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Projects

On this webpage, you’ll find the list of complete, current and upcoming IRC projects.

IRC team projects

Innovation Infrastructure (IRCP0001)

Innovation infrastructure research project to provide insights on the physical and non-physical support businesses require for the translation, adoption and diffusion of engineering biology. The project will seek to map the innovation infrastructure landscape for engineering biology, identify the interconnections between different aspects of infrastructure, the gaps in provision, the challenges, and the opportunities for enhancing commercialisation through better infrastructure support.

Project team: Dr Halima Jibril, Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles, Professor Stephen Roper and Dr Hamisu Salihu

Spillovers (IRCP0002) – completed project

This project focuses on the spillovers from publicly funded R&D and innovation activity. Spillovers – broadly defined as benefits which accrue to organisations other than the direct funding recipient – are a critical element of the rationale for public R&D and innovation investment, and form a significant element of the argumentation in related business cases and evaluation methodologies.
Existing approaches to capturing spillovers in business case development and evaluation are limited, often based on pre-existing ratios. This project aims to ‘shift the dial’ on this approach by providing IUK and other partners with a more robust and nuanced approach to calculating spillovers drawing on existing evaluation and analytical evidence.
The current project is designed to draw together and integrate existing evidence on spillovers. This may highlight empirical gaps which form the basis for future primary research.
Project team: Dr Serdal Ozusaglam, Dr Halima Jibril, Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles and Professor Stephen Roper

Place (IRCP0004)

Recent work on the spatial configuration of innovation clusters (DSIT cluster mapping project) has produced new data about the concentration and specialisation of industries in places across the UK. While that work focuses on the colocation of businesses it creates an opportunity to learn about the relationship of research capacity to proximate economic activities. This project will map the location of research communities relative to innovation clusters, and innovation infrastructure, to explore these dynamics. It will provide an evidence base to inform UKRI investment strategy as well as contribute to academic literature on knowledge networks, flows, and spillovers.

Project team: Dr Jen Nelles, Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles, Dr Halima Jibril and Dr Michael Papazoglou

Interdisciplinary (IRCP0005)

This project focuses on understanding the degree to which the Cross Research Council Responsive Mode Pilot Scheme is accomplishing its funding objectives specifically with respect to interdisciplinarity. The research design is based on the recognition that assessing interdisciplinary projects involves challenges and potential biases that differ from other types of funding schemes and may appeal differently to applicants from different backgrounds (e.g., disciplines, experience, etc). The ultimate objective is to identify modifications to the funding call and assessment process that can increase the breadth and diversity of disciplinary participation, quality, and alignment of applications with funding objectives.

Project team: Dr Jen Nelles, Dr Lauren Tuckerman, Francisco Trincado Munoz, Dr Michael Papazoglou

PhD Career Trajectories (IRCP0007) – upcoming project

 The project aims to gain insights into post-graduation career pathways UKRI funded PhD students and to collect information on studentship outcomes.
This project will help to inform future business cases and submissions to fiscal events, deliver against UKRI strategic objectives, form future UKRI policy interventions, inform UKRI and wider sector priorities and to establish a robust method of capturing longer-term insight into PhD career pathways, complementing existing approaches.
Project team: Dr Elvis Nyanzu, Dr Kevin Walsh, Professor Tim Vorley

PhD Skills (IRCP0008)

This project brings several contextual strands together and serves a set of different objectives. First, on the UKRI side, the transition to collective talent funding has created a need to establish a common understanding and set of expectations across councils around the state of doctoral training, gaps, and areas for development. Several other projects proposed under the “PhD” umbrella get at various aspects of this through explorations of career pathways and alternative forms of provision. The PhD skillz project will focus on developing a common understanding of entrepreneurship and commercialisation skills in PhD training and tools for curriculum mapping, programme design, and delivery coordination.
Entrepreneurship and commercialisation (skills) is of interest across funding councils. Innovate UK has been evolving plans with IRC to extend the logic and methodology of the Innovation Skills Framework (ISF) to some or all of the following areas: commercialisation, entrepreneurship, innovation leadership.
Project team:  Dr Jen Nelles, Dr Kevin Walsh, Nick Wilton, Dr Shera Adbdul Rahman

Commercialisation (IRCP0009)

The project aims to:
1) create a stakeholder-wide consensus on AHSS commercialisation impact by co-creating a logic model of AHSS commercialisation through venture building.
2) build initial dataset to be used for evaluating the value of AHSS commercialisation through venture building.
3) sharpen the narratives of surrounding the economic value of AHSS
Project team: Dr Shera Abdul Rahman, Tomas, Professor Tim Vorley and Dr Hamisu Salihu

State of the Nation (IRCP0010)

The project will involve exploratory analysis of the Innovation State of the Nation Survey 2023 dataset in more detail than previously undertaken. The project will focus analytical effort on several key policy areas, all anticipated to be components of the upcoming anticipated Spending Review.

