Centre for Science and Policy Annual Reception

13 July 2012


2 July 2012, Royal Academy of Engineering

On 2 July, CSaP celebrated its third successful year of 'building bridges' between science and policy at a reception hosted at the Royal Academy of Engineering. The reception provided an opportunity for more than 150 policy makers, industry leaders and researchers to meet and share experiences with many of those who had taken part in CSaP activities since its launch in July 2009.

CSaP Founding Director, Dr David Cleevely, invited keynote speakers – University of Cambridge Vice Chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz; Rolls-Royce Business Development Director, Dr Chris Floyd; and the former Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, Mr Ian Watmore – to discuss the benefits of building relationships between policy professionals and researchers to impact on policy, the economy and society.

In his speech, Sir Leszek praised CSaP for the role it plays in fostering connections between academia, government and industry: "That universities benefit from the interaction that CSaP engenders”, he began, “is a really important aspect of why the Centre is an integral part of Cambridge University.” He emphasised the benefits not only to government (through better informed policy making) and industry (through the innovation exemplified by the Cambridge Phenomenon), but also to the University itself: “you need that contact with the real world.”

In a talk describing his initial five-day visit to Cambridge as a Policy Fellow, meeting 36 academics in a series of one-to-one meetings, Dr Chris Floyd said that Cambridge was one of the "few places in the world where you could find such a range of expertise and knowledge." He described how his meetings with academics had benefitted both sides, and how some of the most insightful meetings had come about quite by chance – "every meeting produced insights – not always the ones you were expecting – some of which have fed back into the Rolls-Royce strategy." (see a case study of Chris Floyd's visit to Cambridge here)

The final speaker, former Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, Ian Watmore, said that he felt “very passionately” about the CSaP agenda, adding that the central mission of CSaP should be to “get government, business and academics (particularly scientists) working together on the problems that affect our society, our lives and our futures.”

He described this topic as being “politically neutral” and how both the Labour and Coalition Governments had been “massively strengthened” by the chief scientific advisers. But he felt that there was too much pressure to launch policy on the ‘proof by assertion’ method rather than with any evidence base, and urged the CSaP to continue to help get science to the heart of policy.

In his closing remarks, Mr Watmore asked how the University could make its research and innovation more openly available and more transparent, so that the collaborative effort mentioned by Sir Leszek might begin to build around the big issues of the day, and benefit the UK – “the most important thing is to bring business, government and science together to work on what are very difficult challenges facing the globe and, in particular, the UK.”

Banner image from Alex Jagendorf on Flickr