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Impact Acceleration Accounts - A common Research Councils approach


Each year RCUK invest around £3 billion in research and capability in the UK covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines, and this has a huge impact on the wellbeing and economy of the UK. The Research Councils positively encourage innovation and the application of the research we support, as a contribution to enhanced quality of life, sustainability and competitiveness of the UK.

The Councils acknowledge that knowledge exchange and translation encompass complex and diverse activities which can deliver economic and societal benefits over varying timescales.

We are committed to supporting multiple and diverse knowledge exchange, co-production and innovation activities. Impact can be shape practice and shift understanding. It can involve capacity building in academia and in wider communities, and it can build lasting relationships that change cultures within organisations.   It can include the development of new products, processes and services.

We recognise that a range of knowledge exchange pathways and flexible support models are necessary to facilitate the multi-way exchange of knowledge between academia and research users in business, public and the third sectors.

Research Councils are committed to working together to ensure our support for excellent research, training, knowledge exchange and translation are streamlined and straightforward, while continuing to allow flexibility and tailored support for our communities.

The Councils understand that potential impacts can manifest at any stage in  research, through the full project life cycle and beyond, and can often stem from unexpected or unintended consequences. Research Councils are committed to working together to provide accessible and appropriate mechanisms to support the achievement of economic and societal benefits. These range from Pathways to Impact to support activities throughout the lifetime of research grants, to funding streams that support activities towards the end of the grant and beyond. 

Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs)

As part of our portfolio of impact-enabling mechanisms, a number of Research Councils have introduced, or are considering introducing, Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs). For some Research Councils IAAs are the sole or primary mechanism for sponsoring KE and impact outside of Pathways to Impact. For others, IAAs complement other KE and Impact activities.

IAAs introduce greater agility and flexibility for Research Organisations (ROs) who are empowered to take strategic-level decisions about how best to invest IAA funding within their specific context. This includes the opportunity to build upon, across and between individual projects (including at scale). RO level flexibility is tensioned against our RCUK objectives and within the parameters and operational context of each Research Council. IAAs also provide opportunity to develop strategic relationships between Councils and IAA recipients.

RCUK IAA Objectives

Research Councils using (or considering using) the IAA mechanism have agreed to the following common IAA objectives: 

  • Strengthening user engagement
  • Strengthening the exchange of knowledge through culture and capability development, including through the development of skills for KE activity
  • Supporting knowledge exchange and commercialisation at early stages of progressing research outputs and outcomes to the point when they would be supported by other funding
  • Supporting new, innovative and imaginative approaches to KE and Impact, including processes that enable “fast failure” and appropriate learning
  • Supporting activities that enable impact to be achieved in an effective and timely manner, including secondments and people exchange

RCUK IAA Framework

Research Councils have developed a common IAA framework to facilitate the delivery of the awards within ROs. Within this framework, individual Research Councils can maintain individual delivery and accountability. This framework will be used by Research Councils if they chose to employ the IAA mechanism:

The IAA mechanism is a block grant to individual ROs for KE and innovation activities. ROs are able to make their own decisions about how this funding is used against the Research Councils broad set of objectives.  The length and minimum and maximum awarded will be set by individual Research Councils, with the scale reflecting their own context, strategic priorities and community needs.

IAAs will be offered to a set of ROs. ROs will be selected by individual Research Councils as appropriate to their context and broader strategy. Research Councils encourage IAAs to work together and with ROs that do not hold IAAs, as appropriate.

IAAs are to be deployed flexibly to support the specific context of the IAA RO.

Business Plans for IAAs will fit a common format. Selected ROs will be invited to submit business plans for approval through a Research Council specific process.

IAAs will be required to report against a common reporting template. Initially this will be annually on 30 September. Individual councils may choose to collect a subset of elements of this set of measures. It will be appropriate that many outcomes and impacts from IAAs will be reported in Researchfish against the Research Council grant to which they relate. Research Councils are working hard to balance requests for additional reporting while ensuring the impact of cross-cutting IAAs can be easily captured.

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