Diverse researcher career pathways will power UK innovation and growth, say business and university leaders


RESEARCHERS across the UK should be empowered to move between industry and academia throughout their whole career to stimulate innovation and growth, according to senior business and university leaders.

In a new report Pathways to Success, the NCUB Researcher Career Mobility Taskforce highlights analysis showing that just one in five researchers in universities have spent time working in industry.

The Taskforce has developed a set of recommendations that together set out a bold vision for a more interconnected research system, where researchers can build exciting and impactful careers across sectors. Concerted action is needed from government, research funders, universities, businesses and researchers themselves.

The Taskforce recommendations include:
• Government should make diverse researcher careers a key design principle of the research and innovation system
• Public research funders should come together to design a more comprehensive mobility scheme offer, so all researchers have the opportunity to access support
• Universities and businesses should clearly recognise and reward the skills and knowledge gained in research roles across different sectors
• Individual researchers should demand and seek out opportunities to pursue experiences in academia and industry.

Sam Laidlaw, Co-Chair of the Taskforce and Chair of NCUB, said: “We have made progress in recent years in supporting researcher mobility, but we must go further and faster. The Taskforce has shown that businesses and universities materially benefit from researcher mobility, by encouraging them to collaborate and gain the experiences they need to develop impactful innovations. To meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century, we must support research to happen across the interfaces of academia, industry, government and other sectors by developing dynamic, diverse career pathways.”

Professor Karen Holford, Co-Chair of the Taskforce and Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor at Cranfield University, said: “The Government has identified dynamic and varied career paths as key to creating a healthy, resilient and impactful research system. Our recommendations create a blueprint for a more connected system, setting out a call to action to the sector to be bolder, and to the Government to ensure the incentives and funding are in place to catalyse a revolution in research careers.”

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “The NCUB Research Career Mobility Taskforce report demonstrates the critical role of researcher mobility and porosity across the interfaces of industry and academia. The report tackles a critical issue set out in the UK Government’s Science and Technology Framework, and I welcome the report’s exploration of the shape and scale of intersectoral mobility in the UK, which underpins our excellent research and innovation system. The practical actions proposed will do much to strengthen the interconnections between universities and business and the many public and community organisations where porosity is key. My own career has straddled academia, the NHS, national charities, organisations and public bodies. None of this would have been possible without the support and flexibility of the university system. The work also recognises the importance of the next iteration of the Research Excellence Framework in enabling intersectoral mobility.”

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