Susie Kitchens’ Lessons Earned
By Susie Kitchens, Deputy Director, Global Research and Innovation, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
I have spent much of this year involved in designing BEIS’ new International Science Partnership Fund (ISPF), under HMG’s bold ambition to be a Global Science Superpower. It’s a really exciting initiative, which will support brilliant UK researchers to collaborate with science leaders around the world to advance human knowledge, develop the research underpinning new innovations, and tackle global challenges.
An important part of this process has been to ensure we are building on the research and innovation collaborations that BEIS and our partners have facilitated before: learning from what worked, evolving our methods where there is room to improve, and adapting to new steers and changing risks and opportunities.
Learning from Newton and GCRF has been a particularly significant part of the venture. These funds furthered and leveraged the UK’s reputation as a leader in development R+D, providing access to ecosystems, demographics and collaborators around the world contributing to great science and innovation. They also supported broad global goals through establishing science diplomacy bridges, and helped embed our values, standards, and norms into long-lasting scientific partnerships internationally.
Closing down these funds in order to set up the new ISPF meant some very tricky moments. The decision to cut ODA was painful, for us in government, for our partner organisations delivering ODA-funded programmes, and for our partners around the world. We all understood that difficult times required tough decisions, but it felt like we were cutting off avenues for great work. And closing down the programmes that had become embedded and much loved across the UK sector and with partners in countries ranging from the Philippines, to Kenya, to Brazil was genuinely sad, and necessitated some difficult conversations I’d rather not have had to have.
However, we must adapt and evolve, and respond to our new context with all its opportunities. And I was thinking of that process as I compiled my ‘Lessons Earned’. Whilst these reflect a career of working internationally, as a colleague, a mentor, a mother and an increasingly slow runner, I thought of them all in this time of transition, and I hope they resonate with you.
I’m very much looking forward to reading the Lessons Earned contributed by others who have been involved in the Newton and GCRF journeys over the past 8 and 6 years respectively. I will wonder what inspired them (as you may wonder where my reference to out-of-date passports comes from...) and how they are shaping colleagues’ attitudes to work, and how they will respond to the next phase, whatever that might bring.
On that note, I would like to wish Happy Anniversary to Newton and GCRF and congratulations on your graduation to ISPF! Thank you to all who have worked with, and on, these funds. I look forward to what the next iteration brings us, and the lessons we will earn along the way.