Cabinet Office to expand unit focused on improving collaboration with academics
Cabinet secretary praises work of Open Innovation Team in helping open up policymaking to universities
Sir Jeremy Heywood has revealed plans to expand a Cabinet Office team dedicated to generating policy ideas through better collaboration with universities and academics as part of government’s ongoing drive on evidence-based policy.
The cabinet secretary praised the work of the Open Innovation Team, which was formed in summer 2016 to deepen collaboration between officials and academics, in a blogpost last week.
He highlighted that the unit, which received a Cabinet Office Innovator Award in 2017, has worked in a host of policy areas over the past 18 months, and has been supported by Research Councils UK and sponsored by four top universities – Bath, Lancaster, Southampton and Warwick.
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“For example, they’ve helped the Department for Health and Social Care develop ideas for the Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision Green Paper, and set up a Digital Government Partnership that’s getting more academics involved in our huge digital transformation agenda,” he said.
Heywood highlighted that digital has been the team’s biggest strand of work to date, with projects under way or under discussion in areas such as distributed ledger technology (including the processes used for cryptocurrency bitcoin), data scraping, automation, and digital ethics.
He said that the innovation team could now be expanded, with plans to scale up the team later this year by asking universities to sponsor them for another two or three years.
The team already has plans to work in more policy areas, the civil service chief said, including in areas such as competition, labour market reform, community integration, environment and education.
“The challenge of deepening our collaboration with academia, and the related task of ensuring that policy remains evidence-led, obviously can’t be solved by a single small team in the Cabinet Office,” Heywood said. “However, I’m pleased to see colleagues experimenting with new ways of partnering with academics, and delighted that it seems to be having a positive effect.”
Although he noted there was “already a long queue for support” from the Open Innovation Team, Heywood called on any teams elsewhere in Whitehall who think they might benefit from its help to get in touch with the group.
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