Sir John Kingman reflects on his time as UKRI Chair

30 July 2021

At an event hosted by UK’s national academies on the 14th July, Sir John Kingman gave a talk on his experience as Chair of UKRI. Some of his comments on the need to improve links with industry and to reshape regulation in R&D-based sectors in ways that promote innovation, resonated with Innogen members who have expressed similar concerns for years.

In his talk, Sir John Kingman highlighted some of UKRI’s achievements, such as major cross-council interventions, which include the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the Strategic Priorities Fund, that encourage genuinely interdisciplinary research and would have been “extraordinarily” difficult to carry out under the old Research Councils UK structure. He also spoke about the “ever-shifting” political environment and worry about the 8% cut to the UKRI’s total budget in 21-22, despite the Government’s intention to spend more on science. 

Towards the end of his speech, he highlighted the positive influence that Innovate UK (under the UKRI umbrella) has had on the Councils, in helping to translate the research into real-world applications, and the importance of UKRI developing deeper and wider relationships with industry to achieve this. He also believes UKRI could contribute more to policy issues that directly affect UK research and innovation, including pro-actively reshaping regulation in R&D-based sectors post-Brexit.

Chris Warkup, Visiting Professor in Innogen and former CEO of the Knowledge Transfer Network remarked: “After working alongside Research Councils and Innovate UK for many years, I was especially pleased to see Sir John highlight the tortuously slow approvals processes within Government – and the remarkable degree of interference in relatively small decisions that should be fully delegated. It is indeed ironic that Government accepts that, in order to overcome this problem, the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency is proposed to be created free of such interference. How much more efficient might UKRI be if it too was set free from micromanagement?”.

"Sir John Kingman’s observations on the need for creative approaches to regulatory adaptation in R&D based sectors are very much in line with evidence from the Innogen Institute's research agenda since 2002," says Joyce Tait, Professor and co-director of Innogen.

The full transcript of Sir John’s talk is available here.