Mark Walport, who is to head up the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) organization next year, tells Nature News that his goal is to "provide a single voice for science, research and innovation" in Britain.
The formation of UKRI has been spurred by a 2015 report from Paul Nurse, the director of the Francis Crick Institute, that reviewed the UK funding system and called for the integration of the UK's seven research councils, Innovate UK, and parts of the Higher Education Funding Council for England under one roof. As Nature News notes, the concept was immediately controversial. The University of Cambridge's Martin Rees, a former Royal Society president, said when it was announced that the change would "do more harm than good."
UKRI is contained within the Higher Education and Research Bill that is expected to pass Parliament this year.
Walport, who is currently chief scientific advisor to the UK government, tells Nature News that the resulting organization won't be monolithic with policy coming down from on high. "It's really about making the whole greater than the sum of the parts," he says.
He adds that, in light of Brexit, UKRI might be even more important as it would give UK science a "collective and stronger voice."