The Future of UK Development Cooperation

Written evidence submitted by the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences




Discussions on the post 2015 development agenda have raised the opportunity to consider how science, technology and innovation can further contribute to international development goals. This contribution builds on recent evidence submissions from the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) to the House of Commons International Development Committee inquiry on the Post 2015 International Development Goals [1] and the Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on Building Scientific Capacity for Development [2] .


This submission shows that investment in science, technology and innovation provides significant impact in developing countries and returns on investment. Furthermore, investment in scientific capacity can assist countries in defining and advancing towards their own priorities: science as ‘a hand up, not a hand out’. Science diplomacy can also bring benefits to the UK through improved relationships and increased stability to partnerships. Whilst historically collaboration has been led by UK scientists, we are seeing emerging capacity in developing countries, mutual benefits from collaboration such as those created around "frugal innovation" and the opportunity to address global challenges together.


We provide information and suggestions to the International Development Committee on how further investment in science could be a powerful contribution to development aid.


UKCDS discusses five areas where science could and should have a greater role in development aid in future.


a) Science solutions for improved development outcomes


b) Impact of research spend in achieving more effective economic development outcomes


c) Research capacity strengthening


d) Science diplomacy


e) Monitoring and evaluation




1. The UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) is the only multi-disciplinary, cross-cutting organisation advancing UK science for international development by joining up leaders and the latest research to generate and utilise quality science to improve the well-being of the people and the planet. UKCDS’ 14 members include Government stakeholders and research funders [1] , and UKCDS works in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


2. Coordination and collaboration across science relevant to development is critical to the UK maximising the impact of its investments and achieving development objectives. UKCDS plays an integral role in helping to achieve coordination. Furthermore, in a rapidly changing world of development aid, wider partnerships are vital to leverage funds, ensure value for money and maximise impact.

3. The UKCDS secretariat has prepared this submission. The submission has not been approved by members, but draws on the opinion and experience of the members where relevant.


4. This submission responds to this current enquiry by focussing on the importance of, and future role that UK science, technology and innovation expertise could play in achieving future international development outcomes – building on the DFID Beyond Aid [1] speech which recognised that ‘Britain is in the vanguard of original thought and especially scientific research on development, which every day is pushing back the frontiers on global problems – like disease – that affect poor countries and people’.


5. In addition, a recent House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee [2] concluded that ‘Scientific research collaboration between UK researchers and their partners in developing countries are valuable to both parties and should be actively encouraged by funders of research in the UK’

6. We consider five aspects


a) Science solutions for improved development outcomes


b) Impact of research spend in achieving more effective economic development outcomes


c) Research capacity strengthening


d) Science diplomacy


e) Monitoring and evaluation


Science solutions for improved development outcomes


7. Science can provide significant development outcomes and impact. There are a number of case studies that provide compelling evidence:


a. Britain has supported a worldwide effort to develop new strains of rice, testing new varieties that are more productive, resist the extremes of flooding and drought and which, in just three Asian countries, have already delivered economic benefits of $1.46 billion a year’ [1] .


b. Walter Plowright, a British scientist, helped to create the first effective vaccine against the Rinderpest virus. Together with important contributions from the Pirbright Institute (a BBSRC-supported organisation) and other global efforts, this was instrumental in leading to the eradication of the disease and consequent gains in beef and milk production. Overall, rinderpest eradication has contributed 2.4% and 0.5% to the Ethiopia’s and Kenya’s GDP respectively [1] .


c. The Developing Anti-Retroviral Therapy for Adults (DART) trial in Africa (part funded by MRC and DFID) provided evidence that clinicians don’t necessarily need routine lab test results to treat patients with HIV, allowing for more effective, cheaper delivery. Savings apply to any country combatting HIV and could potentially allow a third more people to be treated [1] .


8. Science, engineering and innovation can also establish a rigorous and unbiased understanding of development challenges that can guide future public policy and associated investment. Successful science and innovation for development draws on the full range of sources of multidisciplinary subject s and multiple stakeholders. Conventional, intermediate and new technology platform s all make valuable contributions to any development challenge .

9. The future of development cooperation should include increased support to facilitate the dissemination and translation of research findings into technology interventions and practices in the field. Delivering solutions is one of the most significant ways for research to have tangible international development outcomes. While continually striving to improve the ‘translation’ R&D in the UK, we are among the global leaders in this field and so have expertise to share.

10. A current House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology inquiry - Bridging the "valley of death": improving the commercialisation of research [2] has addressed the difficulty of translating research into commercial application, particularly the lack of funding, known as the "valley of death". This gap between research and users is also recognised in international development where users can include NGOs, Government Departments as well as the private sector. Few funders make significant investments in translating the research to enable impacts at scale. UKCDS has been working with the Technology Strategy Board and DFID to explore how the two organisations might work together on this topic.

Impact of research spend in achieving more effective economic development outcomes

11. In 2010, the UK’s gross domestic expenditure on R esearch and D evelopment (R&D) was £26.4 billion or 1.78% of GDP . This spending drives UK prosperity.

12. The UK has committed 0.7% of its GDP to international development aid , a target which will hopefully be reached in 2013.T his includes a research funding allocation . A lthough there are no official statistics on the total amount of research funding that is directly relevant to international development in the UK, UKCDS estimates this to be approximately £400m pa or 0.03% of GDP. This relatively small spend has actually increased over the last 5- 10 years for a number of reasons [3] .

13. This funding can contribute to significant improvements in prosperity and wellbeing in developing countries, as evidenced by the case study on rinderpest , or the opportunities to treat a third more HIV patients using the same resources – an implication of the DART trial above. Research can therefore contribute to very high return on investment interventions.

14. More comprehensive data on the impact of research programmes and supporting case studies are needed to help funders and policy makers in the UK and in developing countries to recognise the effectiveness of, and the returns on investment of science, engineering, innovation and research capacity strengthening funding compared to other forms of intervention. The Government can ensure this is provided through provision of funding.

The UK has a lot to contribute, but could be better engaged internationally


15. Increasing and strengthening the links between UK and international research programmes and aid funding would provide opportunities for facilitating and improving the transfer of evidence and best practice and an effective means of scaling up experimental work, trials and pilot studies.


16. Within DFID, spending on research, technical assistance and aid has historically been managed by separate directorates. Over recent years links from research to policy have strengthened either through staff structures e.g. the Chief Policy Officer role or cross agenda topics such as the new humanitarian emergencies and disaster strategies. This closer relationship is helping to ensure strategic decisions and policies are informed by evidence.

17. A few UK research institutions are already accessing multilateral development aid funding by providing expert advice, technical assistance and monitoring and evaluation skills. UKCDS is working with BIS, UKTI, UUK and the British Council to identify how best UK research institutions might be supported to increase the application of their high quality science and to diversify their funding base.

18. An example of this link between research and aid is a DFID funded collaboration between an Indian research institute and the Afghan Government to investigate growing mint as a viable financial alternative to opium production. [1]


19. A high level group, the International Knowledge and Innovation Board has recently been established comprising FCO, UKTI, DFID and BIS. This group will consider international opportunities for UK science.


Research Capacity Strengthening


20. Supporting research capacity strengthening in institutions across developing countries is vital to the promotion of economic, cultural, social and intellectual progress. The recent Select Committee report [1] recognised that ‘scientific capacity building – a process that enables countries to shape and sustain their own long-term development - is important in international development’. Facilitating the building of robust research and governance capacity across institutions and in individuals and the environment in which they work is essential. This will help to empower local stakeholders to continue to sustainably build research capacity.


