Dr Graeme Reid, Head of Research Funding, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
During the last decade or so, Government and universities have focused much attention on the relationship between business and academia in the UK. This has paid big dividends. A generation ago, we had the reputation of being good at science and no good at commercialising it. Many universities in this country are now earning international reputations for the excellence of their work with business. Only a few weeks ago, the World Economic Forum ranked university-business relations in the UK as second best out of 144 countries and ahead of the USA. The University of Cambridge, for example, is now surrounded and infused by businesses who want to be close to first-rate academics of all disciplines, working at the frontiers of knowledge in an environment that fosters intellectual exploration. There is more to do in this area but much for universities to be proud of.
What about the relationship between universities and Government policy? Some areas of policy, such as health, defence and economics have long histories of academic collaboration. Interaction between academics and Government in the UK has grown steadily in scale and scope, boosted in recent years by the appointment of Chief Scientific Advisers in almost every Government Department. But many relationships have been dependent on the personal contacts of key individuals. Even working in science policy, as I have for parts of my career, it is not easy to build the breadth of academic contacts that I would like to have. That's where CSaP comes in. CSaP makes it so much easier for policy officials in Government to take time out to meet stimulating people and hear challenges to received wisdom. Its policy programme opens doors to new lines of thought and new ways of thinking.
I have had the privilege of being an Associate Fellow of CSaP for over two years. During that time I have met people in Cambridge from a far wider range of academic backgrounds than I would otherwise encounter. I particularly valued discussions with Cambridge scholars from the History and Philosophy of Science Department and with economic geographers (some of whose work I now use regularly). The Computer Laboratory and the Institute for Manufacturing are becoming regular ports of call. A growing number of colleagues from BIS have now been elected as Policy Fellows and I am struck by the value they place on their Fellowships.
I am now working with CSaP to explore a further relationship: placements in Government for postgraduates, postdocs and academics who would like to contribute to the policy process at first hand. At the time of writing, we are at the pilot stage with three or four placements in BIS and the Government Office for Science taking shape. These range from the analysis of long term issues in the Foresight Programme to support for one of the Science Minister's Leadership Councils. We are at an early stage but I hope that these placements will deliver value for the individuals, the University and Government. Perhaps, in future, this country will build a reputation for university - Government relations to match the one we are acquiring for business collaboration.