Subcommittee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact
House of Commons
April 16, 2020
Dear Ms Delebarre,
Many thanks for your letter of March 27th outlining the questions from the Subcommittee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.
Please find attached UKRI’s response to these questions in follow up on ICAI’s June 2019 review of the Newton Fund. We welcome that this inquiry has progressed, and has allowed written responses during this time.
If you require any further information or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact our External Affairs team at ExternalAffairs@ukri.org.
Professor Andrew Thompson
Executive Chair, Arts and Humanities Research Council
UKRI International Champion
Q1 How does UKRI, as a delivery partner, balance the Newton Fund’s primary objective – addressing development challenges – with its secondary objective – strengthening UK prosperity and global influence – when awarding grants?
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
Our approach within UKRI has always been that the primary objective of any Newton Fund programme is to benefit the partner country. This is made clear throughout the lifecycle of a Newton Fund programme as part of our ODA compliance processes. Programmes are predominately scoped in collaboration between UKRI and research and innovation funders in the partner country. These are designed to address challenges identified as relevant and important by the partner country and ODA requirements are incorporated into these scoping discussions.
BEIS is currently undertaking the country strategy refresh process. This gives partner country governments and funders the opportunity to come up with priority areas for future joint activity which will be combined with priority areas identified by UK government and delivery partners to form the country strategy for that country. While UKRI has submitted priority areas for each country as part of this process based on UK capacity and expertise, we are very keen to be led by the priorities that the partner countries want to focus on. The country strategies are in various stages of development and should ensure that future programmes can continue to be developed based on partner country development needs.
When UKRI bid to BEIS for Newton Fund programmes we are expected to outline how the programme would be ODA compliant, which includes what the benefit would be to the partner country.
In funding call documents published on our website we make it clear that in order to be eligible, applicants must be able to show that they are ODA compliant. Harmonised Research Council guidance for applicants on ODA compliance is provided on the call webpage/documents which states that: Any Newton Fund project must make it clear that its primary purpose is to promote the economic development and welfare of the partner country.
It is permitted for projects to have secondary benefits to countries not on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) list of recipients, including the UK, but this is not a requirement, and this is not assessed. Whereas primary benefit to the partner country is considered under ODA compliance processes as an eligibility criteria. Applications which do not make it clear that they are ODA compliant would either be rejected or returned for amendment. Please see question 2 for more information.
ODA compliance is considered throughout the assessment process, as outlined below.
a. In their response to the review, the Department said that ‘There are clear roles and responsibilities for ODA compliance, with requirements set out at the allocation and grant stages.’ Was that the case in your experience and if so, how did it impact your decision-making when awarding grants?
The roles and responsibilities for ODA compliance are clear. As mentioned above, programmes are scoped in collaboration with funder(s) in the partner country and designed to address challenges identified as relevant by the partner country funder. It is the delivery partner’s responsibility to scope activities which they consider to be ODA compliant. However, if we are unsure whether a programme would be ODA compliant, we have the option to refer the query to BEIS. They would then come back to us with advice, or they can refer the query to the Department for International Development (DFID) and ultimately the OECD DAC, if required.
As part of the funding allocation process, we are required to outline to BEIS how the programme would be ODA compliant and BEIS will consider this when deciding whether or not to approve an activity. They may request clarification from the delivery partner if needed and would not approve an activity that they deemed non-compliant.
The delivery partner will then further co-develop the activity with the funder(s) in the partner country. This ensures that the activity meets the needs of the partner country and addresses a topic they consider an important development challenge. This stage provides an opportunity for UKRI and partner funders to understand mutual expectations and requirements, including for ODA compliance. The BEIS In Country Teams and UKRI International Offices (UKRI China and India) assist in facilitating these funder to funder conversations as appropriate.
It is the delivery partner’s responsibility to make clear to applicants the ODA compliance requirements of the activity. As described in question 1, , harmonised ODA compliance guidance is provided on all Research Council call webpages. For the Research Councils, applicants are required to complete an ODA compliance statement and for Innovate UK they must answer a question on ODA compliance. More information is provided under question 2.
Applications are then checked by UKRI staff to ensure they are compliant. Applications which do not make it clear that they are ODA compliant would either be rejected or returned for amendment. If a UKRI staff member is unsure if an application is ODA compliant, they can refer the query to BEIS, with the same escalation routes as at the programme level.
Assessors then consider ODA compliance as part of the wider assessment process. If they raise concerns about the ODA compliance of a proposal, the delivery partner has the final decision as to whether the proposal is deemed compliant. As a delivery partner, the ultimate responsibility for ODA compliance of a project sits with UKRI and if a project was found to be non-compliant it would be our responsibility to rectify this.
BEIS provided training for delivery partners from DFID staff in the early years of the Newton Fund on ODA compliance. Internal UKRI guidance and mentoring is now coordinated through the ODA Compliance Working Group, including the provision of bespoke training course when there is demand. UKRI staff also undertake a broad range of ODA relevant training activities and provide briefing, workshops and guidance on ODA compliance for research and assessor communities – based both in UK and internationally.
Additional terms and conditions and funding assurance checks are in place to monitor and ensure ODA compliance across the lifetime of grants. We are currently looking at developing a number of activities to strengthen post award ODA compliance. Please see question 2 for more information. In 2019, we held two ODA compliance consultation events with the community and we are using these to develop a UKRI ODA policy, which will include additional guidance for applicants both pre and post-award and a post-award monitoring process, involving dipstick testing of a subset of awards.
In 2019, via the grant allocation letter, BEIS introduced some additional reporting requirements, including the need for us to provide them with quarterly progress reports and programme completion reports. The quarterly progress reports will provide a UKRI-wide narrative of the progress of our activities. This includes details of financial spend forecast, risk management, impacts and achievements of key programmes and activities planned for next quarter.
The programme completion reports are part of an ODA reporting framework for both funds which are being developed collaboratively by UKRI and BEIS. Please see question 3a for more information.
BEIS plans to review the Newton Fund governance and the mechanisms which underpin accountability to ensure they remain fit for purpose. We are clear that while BEIS is fully accountable for the Newton Fund as a whole, the responsibility for programme delivery sits with the delivery partners. UKRI is best placed to ensure that activities at the programme and project level are ODA complaint and at the very cutting edge of research and innovation. It would not be feasible for BEIS to be involved in ODA compliance decisions for every project.
The separation of roles between BEIS and UKRI is consistent with the Haldane Principle which applies to UK research and innovation funding and is enshrined in the 2017 Higher Education and Research Act. The Haldane Principle distinguishes between the roles of Government and expert researchers in funding decisions.
b. Did the Department ever ask you to demonstrate what criteria and processes you were using to verify ODA-eligibility when granting awards? If so, please provide details about the criteria and processes in question and how you applied them.
We were asked to provide details of our ODA compliance policies and processes ahead of the initial response to the ICAI review and again in Autumn 2019. BEIS also held a series of workshops with delivery partners.
BEIS are currently using the data we submitted in Autumn to produce updated guidance on ODA to delivery partners, which is expected to include a standalone reference document (based on DFID ODA best practice references and presentations). A report will be presented to delivery partners at a future Delivery and Learning Group (DLG) to include feedback from BEIS on our ODA compliance policies and processes against existing best practice guidance from DFID and propose ways forward to align with best practice. BEIS plan to implement an ODA Best Practice Working Group across all delivery partners, a standing ODA eligibility item at the DLG and provide training/reference documents for new programme and finance staff. UKRI will attend the DLG meeting and have the opportunity to feed in to these plans. Developing ODA best practice guidance is an iterative process; reference material from BEIS on best practice will be reflected in updated guidance to grant holders and applicants to ensure ODA best practice.
Details on our processes are outlined below.
Innovate UK also consider ODA compliance throughout the programme design and project lifecycle.
Q2 Do you feel that the Department has given you sufficient support to help ensure that promotion of gender equality in partnering countries is a priority for grant awards?
BEIS have made it clear to us that there is a requirement for Newton Fund awards to promote gender equality in line with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014. Development of a process for implementation has been devolved to delivery partners but BEIS have encouraged sharing of best practice at the DLG (previously Delivery Forum). We presented our Gender Equality Act Compliance Procedure at the Delivery Forum (details of the Procedure below) and BEIS are supportive of this approach and have expressed an interest in rolling this out across other delivery partners. Through the Newton Fund Impact scheme, we have been implementing the Gender Equality Act Compliance Procedure in collaboration with British Council, as this is a joint scheme.
UKRI have a variety of policies, processes, guidance or training in place to support gender equality.
In recognising that more could be done to ensure that our Newton Fund activities comply with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act and drive a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion a new procedure has been established across UKRI. This has been implemented since 1st April 2019 across UKRI for GCRF and Newton Fund activities.
‘Official Development Assistance provided by UKRI must comply with the requirements of the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 which states, the “desirability of providing development assistance that is likely to contribute to reducing poverty in a way which is likely to contribute to reducing inequalities between persons of different gender.”
It would not be appropriate for data protection reasons to provide full gender equality statements, but we have included below some examples of good practice which applicants have identified within their gender equality statements:
One project working with carers highlighted that the large majority of dependent older people and family carers are female. They stated that where possible, they will seek to promote paid and unpaid caring by men, to reduce gender stereotyping of this role. The project stated that it supports the meaningful involvement of people of different genders in all areas of activity, as well as other forms of diversity. Different genders, ages, nationalities and levels of experience are represented at all levels of the project team.
Another project’s GES identified that as both project leads were men it was very important to consider reducing gender inequalities, both in terms of the project participants and the desired societal impact. The lead team committed to ensuring that women were given equal weight in all aspects, and that at least half of the stakeholders interviewed and participants in the forums were women, and that their contribution would be equally weighed. They were mindful of not exacerbating gender hierarchies and stated that gender would be a specific focus of the collaborative processes, including the stakeholder interviews and forums, in all regions. They stated that gender had already been a focus of several of the project partners, including those who had worked with police on attention to victims of gender violence and those who had worked on masculinities in prisons. Their main output, a collaborative manual, will include sections on a) seeking gender equality in security collaboration and b) how to reduce gender hierarchies through collaboration in security.
Q3 Do you feel that the Department has given you sufficient advice and guidance to track expenditure, performance and outcomes of projects funded through the Newton Fund against development objectives?
It is difficult to record impacts of research and innovation projects because impacts from these types of projects take a long time to materialise. The independent mid-term evaluation completed by Tetra Tech (previously Coffey) on behalf of BEIS which says that ‘it is too early to assess whether the Newton Fund has delivered on higher-level impacts. These will take many years to come to fruition and may not be fully observable within the lifetime of the Fund” and “However, where data exists, it confirms that Newton Fund activities are well-placed to contribute to the long-term objectives of the Fund in terms of addressing global development challenges. Evidence gathered through case studies and the surveys indicates that there is a demonstrable link between project activity and addressing development challenges and improving welfare in partner countries (and globally).”
UKRI has long established processes for tracking outcomes and expenditure of research and innovation. For example, Research Councils use the Researchfish system to capture outputs and outcomes of research awards and award holders are required to complete a financial expenditure statement detailing how they spent the funding, usually before they receive the final award payment. Innovate UK have monitoring officers which meet with their projects quarterly and are able to withhold claims if costs are unjustified.
We have worked with BEIS to adapt these processes for the Newton Fund. There is some reporting which has been in place since the Fund started, such as the tracker and case studies. BEIS has provided guidance on these since the early days of the fund. Other requirements are being developed and implemented now, such as the value for money framework and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Further details are included below. We welcome the recent expansion of the ODA Research Management Team (ORMT), particularly the dedicated Project Management Office and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning unit. This has given BEIS increased capacity and expertise to implement the additional reporting and provide updated guidance to delivery partners. The fact they are co-located with UKRI means we have developed a very close working relationship with the ORMT.
UKRI recognises the importance of understanding the processes and pathways that can maximise potential for impact from ODA research and innovation. UKRI has commissioned and contributed to a number of studies, including a major exercise led by the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) and undertaken by Kings College London which analysed the case studies submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.
a. What sort of reporting requirements have you had to meet for the Department and how early on in the life of the Fund were you asked to report on performance against development objectives?
