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Meeting the global challenge

As the UK's main public funders of basic research, the Research Councils' work spans a range of disciplines both at home and on a global level.

The Research Councils are the UK?s main public funders of basic research. With an annual budget of £3bn, provided through the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills?s Science Budget, we fund research projects and training in universities, undertake research in our own institutes and facilities, and fund the UK?s involvement in a number of international research ventures. Our work spans all the disciplines from humanities and social science, through the environmental and life sciences to engineering and particle physics.

The UK is among the world?s top research nations. Reviews and analyses show that in most research sectors, the UK is second only to the US in terms of the amount of high-quality research it undertakes. It is also one of the most productive public research bases, delivering an extremely good return on the level of investment.

Our research generates knowledge and skills crucial in solving many of the world?s social and economic challenges, such as demographic change, global security, natural resources, energy and climate change. We have developed six priority research themes that draw on the skills and perspectives of research disciplines essential in tackling problems of this magnitude. We recognise that it is crucial to engage partners within the UK and globally.


The Research Councils? Energy Programme takes a ?whole system approach? to energy options, supply and usage. Five Research Councils are funding research and training that will address the outstanding global issues of tackling climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and ensuring a secure and affordable energy supply. With funding from the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, the programme will sustain its investment in power generation and supply research, and grow the portfolio in demand reduction, alternative energy vectors, transport, security of supply, research capacity building, and international engagement. The programme will achieve impact through engagement with businesses, government, Regional Development Agencies and other funders, and in particular encourage applied research development and demonstration through partnership with the Energy Technologies Institute.



Transnational global crime, such as drugs, people smuggling, money laundering and cyber crime, is increasing in sophistication and scale. Terrorism is increasing across the globe as many disparate groups see violence as a means to achieve their aims. The effect of environmental stresses on vulnerable societies is a major cause for insecurity in many parts of the world. The world?s poorest people are often those most vulnerable to harm from security threats. Global Uncertainties: Security for all in a Changing World will integrate research in conflict, crime, terrorism, environmental stress and global poverty to address causes of threats to security, their detection, and possible interventions to prevent harm. All seven Research Councils, led by ERSC, will work together to address these five inter-related global phenomena, each linked to address three themes ? causes, detection, and possible interventions, to inform the government?s National Security Strategy.



Living with Environmental Change is a 10-year cross-disciplinary research and policy partnership programme to increase resilience to ? and reduce costs of ? environmental change. Addressing the challenges highlighted by the IPCC 4th Assessment and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, it will inform mitigation and adaptation choices on the time and space scales on which the economy is managed. The approach demands an unprecedented partnership connecting natural, engineering, economic, social, medical, cultural, arts and humanities researchers with policy makers, business, the public, and other key stakeholders. RCUK, led by NERC, has driven the creation of a partnership of six Research Councils and 10 Departments of State, governments and their agencies, and a trading fund.



There is an unprecedented demographic change underway in the UK, with the proportion of young people declining while the number of older people is increasing. The UK will benefit from having an active and healthy older population with potential economic, social, and health gains associated with healthy ageing and reducing dependency in later life. The Ageing: Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme will provide substantial long-term funding for new cross-disciplinary centres, carrying out research into healthy ageing as well as investigating factors over people?s whole life course that may be major determinants of health and well-being in later life. It will focus on specific research themes, drawing on the cross-disciplinary strengths of the Research Councils, such as quality of life, physical frailty and the ageing brain.



Rapid response to advances in information and communication technology (ICT) is vital to the future economic and social prosperity of the UK. The Digital Economy programme recognises that ICT is embedded in all areas of life and it is constantly evolving. It has the ability to transform how business operates, the way government delivers and the way society interacts. Five IT-centric crossdisciplinary research centres have already built a strong research base engaging social scientists, clinicians, psychologists, biologists, designers, artists and film makers. This will create a crossdisciplinary, user-focused, research base capable of responding rapidly to the transformational opportunities. The programme will concentrate initially on areas where capture management and presentation of information can have the maximum impact, such as healthcare, transport and the creative industries.



Nanoscience has the potential to revolutionise society, providing major innovations in environmental protection, healthcare and energy provision and significant advances in materials, optics and computing. Nanoscience through Engineering to Application will bring together these diverse elements into a coherent, directed programme taking basic research through to application. An important element will be a public engagement programme to debate concerns, explore the ethical and social implications and clarify the benefits of nanotechnology. Research Councils will develop a series of cross-disciplinary grand challenges in areas important to society and where UK nanotechnology research can make a significant contribution. Funding has been awarded so far to tackle the harvesting of solar energy and develop healthcare solutions.



Working in partnership
The seven UK Research Councils are:

By working together through Research Councils UK, we can take an overview of the UK?s research involvement with other countries, looking across all disciplines, and provide a co-ordinated approach and a single point of contact. We work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?s Science and Innovation Network, the British Council and the Department for International Development to make the UK more visible and attractive as a partner research for organisations, research teams and individuals around the world.

For more information about Research Councils UK, visit or e-mail

Added the 09 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1

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