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

Projects Undertaken by the IRC Directors, Co-Investigators and Research Assistants.

Innovation Infrastructure: Interconnections, Gaps and Opportunities (IRCP0001)

This project project aims 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.

Research Communities and Place-Based Innovation Dynamics (IRCP0004)

This project focuses on the recent work on the spatial configuration of innovation clusters (DSIT cluster mapping project) which 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, Dr Michalis Papazoglou and Dr Pei-Yu Yuan.

Understanding and Evaluating Interdisciplinary Research (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 of this project 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, Dr Francisco Trincado Munoz and Dr Michalis Papazoglou.

Where Do They Go? Understanding the Longer-Term Trajectories of UKRI-Funded Postgraduate Research Students (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: Professor Tim Vorley, Dr Elvis Nyanzu and Dr Kevin Walsh.

PhD Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation 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 skills 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 (IUK) 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 and Dr Shera Adbdul Rahman

Uncovering the Latent Potential for Venture Building out of Arts, Humanities and Social Science (AHSS) research in the UK  (IRCP0009)

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

Innovation State of the Nation: Follow-on analysis (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.

Maximising IUK Business Growth – Insights from Data (IRCP0011)

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

Assessing the Impacts of Publicly Funded Research and Innovation (IRCP0012) – upcoming project

This project will use a matched dataset comprising the Gateway to Research (GtR) database, which profiles UKRI (Research Councils and Innovate UK) support for firms and other organizations, and the Business Structure Database (BSD), which provides a robust set of control variables. Since both the GtR and BSD datasets encompass population data rather than sample survey data, the econometric analysis will employ Propensity Score Matching (PSM) and Difference in Difference (DID) modelling to capture direct effects, along with spatial modelling techniques to identify localized spillovers.
To assess the impact of UKRI support on exporting and innovation outcomes, we also plan to match data with the UK Innovation Survey (UKIS) and Annual Business Survey (ABS). However, as both are sample surveys, the feasible analysis will depend on the data match achieved.
The project will result in a series of IRC research reports and papers, which will be published on the IRC and UKRI websites, providing a strong evidence base for future spending decisions.
Project team: Dr Serdal Ozusaglam, Dr Halima Jibril and Professor Stephen Roper.

Catapults Impact Analysis Update (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: Dr Serdal Ozusaglam, Dr Halima Jibril, Professor Stephen Roper and Dr Enrico Vanino.

Strange New Worlds – Supporting the UK’s National Space Ambitions Beyond Technology (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 Sebastian Herbert Fuchs and Dr Jen Nelles.

State of the Art (SOTA) series to inform Innovate UK Spending Review 2024 (IRCP0015)

This project hopes to look at addressing evidence gaps for the upcoming Innovate UK (IUK) spending review (SR) (likely to be in spring or autumn 2024) with 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, from IUK. 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 will require short, expert reviews (SOTAs) on the evidence gaps identified the focus of which 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, Dr Jillian MacBryde, Professor Neil Lee and Halima Khan.

Economic Impact of International Research and Innovation Collaboration (IRCP0016)

This project aims to identify the mechanisms through which international Research & Development (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.

Technology, Adoption and Diffusion (IRCP0017)

This project hopes to identify the social, environmental and behavioural influences and infrastructure that can impact innovation to help frame future discussions (both within IUK and more broadly) regarding horizon scanning and to determine how other policymakers can develop support and interventions for adoption & diffusion.

Project team: Professor Tim Vorley and Dr Hamisu Salihu.

Technician Deep Dived (Innovation State of the Nation Survey (ISNS) Follow On) (IRCP0018)

The project will 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 and Professor Stephen Roper.

Reputation and Influence Benefits of International Research and Innovation (R&I) (IRCP0019)

This project aims to develop a framework for understanding reputation and influence and assessing the feasibility of monitoring and evaluating the reputational impacts of policy interventions in research and innovation. Phase 1 of the Reputational value of UK’s international collaboration is to better understand how reputation effects emerge and how can we quantify these.

Project team: Professor Muthu De Silva and Dr Maryam Ghorbankhani.

A Qualitative Study Investigating Full Economic Cost (fEC) Recovery on Research Activities  (IRCP0020)

This project aims to help UKRI to understand why cost recovery rates on project delivery have fallen and how this impacting universities. It relates to a similar piece of work being undertaken in relation to doctoral training. The ultimate aim of the project is to provide robust evidence on why cost recovery rates are falling in different university settings and, potentially, to provide actionable insight for UKRI to stabilize cost recovery rates.