Since the start of the Fund there has been a requirement to report regularly to BEIS via a dedicated ODA activity tracker. Our normal expenditure is not so closely monitored by BEIS, so this is an additional requirement for ODA funds. We report quarterly to BEIS via the tracker and provide monthly updates where there has been a significant change within that month. We report on financial spend e.g. whether funding is on track to spend according to the allocated profile. Where spend is expected to vary from the allocated profile we are required to provide a narrative explaining the reason for this change and the change must be approved by BEIS. We also detail programme information on the tracker such as programme descriptions, information on match funding and rationale for ODA compliance. BEIS collates the information from the trackers from all delivery partners and checks the quality before sending this on to DFID and ultimately the OECD. Since the early days of the fund, BEIS has provided guidance documents on how to complete the tracker and ORMT have been available to answer any questions.
ORMT have been working to clarify the process around trackers for delivery partners so there is better understanding of the different uses of the data that we submit, and they can ensure that requirements of all the different stakeholders are met e.g. DFID, OECD etc. We have been regularly consulted on the ODA Reporting Transformation project (ODART) which aims to replace the tracker and achieve a major simplification in ODA reporting and business intelligence, both for users and suppliers of ODA management information. We have informed the project from the start and are represented on the project board. The project is currently in the Beta Private phase and delivery partners are being onboarded in stages. We will work with BEIS to ensure as smooth a transition as possible when it is our turn to be onboarded.
UKRI has produced case studies since the beginning of the fund which provide good qualitative examples of the impact of the Newton Fund in promoting the economic development, social welfare and wellbeing of communities in partner countries through international development research. These exemplify how the funding is being spent effectively and are used to demonstrate the role and activities of the Newton Fund with multiple audiences, such as the general public, partner country funders and within UK government. We are in regular contact with BEIS communication colleagues to share case studies and avoid duplication. For this response, some case studies are included at annex 1.
As outlined above, assessment of ODA compliance and gender equality have been devolved to delivery partners and we have robust processes in place to assess these aspects. As mentioned under question 1, we are currently developing an ODA policy which will include additional post-award monitoring.
Assessment of value for money is devolved to delivery partners and we have robust processes in place for assessment of value for money pre-award. BEIS is in the process of developing a new fund level value for money framework, in collaboration with delivery partners and UKRI is actively assisting them in this. This consists of a collaboratively-developed rubric-based peer review of a sample of projects which can then be aggregated up to fund level and is a new approach being developed for Newton and GCRF. We are supportive of this approach as there have been multiple opportunities for us to feed into its development and it seems appropriate to develop something specifically for the Newton Fund and GCRF. We use peer review and rubrics to assess our applications pre-award, so our communities are very familiar with these approaches, which will make it easier to explain this to both award holders and assessors. It will also allow for comparability across different types of project with different data whilst still allowing BEIS to aggregate the data at a fund level. It will allow us to develop meaningful criteria which will be useful for UKRI as well as BEIS and give us richer information from which to consider lessons learned. It also allows for the fact that not all research and innovation projects will be ‘successful’ in the traditional sense and that it can take a long time for impact to be realised from research and innovation projects. We feel this approach is more appropriate than e.g. doing a cost-benefit analysis which would not allow for such complexity and would likely be subjective.
As mentioned above, in 2019, via the grant allocation letter, BEIS introduced some additional reporting requirements, including the need for us to provide them with quarterly progress reports and programme completion reports. The quarterly progress reports will provide a UKRI-wide narrative of the progress of our activities. This includes details of financial spend forecast, risk management, impacts and achievements of key programmes and activities planned for next quarter.
The programme completion reports mentioned above are part of an ODA reporting framework for both funds which is being developed collaboratively by BEIS and UKRI and is being implemented as of 1st April 2020. This will cover approximately 40% of the portfolio, to include all programmes above the average programme cost as calculated for individual delivery partners, as well as those considered to be contentious, particularly novel or innovative, or where there is a significant learning opportunity. The reporting will be carried out at the start and end of each programme, and for programmes lasting longer than two years, at the midpoint. It will cover ODA compliance, programme objectives (including development objectives), key activities and spend. The framework will cover all eligible programmes going forward, as well as those that were active in 2019/20.