Project team: Ully-Yunita Nafizah  and Dr Halima Jibril

IUK Business Growth Data (IRCP0011)

Establish understanding around the effectiveness of EDGE support to provide an evidence base for CSR.
Identify opportunities for improvement (e.g. in impact and/or reach) and inform decisions about use of EDGE more widely across IUK/UKRI.
Project team: Dr Halima Jibril and Professor Stephen Roper

GtR Analysis (IRCP0012) – upcoming project

Central to the study will be the Gateway to Research (GtR) database which profiles UKRI (Research Councils, and Innovate UK) support for firms and other organisations. This will be matched in a secure data environment with longitudinal business performance information (Business Structure Database – BSD) and other data which can provide a robust set of control variables. Econometric analysis will make use of Propensity Score Matching – Difference in Difference modelling to capture direct effects and spatial modelling techniques to capture localized spillovers.
Both datasets (GtR and the BSD) have the advantage of being population data (rather than sample survey data) so include data from all Research Councils as well as UKRI. This is helpful in that it allows a full and robust picture of effects to be established and allows sub-sample analysis at a more detailed level. Note, however, that one limitation with GtR is that increasingly UKRI has been awarded larger grants or block grants to third parties to increase efficiency and speed of delivery: outputs of which might not be included in GtR. Early years of data in GtR may also be incomplete prior to the implementation in 2012 of Siebel as the cross research councils grant system. GtR also notably excludes some other types of UKRI funding: Block grants, HEIF, SIRF, UKRIF.
To assess the impact of UKRI support on exporting and innovation outcomes we also plan to consider matching with the UK Innovation Survey and Annual Business Survey. Both are however sample surveys and the analyis which is feasible will depend on the achieved data match.
The project will need to be undertaken within the ONS Secure Research Service. The project will lead to a series of IRC research reports/papers which can be published on the IRC and UKRI web sites etc. and will provide a strong evidence base for future spending decisions.
Project team: Dr Halima Jibril, Professor Stephen Roper and Dr Serdal Ozusaglam

Catapults (IRCP0013) – upcoming project

This project aims to provide robust evidence on the impact of the Catapult network on
business growth and productivity. It considers both direct effects on those firms which work with the Catapults and spillovers to other co-located or related businesses. The aim is to provide evidence which can be used to support the on-going case for Catapult funding and future business cases and feed into value for money assessment being conducted by Frontier Economics.
Project team: TBC

AHSS in space (IRCP0014)

This project explores opportunities for the UK to be world-leading at integrating the state of the art of non-technical support to improve the effectiveness, reduce costs, and ensure alignment of UK space strategies/missions/investments with other national policy priorities (e.g., sustainability and wellbeing goals, regional economic growth). It will produce a short thought leadership piece that surveys the broad areas where non-technical research and development can contribute to the aims of the NSS and the development of the UK space economy.

Project team: Dr Jen Nelles

SOTAs IUK Spending Review 2024 (IRCP0015)

Addressing evidence gaps for the upcoming Innovaet UK spending review.
The upcoming spending review (likely to be in spring or autumn 2024) requires IUK to submit a coherent narrative for investing in innovation to address current economic challenges, including productivity and stagnating living standards, and to justify its spending decisions across a range of programmes. The Economics and Insights team have carried out a review of evidence gaps and has identified where these can be filled in-house or by the Caucus.
Evidence gathering is the first stage of preparation for the SR and we require short, expert reviews on the evidence gaps identified.
The focus of these SOTAs will be on fresh ideas for driving productivity growth, supporting place and levelling up, making tax credits work best, and sector-specific support.
Project team: Professor Stephen Roper, Jillian MacBryde, Neil Lee and Halima Khan

International Economic Impact (IRCP0016)

To identify the mechanisms through which international R&D and innovation collaboration generate economic benefits. To explore whether the monetisation or quantification of suggested benefits of international R&I collaboration, are achievable, and to suggest further methodologies for monetising the benefits, where this is an option. To apply the approaches identified to estimate the economic benefits of international collaboration.
Project team: Dr Serdal Ozusaglam, Ully-Yunita Nafizah, Professor Stephen Roper and Dr Halima Jibril

History of Tech (IRCP0017)

To identify the social, environmental and behavioural influences and infrastructure that can impact innovation to help frame future discussions (both within Innovate UK and more broadly) regarding horizon scanning and to determine how other policymakers can develop support and interventions for A&D.

Project team: Professor Tim Vorley and Dr Hamisu Salihu

ISNS Technologies (IRCP0018) – upcoming project

The project should then focus on creating a qualitative understanding (via interviews with businesses) of the challenges being faced by business, a greater appreciation of the role of technicians within innovative businesses and recommendations for how the situation could be improved.

Project team: Ully-Yunita Nafizah, Dr Hamisu Salihu, Professor Stephen Roper

International Reputation (IRCP0019)

International R&I

Project team: Marya and Professor Muthu De Silva

Role of Champions (IRCP0021)

To understand what can be learned from the champions model and demonstrate the role and value of champions associated with current and future ESRC funding programmes the IRC will create a framework and/or logic model to identify the multiple roles and activities as well as the associated outcomes. The objective is to enable UKRI and individual funders to better understand how to utilise champions as a part of funding programmes to achieve particular aims/outcomes.

Project team: Professor Tim Vorley, Marya and Professor Muthu De Silva

Flex Fund Projects

The Contribution of IUK to UK Firm Productivity Growth (FF0001)

Project summary:

This project will identify what contribution to firm level productivity growth IUK support makes to recipient firms. It will also identify which types of firms benefit more (or less) from IUK support. In addition, we will be able to establish whether there is scope for expanding the reach of IUK support activities to a wider pool of UK firms to maximise their contribution to overall UK productivity. Finally, we will identify how efficient IUK decision-making processes are in allocating funding to applicants.

Project team: Marc Cowling and Professor Nick Wilson

Uncovering Hidden Innovators: using big data to develop comprehensive measures of firm innovation and regional tech specialization (FF0002)

Project summary:

This project will make use big data on publicly funded R&D and innovation activities in the UK, combined with other administrative and alternative datasets, to develop new comprehensive measures of innovation and regional technological specialisation. Currently, most innovation measures are based either on self-reported surveys for a small sample of large R&D investors, or on innovation outcomes databases, which represent only a limited portion of innovation activities. However, innovation could take many different forms, and the current metrics are not sufficient to provide a clear picture of the innovative activities of firms and regions. This project will provide a comprehensive picture of firms’ innovativeness and regional technological specialisation across the UK, capturing aspects of hidden innovation which have not been considered so far by traditional metrics, and identifying innovators among underrepresented segments of the business population operating in low-tech industries and regions.

Project team: Dr  Enrico Vanino (University of Sheffield)

Understanding Outliers  (FF0003)

Project summary:
Innovate UK recently overhauled the nature of reviewing funding applications. This involved reducing the number of reviewers, but there still remains particular questions around outlier reviews. Given the public scrutiny associated with the allocation of funding, it is important to both understand and address outlying scores. This scoping study will focus on fast competition data to better understand the impact of outliers and how they could be treated.
The purpose of this project is to identify how outlier reviewers scores impact, decision-making and the allocation of funding. The project will involve two parts. First exploring and understanding the nature of outliers in two/three Innovate UK competitions. As well as assessing the impact of the outliers, the project will identify the impact of rebasing scores, and interrogating the nature of outliers within the competition. Second, the project will focus on individual reviewers to understand how their scores relate to each other, and mean scores of the particular competitions reviewed.
The purpose of the project is to provide evidence to Innovate UK about how outliers should be treated, and work towards developing a methodology that is considered robust. The purpose of the project is to provide evidence to Innovate UK about how outliers should be treated, and work towards developing a methodology that is considered robust. The ability to undertake this project is premised on accessing Innovate UK funding data. This is data that has been accessed previously, although additional information about reviewers scores and anonymised information about the allocation to reviewers is necessary.
Project team: Professor Tim Vorley and Marc Cowling

UK Doctoral Graduates’ contributions to innovation (FFOpen001)

Project summary:

PhD holders are argued to make substantial economic, social and cultural contributions, and to present an important channel of knowledge transfer from science to industry. Yet, the evidence base regarding PhDs’ contribution to innovation is relatively undeveloped.  

The primary goal of this project is to create a longitudinal database of UK PhD graduates that allows identifying their direct and indirect contribution to invention. While the UK accounts for a comparatively low share of overall patent applications in Europe (about 2.9%, EPO), a high proportion of its research papers is cited in patents (about 10%, Elsevier). A longitudinal database of UK PhDs’ research and inventive outputs would thus provide an estimate on the extent to which graduates support invention through their research. 

