Spending Review 2010 - HC 618Written evidence submitted by Research Councils UK (SR 09)

1. Research Councils UK is a strategic partnership set up to champion research supported by the seven UK Research Councils. RCUK was established in 2002 to enable the Councils to work together more effectively to enhance the overall impact and effectiveness of their research, training and innovation activities, contributing to the delivery of the Government’s objectives for science and innovation. Further details are available at www.rcuk.ac.uk.

2. This evidence is submitted by RCUK and represents its independent views. It does not include, or necessarily reflect the views of the Knowledge and Innovation Group in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The submission is made on behalf of the following Councils:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

3. Research, whether based in arts, humanities, engineering or the social, physical, biological, medical or environmental sciences, is at the heart of the UK’s growth, prosperity and wider wellbeing. Public investment in research is an investment in the nation’s future, ensuring that the UK has a productive economy, healthy society and contributes to a sustainable world.

4. The allocation of the Science and Research Budget is a matter for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This submission provides an overview of the Research Councils’ delivery plans and strategic approach over the next spending review period.

5. The Science and Research budget, announced on 20 October 2010, will enable the UK research base to contribute positively to the future prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. It will nonetheless present challenges to the research community. RCUK welcomes support for scientific capital projects such as UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, RRS Discovery replacement, Institute for Animal Health, the Birth Cohort Study and the Diamond Light Source. However, the overall cut in capital funding will present significant challenges to research and we will work with BIS to minimise the impact on affected disciplines.

6. The Research Councils received their individual allocations on 20 December 2010. The total budget allocation across RCUK for the 2011–12 to 2014–15 spending review period is around £11.2 billion.

7. To coincide with the announcement of the budgets each Research Council published its delivery plan for the period. These delivery plans set out the priorities and commitments that Research Councils will meet in order to achieve their forward strategies. Summaries of individual Research Council delivery plans and links to related documents can be found at Annex A.

8. Alongside the individual delivery plans, the new RCUK Strategic Vision sets out how the Research Councils collectively will provide a vital contribution to economic growth and wellbeing within the UK as a result of investing this allocation in top-quality research. The RCUK Strategic Vision can be found here: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/RCUKStrategicVision.pdf

Annex A

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Strategic Direction

Over the next spending period the AHRC will focus its resources to generate excellent research and training and stimulate partnerships across disciplines, providers, agencies and countries. The AHRC Delivery Plan has three major aims:

To support arts and humanities research of the very highest quality and to ensure that strategic capability in arts and humanities disciplines is sustained.

To focus resources in order to obtain the greatest efficiencies and best value for money.

To deliver maximum benefits for society and the economy.

Research Priorities

Arts and humanities research in the UK is internationally pre-eminent. The AHRC will enhance this achievement by funding excellent research across a wide range of disciplines and will:

Award longer and larger grants to centres of excellence in HEIs and promote consortia arrangements to develop collaborative critical mass.

Invest in individuals and projects at all levels from postgraduates, through early career researchers, to projects of exceptional scope and importance.

Implement new thematic programmes.

Sustain key areas of strategic national need—design, modern languages and heritage.

The AHRC’s new thematic programmes—Digital Transformations, Translating Cultures, Care for the Future and Science in Culture, as well as the Connected Communities programme delivered in collaboration with other Research Councils—will receive enhanced support to stimulate discipline-crossing research and respond to changing methodologies and opportunities.

We will continue to invest in postgraduate research and training to maintain disciplinary capability. We will focus on proven centres of excellence as well as high-quality institutional consortia which will ensure support for important areas where current provision is dispersed.

The AHRC will deepen its contribution to cross-Council programmes, prioritising Digital Economy and Living with Environmental Change alongside Connected Communities. We are also aware of the importance of our contribution to Global Uncertainties, particularly the research we fund on ideologies and beliefs.

