The UK’s Minister of State for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman MP, has today announced a new International Science Partnership Fund, with an initial £119 million to support its researchers in collaborating with scientists around the world.
The fund, distributed from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will form a part of the replacement for the Newton Fund and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which previously supported partnerships between researchers in the UK and lower income countries. Both were widely recognised as unique in bringing academics together in a new generation of problem-oriented, transformative science and research.
However, it was announced earlier this year that funding for the GCRF and Newton Fund would not be renewed and the Government announced the intention of creating a new model for international science collaboration funded by a combination of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) and non-ODA budgets.
In response to the announcement of the International Science Partnership Fund, Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies, said
“It’s good to see the long-awaited blended ODA-non-ODA International Science Partnership Fund (ISPF) come into being. I hope that alongside the much-vaunted support to the UK’s claimed ‘science superpower’ status through bilateral partnerships, the commitment to interdisciplinary, equitable collaborations with low- and middle-income countries is genuinely honoured and supported fulsomely. This is what the past GCRF enabled, and it is badly needed to address the global challenges that face us all”
Today’s announcement from the Minister during a visit to Japan, comes after a long period of uncertainty regarding what this new model might look like. A move to establish a joint ODA and non-ODA fund could remove some of the strictures that come with ODA funding and enable comparative and collaborative science across a wider range of issues and across the UK and middle-income country contexts, in addition to low-income countries. However, to achieve this, it’s vital that the new model retains the key gains and emphases pioneered so well by the best of GCRF and Newton-funded research. These include:
- Research that generates genuine impact that makes a difference to people’s lives, whether instrumental or conceptual.
- Interdisciplinarity including the social sciences.
- Transdisciplinarity – going beyond academia to co-build knowledge with civil society, business, decision-makers.
- Equitable research partnerships built and maintained over the long-term through long-term funding
Details on the new fund from BEIS currently are limited, but the full aims and partners of the program are expected to be released in the new year.