By Katie Nicoll Baines, FLFDN Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager and Cheryl Hewer, UKRI Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead

At the 2021 FLF Annual Conference, the FLF Development Network collaborated with colleagues at UKRI to hold sessions to understand how to conceptualise inclusive research and innovation design and how this relates to the work you do. We built on those initial sessions by co-chairing an energetic roundtable discussion in November 2021 with the aim of exploring with you, our future leaders, what good inclusive research and innovation design looks like. We set out in our previous blog that when research and innovation is truly reflective of the diversity of the population as a whole, the credibility and relevance of that research and innovation is enhanced for all. This is also at the heart of UKRI’s vision for a research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit and supported through UKRI’s four principles for change: diversity, connectivity, engagement, and resilience.

Through these early insightful discussions with you, a set of key themes emerged. One most notable was the recognition of time: time to be curious, ask questions and fully explore the necessary elements to make your research and innovation activities inclusive. Time to create and convene inclusive spaces and dialogue with diverse communities and the public to enable the building of strong, effective relationships. As well as the time to understand and translate that into the design and delivery of an inclusive research and innovation project.

Further themes focussed around the who, what, where, why and when. For example, where might there already be support or existing good practice? How can I learn from this and from others? Who might be role models?  What do I need to effectively support a diverse and inclusive research team?

We are really excited that FLFs are contributing to improving inclusive research and innovation design through a variety of projects supported by the Plus Funds.  The projects are using different approaches, exploring more inclusive practices across different disciplines. For example:

Looking beyond the FLFs, over the course of the past year alone there continues to be a strong momentum for developing and improving inclusive practices and design, both nationally and internationally. This includes a framework for sex, gender, and diversity analysis in research, recently published in Science, which collected emerging global practices to understand and improve efforts to enhance international collaborations and research excellence. Publishers and other funders are also setting out commitments. For example,  Springer Nature with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in research publishing and the Wellcome Trust have also set out in their Strategy goals for all Wellcome funded research to be inclusive in both design and practice by 2031.

There are various activities underway across UKRI contributing to advancing inclusive research and innovation design. These are informed and shaped by close collaborations with various communities and include:

  • EPSRC have introduced expectations to help the engineering and physical sciences community to identify and address the specific EDI barriers in their own environment.
  • Following close working with their community through a survey, working groups and workshops, MRC introduced new requirements expecting applicants to use both sexes of animals, tissues and cells by default and applicants should provide justification for single sex studies. Further work on human participation is also progressing.
  • Within innovation, Innovate UK is working with the KTN to develop a programme on Inclusive Innovation which includes funding for ‘inclusive innovation’ awards and longer-term work to develop a toolkit.
  • Additionally, AHRC established the Creative Communities programme aiming to capture the explosion of collaboration and connectivity to unlock the potential of arts and culture post-COVID

As we see the needle shifting and approaches to research and innovation design become more inclusive, we want to continue to shape policies and practice informed by, and which support the work of our aspiring future leaders. Building on the valuable insights and discussions with you previously, we are excited to hold a second round- table on 2nd May . The focus will be ‘policy into practice’ with UKRI and Wellcome Trust sharing their latest policy work. You will also hear from the UKRI Public Engagement team following the recent publication of the UKRI Public Engagement Strategy about various programmes across UKRI that are supporting sustainable community involvement in research and innovation and how this contributes to inclusive research and innovation design.  Please sign up HERE.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By: Sara Shinton, Katie Nicoll Baines & Cheryl Hewer

We’re looking forward to joining you for the UKRI’s FLF Annual Conference in a few weeks and hope that many of you will opt to attend our session on Embedding Diversity in Inclusive Research and Innovation Design. The aim of the session is to explore what inclusive research is and understand what you need to inform the development of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)/FLFDN Roundtable on Thursday 25th November and ensure that you have the right support to fully engage.

Inclusive Research and Innovation Design is at the heart of UKRI’s vision, which sets out an ambition for a research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit. For this to happen, we need to create inclusive and safe environments where the quality and integrity of research and innovation is not compromised. Research benefits from involving people from outside the research community in a process of shared learning and discovery. This may happen in a variety of ways – co-production, collaboration or participant and public involvement. But the evidence[1] is overwhelming in that a diversity of people, ideas and knowledge enables a healthier culture, which in turn can result in research and innovation that has the widest benefit. When research and innovation is truly reflective of the diversity of the population as a whole, the credibility and relevance of that research and innovation is enhanced for all.

Some of you will already be familiar that this is part of a global movement particularly noting the introduction of Gender Equality Statement that forms part of applications for International Development Funding. (Whatever your level of familiarity, you might find the Gender Sensitive Research toolkit from Gender.Ed, an interdisciplinary hub focused on gender and sexuality studies, useful).

Additionally, teams focus on different aspects, including across UKRI where we are starting to pilot and embed diversity in research and innovation for example, through including equality questions in the application process for Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and other large programmes. However, we want to explore embedding diversity in all aspects of research and innovation and what this means at each stage, right from the early concept of ideas to who is able to participate, and who benefits (see diagram below).To embed EDI principles, all aspects of research and innovation must be inclusive. From its concept and planning, to the design of the questions, value and participation of people, to fundamentally thinking about the data, literature and methods. We would encourage early thinking – is it inclusive? Does it consider who may be impacted? Will it be representative of all parts of society or am I limiting who can participate and benefit? This also extends to considering the composition of the research team – is it diverse and does it represent the people in which should benefit from its impacts? Would you know how to start a conversation or how to navigate potential biases? These questions may at first be quite daunting or for some disciplines, feel irrelevant altogether. However, this is not about being proscriptive, we want to work with the FLF+ community as a key co-design partner in this work to ensure this feels relevant and generative.

Building on the work internationally through the Gender Equality Statements, there is a need to continuously build practical tools and experiment with this in practice. We have created an opportunity to explore and discuss how we can better support you and embed inclusive research and innovation design, as well as understand what this means to you and your work. We are therefore inviting you as our future leaders, to help shape this next phase of work and help conceptualise and shape what good inclusive design might look like.

We hope that you will want to learn more about Embedding Diversity in Inclusive Research and Innovation Design, particularly if you have never considered this in your own work and aren’t sure how it relates to you. To help as many FLFs as possible be fully involved in this process, we’re putting in place a short, flexible programme of webinars and drop-in sessions in the few next month to help you come to the roundtable with an understanding of the concepts and how they are applied.

Following the session at the UKRI FLF Annual Conference there will a drop-in coffee morning on October 28th at 10am. This will be an informal chance to learn more about UKRI’s plans and what’s ahead.

In November, we’ll be sharing a short series of webinars with researchers and innovations from a range of fields, talking about their inclusive design approaches and their impacts.

On November 25th from 10am – 1pm we’ll be running the Roundtable where you can help UKRI understand the support you will need and the contributions you can make to this process.

After the Roundtable, we expect some of you to want to continue your conversations and will support you in setting up a network to keep these going. We will also encourage you to think about using the Plus Funds to develop these ideas.

This partnership illustrates the distinctive approach of the FLFDN. In addition to the mentoring, training, coaching and individual support the network offers, we are working with partners in the research and innovation community to create opportunities for FLFs to shape our sector. The conversations with Cheryl and her team at UKRI are part of a wider set of discussions which are going to generate similar opportunities. If there are any opportunities you would like the network to explore and broker (with funders, industry, policy or other partners), just let Bridget know by emailing

[1] Why diversity helps to produce stronger research (