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BEIS R&D People and Culture Strategy (2021)

In 2021, BEIS published the R&D People and Culture Strategy outlining its aims to become a global leader in R&D and its commitment to doing so by enabling talent and ideas to flow freely between academia, business and other sectors.

This strategy sets out how BEIS will lead the charge with an ambitious set of initial actions in their three priority areas:

  • People

  • Culture

  • Talent


The report estimates that an additional 150,000 people are needed by 2030 to match ambitions for R&D, which means attracting and retaining people of all ages and at all career stages into R&D roles. In order to achieve this;

  • Career paths and routes into R&D careers need to be broadened and made more stable

  • Barriers to mobility across the sector and disciplines need to be removed

  • Leaders at all levels need to have the right skills to support their teams in developing their careers

Short term plans:
  • To develop a New Deal for post-graduate research students, starting later this year with a cross-sectoral consultation led by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

  • To conduct a review of youth engagement and its impacts to encourage more, and more diverse, young people into research and innovation careers.

  • To provide support for flexible, cross-sector training programmes to encourage more movement & collaboration between academia, industry and the third sector.

  • To better support interdisciplinary approaches, and design a pilot to help researchers acquire skills and knowledge beyond their own discipline.

  • To ask UKRI to undertake a review of how they use expert peer review. This will examine the incentives, strengths and weaknesses of the current approach to identify improvements which would positively impact on the culture of, and people working in, R&D.

  • To initiate a review of the impacts of the approach to funding under the full economic cost regime for research grants, with a focus on the pressures it may create for research organisations.

  • To ensure leadership and management skills are actively developed and supported in talent programmes and in grant holders’ terms.

  • To support the UK National Academies to set up a ‘Young Academy’, and an interdisciplinary forum for early career researchers.

Longer term plans:
  • To work across the sector to identify where there are skills gaps, anticipate future needs, and ensure we have the workforce to match the UK’s R&D ambitions.

  • To understand and address the impacts of short-term contracts, which particularly impact on the careers and progression of women and those from disadvantaged backgrounds in research.

  • To work with the whole sector to grow and diversify the workforce, better support interdisciplinarity and broaden career paths and entry routes (including apprenticeships), thus increasing mobility across the sector and fostering leadership.

This strategy recognises the issues that have been raised and examined in recent years through reports including those by the Wellcome Trust, Royal Society and the Russell Group.

This strand aims to foster the below:

  • A positive, inclusive and respectful culture.

  • Recognition and reward of all the people and activities that lead to excellent research and innovation.

  • Bullying and harassment is no longer an issue in the sector.

  • An environment where people feel confident to engage with and contribute to research and innovation and bullying and harassment is no longer an issue.

  • Frameworks, assessments and incentives at an institutional level that encourage positive behaviours and support an inclusive culture.

Short term plans:
  • To create a Good Practice Exchange to develop, test, evaluate and highlight ideas to improve culture sourced from across the research community, bringing together people from across the sector to work creatively. This will look at interventions across talent, bullying and harassment, diversity and inclusion, recruitment, leadership and beyond.

  • To drive adoption of a "Résumé for Researchers" narrative CV which broadens the range of experiences and accomplishments that are recognised.

  • To encourage the recently established Forum for Tackling Bullying and Harassment to develop sector-wide definitions for all forms of bullying, and to establish clear guidelines to inform future policy and action.

  • To develop an ambitious new approach to supporting public engagement with research and innovation, through stakeholder engagement and evidence and insight gathering.

  • To pilot experimental approaches to public dialogue and community-led research and innovation.

  • To work closely with the current review of Bureaucracy in R&D led by Professor Adam Tickell, to ensure changes to systems and processes encourage the positive culture that BEIS wants to see.

  • To ensure that the Future Research Assessment Programme builds on the ambitions and actions set out in this strategy.

  • To support Open Access policy, incentivising best practice as part of the wider open research ambition.

Longer term plans:
  • To create lasting change by working with the sector to embed a culture that welcomes and values difference, bringing in people from various backgrounds

  • To support the development of a more inclusive and welcoming research culture through a review of existing concordats and accreditations to ensure that they drive positive change while minimising bureaucracy.

The report identifies that as global competition for talent intensifies, there are areas of research and career stages where support can be improved.

Aims in this area include: 

  • People from all backgrounds are inspired into careers in research and innovation by the UK’s talent offer.

  • The UK will be the most exciting place in the world for top research and innovation talent.

Short term plans:
  • To review the UK's funding offer to globally mobile talent, to retain, attract and support the very best researchers, innovators and their teams, opening up opportunities for talented people to pursue ambitious, long-term goals in the UK.

  • To work with funders and the research and innovation community to co-design a joined-up talent offer, open to the diversity of people and across all career stages, connecting sectors, disciplines and working cultures.

Longer term plans:
  • To fully identify and better define where there might be gaps in the UK’s talent offer so that BEIS can develop appropriate programmes.

  • To develop a New Deal for postgraduate research students to attract and retain talented people within the sector and support the flow of people and ideas across the R&D system.

Implementation of this strategy needs to be taken forward by the UK government and the devolved administrations, with businesses, academia, charities and people across the sector.

This will require:

  • Creation of a cross-sector programme of actions, led by individuals and organisations across the sector and underpinned by a common sense of purpose.

  • Sustainable work that can be taken forward by different players within the sector.

  • A transparent approach, based on meaningful engagement, to assess the sector’s progress towards our shared outcomes.

  • Regular monitoring and review of evidence to measure progress.