The AHRC will continue its leadership in Europe and develop its engagements in the US and South Asia. The AHRC will continue to support research that generates knowledge of the important languages and complex cultures of the parts of the world with which the UK is strategically engaged.

Economic Impact

The AHRC will embed the stimulus towards impact across all of its activities. In particular, we will focus on the creative economy which is of growing importance both socially and economically. We will create Creative Economy “hubs” to develop research in partnership with the creative and cultural sectors including both commercial and public partners. We will also work alongside key government departments to assist in developing improved public services and evidence-based policymaking.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

BBSRC funds research across the life sciences to improve the fundamental understanding of the biological systems upon which all life depends. BBSRC research makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial sectors, including agriculture, food, chemicals, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

Strategic Direction

BBSRC’s goal is to deliver world-class research and training with a strategic emphasis on:

Food security—Bioscience for a sustainable supply of sufficient, affordable, nutritious and safe food in a rapidly changing world.

Bioenergy and industrial biotechnology—Energy and industrial materials from novel biological sources, reducing dependency on petrochemicals and helping the UK to become a low carbon economy.

Basic bioscience underpinning health—Driving advances in fundamental bioscience for better health and improved quality of life reducing the need for medical and social intervention.

Research Priorities

BBSRC will continue to drive excellence in bioscience. Building on current strength, BBSRC will:

Improve coordination of UK food research by leading the new Global Food Security (GFS) partnership between five Research Councils, the TSB and Government including Defra, DFID and the Scottish Government.

Increase the UK’s economic resilience to livestock diseases such as foot and mouth, bluetongue and African swine fever, particularly through the Institute for Animal Health (IAH).

Position the UK as a global leader in wheat research and breeding for food and other products to increase yields and adapt to climate change.

Drive innovation, growth and jobs through Industrial Biotechnology including advances in enzymology, biocatalysis and the design of biological systems for more efficient bioenergy, new biopharmaceuticals and renewable “green” industrial feedstocks.

Prepare for an ageing population and to maintain wellbeing through improved understanding of the basic biological mechanisms underlying healthy physiology.

Support the development of the next generation of cutting-edge tools and technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in bioscience.

Economic Impact

BBSRC will prioritise actions to aid economic recovery, drive growth, and influence public policy. BBSRC’s research will make the UK well placed to exploit bioscience for renewable energy and chemicals in the new global knowledge based bio-economy.

In addition to investing for growth in the new bio-based businesses of tomorrow, BBSRC will focus on extracting economic benefit from existing research though its Follow-on Fund, strengthen pathways to the application of research, implement BBSRC’s Campus strategy—with particular emphasis on the Babraham Research Campus and Norwich Research Park—and work with the TSB, industry and others to accelerate research into practice and economic benefit.

BBSRC will provide people with the right skills through high-quality PhD training to boost business critical R&D and innovation skills.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

EPSRC is the only dedicated national funder of long-term, fundamental engineering and physical sciences research and training in the UK. We remain absolutely committed to excellence and impact in research.

Strategic Direction

Our 2010 Strategic Plan set out how we will keep the UK at the heart of global research and innovation, and deliver greater impact than ever before. Our Delivery Plan for 2011–12 to 2014–15 builds on this, and shows how we will more proactively partner with the research community to generate the fundamental knowledge, and develop the skilled people, essential to business, other research organisations and government.

We have produced a challenging Delivery Plan that we are fully committed to, with three core goals:

1.Delivering Impact: We will create an environment in which impact arises naturally throughout our portfolio of research.

2.Developing Leaders: We will nurture the visionary leaders who set research agendas and inspirational team leaders who act as role models.

3.Shaping Capability: We will ensure we support the right people, with the right resources, in the right places to deliver the highest quality long-term research in areas where the UK leads internationally and where there is current or future national need.

