Making an impact with the UK Government

Professor Katy Mason was part of a Lancaster University Management School team who worked with the UK Cabinet Office on an Impact Acceleration Account-funded project.

The LUMS team devised new, improved innovation catalysing practice for the Cabinet Office to integrate academic excellence and research expertise into policy-making across Whitehall.

The changes to the Cabinet Office Open Innovation Team helped generate £235m of policy investments in technology and health, benefiting businesses and projects across the UK.

“The Cabinet Office was looking at how to get academic excellence and research expertise into policy-making processes to better form policy,” says Professor Mason, who worked alongside, Dr Chris Ford and Imagination Lancaster’s Dr David Perez and Dr Roger Whitham on the project. “With IAA funding secured as a result of previous work on the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and funding from the Cabinet Office, we set up a project.

“We spent many hours watching what the Open Innovation Team did, thinking about what we knew, and feeding back ideas about what they could do and what they should be thinking about. We brought in stakeholders who could benefit from their work, and we carved out a series of activities to bring in different groups of academics, policy-makers and other interested parties to provide multiple perspectives on problems they were trying to solve.

“The ideas went to the Treasury, and an initiative to catalyse technology was developed. Catalysing innovation was already a principle, but the IAA funding allowed us to drive them forward by making them work better for the government.

“For instance, if you’re developing a policy and you only speak to one group, such as technologists, you end up with an issue such as the anti-5G problem, because some of the scientists are not always able to articulate with certainty the innovative technologies they are developing, making people nervous. If you ask scientists, sociologists, behaviouralists and economists, you get different answers on how you put the policy in place and how you roll it out.

“Our work brought benefits for the Cabinet Office and for all the people who go through the innovation catalyst process, creating structures and processes that allow things to work well, which in turn creates good decisions and judgements, ultimately benefiting the general public through the implementation of better policies.

“The IAA funding allows researchers to bring their expertise to bear in a practical way that quickly makes an impact on organisations and businesses and creates opportunities for further learning. As an organisation, you might know what you need to do, but you might not have the expertise to carry it out, and that is where we can come in and make a difference.”