21. The Millennium Development Goal 2 ‘achieve universal primary education’ focussed attention and investment and away from tertiary education over the last decades. In addition many existing collaborative research projects and programmes do not directly fund capacity building activities as they are not considered to be ‘research’. Increased funding specifically allocated to capacity strengthening would allow UK universities, research institutions and other providers to help build research capacity with scientists and their support staff such as librarians, finance managers, technicians etc.



Science Diplomacy


22. Science diplomacy uses scientific collaborations between countries to address common problems and to build constructive international partnerships. Engagement with fragile or unstable states through science, technology, and innovation helps to build stable relationships and foundations for the future.


23. The Science and Innovation Network (SIN), a joint initiative of the FCO and BIS, consists of around 90 staff, based in 40 British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates, across 25 countries around the world. SIN officers engage with the local science and innovation community in support of UK policy overseas.


24. SIN facilitates international science collaboration of ‘best with best’ to the mutual benefit of the UK and host country and region. In 2012 SIN opened offices in South Africa and Nigeria to encourage collaborations in these important emerging economies.


25. This foreign policy model could be further extended to encourage a stronger engagement of science with low income or fragile states, building on the research hub model in Delhi, India where SIN, Research Councils UK and DFID work closely together for ‘best with best’, capacity building and poverty alleviation purposes.


26. The UK-India model demonstrates that when a country moves beyond low income status the strong relationships that have been built evolve to strong partnerships that can work together to co-fund science to address global challenges such as climate change, food, energy, water and security and health


27. In addition, there is increasing awareness of potential ‘win-wins’ from collaborating with emerging economies around research and innovation. Nesta’s work on Indian "frugal innovation" [1] highlights that the tools, techniques and mind-set prevalent in emerging economies could have significant commercial, environmental and public service benefits in the UK. In addition, there are significant opportunities to use ‘triangular models’ to enhance UK aid interventions e.g. UK IP, Indian abilities to produce robust technology at very low cost, rolled out in sub-Saharan Africa.


Monitoring and evaluation


28. Having the evidence to know what works and what doesn’t is crucial to ensure future funding is invested well, represents value for money and maximises international development outcomes. However, the wide range of approaches and methods used in impact evaluation of research and development interventions can make this a particularly complex process.


29. Jeffrey Sachs, the UN Secretary’s General’s special advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, recently stated that ‘measurement’, to identify what has worked and hasn’t, was the single biggest failing of the Millennium Development Goals [1] .


30. Monitoring and evaluation must be embedded in research and aid funded programmes to ensure data are available to assess impact and value for money. Science can ensure the methodologies developed and used are rigorous and appropriate.


February 2013



[2] See and

[1] Members are Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS); Department of Energy and Climate Change; Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs ( Defra ); Department of Health (DH); Department for International Development (DFID); Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO);Government Office for Science (GO-Science); Medical Research Council (MRC); Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC); Scottish Government; The Wellcome Trust


[2] House of Commons Science and technology Committee 2012, Building scientific capacity for Development, Fourth Report of Session 2012-2013. HC377. Stationery Office, London.


[1] African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources Socio-economic Benefits of Rinderpest Eradication from Ethiopia and Kenya. Consultancy Report By John Omiti and Patrick Irungu . March 2010



[3] This shift in funding is partly driven by the global science agenda which recognises that all countries face significant challenges concerned with topics such as food, energy and water security and the need to understand the environmental limits or boundaries to ensure future sustainability of humans. In addition, it is due to increases in DFID’s research budget, their increasing collaborations with the UK Research Councils and significant investments from foundations and charities like the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Much of this research is applied in nature or has an immediate impact (within five years) on development outcomes.


[1] House of Commons Science and technology Committee 2012, Building scientific capacity for Development, Fourth Report of Session 2012-2013. HC377. Stationery Office, London.

[1] Bound, K, and Thornton, I. Our frugal future: lessons from India’s innovation system. Nesta . July 2012.

[1] 10 December 2012 at the Overseas Development Institute, London.

Prepared 8th February 2013