Research and Economic Impact Priorities

In order to successfully deliver our strategic goals of delivering impact, shaping capability and developing leaders we must work with our key stakeholders to ensure the best outcome for UK research to:

Deliver a programme of transformational change. We will move from being a funder to a sponsor of research, where our investments act as a national resource focused on outcomes for the UK good and where we more proactively partner with the researchers we support.

Make strategic funding choices based on international excellence and national need, shaping our portfolio in line with UK priorities and strengths.

Provide our researchers with the space, support and opportunities to foster creativity and to empower them to undertake ambitious work.

Set a balance between national capability and challenge themes of around 60:40.

Help rebuild the UK economy by driving an integrated research programme focused on sustainable high-value manufacturing, low-carbon energy, healthcare technologies and the digital economy.

Further embed impact, including public engagement, so that universities deliver it as normal business.

Emphasise the role of research leaders.

Give priority to PhD quality.

Drive efficiency and effectiveness.

Our annual programme spend decreases in real terms by 2014–15. To meet our commitments, we must make difficult choices, including:

Maintaining funding for high priority research at the expense of the breadth and volume of research.

Stopping our support for project studentships on research grants; enabling us to protect our quality PhD provision in Centres for Doctoral Training and Doctoral Training Grants.

Stopping support for our own dedicated public engagement activity earlier than intended. It will be embedded through our research and training investments, enabling us to build a high-quality portfolio more closely linked to the research we fund.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Strategic Direction

ESRC funds strategic and responsive mode research in the social sciences. In addition, ESRC identifies and addresses key social and economic challenges through: funding of training and skill development; generating a highly skilled workforce for the wider economy; investment in the national social science research infrastructure; international research funding and co-ordination and; knowledge exchange and impact activities.

ESRC has developed a focused investment strategy for the coming period, which will centre its strategic investment around three newly defined strategic priorities which are critical to the UK and wider international economy and society. The three priority areas are:

Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth.

Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions.

A Vibrant and Fair Society.

ESRC’s standard response mode scheme will not be steered by the priority areas.

Research Priorities

ESRC’s strategic priorities will be to:

Continue to deliver a critical contribution to the RCUK interdisciplinary research programmes. ESRC is one of two Research Councils participating in all six themes.

Channel its resources into longer, larger grants that deliver ambitious social science.

Concentrate its PhD training in the most excellent centres. This will include targeting some students towards key strategic areas.

Protect its essential investments in national data infrastructure, though it will make efficiency savings across its portfolio of data resources. ESRC will give continued priority to the development of key longitudinal datasets which provide a critical underpinning for high-quality social science research and policy analysis.

Continue to prioritise the generation of economic and societal impact from its investments through further embedding impact as an integral part of funding schemes.

Expand collaborative activities with the private sector to complement the existing strong partnerships with the public and voluntary sectors and civil society, to generate research which will impact directly on business.

Continue to encourage and promote international collaboration through embedding international perspectives across the range of ESRC activities.

Economic Impact

Delivering the benefits of its investment in social science is central to ESRC’s Strategic Plan 2009–14, which measures success through five objectives. ESRC will deliver impact through: world-class research; skilled people; infrastructure; partnerships and international leadership. Creating, assessing and communicating impact is not a separate strand of ESRC’s strategy; rather it provides the linchpin around which its activities are organised.

ESRC will achieve impact by means of:

Embedding impact as an integral part of its funding and assessment mechanisms from postgraduate training through to large-scale investments. ESRC will specifically be looking at increasing the impact from its current large investments in each of its strategic priorities.

A commitment to innovative approaches and efficiency. As the ESRC continues to extend its collaborations with policy, business and civil society it will innovative its funding mechanisms for knowledge exchange and impact.

The assessment and communication of impact. ESRC will continue to evaluate ESRC investments through its expert Evaluation Committee, extending its methodologies and programme of impact evaluations, including the impact of people and data investments, so that the results are widely disseminated.

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Strategic Direction

The MRC’s Strategic Plan sets out the key aims and research themes over the CSR period and how MRC will develop and sustain leading edge research programmes that will accelerate the transition of fundamental research into measurable positive impact on health, innovation and wealth creation.

