Innovation nation

Think tank: Adam Smith Institute

Author(s): Tim Ambler

August 5, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Adam Smith Institute looks at reforming the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

This report proposes a number of reforms to improve the efficiency and value for money of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This paper is part of the Adam Smith Institute’s “Reforming the Civil Service” series. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has responsibility for a number of functions that are currently performed inefficiently and represent poor value for taxpayer money; The core department lacks transparency on how its teams operate and what each achieves in relation to targets; Public research and development money should be restricted to UK National Interest Research Projects (NIRPs). The government department responsible for funding a large NIRP should be the one most closely associated with the topic; These can be funded directly in the case of larger, more expensive projects; The others should be funded indirectly via universities, other research institutes and local enterprise partnerships, through annual ‘NIRP research pots’ in amounts reflecting their track records; UKRI would fund the direct NIRPs with no obvious alternative homes, distribute NIRP research pots and monitor and report expenditure and outcomes in sufficient detail that government and other funders can learn from one another; BEIS/UKRI should retain responsibility for the areas currently covered by Innovate UK but, given the small number of large NIRPs, it would only require one Executive Agency to do so. Space science should also come into this Agency; All advisory arm’s length bodies (ALBs) should cease existence as formal bodies; advisors can be called on ad hoc; All other ALBs should either become executive agencies or privatised if they are substantial or merged into core or other bodies if they are not; Taken together, the recommendations in this report would produce a total headcount saving of nearly 12,704: 39.6% of the current 32,069 total.