SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Impact and influence

SPRU's researchers are driven by a desire to tackle real world problems, working closely with government, business and civil society.

Whether it's fostering long-term productivity and innovation in the public or private sector, understanding the potential of expertise and evidence, or navigating a path to a more sustainable trajectory, many of today's most pressing problems require the kind of interdisciplinary research for which SPRU is widely recognised as a world leader.

With over 50 years of experience, SPRU is committed to engagement and generating impact, not only in the dissemination phase but also by involving stakeholders in the framing and conduct of research.

We pride ourselves on working closely with government departments, think tanks, media, companies, and parliamentary committees, to ensure our research benefits and enriches society, and influences policy and practice at international, national and regional levels.

Below are some recent examples of where SPRU research is helping decision makers in policy, business and civil society transition to a more innovative, sustainable and inclusive agenda:

  • Research by SPRU’s Prof Fiona Marshall and Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Pritpal Randhawa has influenced the redrafting of a key piece of legislation on urban waste management in India. Deficiencies in urban waste policy had led to significant environmental and health problems for many people in cities across the country. The research recommended eight principles to guide policy change, including recognising the relationships between the informal and formal sector, integrating waste and urban planning, and increasing public participation. The research team were also directly involved in a key government committee influencing the redrafting of the rules and informing the eventual text. The research also led to one of the partners developing a new partnership between waste pickers and a private company in Delhi – a progression which means that the informal sector of waste pickers are recognised and protected.

  • In response to the BEIS Committee’s initial inquiry on a new industrial strategy, evidence submitted by SPRU researchers has significantly shaped the recommendations published in its First Review (March 2017). With an “economy that works for everyone” on its agenda, the Committee’s report strongly advocates the mission-based and problem-focussed approaches outlined in evidence submitted by SPRU (Professors Jim Watson and Mariana Mazzucato). It advises a shift away from sectoral-specific investment, towards horizontal policies that address broader societal challenges. By requiring many different sectors to interact with each other in new ways, such an approach could generate longer-term, innovation-led growth that is both inclusive and sustainable.
  • Evidence submitted by CIED, led by its Director Professor Benjamin Sovacool, has influenced recommendations by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, in its report ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?’ (15 March 2017). The report adopts CIED’s argument that the Government needs a “wider transport strategy that places the development and implementation of CAV in the context of wider policy goals”. By giving greater attention to broader challenges faced by UK transport (and society more generally), such a strategy would have the potential to address a range of needs, including increasing physical activity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and tackling social inequality.
  • A report authored by SPRU academics – titled ‘The Fusion Effect’ – has been cited by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its White Paper on ‘Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (January 2017). The research  by Dr Josh SiepelDr Roberto CameraniDr Gabriele Pellegrino and Dr Monica Masucci (BMEc)  revealed that companies harnessing both art and science skills outperform their competitors in terms of sales, employment, productivity and innovation. With reference to this project, the WEF report recommends addressing the existing disconnect between sciences and humanities in STEM teaching, and advocates the need for “strong creative, critical thinking and non-cognitive skills”, even in STEM-specific fields.
  • In her project ‘Here comes the sun’, Nicolette Fox studied the effectiveness of solar panels in reducing energy consumption and fuel poverty. Her research into the impact of the solar panels – on the domestic life, finances and wellbeing of families – has provided evidence-based insights to three local authorities (Brighton and Hove, West Sussex and Crawley Borough County Councils), helping them to improve their solar PV rollout programmes. Nicolette worked in collaboration with families to produce a booklet that was distributed to several hundred social housing tenants. The research has since been turned in a film (below) – showing how the panels changed the families’ routines and attitudes towards reducing energy use – and has been cited in a Government publication. Her research is now being used to help inform a new community project exploring high water use and debt, in collaboration with Southern Water, Brighton and Hove City Council and the Consumer Council for Water.

Work with us:

Our expertise could stimulate new perspectives on critical policy questions, or help drive innovation in your organisation. Working with UK, European and international policy makers, business leaders and civil society, SPRU offers a full range of external consultancy services and bespoke training packages for both groups and individuals.  

We also support our staff to work 'in' as well as 'with' external constituencies, for example through knowledge transfer schemes, student placements, internships and secondment opportunities.