National Academies host UK Research and Innovation vision speech

04 July 2017

The UK’s four national academies, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, today hosted a speech by Professor Sir Mark Walport in which he set out his vision for the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Sir Mark was introduced by Professor Sir David Cannadine, President-elect of the British Academy.

Sir Mark, Chief Executive Designate of UKRI, outlined how the body will push the frontiers of knowledge, deliver economic impact and enrich our society. In the face of rapid and fundamental changes to how we live our lives, and increasingly different ways of undertaking scientific inquiry itself, Sir Mark said that UKRI will champion excellent research alongside innovation that delivers real solutions to society’s challenges. He set out a vision for an organisation that will encourage increasingly interdisciplinary approaches alongside fundamental support for basic research across the full spread of disciplines, within an agile and strategic framework.

UKRI was established as part of the 2017 Higher Education and Research Bill. As a single, strategic body, it incorporates the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and the research funding and knowledge exchange parts of HEFCE.

The four national academies have worked together with the Government to help shape the new body and look forward to building on this constructive partnership as UKRI is set up. 

At the event today, Jo Johnson MP also announced the £100m Rutherford fund, which will attract the world’s brightest and best researchers and innovators to the UK.

Sir David Cannadine, President-elect of the British Academy, said:

“UKRI presents us with an opportunity to build on the UK’s strengths in research and innovation and ensure they continue to drive forward a prosperous and flourishing UK economy and society. Sir Mark is an excellent champion for the full breadth of the UK’s research and innovation landscape, from the arts, humanities and social sciences to science, medicine and engineering. We look forward to working with him to help deliver on UKRI’s ambition, with a continued commitment to excellent research, the dual support system and the Haldane principle.”

Professor Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“This is a very important moment for the future of UK research and innovation. The creation of UKRI is the biggest change to research funding in the UK in recent times. 

“Bringing together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England creates new opportunities to fund innovative, multidisciplinary research. Success depends on close collaboration with the research community and other stakeholders and citizens to meet their needs now and in the future.  

“In the current turbulent political climate, we need a clear and ambitious vision to ensure that the UK’s world-renowned research and innovation continues to deliver economic and societal benefits. I am pleased Sir Mark has provided this today. 

“We look forward to working with UKRI and Sir Mark to help achieve the vision set out today.”

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“I welcome Sir Mark Walport’s ambitious vision for UKRI and we look forward to working with him to achieve it – effective collaboration between the Research Councils and Innovate UK is essential and UKRI can help to achieve this. UKRI not only joins up across stages of research from research to innovation and application, but across disciplines to bring a multidisciplinary approach to the big challenges society faces. Government’s investment of an additional £2 billion a year in research and innovation by 2020-21, including the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, shows that the importance of this area is recognised as key to a successful industrial strategy. UKRI has a vital role to play in ensuring that we capture the value from our research excellence, by linking business and researchers and supporting innovation.”

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society said: 

“There is now wide spread recognition that research and innovation must be a core pillar of a flourishing UK.  Mark Walport’s commitment to the best of the current system, including healthy support for curiosity driven as well as more applied science, dual support for universities, and strong leadership of the research councils is welcome. Combined with the new opportunities he sees for interdisciplinary research, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and being able to make a strong unified case for science, it all adds up to a vision for UK Research and Innovation that will help maintain our world leading research base.”