Council meeting May 2014

Information relating to the May 2014 meeting of Council.

20 May 2014

Item number Item description Document reference
1 Welcome and Formalities Oral

Strategic Business for Decision or Discussion

Item number Item description Document reference
2 Strategic Plan Refresh Timeline and Engagement Plan EPSRC 13-14
3 Review of Peer Review - Outcomes and Actions EPSRC 14-14
4 Council Effectivness Review EPSRC 17-14
19:00 Close  

21 May 2014

Item number Item description Document reference
5 Stage-Gating: A Possible Approach to Maximizing EPSRC’s Return on Investment EPSRC 16-14
6 Emerging Technologies EPSRC 15-14

Delivery Monitoring

Item number Item description Document reference
7 Fusion EPSRC 18-14

Regular Business incl. Sub-Committee/Executive Reports

Item number Item description Document reference
8 Minutes of the Meeting Held on 04 March 2014  
9 Actions  
10 Update from the Executive EPSRC 19-14
11 Report of Resource Audit Committee meeting 13 May 2014 EPSRC 20-14
12 Operational Update EPSRC 21-14

For Information

Item number Item description Document reference
13 Communications Update EPSRC 22-14
14 Risk Management EPSRC 23-14
15 Any other Business Oral
16 Next Meeting and Close Oral

Council met on the 20 and 21 May at Rolls Royce, Derby.

The main Council business concerned:

  • EPSRC's Strategic Plan
  • Independent Review of Peer Review
  • Council Effectiveness Review
  • Funding mechanisms to promote creativity and ambition in research
  • Identifying and nurturing emerging technologies
  • Long term vision and short term strategy for Fusion for Energy.

The Chief Executive briefly updated Council on progress with various on-going BIS reviews, including the Science and Innovation Strategy. He also briefly outlined the changes which had been made to the list of framework and strategic universities partners.

Council received a paper which followed up Council's decision at its March 2014 meeting to refresh the Strategic Plan. This paper set out the timeline for the production of the Strategic Plan, a broad outline of the content and a proposal for stakeholder engagement on the draft document.

Council were presented with a paper which set out a proposed action plan in response to an independent review of peer review that had reported to the December 2013 meeting of Council. This review was one of two commissioned by Paul Golby following his appointment as Council Chair. The action plan had been developed by a sub-set of Council members, both the Review report and the EPSRC response will be published on the EPSRC web site in due course.

In December 2013 Council considered a report of an independent review commissioned by Council into its own performance, in accordance with Cabinet Office best practice guidance. The report, by consultants Technopolis, concluded that Council is working well and stands comparison with analogous bodies, nationally and internationally. Nonetheless, there are areas to look at for improvement, including improved clarity amongst members of their role and how they can best contribute, ensuring the right blend of skills and experience amongst the membership, as well as some detailed aspects of governance and operation and how Council communicates its business to its stakeholders.

A sub-set of Council members which had overseen the review were asked to work with the Executive to develop a detailed response plan. This response plan was presented the May meeting. The action plan will now be implemented as part of an on-going and incremental process of self-improvement.

Council considered a paper which set out the initial thinking and emerging recommendations of a Strategic Advisory Network (SAN) work stream established to investigate possible funding mechanisms that might promote creativity and ambition in the research that EPSRC sponsors. The focus was principally around stage-gating approaches. The definition of stage-gating for this purpose is intended to be; "a mechanism to enable additional funding or time for successful projects". EPSRC's role on behalf of the UK tax payer is to deliver excellence with impact. Historically, this has been achieved mainly through funding a discrete set of time and money-limited projects. However, in the current Delivery Plan (2011-2015), EPSRC gave an undertaking to put in place appropriate arrangements, such as stage-gating, for engaging with our researchers so that we can encourage creativity and ambition while monitoring outputs to ensure we have a strong evidence base to guide any new investments. This work stream therefore examined whether the sponsorship approach that EPSRC wishes to adopt could be enhanced by the introduction of stage-gating or similar mechanisms for at least some portion of the investment. Council noted the emerging thinking from this work stream and asked that further work be done to fully scope out the concept and options. This will be presented back to a subsequent Council meeting.

In the December 2012 Council received a report from a SAN work stream which had considered how EPSRC might maximise the value to the UK of EPSRC sponsored research and postgraduate training. As a result Council agreed to try to identify early, and take some high risk actions to nurture, a small number of potential emerging technologies to establish a commercial lead for the UK. At the May meeting and as a first step Council was presented with a paper designed to provide some background to a broader discussion about what this means for EPSRC, its role and approach to identifying and nurturing emerging technologies and to provide a high level steer for subsequent work. Following some discussion Council agreed that this should be best approached as a "bottom up” exercise initially working through EPSRC's Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs) to identify a long list of potential areas followed by a validations stage with key stakeholders to reduce this down to a shorter set. The outcome will be presented back to Council in due course.

Council received a brief progress report on work to update the long term vision and shorter term strategy for "Fusion for Energy”. The report was primarily for information since the strategy is work in progress but it provided Council with an opportunity to seek points of clarification and to suggest areas of potential further work.

The Chair of the Resource Audit Committee (RAC) provided Council with an update from RAC's most recent meeting.

Council received an Operations Report which provided an update on staffing and financial matters.

Council also noted a number of information papers including: a report on corporate risks and a communications update.

The formal minutes of this meeting will be approved at the next Council meeting and will subsequently be published on this page.

The next meeting is 08 July 2014.