This project will adopt the methodology developed by DOC-TRACK, a European-wide effort to investigate the performance of PhDs and create a new open access PhD database thus permit comparative studies on doctorate holders’ performance. At its core, this methodology relies on an Electronic Doctoral Theses (EDT) repositories, matched to publication and patent data. Academically, this project will contribute to streams of research concerning science and its relationship with innovation. 

Project team: Cornelia Lawson, Xin Deng (MIOIR, The University of Manchester) 

Trusted Research & Innovation: An investigation of knowledge leakage (FFOpen002)

Project summary

The Trusted Research & Innovation project is an investigation of knowledge leakage. To support a robust innovation ecosystem, the UK seeks to access and create innovative knowledge by attracting research collaborations and recruiting top talent. However, the risk of knowledge leakage, especially in international research collaborations, is viewed as a significant threat to the success of UK research. Concerns about this knowledge leakage are at the core of the UK government and UKRI’s focus on Trusted Research and Innovation (TRI). However, we have very little understanding of where this leakage occurs, what technologies it affects and how businesses respond.

This project aims to develop evidence and insights into knowledge leakage to support innovation and innovation policies. Better understanding leakage is crucial for balancing the tensions between the need to foster knowledge flows and research collaborations with the need to protect against knowledge leakage. The project aims to provide industry-specific insights with a focus on knowledge leakage in sensitive technologies. The project will help better safeguard investments in our research & innovation ecosystem, while informing risk assessment and TRI support initiatives. This will support the development of a proportionate response to the TRI threat and evidence-based policymaking.  Ultimately, by better understanding knowledge leakage, the project seeks to support the knowledge flows crucial to the UK’s innovation ecosystem.

Project team: Dr Nicola Searle, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), ICCE, Goldsmiths, University of London

UK Firms’ R&D Internationalisation: A Comprehensive and Statistical Review (FFOpen006)

Project summary:

The project aims to provide a comprehensive overview of cross-border R&D by UK
firms, analyzing how they have adapted to major economic shocks particularly in
response to Brexit and COVID-19. This involves examining the innovation
collaborations with foreign partners and the variation in innovation efforts across
different industrial sectors, with a special focus on green and digital technologies. The
research will develop a major data infrastructure to integrate various complex
databases, including firm financial and ownership records and patent data. This will
allow for an in-depth exploration of the UK’s role in global innovation, identifying trends
in R&D internationalization, and assessing the comparative advantages in key
technological domains. Key contributions of the project include enhancing
understanding of firm, technological, and sectoral heterogeneity in R&D practices. The
findings are expected to inform UKRI’s strategic themes, such as building a
sustainable future and advancing data-driven social sciences. The project aims to
influence R&D policy by providing insights into the effective alignment of government
policy goals with the realities of international R&D activities.

Project team: Dalia Ribaudo, Aston Business School and Professor Jun Du, Aston Business School

Beyond Smart Specialisation: Seeking Evidence of Network Weaving Effects of Green and Digital Place-Based Innovation Policy (FFOpen007)

Project summary:
The investment and activities of the UKRI provide the cornerstone of our national innovation performance and wider scientific base. With numerous industrial and economic transitions on the horizon (Devolution, Levelling Up, and so on), the historical importance of enabling diverse routes of learning, discovery, and technological progress is paramount to re-industrialisation and achieving social benefit. However, as highlighted in this funding call by the Innovation and Research Caucus, numerous contextual hurdles exist to unlocking UK Economic Growth, such as designing complex policy agendas, investing in R&D, technologies with high-growth potential, and regional characteristics. Making effective decisions requires coordinated and multidisciplinary insights to understand the complex factors embedded in the rapid development of industrial and nested technologies (Magro & Wilson, 2019).
This study aims to explore the notions of smart specialisation, twin transitions, and the role of network weaving agents within place-based innovation policy. While previous reports have demonstrated numerous contextual challenges of designing regional innovation policy, there remains a need to explore further how policy-mix scenarios and sectoral adjacencies may influence the route for technology specializations, twin transitions and the technological convergence of R&D and innovation activities across adjacent sectors. While some studies have inferred a need for further empirical work within this realm, few studies explore this complexity.
Project team: Dr Stephanie Scott, University of Durham, Dr Farzana Chowdhury, Durham University Business School, Dr Bettina, Becker Durham University Business School, Dr Efpraxia Zamani, Durham University Business School

Building winners: the policy levers for impactful innovation (FFOpen009)

Project summary:

Innovation is a driver of growth and productivity. However, not all innovations are equal and innovative activity is uneven in the UK. Our project aims to foster better innovations in different places and their adoption by non-innovating companies. We will explore questions such as what some of the most impactful innovations are and, perhaps more importantly, how can policymakers help the delivery of impactful innovations?  

