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Excellence with Impact – Research Councils UK reveals the value of research to the UK

The Research Councils are generating considerable economic benefits for the UK, a new report published today by Research Councils UK has revealed. It also outlines a range of plans to further boost this impact on the UK’s economy and society.

“Excellence with Impact” shows that the Research Council’s annual investment of around £2.8 billion of Government funding translates into world-class research, leading to profitable breakthroughs, improved health and public policy, and a better quality of life for British people.

In conjunction with the report, a groundbreaking study by PA Consulting has been undertaken which examines 18 areas where Research Council work has made a real-life difference. The studies cover the breadth of the Research Councils’ research portfolio and examples include the Centre for Surrealism, the Lasers for Science Facility, the Applied Genomics LINK programme and the Engineering Doctorates programme.

Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, said:

“The study shows our Research Councils are playing a vital role in providing the cutting-edge research Britain needs to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive world.

“We need to build on this and make sure more research is taken a step further to benefit our economy and improve our everyday lives – in challenging and important areas like the environment, our health and our families.

“This report provides a strong path forward for us to best use the Government’s record investment in science.”

A good example of profitable impact and benefit to UK society is the Medical Research Council’s investment in DNA technology. Outcomes include the Southern Blot method which underpinned the sequencing of the human genome, and the development of DNA fingerprinting technology. Direct impacts include the creation of two major spin-outs, Oxford Gene Technology and Cellmark Diagnostics, one of which has a $160 million market capitalisation. Wider benefits include a contribution to the $2 billion global biochip market. DNA has revolutionised forensics and may have saved the UK £47 million per year through faster identification of serial rapists.

Speaking on behalf of RCUK, Professor Philip Esler said:

“The study clearly demonstrates that our research is having powerful and far-reaching impacts and benefits. The knowledge and expertise gained through our investment in people and innovation keep the UK at the cutting-edge of technology, build a strong economy and improve the health and quality of life of its people. The challenge now is to maximise these effects by embedding economic impact within the strategies, delivery, and organisation of the Research Councils.'

'Excellence with Impact’ also reports the findings of a User Satisfaction Survey that probes the expectations and experiences of users, including individuals from the public, private and voluntary sectors, that have worked closely with Research Councils. It also includes an independent review of Research Council Knowledge Transfer Schemes and an internal analysis of how peer review can reflect economic impact considerations. These have helped inform how the Councils will organise themselves to deliver knowledge transfer in the future. An important part of this involves a strategic alliance with the Technology Strategy Board, creating exciting opportunities to support collaborations between research and business.

Julia Short | alfa
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