Research matters: How can researchers contribute to the financial recovery in the UK

Professor Rick Rylance

There are two main ways that researchers can influence the economy. Firstly, the outputs of research have a direct impact on growth by providing innovative and cost-effective ways to meet the needs of business and industry.

Secondly, the UK requires highly skilled people to sustain its growing knowledge-based economy. Talented researchers are major assets in the business community.

Although new graduates face a tougher job market than in the past, highly-skilled people will always be sought after by business and industry, as well as by other areas of our society. Recent data shows that in 2010, 74 per cent of postgraduates from 2006/07 were in full-time employment, higher than the UK average. Postgraduates are faring well in the employment market, despite the state of the economy.

Science and engineering graduates are in particularly high demand. According to a recent Science Council report, 20 per cent of the UK’s workforce is employed in scientific roles, yet the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says there is a shortage of professionals with science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.

Researchers are not always found in universities, a fact Dr Jonathan Butler knows well. He studied geography as an undergraduate and a PhD researching earth and environmental sciences. But a placement as a parliamentary advisor on energy and the environment changed the course of his career and he now works as a senior market analyst for Fuel Cell Today. This industry is growing rapidly on a global scale as governments and businesses look to sustainable sources for future energy needs. Commenting on his placement, and the change it brought about, he says: “It opened my eyes to all the societal and commercial aspects there were to the knowledge I had gained while working on my PhD. I felt very strongly that those three years of academic work needed to be made relevant and practical to the world we live in.”

Regardless of their academic discipline, postgraduates are in demand from a wide range of organisations. Research Councils UK (RCUK) actively encourages and facilitates partnerships between researchers and business and industry. This has led to huge variety of successful innovations, scientific discoveries, spin-off companies and collaborations. One such is Squease, a partnership of scientists and textile designers, who in October last year won the RCUK business plan competition for developing therapeutic clothing for people with autistic spectrum disorders. Only a year on, they are about to bring their first products to market. The Research Councils are there to support postgraduates who want to develop their work beyond academia and to turn their ideas into reality.

Postgraduates develop an enormous range of versatile skills that are frequently used in unusual ways. Over 80 per cent of doctoral graduates said they use their research skills at work, even if they are not in research-based roles, and many transfer their talents to new domains. Professor Margaret Bell, of Newcastle University, for example, took a PhD in theoretical astrophysics, but she now works with the Department of Transport developing sustainable transport and traffic management systems.

The skills and techniques she used in astrophysics could be creatively applied in this very contrasting – and literally down to earth – way. Sometimes it’s not just a question of what you know, but of how you engage with problems that determines the best outcomes. RCUK is responsible for the largest investment in researchers in the UK today. It is essential to continue to sustain the excellent researchers and highly skilled people emerging from our universities every day.

More information about Research Councils UK is available at www.rcuk.ac

Suggested Topics
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas