A letter for Research England from DSIT

The Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology has sent its inaugural letter to UKRI on the operation of Research England for 2023-24.

James Coe is Associate Editor for research and innovation at Wonkhe, and a partner at Counterculture

This iteration of the annual write around, previously sent by BEIS, sets out the government’s priorities for Research England in the year to come. Readers of Wonkhe will be familiar with similar letters sent by the Department for Education to the Office for Students.

The letter arrives as a number of reviews including the Future Research Assessment Programme are yet to conclude, while the impact of policies like the Science and Technology Framework are yet to be felt. As such there is not an awful lot of news within the department’s scribblings.

The letter starts with a gentle reminder of the research spending commitments made in the past 12 months. This includes the continued support for the dual support system with a rejoinder that Research England should continue to leverage funding from external bodies.

There is a request to continue the work to fund small-scale work with potential to scale. This is all couched within the language of the Science and Technology Framework which focuses on how science and innovation can be translated into the real economy. A delivery plan for the framework is due out in September.

DSIT is happy to see Research England’s work in levelling up including the “increased QR distributed outside the greater Southeast and the delivery of the UKRI Strength in Places Fund.” This is true but QR is explicitly not a tool for the geographic redistribution of research funding. Any redistribution is driven by the excellent research performance of northern universities rather than a design of government policies.

As would be excepted there are requests to continue work on engagement with business, impositions to continue slaying bureaucracy wherever it may be found, and warm words toward the new focussed objectives of KEF. To complete the letter the recurrent research funding is confirmed alongside the modest uplift in funding for specialist institutions.

It’s nice to see what is going on all in one place but it can’t help but feel like an appetiser as we await the main course of various programmes, policies, and frameworks, to land.

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