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UKRI reducing unnecessary bureaucracy

Roof of Kings Cross Station

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is implementing a set of major changes to how it interacts with applicants – innovators and researchers.

The plans were outlined today (10 September 2020) by Universities Minister Michelle Donelan in a speech to Universities UK.

The changes build on work already underway across UKRI to streamline and simplify its processes and the lessons learnt during UKRI’s rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic.

UKRI’s plans include the following specific proposals:

Selection process

  • reviewing, with a view to simplifying, the criteria for organisations to be eligible to apply to UKRI for funding
  • streamlining the 200+ research and innovation grant schemes run by UKRI, for example moving to single institutional impact acceleration accounts for all future funding rounds and maximising the standardisation of terms and conditions
  • changing to a streamlined, two-stage application process for standard grant rounds. Applicants will provide only the information necessary to make a funding decision up front, with information necessary to make an award only required for successful proposals
  • replacing multiple, varied approaches to providing CV and track record information with a single format based on the Royal Society’s résumé for researchers
  • implementing a brand new, fully digital, user-designed, applicant-focused and streamlined grants application system with the first pilot to run this month
  • ensuring there is a single information document for a funding call rather than multiple documents to consult.

Assurance and capturing outcomes

  • harmonising reporting requirements across UKRI and where possible with other funders
  • reducing the number of questions for mandatory reporting for the Researchfish 2020 submission period and actively reviewing our approach to outcomes monitoring with a view to ensuring it is fit for purpose and minimally demanding on our awardees, for example via use of ORCID/integration with other datasets
  • identifying opportunities to enhance our risk-based funding assurance approach to align better to the organisation and project type, to reduce the burden of independent audits and where possible assure the organisation’s funding, rather than individual projects
  • reviewing end of award reporting, for example, the use of and process for final expenditure statements.

Broader systems and activities

  • working with external advisers to provide additional, independent challenge and to calculate the total costs of bureaucracy
  • stopping multiple asks for data or information that already exists elsewhere, for example in ORCID, CrossRef, DataCite and Companies House
  • reviewing the approach to and use of transparent approach to costings (TRAC), with a focus on the research aspects of TRAC to identify and implement improvements to ensure we accurately capture the true costs of research and innovation and act in a sustainable and informed manner. UKRI will work closely with the Office for Students on this to ensure coherence with evidence gathering for the review of TRAC(T), while allowing the two reviews to progress in tandem.

UKRI will work closely with key stakeholders to design, deliver and evaluate the impact of the proposed changes. The aim is to ensure that they result in true systemic reductions in bureaucracy rather than simply moving the burden to another part of the system and without compromising UKRI’s ability to invest in quality ideas, researchers and innovators.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

Today’s announcements further underline UKRI’s total commitment to streamlining our processes, freeing up researchers and innovators to do what they do best – building a thriving research and innovation system, making great discoveries, enriching our society and bringing new products to market to the benefit of the UK and beyond.

Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Amanda Solloway said:

Never has it been more critical for our world-leading scientists and researchers to be unleashed to focus on making ground-breaking discoveries, developing cutting-edge innovations and combating worldwide issues such as climate change and disease.

By slashing unnecessary red tape, I am delighted that we will free up the time of our best and brightest.

Further information

For more information on the UKRI plans please see the information pack (PDF, 218KB).

View the government’s policy paper: Reducing bureaucratic burdens: higher education.

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