Science for a successful nation - one year on...

Posted by Professor Philip Nelson on 20 June 2017

Our Delivery Plan for 2016/17 to 2019/20 was launched back in June 2016. Now, a year on we thought it would be good to reflect on what we have achieved to date and look forward to the next 12 months as we move towards the formation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Prosperity outcomes

New for this Delivery Plan was our Outcomes framework with the intention that our investments support four interlinked Outcomes which collectively underpin UK prosperity - Productive, Connected, Resilient and Healthy Nation. We have spent time engaging with our academic and industry communities to explain this approach, which has been well received. It has also proved to be a useful tool to help us build and develop new ideas and business cases in response to the Government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), enabling us to work dynamically with the community to meet short deadlines. We have already seen some successes with an investment in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Hubs in Extreme and Challenging Environments from the first wave of the ISCF.

Science Strategy

The Prosperity Outcomes also form the core of our Science strategy which continues to recognise the importance of long-term investment in both investigator-led research and our strategic research programme. Aiming for a balance of 60:40 was a priority for our Council and sends a clear message to our community about the value we place on excellent fundamental, discovery-led research - something the UK celebrated in 2016 with Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry. It is also critical that we maintain the excellence of our core research base as we move towards UKRI - our research and training investments play a vital role in underpinning the research priorities of our sister Research Councils and in driving innovation together with Innovate UK.

Balancing Capability

Protecting the UK's long-term research capability is a key element of our Balancing Capability strategy and over the last 18 months we have set about refreshing the 111 research areas that make up the building blocks of our portfolio. Again, our community demonstrated a willingness to work with us to make difficult decisions about priorities based on national strengths and needs and are now submitting proposals against that refreshed landscape.

Building Leadership

Our strategy of Building Leadership recognises that it is the scientists and engineers that we support and inspire that lead the excellent research that we are rightly proud of. As the largest funder of doctoral students in the UK we nurture the next generation of researchers and our recent mid-term review of 117 Centres of Doctoral Training (CDT) has seen some outstanding best practice and exemplars which we will be publishing later in the year alongside details of our next call for CDTs. Our student numbers have been bolstered further by the ISCF investment with EPSRC benefiting substantially from the 1,000 students awarded. We have also taken time to review our First Grants Scheme and approach to studentships, recognising that it is important to get early research support right if we are to encourage innovation through people.

Accelerating Impact

Our third strategy of Accelerating Impact is equally important as we facilitate relationships and engagement between academia and industry to help drive discovery through to research and innovation. Our already strong relationships with industry have been expanded with the formation of our Business Engagement Forum now comprising around 50 organisations. Our experience of working with industry and understanding of sector based challenges has meant that we have benefitted from Wave one of the ISCF investments and we hope to be equally successful as the Fund progresses.

Our Prosperity Partnerships initiative to support existing strategic, research-based partnerships between businesses and universities was launched last year, with successful proposals due to be announced next month. Alongside our Prosperity Partnerships we will also be announcing the latest investment in our Impact Acceleration Accounts, helping transform very early stage research into commercial propositions.


Innovation is also about partnership whether that is across disciplines, across academia and industry or across the globe. We recognise that the international aspect of excellent research is more important than ever before as we look to our future outside of the EU. EPSRC continues to work with over 50 countries across the world, most recently with India and China on clean energy research projects, to ensure that the best researchers collaborate and take forward research that will bring benefit to all.

As the delivery partner of choice for a number of Government investments including The Alan Turing Institute, Henry Royce Institute, UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) and Rosalind Franklin Institute our ability to bring together large numbers of partners around a single vision is a strength that will continue to serve EPSRC and UKRI well in the future.

These are exciting times as we move towards the formation of UK Research and Innovation. EPSRC is well placed to enter this new era with strength and clarity of vision and we look forward to you joining us on this journey.


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

philip nelson

Professor Philip Nelson

Name: Professor Philip Nelson
Job title: Chief Executive
Organisation: EPSRC

Professor Nelson is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics, and a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America. He is the recipient of both the Tyndall and Rayleigh Medals of the Institute of Acoustics, and served as President of the International Commission for Acoustics from 2004-2007. He is also currently serving as the Chair of the Sub-Panel for General Engineering in REF 2014.

Professor Nelson joined EPSRC as Chief Executive in April 2014 and took on the role of Chair of the RCUK Executive Group from October 2015.