BEIS have made it clear that, as part of this reporting framework, UKRI will be expected to show progress towards development objectives. In February 2019, we issued harmonised additional Researchfish guidance for Newton and GCRF award holders. This was developed to encourage award holders to think more about development/partner country specific outputs and outcomes when answering the questions in Researchfish. Data on Researchfish submissions from 2018 and 2019 showed a 29% increase in award holders completing the key findings section with a 49% increase in character count. There was also a 33% increase in award holders completing the narrative impact section and a 67% increase in character count, so there is evidence that this guidance is having a positive effect.
In 2019, we published all our Newton and GCRF data on the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) registry as part of the Publish What You Fund initiative. BEIS had committed to doing this and had an internal target to achieve a score of at least “Good” (60%). BEIS ultimately achieved a score of 72%, (still within the “Good” classification) demonstrating significant progress in making data more transparent. This included a considerable amount of data (approximately 1300 activities for UKRI’s first submission) and UKRI were the biggest contributor of data, as the largest delivery partner of both the Newton Fund and GCRF. UKRI have committed to uploading additional data to IATI on a quarterly basis. We are continuingly looking to improve the quality of the data that we publish to IATI and strive to improve our score.
BEIS have recently developed a set of KPIs; some of which are specific to the Newton Fund and GCRF and some which sit across both funds. We worked closely with BEIS to develop these as a useful tool for helping us all to better understand and communicate what is happening in the funds. We commented on the longlist of KPIs and attended a workshop, to help BEIS narrow these down to a shortlist. BEIS recognise that a KPI will not tell the whole picture about something and will need to be used alongside other information (such as evaluations etc.). Some KPIs will be appropriate for external communication about the funds (e.g. in the Annual Report) and some KPIs will likely be more appropriate for internal reporting and use. This is an ongoing process, with input from each Delivery Partner, as well as a number of pilots to test the feasibility of what BEIS are trying to achieve and to test the usability of the data that we currently collect, and the systems that we currently use. There are five KPIs that are currently being piloted and we are working with BEIS to provide data for these. Some of the piloted KPIs (that have been completed by all delivery partners across both of the funds) will be included in BEIS’s upcoming Annual Report.
Although not a BEIS requirement, a benefits realisation report was developed following an internal audit of Newton in 2015, which recommended that a project was started to measure the impacts of UKRI’s investment under the Newton Fund. This has provided examples of impact such as 128 influences on policy and practice. It is primarily an internal document as it was created for this purpose. However, we have produced a summary of this document as an external publication which is available on our website.
Q4 In their review, ICAI flagged a number of fellowships awarded by delivery partners like UKRI including a biography of Boer leader, Paul Kruger; a project examining the work of Cicero; and research into jazz in South Africa. What is your response to criticisms from ICAI, the media and the general public about the relevance to capacity building and alleviating poverty of these projects?
As these projects were funded by the British Academy it would not be appropriate for us to comment on those projects specifically. However, we firmly believe that arts and humanities research makes a vital contribution in the ODA space across the full range of development challenges and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Whatever the development challenge – from conflict, fragility, humanitarian protection and forced displacement through to global public health, environmental resilience, gender and equalities and sustainable food systems - there is a critical need to build in understanding of human needs and behaviours, to learn from the past and to understand, translate and adapt to the diverse local cultural contexts within which international development policy is applied in practice. Further to this, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds many projects supporting creative and digital innovation and design which have both significant economic impact in key growth sectors (e.g. tourism, creative & digital economy) and wider impact in areas such as mental health and wellbeing, peacebuilding and social inclusion, as well as in cultural heritage where a recent UNESCO report has shown the unique role cultural heritage has to play in international development. A case study on post-conflict reconciliation and heritage is included at annex 1.
Capacity building is central to UKRI’s investment under the Newton Fund and is much wider than training and exchanges hosted by UK institutions. As well as developing the skills and research knowledge of award holders on research projects, both in the partner countries and the UK, we also have some activities specifically dedicated to capacity building.
