a new generation capable of addressing tomorrow’s questions
  • build public understanding and earn and retain trust in UK research and innovation
  • inspire people of all ages to participate in research and innovation in partnership with our stakeholders
  • promote, support and encourage researchers and innovators to engage with the public as they shape and conduct their work
  • sustain strong public dialogue to ensure people are engaged and involved with research and innovation, with the issues, the opportunities and the implications
  • engage with research communities, businesses, civic society and policymakers to foster strong partnerships and collaborations and ensure our investment can deliver impact.

In the coming months we will continue successful public engagement programmes across UKRI, providing opportunities for informing, involving and inspiring the public in UK research and innovation.

We will run an open call for proposals from consortia of higher education institutes, research institutes and external stakeholders to support a small number of high quality research projects that place citizen participation at their heart.

We will review our public engagement programmes and develop a new public engagement vision and strategy by March 2019. We will review our social media strategies and implement new approaches.