Fundamental to the MRCs delivery plan is a transformative translation agenda to drive innovation and speed up the exploitation of the best ideas in medical science, to deliver new preventive and therapeutic interventions and demonstrable improvements in the return on investment in the science base.

Research Priorities

“Research Changes Lives” the MRC Strategic Plan, sets out key aims and objectives for the next four years. The MRC delivery plan highlights some major examples of activity that will rapidly deliver gains in health and wellbeing, together with increased economic impact. Understanding more about the mechanisms of resilience, repair and replacement will channel discoveries towards disease prevention and treatment. Addressing the complex interplay between genetics, development and life events or lifestyles will improve the chances of living a longer, healthier and productive life.

New or developing programmes include:

£60 million new commitments in Stratified Medicine;

spend in the region of £130 million in regenerative medicine;

£10 million to support new initiatives in addiction research;

£150 million across a range of activities in neurodegeneration; and

increased spending on experimental and translational medicine, likely to reach £250 million over the CSR period.

MRC will continue to develop the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) as a key element of strategy to increase the impact of science on health, now and for decades to come. In addition, MRC remains committed to reduction, refinement and replacement of animal use in scientific research. To help deliver on this commitment, as well as the Coalition Government pledge to reduce animal usage, MRC will continue supporting National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), working with BBSRC to maintain their joint contribution at the current level in real terms (rising to £5.6 million pa by 2014–15).

Economic Impact

Worldwide the pharmaceutical and medical technology sectors have been less affected by the global recession and are forecast to continue to grow. Richer nations spend more on health, so that future growth will be accompanied by a corresponding expansion in demand for healthcare, presenting enormous potential markets for countries that choose to make biomedical science a centre piece of their economies.

MRC will aim to deliver the strong academic research base and highly skilled researchers, which are both so important in attracting and retaining these companies in the UK.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Strategic Direction

NERC funds research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Its goal for the CSR period is to secure competitive advantage for the UK in the race to a global green economy, and to help make the nation resilient to environmental crisis, by:

Delivering strategic environmental knowledge with the strongest potential for the nation;

Creating vibrant business and policy partnerships to co-design research and maximise its benefits; and

Transforming the delivery of NERC science to provide the most effective and efficient support.

During 2011–15 NERC will: increase focus on strategic research; increase economic impact and societal benefit; attract and retain top talent for the UK; transform delivery of national capability; and shift resources into frontline science.

Research Priorities

NERC will direct a growing share of its funding though seven strategic science themes to ensure the most critical issues in environmental science are tackled: climate system; biodiversity; sustainable use of natural resources; earth system science; natural hazards; environment, pollution and human health; and technologies.

NERC will design this strategic research to deliver shared RCUK priorities in the following cross-Council programmes: Living With Environmental Change (LWEC); Energy; Global Food Security; Global Uncertainties. It will invest £344 million in cross-Council programmes over the CSR period.

On behalf of RCUK and other partners NERC will continue to drive LWEC, a transformative cross-Government partnership that accelerates the translation of research into environmental policy, business and societal outcomes with greater impact and cost-efficiency.

Economic Impact

NERC research and innovation enables a successful greener economy by providing UK competitive advantage, informing policy leadership, improving business performance and transforming public services. During 2011–15 NERC will deliver increased impact by engaging more strongly with business, targeting those sectors where research has the strongest potential to boost economic growth.

By engaging with business, Government policymakers, local authorities and society—most notably through the LWEC business and partners’ boards—NERC is able to identify and prioritise the environmental sectors and new markets with most potential research to unlock for green economic growth. It will also develop and sustain the capability of NERC researchers and users to evidence and demonstrate the impacts of research.