For example, on behalf of Innovate UK, a Nesta-led consortium has been running the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator (GIPA), a collaborative development programme for innovation policy leaders from partner countries. This helps to ensure that capacity at a policy level exists to respond to challenges which might arise from innovation projects, as well as enabling a policy environment in which innovation can flourish. Because the programme is run at a country or regional level, it is able to take into account the different needs of, and resources available to, partners.
The UKRI staff exchange programme also helps to build capacity of partner funders in terms of research management. This programme gives staff from country partner funders the opportunity to visit UKRI for a period of one week to foster the sharing of best practice and allow UKRI and their international partners to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s funding strategies and processes. UKRI staff also have the opportunity to visit the partner country funder for a reciprocal one week visit. It is expected that the knowledge and connections developed through these exchanges will be spread more widely across the participating organisations and will lead to stronger ongoing relationships between UKRI and its counterparts in the participating Newton Fund countries. As partner funders from different countries visit UKRI at the same time they also have the opportunity to learn from and share best practice with each other.
In 2015 UKRI supported an International PhD Partnering Scheme Call with NRF in South Africa. The main objective of this Newton Fund call was to support the partnering activities between UK and South African Research Organisations at PhD level by allowing reciprocal PhD placement opportunities at the partner country Research Organisations. The programme was designed to support the development of international training and development activities, learning from different approaches in partner countries and to foster the development of an international cohort of researchers with the skills, links and contacts to operate in the global research environment.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) have a range of capacity building activities, developing STEM skills in several areas. One of these is Development for Africa through Radio Astronomy (DARA) which has trained radio astronomers from Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Namibia and Botswana. This is part of a drive to build capacity in Africa, which led African countries to begin the African Very-Long-Baseline-Interferometry Network (AVN). The partnership, which includes several UK universities and industrial partners, goes beyond training students to use telescopes. Staffed by experienced entrepreneurs from the telecommunications and space industry, the DARA team also educates its trainees in business practice and knowledge transfer. To extract the economic benefit from science projects, the team needs to work on human capacity development. This includes economic activity, and technology development, as well as making science an attractive career for students. In two years' time, creator of the project Melvin Hoare expects to see DARA's first set of PhD students completing their training and returning to their home countries to set up their own research groups. Hoare plans to create a core group of astronomers who will be able to build capacity in their own countries and exploit future local radio astronomy facilities planned for the African continent. "These groups will also then start to train future generations of students themselves," Hoare explains.
a. What projects can you point to that, in your opinion, have achieved tangible development impact for partnering countries as a whole?
As mentioned above, research and innovation projects can take a long time to achieve measurable impact and the first Newton awards were made in 2014, so we would not necessarily expect measurable impacts yet. However, we do have projects which are showing evidence of impacts. The titles of these are included below and the full case studies are included at Annex 1.
Climate ready rice: Optimising transpiration to protect rice yields under abiotic stresses
Inclusive transitional justice and creative memory processes for reconciliation in Colombia (UK-Colombia)
Informing a rapid response to Brazil’s Zika epidemic (UK-Brazil)
Antibiotic colistin now banned as feed additive for animals in China (UK-China)
b. Should the Newton Fund continue with funding that is specifically designed for the poorest and most vulnerable in the world; and are institutions like UKRI the right delivery partners to be facilitating this?
It is estimated that 75% of the worlds’ population live in middle-income countries, including 62% of the world’s poorest. Global poverty cannot be understood and solutions to alleviate poverty will not be found unless middle-income countries are engaged and focused on the poorest in their own countries, as well as beyond. The Newton Fund bilateral partnership model enables middle income countries to own the research agenda, to contribute research funding and partner with research agencies in the UK. Although It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the future direction of the fund, as BEIS is responsible for the design of the fund as a whole, we believe that UKRI is the right delivery partner to be facilitating the Newton Fund due to our strong capability to deliver high quality, equitable, research for development partnerships and outcomes.
Currently, the Newton Fund is designed to consist of individual bilateral partnership with the 17 partner countries, mostly Middle-Income Countries (MICs). The research and innovation funders in these countries work collaborative with UKRI to scope and deliver joint, match funded, programmes. This does not mean that the outcomes cannot benefit the poorest and most vulnerable, as many of these countries have high levels of inequality and significant numbers of poor and vulnerable people. Also, solutions developed in partnership with MICs can often quickly be translated into impacts in other DAC-list countries where similar challenges may exist but whom may not have the research and innovation capacity to undertake the initial development.
