3.3.1 Managing our portfolio and priorities

We will continue to actively manage our research and training portfolio in order to maintain the UK's world-leading position in engineering, the physical sciences and computational and mathematical sciences research; the UK is currently ranked first or second in the world based on citation impact for all relevant disciplines.

To understand the research landscape, the international context and the expected future development of research fields, our portfolio management not only draws on our management information capability but also integrates this with evidence publicly available worldwide and with input from researchers and businesses. We use this information to adjust our research and investment priorities, subject to emerging research opportunities and changing UK needs, to make most effective use of available funds in developing research leadership and protecting key capabilities.

Long-term ambitions

We will target our investments to ensure the UK strengthens its world-leading position in engineering and physical sciences research and is partner of choice for collaboration. Our long-term aspiration is to ensure that:

  • stronger relationships with existing and new partners are in place, ensuring we have current knowledge, up-to-date evidence and expert insight into the research landscape to enable timely responses to changes and challenges as the portfolio continually refreshes. Success will be reflected in a more extensive, richer knowledge base
  • enhanced two-way communication in priority-setting to demonstrate the positive outcomes of our approach and the use of management information to influence future investment decisions. Success will be reflected in our community's further engagement with our portfolio management approach
  • the UK's international research standing has been enhanced by encouraging best-with-best international collaboration (around 25% of the current portfolio involves international collaboration) and building strong partnerships with world-leading research nations, to strengthen UK and global research outcomes. Success will be reflected in the level of international involvement in our portfolio.

Near-term actions

In 2019-20 we will:

  • seek community/stakeholder input to enable further evolution of our portfolio, our strategic priorities and approaches to delivery by engaging our strategic advice streams, strategic partnerships with universities, business and government, and input through the Balancing Capability Open Call for Evidence in November and March, enabling us to establish future Centres of Excellence (see Section 3.2.1)
  • connect across UKRI and wider stakeholders to identify emerging multidisciplinary areas to realise impacts from our investments
  • publish updates to our research area strategies to acknowledge changes in the research and funding landscape
  • explore the use of state-of-the-art tools, such as visualisation and evidence analysis, to improve understanding of our portfolio, the wider landscape and impacts of engineering and physical sciences research, enabling more informed interactions with our key stakeholders and evidence-based decision-making.

Case study

Active portfolio management generates powerful research

Catalysis has a major role to play in developing more efficient processes that are environmentally and economically sustainable. With our funding, the UK Catalysis Hub was set up to bring together researchers across chemistry, engineering and manufacturing in a coordinated way and encourage multidisciplinary working. It was based on the Harwell campus close to facilities such as Diamond Light Source, whose successful exploitation for catalysis research has been a major feature of its activities. The hub has delivered excellent science, high international visibility and leadership/ coordination of the research community. It has project partnerships with over 20 companies, including Unilever, Johnson Matthey and GSK, and SMEs across the energy, pharma and chemicals sectors. 2018 saw announcement of £14 million funding for another five years, allowing pursuit of exciting research that will help deliver clean growth.