Engaging on the development of our next Delivery Plan

Supplementary content information

front cover of EPSRC's 2015 Strategic Plan

In his February blog post Professor Philip Nelson set out EPSRC's updated Strategic Plan and our vision for the UK to be the best place in the world to research, discover and innovate. Our Strategic Plan was updated in 2014 with input and insight from across our community and engagement with the academic and business communities has continued as we consider how we can best put our strategy in to practice and develop our new Delivery Plan.

We would like to thank all those who contributed to the workshops and conferences that have taken place over the last few months. The key outcomes and next steps are captured below:

Delivery Plan engagement workshops took place during February, March and April with around 90 representatives from our academic and business communities attending. The workshops focused on the three topics agreed by EPSRC Council: UK University Ecosystem, Critical mass and Partnership with Innovate UK.

The outputs from these workshops, together with the input received from individual university visits, were collated to form part of our SATs (Strategic Advisory Teams) conference held in April. This conference was very well attended, with strong representation across all themes, and provided an opportunity to relate discussions on the three topics to our strategies of Balancing Capability, Building Leadership and Accelerating Impact.

On the topic of the UK University Ecosystem attendees were asked to identify and prioritise the most critical issues facing universities and those that EPSRC should address as a priority within its Delivery Plan. The main topics raised were around:

  • People and careers
  • Competition and metrics
  • Future investment
  • Infrastructure
  • SMEs and Intellectual Property
  • Public understanding

On the issue of Critical Mass, attendees were asked to consider a number of models during the Engagement workshops with the three most popular reviewed at the SATs conference - Integrated investment packages; Institutes; and Bringing together EPSRC investments to create a brand.

A SWOT analysis on each model showed these to be relatively balanced in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Issues raised included improved visibility and recognition (particularly internationally), potential increase in impact and leveraging of additional investment Concerns included limiting innovation, creation of a “closed shop” approach and the potential to exclude talent from centres outside of the critical mass.

Discussions on the Innovation landscape reinforced the view that EPSRC and Innovate UK need to work together more closely and provide a seamless interface around innovation. Other points raised included the opportunity to do more around Horizon2020, to work more with the LEPs and more closely with professional and learned societies.

The Emerging technologies workshop was held in March to discuss how to identify early stage technologies which have the potential to grow rapidly, develop new applications and foster new industries. Proposals from the group were presented to EPSRC Council for consideration as part of the new Delivery Plan.

The Big ideas retreat was also held in April with representatives from across the academic community to explore new challenges and research directions with the top nine topics proposed by the group being:

  • Augmenting Human Ability
  • Sensing reasoning and reacting
  • Living with Autonomy
  • Build an Artificial Brain
  • Make it here, there and everywhere
  • Carbon Negative Habitat
  • Bridging the innovation Gap
  • Technology Enabled healthcare
  • A Biowarfare Strategy on Cancer and Infection

These proposals were presented to Council and will be further developed in the context of national challenges such as the ageing population, security and NHS efficiencies.

Next steps

The next step in the Delivery Plan engagement timeline is the SAN (Strategic Advisory Network) conference in June. This will consider the further development of our three strategies - Building Leadership, Balancing Capability and Accelerating Impact - particularly referencing the previous work on institutes/critical mass and innovation as well as the issue of place. SAN members will also be asked to build on the work of the Big Ideas retreat.

We are currently working towards a Delivery Plan being developed by the end of 2015 and published in March 2016 but if this accelerates the input that we have already received has been hugely valuable and will help us to develop our plans as required.

Thank you for your continued support as we work together to demonstrate that science and engineering is a vital investment for a strong, successful and sustainable UK.