The Newton Fund is a partnership at the government level, which means that governments are more invested in the outcomes, and can involve relevant local stakeholders, including policy makers, to provide direct routes to these populations. Working in collaboration with governments, funders, and researchers in the partner countries from the beginning means there is a shared sense of ownership, and greater likelihood of uptake of project outputs and impacts. We are committed to building equitable partnerships with our partner country funders and want to be led by them and focus on challenges identified as key development needs by the partner counties.
The Newton Fund has some very distinctive characteristics, which complement some of the other ODA funds within BEIS, DHSC, DFID and elsewhere in government. UKRI and BEIS are both committed to ensuring coherence and complementarity within the UK ODA research and innovation portfolio. UKRI and BEIS are core members of the UK Strategic Coherence for ODA Research (SCOR) Board, chaired by Professor Peter Piot, together with DFID, DHSC and Wellcome Trust. UKRI and BEIS are also core funders for the UK Collaborative for Development Research, which aims to promote best practice and integration across UK development activities.
Within UKRI, the Newton Fund is part of a suite of funding mechanisms, which includes the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Fund for International Collaboration (FIC). GCRF, which does not have a match funding requirement, is more focused on working with Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) as a researcher lead collaborative fund. UKRI supports work with some of our country funding partners on non-ODA international programmes through FIC. The different foci of the respective funds are very complementary and allow us to work with a wide spectrum of countries and partners.
It is well recognised that there should be a balance between development interventions and research for development and that both can be beneficial. Research for development can tackle complex interdisciplinary challenges and lead to longer-term more sustainable impacts for the beneficiary countries. The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) 2019 refers to ‘the indispensable role of science for ending hunger, tackling climate change, reducing inequality and accelerating progress across the Sustainable Development Goals’ and that ‘science is an ever-evolving driver of widespread change embedded in society,’ which must ‘enable creative and transformative solutions that bring forth far-reaching, if not permanent, changes. Achieving the 2030 Agenda cannot be left to chance; it requires deliberate transformations.’
The GSDR 2019 report calls for a drastic change in development policies, incentives and actions – specifically a major role for science, and changes to the global research ecosystem. The report highlights the role of research and innovation to develop innovative solutions, support evidence-based policy making, and calls for interdisciplinary and holistic approaches. The report also contains a number of recommendations to achieve the development goals at a global scale (Transforming science institutions; Mobilising existing knowledge; Forging new partnerships; Boosting Capacity in the Global South; Advancing research in society) all of which squarely align with the goals of the Newton Fund and UKRI is well placed to respond to this call to action.
UKRI’s exists to fund research and innovation and so we have the mechanisms in place to be able to fund research for development. Some Research Councils have been funding ODA for decades through their regular programmes e.g. MRC. Since the start of the Newton Fund, UKRI has put in place additional processes for ODA programmes, as outlined above, and we have built strong relationships with funding organisations worldwide which have enabled us to learn lessons and share best practice. We believe we are well placed to deliver Newton Fund activities effectively both now and in the future.
Climate ready rice: Optimising transpiration to protect rice yields under abiotic stresses
Funders: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the International Rice Research Institute (Philippines)
Partnership: University of Sheffield, and Kasetsart University (Thailand)
Bringing Memories in from the Margins: Inclusive Transitional Justice and Creative Memory Processes for Reconciliation in Colombia
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Colciencias
Partnership: University of Bristol, National University of Colombia, National Library of Colombia, National Centre of Historical Memory (CNMH), Red Colombiana de Lugares de Memoria, Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeras
The emergence of Zika virus in Brazil: investigating viral features and host responses to design preventive strategies
Funders: Medical Research Council (MRC) and State Funding Agency of Pernambuco (FACEPE) and Brazilian Council of State Funding Agencies (CONFAP)
Partnership: University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz Recife (Fiocruz)
Antibiotic colistin now banned as feed additive for animals in China
Funders: Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).