Project team: Professor Tim Vorley and Professor Stephen Roper.

Role of Champions (IRCP0021)

This project aims to aid the understanding about 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, Professor Muthu De Silva, Dr Maryam Ghorbankhani and Dr Omar Abou Hamdan.

Projects that are Led, Undertaken or Delivered by Academics under the IRC Network

The Contribution of IUK to UK Firm Productivity Growth (FFEE0001)

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: Professor Marc Cowling and Professor Nick Wilson.

Uncovering Hidden Innovators (FFEE0002) – upcoming project

This project will 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.

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.

Understanding Outliers  (FFEE0003) – upcoming project

This project aims is to identify how outlier reviewers scores impact, decision-making and the allocation of funding to provide evidence to Innovate UK about how outliers should be treated, and work towards developing a methodology that is considered robust.
The project will involve two parts. First exploring and understanding the nature of outliers in two/three IUK 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.
Project team: Professor Tim Vorley and Professor Marc Cowling.

Testing Innovate UK’s New Assessment Questions (FFEE0004)

This project focuses on assessing applications for innovation funding, which is challenging and requires significant effort to ensure the process is effective and efficient.

The project aims to shape the development of the next generation of assessment criteria for industrial R&D at IUK, drawing on interviews, a field experiment and archival analysis to understand how new assessment criteria are understood and used by evaluators. In doing so, it will provide insights into the ongoing efforts of Innovate UK to improve its assessment process, and will further understanding of the assessment of R&D.

Project team: Professor Ammon Salter, Dr Rossella Salandra and Nadia Maamoun.


UK Doctoral Graduates’ Contributions to Innovation (FFOpen001)

This projects primary goal 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. Academically, this project will contribute to streams of research concerning science and its relationship with innovation. 

Project team: Professor Cornelia Lawson, Dr Xin Deng and Dr Catalina Martinez.

Trusted Research & Innovation (TRI): An Investigation of Knowledge Leakage (FFOpen002)

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, Dr Bernhard Ganglmair and Professor Maurizio Borghi.

Dynamics of Place-Based Innovation: What is the Role of Business Support in Helping First Time Rural SME Innovators Overcoming Innovation Barriers in Scotland? (FFOpen003)

This project will look at ‘determining the constraints to UK economic growth’, and investigate how first-time-innovator rural small businesses could overcome known innovation barriers in rural Scotland. 

The project will investigate what the role of business advice could be, to support these first-time rural innovators, and will delve 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).   

Project team: Dr Inge Hill, Elisabeth Moody, Dr Giacomo Carli, Dr Serdal Ozusaglam, Dr Hamisu Salihu and Dr Ronald Macintyre. 

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

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.

Project team: Dr Dalia Ribaudo and Professor Jun Du.

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

This project 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, Dr Farzana Chowdhury, Dr Bettina Becker and Dr Efpraxia Zamani.

Building Winners: The Policy Levers for Impactful Innovation (FFOpen009)

This project aims to foster better innovations in different places and their adoption by non-innovating companies believing innovation is a driver of growth and productivity. However, not all innovations are equal and innovative activity is uneven in the UK.  

The project 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?  Combining quantitative and qualitative expertise to answer these questions. Firstly, patent data will be analysed to identify widely adopted patents (our definition of impactful innovations). Secondly, interviews will be held with creators and users of impactful innovations to better understand their experiences, challenges, and perceptions of support and assess the help they received. 

Project team: Dr Anastasios Kitsos, Dr Dalila Ribaudo, Dr Chloe Billing, Dr Charlotte Hoole, Tyler Rickard and Mara Sankey.

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

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: Professor Roberta Guerrina, Professor Anne Laure Humbert, Dr Jeff Pilgrim-Brown and Julian Jantke.

Effect of Parenting Engagement on Research Productivity: A Comparison of Productivity Cost Pre- to Post-Pandemic’ (FFOpen014)

This project aims to estimate the productivity lost by academic parents because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns of 2020-22, 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.

The 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.

Project team: Dr Gemma Derrick, Dr Cassidy Sugimoto, Professor Vincent Larivière, Professor George Leckie, Dr Thed van Leeuwen, Dr Pei Ying Chen and Professor Judith Squires.

Completed Projects

Spillovers (IRCP0002) – completed project

This project focused 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 completed project was designed to draw together and integrate existing evidence on spillovers. We hoped this would highlight empirical gaps which would then form the basis for future primary research.

Project team: Dr Serdal Ozusaglam, Dr Halima Jibril, Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles and Professor Stephen Roper.