Tech policymakers to work with academia in new scheme

Manchester University has announced the first five fellows selected for a programme to enable policy professionals to better tap into academic expertise – while providing a boost for the north west

Civil servants focused on cyber issues and tech innovation are among a handful chosen for a new scheme aimed at fostering closer ties between policymakers and academic researchers.

Five officials from three government departments have been announced as the first fellows of a programme operated by the University of Manchester. The inaugural Policy@Manchester Fellowship Scheme is part of the university’s work to provide research-based evidence for public policy and aims to create new networks and strengthen existing relationships between academics and officials.

The fellows, announced yesterday, include James Brannan, senior cyber security policy advisor at the Cabinet Office; and Tricia Francis, trade partnerships manager at the Department for Business and Trade.

Two civil servants from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology have also been selected: Lauren Probert, head of research and futures, and Rachel Smith, head of innovation ecosystem policy. The fifth civil servant has not yet been named.

Over the next 12 months, the quintet will have briefing sessions with researchers on their working areas of interest. They will also be given access to the university’s facilities and resources and will be invited to host a seminar, workshop or roundtable; write an article or publication; or organise a co-produced piece of research.

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Professor Cecilia Wong, academic co-director of Policy@Manchester, said: “The scheme will connect researchers and policymakers engaged in issues and challenges relevant to Greater Manchester and the North-West.”

It will build on ongoing work “to establish networks that support wider conversations and discussions,” she added.

The launch of the new fellowship comes amid a move to relocate thousands of civil servants to Manchester. More than 2,500 staff will work at a major new government hub in the city that is currently under construction.

The new hub, at First Street, is due to open in 2025 and will include staff from various departments.

Wong commented: “With more government departments relocating officials from Whitehall to the region to work alongside our district councils and the combined authority, it is the ideal time to launch this trailblazing initiative.”

She added: “I look forward to liaising closely with our new fellows throughout 2024 and wish them well in their roles.”

Jonathan Owen

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