Looking Forward: Strategic Priorities for UKRI

Looking Forward: Strategic Priorities for UKRI

In the spring of 2022, ESRC’s Andrew Stafford spoke to researchers at a PaCCS-convened workshop about UKRI strategic planning for 2022-2027 and reflected on upcoming priorities for the research councils. This strategy, which has been informed by conversations with researchers, innovators, and UK businesses, has been designed to maximize value out of UK research and innovation. PaCCS Communications Officer Kate McNeil shares insights from this presentation.  

A Vision for UK Research  

UKRI’s new research vision has created an opportunity for the research councils to share a five-year plan, and to work in unison with partners and stakeholders with the goal of achieving objectives on areas including ideas, impacts, innovation, people, and place. It tackles key priorities which will help to improve people’s lives, as well as topics such as infectious diseases, climate change, and security threats. Building a greener future, securing better health, aging and well-being, and building a secure and resilient world were all key priorities described by Dr Stafford throughout the discussion.   

Supporting research and development is a cross-departmental priority, with budgets for R&D in other government departments rising alongside a growing interest in key issues including levelling up, digital work, and national security. Here, Dr Stafford noted that UKRI collaborates closely with these departments in co-funding and coordinating various activities and strands of work, and that UKRI is becoming increasingly agile in its work to organize and prioritize interconnection and integration.  Ultimately, the goal of this work is to support a thriving knowledge economy while tackling social and economic challenges, suggested Dr Stafford. While working towards these aims, UKRI also recognizes the importance of discovery research, and of supporting talent, infrastructure, partnerships, and knowledge exchange. Ultimately, increased coordination across UKRI on areas such as security and resilience will underpin and drive forward the new activity that the research councils will support.   

Research For Building a Secure and Resilient World  

One of the thematic focus areas of UKRI’s vision for impact focuses on how to build a secure and resilient world, by strengthening social and economic resilience, enhancing national security, improving threat awareness, and advancing capabilities in preparedness, decision-making, and response to risk.    

As part of UKRI’s investment in building a secure and resilient world, investments will be made in a variety of areas – including environmental science, technology, and social and behavioural science. Translating these ideas into practice has involved, and will continue to involve, collaboration with scientific advisors across government, as well as key stakeholders – including in the security and defence community. For researchers interested in getting involved in tackling this challenge, key areas of research interest identified by Dr Stafford included:   

  • quantifying risk or confidence deficits  
  • living with technology  
  • understanding global challenges  
  • digital technologies related to security and defence  
  • understanding the shifting geopolitical order and the UK’s evolving role within it  
  • improving resilience in an interconnected world.   

The research councils are also exploring future research programs on security, including related to resilience in crises, transnational organised crime, use of Artificial Intelligence and autonomous systems, cybercrime, terrorism, and conflict.