Funding the UK’s science and engineering

I am currently posted in the Science, Research and Innovation Directorate, in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This role has showed me the difference between ‘science for policy’ and ‘policy for science’, and I am most definitely in the latter. My team is mostly made up of sponsors for Research Councils and other partners such as the UK Atomic Energy Authority. This means we are the first point of contact for Research Councils, and we manage requests, funding, pensions, appointments and everything else relating to the Research Councils.

Part of my role focusses on providing the secretariat to our Capital Board meetings, where we manage the £2.2bn of funding allocated to capital projects for science and research. Capital basically means buildings or equipment, so our projects include: a new institute for Life Sciences, upgrading an Antarctic base, and part-funding cryo-electron microscopes (that allow scientists to view biological molecules in their natural state). I have learnt quite a lot about finance from managing budgets in this role– and can now see why a role in finance would be interesting.

I also work with Research Councils on business case and project approvals. The Government often announces projects ‘subject to business case’, and this is where my team would come in. The approvals process for projects is long and complicated. As well as commenting on cases, I coordinate between Research Councils, finance, economic analysts, the central BEIS teams, and sometimes Her Majesty’s Treasury, to approve projects. Recently I have also been working on the approvals process for 21 projects from the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

As someone who was funded by a Research Council, I have enjoyed seeing a wider overview of the science funding area, learning about how Government interacts with Research Councils, seeing how they are actually funded, and also understanding what makes someone pick a project to fund. It’s also been a valuable experience learning how to build relationships with many different teams.

Find out more about the Science and Engineering Fast Stream on the official Fast Stream website.

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