New multi-million pound project to support academic engagement with public policy

The University of Manchester is to take part in a national project to explore ways of improving academic-policy engagement, in partnership with UCL and the universities of Cambridge, Nottingham and Northumbria, as well as Parliament, Government and policy organisations.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the need for reliable evidence which can inform public debate and policy has never been greater. With increasing pressure on public finances, it is also vital that local and central governments can be confident that their policy interventions will be effective and successful – and academic expertise has a crucial role to play in that process.

The 3-year Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement (CAPE) project aims to foster and support academic engagement with policy professionals, and enable greater understanding and cooperation between universities, national government, parliament and regional and local authorities.

CAPE will be delivered with input and support from the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology, the Government Office for Science, the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and the Transforming Evidence hub.

In addition to £3.9m of funding from Research England, the partner institutions will contribute further resource to bring the total value of the project to nearly £10m. The project will support academic-policy engagement at scale and, crucially, the project will engage universities and policy stakeholders from across England. This will ensure a greater balance in the interests and expertise represented and ensure the project is addressing issues of policy beyond Westminster, to reflect the diversity of England’s communities.

The project will pilot a range of interventions to improve the quality of academic input into public policy, enabling universities to respond to emerging and pressing questions in an agile, targeted way. By working in partnership, it is hoped that both researchers and policy professionals will be able to connect experts in their field more quickly, and co-develop effective interventions based on reliable evidence.

The project will develop a range of evidence-based tools and resources to support academic-policy engagement and establish a virtual Centre for Universities and Public Policy to provide a collaborative platform for networking and sharing knowledge.

This is a really exciting and timely project that has been long in planning. More than ever we are convinced that academic-policy engagement needs to be strengthened and that a more systemic approach will improve understanding and outcomes on both sides. Covid-19 has shone a light on existing processes and systems, but now we need to extend relationships across all areas of academia - not least as we begin to think about building an economic and social recovery from the pandemic.
Andy Westwood, Professor of Government Practice and Vice Dean for Social Responsibility in the Faculty of Humanities

“The four year project will look specifically at policymaking in Westminster and Whitehall and also at cities and regions with GMCA alongside GO Science and the Parliamentary Office for Science as Technology as a key partner. We also intend to work closely with Research England, UKRI and BEIS to think about the right incentives and funding processes that best promote academic-policy engagement.”

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “This project will make an important contribution to our emerging understanding of how universities can best support academics and researchers to engage with public policy and respond to the needs of policy stakeholders. We are particularly pleased to be supporting a consortium with widespread regional reach, which will help us to understand different geographical contexts and the important role that universities can play in and across regions as well as nationally.”

For more information, visit the project website at

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