Robots in a warehouse

Robust: Stephen Roper will be co-leader of a centre that will find the best methods for research and innovation

Warwick Business School’s Stephen Roper has been appointed Co-Director of the new £7 million Innovation and Research Caucus (IRC) to develop it into a world-leading centre of excellence in research and innovation funding.

Over the next three years the IRC will increase the use of robust evidence and insights in UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) strategies and investments.

This will support UKRI’s significant contribution to realising the goals of the UK Science and Technology Framework, and ultimately help deliver greater societal and economic benefits from research and innovation.

Professor Roper, who is Director of the Enterprise Research Centre and Professor of Enterprise at WBS, will lead the IRC alongside Tim Vorley, of Oxford Brookes University. Both academics have a long and successful track record of delivering high quality research and advice for UKRI.

“The UK spends about £6 billion a year supporting research and innovation so it is important that it is spent wisely and that means having robust evidence on what type of research works best in each context,” said Professor Roper.

“We want to develop a bank of evidence that can be used by researchers and organisations in the their research and innovation. There is also the opportunity to create a community of research and innovation experts that will spread best practice around the country and help ensure the UK maintains its position as one of the world’s leaders in research and development.”

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said: “UKRI needs access to a robust and actionable evidence base. It also needs to bring together people with different skill sets and experience, who can work with UKRI to understand and implement the changes needed to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system which delivers for citizens across the UK.

“The Innovation and Research Caucus will have a vital role to play in providing powerful insights into what works, where and why. I look forward to working with the Caucus to create and use those insights to optimise the support we provide to the UK’s outstanding research and innovation system.”

The IRC is funded by UKRI via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Innovate UK.

The IRC aims to:

  • build a community of research and innovation experts to proactively and responsively enhance UKRI’s funding and support strategies and investments
  • work with UKRI to increase the use and influence of robust evidence in the development of research and innovation funding 
  • establish itself as a world-leading centre of excellence in evidence and thought leadership on research and innovation interventions
  • support both Innovate UK in delivering its plan for action and ESRC in its ambition to create the best conditions for innovation in the social sciences

The work undertaken by the IRC will be wide ranging and include:

  • carrying out research projects commissioned by UKRI to provide the evidence needed to inform its decision-making and investment design
  • capability building to increase communication between academics and policymakers
  • working with researchers at a range of career stages to ensure a pipeline of expertise in research and innovation funding
  • identifying areas to research and what interventions might be needed to improve support for the R&I sector

Delivering actionable insights

IRC Co-Director Professor Vorley said: “I am delighted to be co-directing this flagship investment with Professor Roper, which brings together leading researchers from Oxford Brookes, Warwick, Manchester, Birkbeck and Cambridge universities.

“The IRC will adopt an inter-disciplinary approach and convene a network of academics from across the UK to deliver applied and actionable insights on research and innovation policy development, implementation and evaluation for UKRI.”

From 2007 until June 2023, ESRC and Innovate UK co-funded the Innovation Caucus, led by Professor Vorley. During its lifespan, the Innovation Caucus developed into a valuable asset, providing expert advice and evidence to support UKRI to better understand and support sustainable innovation-led growth.

It also demonstrated how social sciences can make an even greater contribution to UKRI’s evidence needs and has helped the social science community understand joint areas of evidence needs.

The new IRC builds on this framework, with greater funding and a broader remit encompassing both innovation and research funding.