The Academy is committed to making the UK the world’s leading nation for engineering research and innovation and works to inform decisions that affect the UK research and innovation landscape.

Current activity

Radical Innovation - a blueprint for a new UK research and technology funding agency

The UK government has proposed the development of a new research and technology funding agency, broadly modelled on the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The Royal Academy of Engineering has produced a briefing setting out a blueprint for an agency that supports radical innovation. It provides insights from the engineering community on how an ARPA-inspired agency could bring most value to the UK.

This briefing is based on discussions by our Fellows and a wider network of associated and partners of the Royal Academy of Engineering, including participants in ARPA and similar programmes.

A blueprint for radical innovation


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), was formally established in April 2018, brining together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

The establishment of UKRI is a development of profound significance for the UK’s research and innovation community and the Academy’s engagement to help shape UKRI is ongoing.

On 28 March 2018 the Academy convened engineering business and innovation leaders from across the country for a roundtable discussion with Sir Mark Walport FRS FMedSci, Chief Executive of UKRI, to help inform the development of UKRI and to discuss the role of business and industry in delivering the government's target for the UK to invest 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027. ​This meeting followed on from a roundtable with Sir John Kingman KCB, Chair of UKRI, held in October 2016 to offer advice and support to help UKRI deliver the best possible outcomes for UK research and innovation.

Knowledge Excellence Framework

Rewarding, recognising and incentivising activities which facilitate the delivery of benefits from research are central to the Academy’s programmes and are core to the expertise of the Academy’s Fellowship. The Academy believes that knowledge exchange is of fundamental importance to ensuring that the UK captures value, both economic and social, from its investment in research, much of which is publicly funded.

In February 2018, the Academy responded to the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) technical advisory group’s call for evidence on KEF metrics.

Consultation on KEF metrics


Research Excellence Framework

The Academy is working closely with the four Higher Education funding bodies and the UK’s engineering and computer science research community to inform decisions on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

In March 2017 the funding bodies announced a consultation on the second REF. The consultation set out proposals on how to implement the next REF, building on REF 2014 and incorporating the principles identified in Lord Stern’s Independent Review of the REF. One of the most significant points of consultation was on the configuration of the engineering Units of Assessments (UOAs).

The Academy’s response was informed by consultation events in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh, which were attended by researchers across all career stages and from a wide range of institutions.

Consultation on the second Research Excellence Framework (398.84 KB)

In September 2017 the funding bodies announced their initial decisions on REF 2021. The announcement that there will be a single UOA for engineering in REF 2021, rather than the four engineering UOAs in REF 2014, marks a significant change in the assessment of engineering research.

News: Academy welcomes the funding bodies’ initial decisions on REF 2021

While a single UOA for engineering may confer advantages, such as consistency of approach, issues around adequate visibility of all engineering disciplines, averaging of results and sufficient size and breadth of expertise across the sub-panel will need to be addressed.

Research Integrity

In March 2017, the Academy responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee research integrity inquiry. The Academy outlined the importance of addressing issues that could undermine the benefits that engineering research has for society, or the trust that the public has in research.

Research integrity (325.64 KB)