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Strategic Direction

The STFC promotes and delivers world-class research, innovation and skills to generate knowledge, solutions and skilled people. We achieve these by delivering three distinct but interrelated functions:

sponsoring university-based research, innovation and skills in particle physics, astronomy and nuclear physics;

ensuring access to world-leading, large-scale facilities for the physical and life sciences and enabling research, innovation and skills training in these areas; and

leading the development of the UK’s Science and Innovation Campuses at Harwell and Daresbury to promote academic and industry collaboration.

The STFC carried out a thorough prioritisation of its programme in 2009 which focused support on its highest priority activities. This forms the strong basis of the STFC’s delivery plan for the next four years.

Research Priorities

During 2011–15, the STFC will maintain resource spending on research grants to support a world-class research programme in astronomy, particle and nuclear physics following the priorities established a year ago.

The STFC will focus university research programmes in centres of excellence by continuing to place a premium on critical mass in research groups and encouraging research groups to self-manage demand.

The Council will also streamline grant administration by moving all researchers from rolling grants to a single consolidated grant mechanism providing support for up to four years.

The STFC will foster a complementary partnership with universities by focusing the capabilities of STFC’s in-house researchers on technology, instrumentation and detector construction, leaving university scientists to concentrate on research. In addition, the STFC will also protect national capability in strategically vulnerable areas by brokering consortia or setting up university hosted institutes.

Economic Impact

STFC will deliver the following outcomes:

The Science and Innovation Campuses hosting over 200 hi-tech companies with over 5,500 employees to grow to 20,000 within a decade;

Increased commercial use of STFC’s UK large facilities, doubling since 2006–07, that, for example, have aided new aircraft development, improved drug discovery and development, developed new medical diagnostic tools and helped reduce oil pipeline blockages;

Facilitate inward investment into the UK high tech industry. For example, £282 million international investment and £180 million from national sources to UK high tech firms over the last three years;

Increase innovation output by translating technical and science ideas into new spin outs, technology patents and proof of concept projects each year—in 2008–09 six spinouts, 23 technology prospects and 31 proof of concept projects were delivered; and

Inspire and attract 2,500 undergraduates to study physics, whilst training 1,000 physics and astronomer graduates through our STFC-funded researchers.

AHRC

Future Directions Consultation: Emerging themeshttp://www.ahrc.ac.uk/About/Policy/Pages/FutureDirections.aspxDelivery plan:http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/About/Policy/Documents/DeliveryPlan2011.pdf

BBSRC

The Age of Bioscience Strategic Plan 2010–15http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Publications/strategic_plan_2010-2015.pdfDelivery plan:http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Publications/delivery_plan_2011_2015.pdf

EPSRC

EPSRC Strategic Plan 2010http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Publications/corporate/EPSRC_strategic_plan_2010.pdfDelivery plan:http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Publications/corporate/EPSRCDeliveryPlan2011-15.pdf

ESRC

ESRC Strategic Plan 2009–14: delivering impact through social sciencehttp://www.esrc.ac.uk/Image/Strategic_Plan_FINAL_tcm11-13164.pdfDelivery plan:http://www.esrc.ac.uk/_images/ESRC%20Delivery%20Plan%202011-15_tcm8-13455.pdf

MRC

Research Changes Lives—MRC Strategic Plan 2009–14http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Utilities/Documentrecord/index.htm?d=MRC006090Delivery plan:http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Utilities/Documentrecord/index.htm?d=MRC007642

NERC

Next Generation Science for Planet Earth: NERC Strategy 2007–2012, refreshed 2010http://www.nerc.ac.uk/publications/strategicplan/documents/strategy07.pdfDelivery plan:http://www.nerc.ac.uk/about/perform/documents/deliveryplan201012.pdf

STFC

STFC Corporate Strategy 2010–20http://www.stfc.ac.uk/resources/pdf/STFCCS2010.pdfDelivery plan:http://www.stfc.ac.uk/resources/pdf/dp2011-15.pdf

19 April 2011

Prepared 7th November 2011