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

  • Commissioned by the UK government following the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005, Professor Jim Watson’s research on low carbon innovation has influenced national and international policy, particularly India and China, and has been used by the UK to inform their negotiating position at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Watson was appointed Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee in 2010 for its inquiry ‘The future of Britain’s Electricity Network’ and again in 2011 for its inquiry ‘The UK’s energy supply: security or independence’. He is now Director of the UK Energy Research Centre.

  • Professor Andy Stirling developed a conceptualisation of diversity (in terms of three collectively necessary but individually insufficient mutually-interdependent properties;) ‘variety’, ‘balance’ and ‘disparity’. This concept has been employed in energy policy documentation in the US, Netherlands and Japan and has served as a formal UK Government energy diversity indicator.

  • Within the Harvard Sussex Program, briefing notes by Dr Caitriona McLeish on the options for reviewing science and technology under the Biological Weapons Convention were cited in submission to the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference by the UK government. Currently our researchers are investigating allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

  • Work by Professors Paul Nightingale and Michael Hopkins on the financing of biotechnological innovation led to an invitation from the major multinational Glaxo Smithkline to undertake training in London for more than 200 biotechnology professionals. A further report by Michael Hopkins specifically on the financing of biotechnology innovation has resulted in investment by the European Commission Institute for Prospective Technology Studies in a dedicated stream of research.

  • Professor James Wilsdon is chairing an independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment.  The outcomes of the review will inform the work of HEFCE and the other UK higher education funding bodies as they prepare future iterations of the Research Excellence Framework. 

  • Within the field of the economics of innovation, the work of Professor Mariana Mazzucato has influenced government leaders, the media and policy experts in debates over innovation and growth in the UK, the USA and Europe. Her work has most notably informed the UK Parliament’s growth strategy, the US Senate Committee on Appropriations, and the European Commission’s innovation policy. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills recently paid tribute to Professor Mazzucato’s work at the Mission-Oriented Finance for Innovation conference that she organised, saying that the Government wanted to “learn from her thinking”. For further details see the case study ‘The Entrepreneurial State’.

    Watch the video: An interview with Professor Mariana Mazzucato on changing the framework for industrial policy in the UK.

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. 

Individuals are also able to pursue a programme of Training and Guided Study at SPRU.