Balancing Capability

Balancing Capability is a core strategy for EPSRC, as an approach to setting strategic priorities aligned to UK strength and national importance, and to maintain and develop the UK’s world leading position in engineering and physical science research within a finite budget.

EPSRC has a proactive engagement approach to managing its research areas in partnership with the research community and stakeholders including the academic community, business, charities, and other funders. Through our continuous engagement with stakeholders we collect information and evidence about the current UK research, training, and innovation landscape. In partnership with our strategic advisory bodies and key community members, we synthesise this information and evidence into intelligence and knowledge about the current shape of the landscape across engineering and physical sciences, and use it to set aspirational strategies for the direction of our portfolio.

At its introduction in 2011, and again at the main refresh exercise in 2016, EPSRC led large-scale Balancing Capability consultation exercises with the community and other stakeholders in order to set the direction of the research portfolio for the next five years. With over 1,000 pieces of evidence received through a number of engagement activities, the 2016 refresh exercise provided a thorough review of the research landscape. Whilst this large-scale refresh approach provided a comprehensive review of the EPSRC portfolio, an agile approach to continuously reviewing our portfolio will further enhance EPSRC’s ability to respond to the opportunities presented by the increasing rate of change in the UK research and innovation landscape. 

In July 2018 it was announced that EPSRC would be delivering its Balancing Capability strategy through an ongoing process of portfolio monitoring and evidence collection, in order to enable a more responsive approach to managing our research areas and setting strategies. Whilst this means there will not be a large scale refresh exercise in 2020/21, continuous engagement enables EPSRC to regularly review and evolve strategies in response to a rapidly changing landscape. This approach maximises opportunities to advance new and emerging research areas that arise from challenge-driven and discovery-led fields, and provides clear routes for our stakeholders to engage with us on a regular basis.

Balancing Capability is embedded through all of EPSRC’s business, maintaining and building upon the strength of the positive community and stakeholder engagement in the previous exercises. To support this approach, EPSRC has an open Call for Evidence survey. The open Call for Evidence provides an all year-round opportunity for engineering and physical sciences stakeholders, through their organisations, to provide input on research areas, and is in addition to the usual ways EPSRC gathers evidence which include:

  • Evidence that has been published in the form of a report or publication
  • Potential future opportunities e.g. horizon scanning
  • Community engagement activities e.g. workshops or university visits
  • EPSRC portfolio data e.g. submission rates, balance between research and training
  • Community engagement through theme Portfolio Managers

EPSRC values input from stakeholders to make evidence based decisions, this ongoing monitoring approach to Balancing Capability will ensure that EPSRC maintains its strong evidence based culture, making the UK the best place in the world to research, discover and innovate.

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