12 March 2021 UUKi news
12 March 2021 UUKi news
Research and innovation collaboration with countries across the globe is of fundamental importance if the UK wants to become a science superpower. This includes developing equitable partnerships with countries in the Global South. Through ODA funding, the UK is able to collaborate with these countries to solve global challenges.
ODA, also known as the overseas aid budget, is the UK Government’s fund to support low- and middle-income countries. Through this money, the government aims to strengthen global peace, security and governance; strengthen resilience and response to crises; promote global prosperity; tackle extreme poverty and help the world’s most vulnerable. The UK Government committed to spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on ODA, but this was cut to 0.5% in 2021 due to the impact of the pandemic on the government’s finances and the economic downturn.
Much of the research collaboration with the Global South has historically been funded through ODA, through programmes like the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Both Newton and GCRF supported building research and innovation partnerships to solve development challenges and actively contributed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, in February 2021 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that GCRF and the Newton Fund would no longer continue, and the funding would not be renewed. In the two years since these cuts, UK universities have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new fund, with the sector’s hopes pinned on a new blended fund that the UK Government confirmed they are working on, which combines ODA and non-ODA funding.
In December 2022, UK Science and Technology Minister George Freeman MP announced a new fund named the International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF). It has an initial £119 million in UK Government funding and aims to support collaboration with international R&D powers like Japan. However, any detail of ODA support - through ISPF or any other fund - remains absent. This is undermining many successful and fruitful partnerships and is preventing UK research from reaching its full potential.
UK universities have extensive partnerships and research collaborations around the world, as can be seen in UUKi’s International Facts and Figures report (an updated version will be available later in summer 2023).
Indonesia in particular is a key partner for the UK, with interest in bilateral collaboration at an all-time-high due to the country featuring as a top priority in the UK Government’s International Education Strategy. Further to this, in April 2022 the government published the UK-Indonesia Partnership Roadmap, which commits to furthering the strategic partnership between both countries, including building new, and deepening existing research and development partnerships.
The number of co-authored papers between the UK and Indonesia has increased by 146% between 2017 and 2022. Similar impressive increases have been seen across the region, with co-authorship with the Philippines increasing by 115% and with Vietnam by 113%. All three of these countries enjoyed support for research collaboration through the Newton Fund and have celebrated many successful projects in areas such as maritime, healthcare, and food security.
A UUKi report about ODA funding and its impact on the UK higher education sector found that ‘ODA funding has become an integral part of university research and international/global strategies. It has contributed to the university ecosystem and global reputation, and changed the way international research is conducted.’ The report also found that ‘ODA funding, and in particular the Newton Fund and GCRF, are unique in offering opportunities for impact at scale’, even despite challenges with timescales and processes.
In November, UUKi hosted a webinar that looked at the Indonesian and UK research landscapes and explored collaboration opportunities. This event also allowed us to delve into some of the highly successful and impactful projects carried out under the Newton Fund. This included a presentation by Associate Professor Dr Harkunti P. Rahayu (Institut Teknologi Bandung) and Professor Dr Richard Haigh (University of Huddersfield), who discussed their Newton Prize-winning project on protecting coastal communities from the impacts of climate change.
As a vast archipelago nation, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to climate change-related hazards – specifically flooding and tsunamis. The researchers assessed Indonesia’s capacity to tackle these environmental threats and developed new disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption strategies. This work has been very impactful, influencing how the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning approach the assessment of tsunami preparedness. Importantly, the research can be adapted for different at-risk coastal areas and thus it can be applied in vast international contexts, including the UK. This project is therefore an excellent example of the benefits of collaborative knowledge exchange.
This is only one of the many examples of how ODA funding has supported bilateral research collaboration with real-world and far-reaching impacts. There are many more, covering many different important areas. Another key example is the One Ocean Hub, which was set up by the University of Strathclyde to tackle urgent challenges facing the ocean. It has now grown into a network of 18 partner organisations and 21 research partners all over the world.
It’s clear that ODA funding has huge national and international impact. The global research collaborations it supports change lives and help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing our world. Through working with countries like Indonesia, we can tackle huge problems like tsunami preparedness, which are only going to become more urgent as climate change continues to impact our lives.
It is also clear that we are still far away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and the clock is ticking on our ability to meet some of these objectives. It is only through collaboration with the Global South that we can make meaningful progress towards these goals.
Beyond this, the UK must also work to maintain its leading position in global developments and invest in research in order to become a science superpower. The UK must deliver on its promises to international partners, including those in the UK-Indonesia Partnership Roadmap, and UK universities must be provided with support to develop equitable, sustainable partnerships with institutions across the globe.
It is therefore imperative that the UK government announces new investment in ODA research, as through this funding we can more effectively deliver global good, support our international partners, and maintain the UK’s position on the global stage.
UUKi’s International Facts and Figures report, due to be published in summer 2023, will show the extent of UK research that is taking place across the globe – including with partners in the Global South.