Balancing Capability - The Process and Challenges

Posted by Dr Ruth L Mallors-Ray on 13 February 2017
Image of a Newton's cradle in operation

From Shaping to Balancing

15 February will see the publication of EPSRC's Balancing Capability, the evolution from Shaping Capabilities. The publication is a significant milestone of EPSRC's Delivery Plan and the outputs will be reviewed by the academics of the UK and probably overseas to determine how their areas are affected. Over the last 18 months the Engineering SAT has advised, supported and cajoled the EPSRC engineering team through the process of Capability Balancing. The approach has seen EPSRC review their research areas with academics and industry to understand how interventions played out: What worked? What was surprising? Which levers are available to stimulate research in specific areas? EPSRC also called for evidence from across the UK to link research to outcomes. The approach has been both consultative and analytical.

The Journey

As the SAT we have challenged the process, we have suggested that evidence in certain areas was not as rich as in others to enable a rounded decision on the research theme, we have questioned the groupings of research areas, and we have looked across the engineering portfolio for links and common areas. Members of the SAT are specialists in certain areas of research but not all areas of research, and so our role isn't to question the research areas, to query its validity or investment but to ask EPSRC the questions: Before you make a decision, what is your evidence? Where has it come from? How can you enrich the evidence?

Passionate People

I am privileged to Chair the Engineering SAT; it is a window into the workings of academia at its best. The SAT is made up of academics and industrialists and as a group it demonstrates the values of EPSRC - with a focus on integrity, support for one another as SAT members and as part of the broader EPSRC team, and a determination that meeting outputs are realised, whether this is an agreement on recommendations or a clear set of actions to move things along. The SAT is a group of very bothered, very passionate people who want to contribute to the success of EPSRC and the research of the UK.

Balancing Capability will be available on 15 February, the outcome of 18 months of exceptional engagement, discussions, planning and execution.

The effort cannot be understated and I would like to thank all of the team at EPSRC and my colleagues on the Engineering SAT for a job well done.

Note: The EPSRC portfolio comprises 111 research areas. Each research area has an individual rationale which articulates the research areas' definition, strategy, influences and percentage of the EPSRC portfolio value.

The rationales represent our future plans in relation to the three EPSRC corporate strategies (Balancing Capability, Accelerating Impact and Building Leadership) and the four Prosperity Outcomes (Productive, Connected, Resilient and Healthy Nation). Groups of research areas are managed by Themes within EPSRC.


In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Dr Ruth L Mallors-Ray
Job title: Chief Operating Officer
Organisation: Aerospace Technology Institute

Dr Ruth L Mallors-Ray OBE was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) in September 2014, assuming responsibility for the day-to-day operations and stakeholder engagement. Prior to this, Ruth was the Director of the Aerospace, Aviation and Defence Knowledge Transfer Network, a Technology Strategy Board Programme. During her tenure Ruth established a UK R&D network across aerospace and made a significant contribution to securing and setting up the Aerospace Technology Institute. Ruth is currently Chair of EPSRC’s Engineering Strategic Advisory Team.