Cover: Evidence synthesis on the conditions needed to translate research and drive innovation

Evidence synthesis on the conditions needed to translate research and drive innovation

Published Dec 14, 2018

by Camilla d'Angelo, Anna Knack, Calum MacLure, Jon Freeman

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Research Questions

  1. What are the conditions that enable research and innovation, including that which is publicly supported, across different disciplines, to result in a range of benefits?
  2. How do the conditions that enable research and innovation interact in different environments and throughout the lifecycle of research translation and innovation?
  3. How has the effectiveness of different levers used to facilitate research translation and innovation been measured, and how might those measures be made more robust?
  4. What are the barriers to translating research and driving innovation?

The process of innovation is essential in developing research discoveries into new and improved products, services and approaches. Investing in research and innovation (R&I) delivers a range of economic and wider benefits to the UK, including benefits to culture, public engagement, social cohesion and the environment, amongst others. As the UK government works towards its commitment to increase investment in research and development (R&D) to 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2027, there is a need for better evidence on where to invest the funding and maximise its impact.

RAND Europe conducted an evidence synthesis to understand the conditions needed to ensure the continued excellence of the UK's outstanding research and innovation base. Our review and evidence synthesis found that a number of conditions, and their interaction, are deemed critical to the translation and innovation process across sectors. Innovation is supported by a wider innovation system, which consists of drivers, input factors (knowledge, talent and capital), enabling resources (networks/connections and infrastructure) and institutional factors (structures and culture). Many policy interventions exist to support the generation and diffusion of innovation by fostering an effective translation and innovation system. However, the lack of rigorous, independent evaluations, as well as robust innovation metrics, makes it hard to draw evidence-based conclusions as to the effectiveness of policy interventions. There are also a number of challenges to the translation and innovation process; in particular, lack of clarity about user needs and stable access to capital throughout the innovation process were commonly identified.

Key Findings

  • There are many interacting conditions needed to enable research translation and innovation, and these are common for publicly and privately funded research.
  • Effective translation across all sectors requires an interaction of all of the conditions across the different stages of the translation pathway (from ideation and research through to uptake and diffusion).
  • In general, the effectiveness of policy interventions to facilitate research translation is not measured particularly well, as a result of lack of evaluation in some sectors and limited metrics in those that do undertake evaluation.
  • Challenges to the translation and innovation process are very context dependent; however, lack of clarity about user needs and stable access to capital throughout the innovation process were commonly identified.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Royal Society and conducted by RAND Europe.

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