Organising for excellence

An international review of good practice in organisational design and governance of research funding bodies

by Molly Morgan Jones, Louise Lepetit, Joachim Krapels, Catherine A. Lichten, Anton Spisak, Catriona Manville

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Research Question

  1. What is the international evidence on best practice in organisational design and governance for a research funding body?

In 2016, the UK government set out plans for a new body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) which will bring together the seven research councils, Innovate UK, and the research functions currently performed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). UKRI will be a Non-Departmental Public Body acting as an overarching research funder. A key consideration for this new funding body will be the design of its structures and governance, so as to best advance its ultimate objectives. To inform the structure and governance of such a body, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills when the report was commissioned), commissioned RAND Europe to conduct a study to review the international evidence on best practice in organisational design and governance for a research funding body? This report synthesises the existing evidence relating to best practice in establishing strong and accountable organisations and governance structures; identifies lessons from the strengths and weaknesses of different organisational models for distributing research funding; and provides a UK context to the analysis.

Key Findings

  • There is no single 'formula' or organisational design structure that prevails in all contexts, however we identified four key themes which should be accounted for: the guiding role of strong and clear strategy; the need to support collaboration and functional networks within and across the organisation; the importance of putting people and organisational culture at the core; and developing structures around concepts of autonomy, trust and a balance of centralised/decentralised functions.
  • Though there is no 'one' model which can be lifted, there are governing principles which held true across the evidence base and we develop a framework which integrates these principles together. These principles are: the Haldane Principle; agility and flexibility; openness and transparency; and societal relevance.
  • The study integrates the principles which could be considered in the design, structure and governance of a successful research and innovation organisation and is one of the first that analyses research policy from this perspective. The study shows that if we do not consider both the system and the organisational entity which governs the system together, then we risk missing a piece of the puzzle.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Summary of the evidence base

  • Chapter Three

    Insights from an integrated evidence base

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusion: Applying the analytical framework in practice

  • Annex One

    Literature review methodology

  • Annex Two

    Interview protocol

Research conducted by

This research was conducted by RAND Europe.

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