The N8 Research Partnership and Yorkshire Universities (YU) together represent 17 higher education institutions (HEIs) in the north of England. Our members make major contributions towards the UK’s research and innovation base. They are also critical institutions in supporting local and regional development, and act as key anchor institutions underpinning place-making in many cities, towns and communities across the north.
We welcome the questions posed by David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, in his recent blog for WonkHE. This joint response by N8 and YU represents a contribution to the important debate about the role of place in research and innovation policy, strategy and funding in the UK.
- Research capacity and funding is not sufficiently spatially distributed in the UK. This reinforces imbalances and inequalities in the UK economy, and is an opportunity cost for UK Productivity and R&D targets.
- In order to address this, there needs to be a greater emphasis on place and developing regional R&I ecosystems, which engage partners in the public and private sectors, as well as local citizens;
- Definitions of excellence should be reviewed reflecting value of collaborative research which is locally embedded and impactful. Conventional peer review methods, which are accustomed to traditional measures of excellence, may need to be reviewed for funding schemes for which other factors are also strategically important;
- Programmes should not be one-size fits all, but informed by regional knowledge. The approach should be flexible and long-term;
- To make transformational change, SIPF awards could usefully be significantly larger and longer in duration;
- Building capacity and local knowledge could be supported by developing new place-based collaborative research models, disseminating knowledge and informing policy.