What are Pathways to Impact?

Supplementary content information

Guidance for applicants and reviewers on the definition and purpose of Pathways to Impact.

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[Interviewer]

Can you explain why EPSRC introduced Pathways to Impact as part of its grant application process?

Alison Wall, Associate Director, Impact [AW]

Delivering Impact is absolutely top priority for EPSRC and actually for all the research councils. Just to be clear, we think Impact arises from excellent research so we’re absolutely still funding excellent research. But then we would like everybody who’s writing a proposal to come to us to think about who the beneficiaries for that proposal might be and the Pathways to Impact is our way of really integrating that within the application process.

[Interviewer]

Will Pathways to Impact actually help to produce better research?

[AW]

I think so, yes, because what we’d like everybody to do when they are thinking about their research project, is to think about who might benefit from it? It might be people in government, it might be important to policy, it might be people in business and then we’d like them to think about what are the challenges for them and how does that relate to my research and then also to think about how to contact them? Do I talk to them now? I mean that’s the ideal to talk to them before the proposal is written, to work out how to engage with them as the research is going on. Would it be useful if a post-doc researcher on the project actually spent time out with a company or would it be useful if somebody from the company actually came and worked in your research environment in your lab for a while and we would like people to think through all of this before proposals are even written and Pathways to Impact is a) a marker to do that and b) we are offering the money, the resources in order to make that happen.

[Interviewer]

National importance how does that fit with Pathways to Impact?

[AW]

You just need to think through a little bit about the different purposes of them. So national importance is asking again all of our researchers, everybody who is writing proposals for us to think about why it’s important for the UK to carry out that research and National Importance covers a number of strands so you might be thinking about how is it going to impact on business? Is it going to lead to a completely new emerging area of business? It might relate to a different academic discipline, it might just be fantastic research that you are the best group in the world to do that research and that is nationally important that we still have that in the UK. So that will go into the case for support - we want everybody to think through that and write it in their case for support. But then Pathways to Impact is about the ‘how do you make it happen?’ So it’s not the, what, or the why, and so we want people to actually write in their Pathways to Impact who the beneficiaries might be and how they are going to work with them.