Westminster Higher Education Forum

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Next steps for UK research and development - support and policy priorities, international and cross-sector collaboration, and the role in economic recovery

February 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on latest developments and the future for UK research and development.


The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; UKRI; Defra; the IPO; DIT; DHSC; DfT; Home Office; HMRC; the Animal and Plant Health Agency; DCMS; the Geospatial Commission; MHCLG; the MoJ; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government.


The discussion at a glance:


  • UK Research and Development Roadmap - implementation, impact and outstanding issues
  • international collaboration - the way forward and the UK’s global positioning and influence
  • supporting economic recovery - the role of the R&D system in the wake of COVID-19

The agenda


  • The state of play for research and development in the UK and implementing the Roadmap
  • Next steps for supporting innovation in the UK
  • The way forward for international collaboration in R&D and retaining international research talent in the UK
  • Policy priorities and support for UK research and development
  • The R&D system and supporting economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Improving productivity across businesses and the workforce
    • Local economic recovery and growth, and the Strength in Places Fund
    • Digital development and innovation in the UK
  • Developing a joined-up system - fostering effective collaboration between researchers, policymakers and businesses
    • Building links between researchers, policymakers and industry’
    • Supporting effective collaboration between researchers and policymakers
    • Boosting business-led innovation in the UK
  • ‘Creating synergy between business and universities’

Key areas for discussion:


  • implementing the UK Research and Development Roadmap - discussing the experience so far, as well as challenges, issues and priorities for achieving the Roadmap’s key goals, looking at:
    • investment in research - and reaping the economic and social benefits of boosting innovation
    • business support - supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups carrying out R&D to scale up their operations
    • talent - attracting and retaining researchers domestically and worldwide to careers in the UK with the help of the R&D People and Culture Strategy and the new Office for Talent
    • economic contribution - ensuring that the R&D system drives local economic growth and contributes to the levelling up agenda
    • international collaboration - strategies and priorities for building global UK R&D partnerships
    • a joined-up UK R&D system - supporting business-led innovation in the UK and fostering productive collaboration between researchers, policymakers and businesses
  • latest from UKRI - a contribution from David Rogers, Deputy Director, Strategy Investment, UKRI, on the research and development landscape in the UK and implementing the Roadmap
  • supporting the higher education sector - and assessing the outlook in the wake of COVID-19:
    • government measures - aimed at seeing the sector through economic difficulties brought about by the pandemic including cutting bureaucracy and the Higher education restructuring regime
    • effectiveness - what policy initiatives are likely to mean for productivity, research culture and supporting researcher wellbeing
    • further policy options
  • supporting societal and economic recovery from the pandemic - the role of research and development:
    • productivity - priorities for the new productivity institute in Manchester in achieving its aim of ensuring insights from research are translated into effective policy
    • levelling up - implications for higher education and local businesses from the strategy, and gearing the R&D system towards supporting local and regional economic recovery
    • policy priorities - assessing the government focus on developing digital infrastructure, addressing digital skills shortages, and increased investment in STEM fields
    • the talent pipeline - strategies for attracting researchers into priority fields, as well as the impact of recent policy developments, such as the extra university places for STEM and healthcare
    • beyond STEM - the role of R&D in other fields in supporting economic recovery
    • realising the benefits - assessing how policy can be best geared to ensure insights from STEM and non-STEM research are developed for public good
  • the UK in the global R&D ecosystem:
    • collaboration - what is needed from the R&D Roadmap, its implementation and other Government strategies to realise the aim of forging and developing international research partnerships
    • attracting talent - assessing options and next steps for ensuring the continued recruitment and retention of overseas research talent in the UK
    • the UK’s international positioning - policy priorities for ensuring that the UK R&D system and influence is strongly embedded in the international research community
    • Brexit - following transition from the EU and agreement of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement - we expect discussion on:
      • global research relationships - ensuring that UK researchers, institutions and other organisations continue to stay connected to the international research community
      • policy - immediate and long term priorities, and evaluating the effectiveness of policy so far in supporting post-transition international collaboration in R&D
    • an attractive place to study - strategies and policy priorities for fees, immigration rules and the support offered to undergraduate and postgraduate students from overseas for study and realising aspirations to join the research community in the UK

Relevant developments at a glance:


  • EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement - setting out the UK’s continued participation in European research programmes
  • UK Research and Development Roadmap - setting out the Government’s plans to support R&D, including in the wake of the pandemic, including:
    • a new R&D People and Culture Strategy - aimed at attracting, developing and retaining diverse groups of talented researchers
    • an Office for Talent - tasked with seeking out scientists, researchers and innovators internationally to work in the UK
    • responses to the Roadmap survey - emphasising the need for sustained funding, national collaboration and knowledge exchange along with a diversified research community
  • funding:
    • BEIS research and development (R&D) budget allocations 2020 to 2021 - with an increase in public R&D investment to £22bn per year by 2024-2025 announced in Budget 2020
    • UK's most promising scientists backed by over £100m government investment to bring pioneering ideas to market - aimed at converting innovative ideas into transformative technologies
    • Sustainable Innovation Fund - the latest round of funding through Innovate UK with £134m for businesses developing green technologies and transforming key growth sectors
    • Spending Review - with £14.6bn for research and development in 2021/22, including £200m in the area of low carbon energy and £490m for core innovation programmes
    • £213m to upgrade the UK’s world-class research infrastructure  - announced by UKRI, for a range of hardware, software and equipment upgrades across both arts and scientific disciplines
  • REF review - the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation announcement that the REF, which distributes approximately £2bn in funding annually, will be reviewed by Research England after the 2021 REF exercise, with the aim of improving research culture and creating clearer accountability for funding by reducing bureaucracy
  • Extra university places for vital courses announced - approved by government for priority areas including engineering, maths, and biosciences and as well as nursing and other areas of healthcare
  • COVID-19 and HE:
    • Reducing bureaucratic burden in research, innovation and higher education - government measures against the backdrop of the pandemic
    • Higher education restructuring regime - financial support for HEIs at risk from insolvency from government as a last resort lender
    • New productivity institute part of £37m investment to boost UK wage growth and living standards - being set up at the University of Manchester and focused on post-pandemic recovery
    • UKRI and NIHR welcome UK approval of Oxford-led COVID-19 vaccine - having funded development of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine
    • G2P-UK National Virology Consortium - the recently announced national research project, launched with £2.5m funding, to study mutations and variants in SARS-CoV-2
  • levelling up - the Strength in Places Fund, UKRI’s programme for investment in research and innovation projects that boost R&D capacity and drive up economic growth in specific local areas
  • the wider policy agenda - including Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future, the UK National Data Strategy, and the Government Technology Innovation Strategy
  • UK provides vital support to vulnerable global communities impacted by COVID-19 - £7.2m for UK research projects developing new technologies and processes
  • MOD Science and Technology Strategy 2020 - focusing on funding emerging ‘generation-after-next’ technologies and addressing the 5 capability challenges

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from BEIS; UKRI; Defra; the Intellectual Property Office; the Department for International Trade; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Department for Transport; the Home Office; HM Revenue and Customs; the Animal and Plant Health Agency; DCMS; Matrix; the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; the Geospatial Commission; the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government; the Ministry of Justice; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government. Also due to attend are representatives from AHRC; Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales; Aptus Clinical; Association of Medical Research Charities; Bath Spa University; British Geological Survey; British Psychological Society; Brunel University London; Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult; Centre for Maternal Fetal and Infant Research, Ulster University; Dublin City University; Edinburgh Innovations; Fera Science; First Light Fusion; Future Care Capital; GCU University; Government of Catalonia - Ministry of Business and Knowledge - Secretariat for Universities and Research; KPMG; Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; National Museum Wales; Natural Environment Research Council; NCUB (National Centre for Universities & Business); Nesta; North East LEP; Northern Gas Networks; Nuclear Innovation & Research Office (NIRO); Oxford Brooks University; Praxis Courses t/a PraxisAuril; Royal Veterinary College; Springer Nature; STFC - UKATC; Taylor and Francis; Technopolis; The Foundation for Science and Technology; The Open University; The Scotch Whisky Research Institute; The University of Manchester; UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; UKRI-BBSRC; University of East London; University of Edinburgh; University of Exeter; University of Greenwich; University of Huddersfield; University of Lincoln; University of London; University of Plymouth; University of Southampton; University of Strathclyde; University of Surrey; University of the Arts London and University of York.


A press pass has been reserved by a representative from ZDNet.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles