Publication of Final Report of Independent Review of UK Research and Innovation

Review finds that UKRI has gone some way to achieving the goals set out at its inception in 2018, but some gaps remain.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the final report of a review into the development of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) since its inception in 2018.

The review was led by Sir David Grant, former Vice Chancellor of Cardiff University, and forms part of the Government’s Public Bodies Review Programme. It makes a series of recommendations relating to the organisation’s effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and governance.

The review highlights the many successes of UKRI since its inception, noting the significant work required to coordinate and support the UK’s extensive R&I system, a task made more challenging by events such as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It further notes that UKRI has been partially successful in meeting the 10 objectives set out for the organisation in the framework document at its inception, although gaps remain.

Of particular note is ongoing confusion over UKRI’s status and role since its creation as a body corporate (single entity) in the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. The review found continued ambiguity – both within and outside of UKRI – over whether UKRI’s creation represented a merger of nine organisations into one, or whether UKRI is more of a light-touch umbrella entity that loosely connects nine relatively independent organisations. However, UKRI leadership was found to be consistent in describing it as one organisation made from the nine parts, a position supported by the review.

The review also found examples of risks to efficiency caused by: legacy systems and uncoordinated processes; insufficient cross-council (or cross-discipline) cooperation; and a lack of clarity on organisational aims and purpose. However, most of these and other issues highlighted by the report were raised by UKRI representatives themselves, and it is noted that the organisation is in the process of developing plans to address them.

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

“UKRI’s five-year strategy sets out our clear ambition to be more effective, more efficient and to work in new and different ways to realise our full potential.

“I warmly welcome the momentum that Sir David’s timely review adds to these efforts. His expert advice and careful recommendations will help us continue to strengthen UKRI in our work to fuel the UK’s outstanding research and innovation system.”

The review can be read in full at the BEIS website.

(This report was the subject of a ResearchConnect Newsflash.)