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RESEARCH INFLUENCING POLICY

VIDEO INTRODUCTION – UCL PUBLIC POLICY AND UCL GRAND CHALLENGES

Robotics

Picture of Vijay Pawar

Dr Vijay Pawar is a Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science, working in the Virtual Environment and Computer Graphics group,  and project manager of the UCL TouchLab. His main  interests are in haptics and human machine interfaces. His current research trends include medical teleoperation and simulation systems; and robotic devices for micro and nano manipulation.

Vijay undertook a part-time secondment to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in early 2013. His main task was to support the establishment of a Special Interest Group (SIG) in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), to coordinate activity and stimulate growth of a new industrial RAS sector in the UK. 

Why were you interested in the UCL policy secondment scheme?

Having previously written grants to the TSB and EPSRC with mixed success, I was interested in the decision making process used to develop funding calls. The UCL policy secondment scheme provided me with this opportunity. It also gave me an insight to how Government allocates research funding, the terminology used and their stakeholders. By applying to the secondment scheme, my main motivation was to become more proficient in writing research grants. I also wanted to gain a better understanding of the impact agenda and how this is reflected within the Research Councils.

Where did you undertake your policy secondment?

I was based in the Research Funding Unit (RFU) at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). I was involved in setting up a Special Interest Group (SIG) in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS). By working with the Technology Strategy Broad, EPSRC, and ESP (Electronics, Sensors and Photonics) KTN, this was set up in response to a Ministerial roundtable chaired by David Willetts to help create a vision for the future by bringing together academia, business and Government 

What did you learn from your secondment?

 When developing the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Special Interest Group, I experienced the different motivations and relationships between Government, the Research Councils and wider industry stakeholders. In particular, I witnessed how the decision making process could be influenced. This provided insights to how researchers should work with the Research Councils, Government departments and industry to develop strategies for funding future research areas. 

What did you find most valuable?

 The contacts developed within the TSB and EPSRC with different portfolio managers. 

What surprised you most?

  • The pace of the decision making process
  • The high level of dedication given by civil servants to their priority research areas
  • The weekly donation of cakes to share

What do you think the benefits were to your host organisation?

  • I was able to provide direction to colleagues and further develop robotics research at UCL. 
  • Introduced colleagues at UCL to a range of contacts within industry and trade body groups. 
  •  Provide EPSRC with a clearer remit to the robotics activities at UCL. 
  •  Greater understanding of the research and wider impact context to then implement at UCL. 
  •  Connections to the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Special Interest Group and road mapping events that are used to define the terminology for the technology area. 
  • Outline potential opportunities that could benefit UCL by helping the Research Councils or Government departments such as BIS. 

How has the secondment changed the way you work?

Since coming back to research, I have been more involved in networking and road mapping activities related to the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Special Interest Group.  Further, my research has become more application focused aligned with the strategy being adopted by the RAS SIG. 

What would you say to other UCL researchers considering a policy secondment?

I would encourage any early stage researcher to consider a policy secondment. For me, it was an eye opener to the workings of research funding and the strategies used by different stakeholders to secure investment. Also, the array of contacts developed through my secondment will certainly help with my future research career. 

Further details about Vijay's placement

An unexpected benefit to UCL came when the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council launched a call for research infrastructure in three Government priority areas, including Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Thanks to his in depth appreciation of the drivers and context of the call, as well as his technical expertise, Dr Pawar was able to play a primary role in writing UCL's cross-Faculty response to the call. The grant, for c.£2.4M state-of-the art robotics equipment, was awarded to UCL in July 2013.

Page last modified on 05 nov 13 17:46