We will combine quantitative and qualitative expertise to answer these questions. Firstly, we will analyse patent data to identify widely adopted patents (our definition of impactful innovations). Secondly, we will interview creators and users of impactful innovations to better understand their experiences, challenges, and perceptions of support and assess the help they received. 

Our findings will be useful to several UKRI stakeholders with the ultimate beneficiary being businesses and individuals that innovate. We aim to deliver actionable insights for Research & Development (R&D) funders such as Innovate UK, The Catapult Network and other policies of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). We will also consider the geographical aspect of innovation, contributing to the Levelling Up agenda of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).  

Project team: Dr Anastasios Kitsos, Aston University, Dr Dalila Ribaudo, Aston University, Dr Chloe Billing, University of Birmingham, Dr Charlotte Hoole, University of Birmingham Robin Polding, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Tyler Rickard, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Mara Sankey Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Effect of parenting engagement on research productivity: A comparison of productivity cost pre- to post-pandemic’ (FFOpen014)

For academic-parents the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020-22, the onset of these increased personal-responsibilities (exacerbated mainly by the closure of formal childcare centres and schools), were met with corresponding increase in work responsibilities caused by the sudden shift to online teaching, reduced access to research facilities and other disruptions to research activities. As a result, academic parents, especially women, suffered from a loss of research productivity and competitivity than their academic peers who either do not have children, or have children who are significantly older. The effect of this disruption, especially as it pertains to the research careers of academic parents, is unlikely to be contained to the COVID-19 lockdown years (2020-22) and will manifest over a longer period of time. For academic-parents, means that the hallmarks of a successful academic career necessary to achieve a workplace promotion – research productivity, attracting competitive funding and/or establishing collaborative relationships – will be delayed or else lost entirely. This study aims to estimate the productivity lost by academic parents because of the pandemic, and understand the challenges faced by academics who are parents and/or caregivers towards developing evaluation strategies to sensitively accommodate for time lost to research productivity and visibility as a result of the pandemic.

Project team: Gemma Derrick, University of Bristol

Dynamics of place-based innovation – What is the role of business support in helping firsttime rural SME innovators overcoming innovation barriers in Scotland? (FFOpen003)

Project summary:

Addressing ‘Determining the constraints to UK economic growth’, this research project investigates how first-time-innovator rural small businesses could overcome known innovation barriers in rural Scotland. Selected small businesses are non-land-based firms with up to 49 employees, operating outside of agriculture, fishery, and forestry. We investigate what the role of business advice could be to support these first-time rural innovators. 

This research delves into how business support interventions need to be tailored to rural firms and what types of business support enables placemaking in rural areas to leverage place-based innovation and contribute to “levelling-up” considering the complex interplay between firms and their social, economic, political, physical or spatial contexts (including the natural environment).   

Applying the theory-of-change approach, our research will investigate the root causes for undeveloped, or lack of, innovation by first-time rural innovators, which is critical for producing actionable insights for rural socio-economic development. This pioneering research will add needed insights to demonstrate how innovation dynamics can be fostered addressing socio-economic contexts and contributes to design of business support strategies for place-based innovation support. 

Project team: Dr Inge Hill, The Open University, researchers from University of Warwick’s Enterprise Research Centre, Open University colleagues and business support practitioner, Dr MacIntyre. 

Catalyst for Change: Transformative and Inclusive Strategies in Social Science Commercialisation (FFOpen013)

Project summary:

This project seeks to promote inclusive innovation in the commercialisation of UK university research. Building on existing work point to the lack of diversity and inclusion in innovation and commercialisation, our project seeks to develop a novel approach to mainstream equality and inclusion at all stages of the innovation process. Adopting a process design approach, that brings together key stakeholders to co-produce new innovation tools, that center the needs of a wider range of users. In so doing, our project will provide unique solutions for integrating inclusion into the business practice in order to make EDI part of “the business-as-usual approach” in innovation. This ambitious project will thus provide evidence of the multiple ways in which inclusion can provide new opportunities for growth in the UK economy.

Project team: Prof Roberta Guerrina, University of Bristol, Professor Anne Laure Humbert, Oxford Brookes University, Dr Jeff Pilgrim-Brown, University of Bristol and Julian Jantke, SHAPE Catalyst