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Dr Chris Dimos and policy engagement

Whether working with Government or regionally with Combined Authorities, Chris Dimos has significant experience engaging with policymakers.

Chris Dimos next to a graphic demonstrating his research and engagement activities
Dr Chris Dimos has been actively involved in policy engagement

Dr Chris Dimos is an Assistant Professor in the School of Management. He has been involved in policy engagement with a series of policymakers including the HM Treasury, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), Combined Authorities and Innovate UK among others.

Tell us about your research and expertise

"My research and expertise mainly lie in the intersection between innovation economics and management, regional development, and policy evaluation. My research takes place at the individual, organisational, or higher levels (such as agglomerations or regions). Besides academic papers, I have also published several policy reports in these areas as outcomes of my engagement with several policymakers such as the HM Treasury, the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT) and Innovate UK."

How is your research relevant to policymakers?

"My research is highly relevant to policy makers as it touches on topics that are highly important to them and have significant policy implications. For example, my research in the role of public funding for business R&D and innovation attracted the interest of Innovate UK as they were interested in better understanding the impact of their funding.

"This has led to a multifaceted collaboration with the organisation. Another strand of my research focuses on technological clusters — an area of increasing interest to DSIT. Indeed, DSIT has recently delivered significant work on innovation clusters and we are currently working together towards understanding the interplay between these clusters and productivity. Another area of my research that DSIT is particularly interested in is the complementarity between two key innovation policy instruments, namely R&D tax credits and R&D grants. Understanding the interplay between the two instruments will help towards designing a better policy mix."

For further information see: Areas of Research Interest (ARIs)

What approaches to starting an engagement have been the most successful?

"I think the most successful engagement occurs when there is a matching of interests and mutual benefit. If there are some research questions you are interested in as a researcher and the answers to these would be particularly interesting to a policymaker, then you tick the first box in initiating an engagement with the policy organisation.

"If you have already developed some expertise in the area, then you may tick another box. Networking is also key, so the organisation gets to know you and your work. If there is (immediate) need for the organisation to look into these questions you are also interested in, then you have very high chance in developing engagement.

"Often, one thing leads to another, and by getting involved in different projects and making new connections, more opportunities for stronger engagement will emerge. For example, my first collaboration with Innovate UK led to subsequent engagement with the organisation and its partners, such as the Innovation & Research Caucus."

Also see: Stakeholder mapping; National policy networks

How have you engaged with policy professionals with your research?

"I contributed to the publication of an HM Government report on understanding the value of public sector knowledge and innovation assets. This report, which was a result of my secondment to the HM Treasury, has since helped the Government to better identify and manage its knowledge assets.

"I have also published a report in collaboration with Innovate UK on understanding the returns of its investment in business R&D and innovation. In plain words, the research shed light in understanding the impact of Innovate UK’s funding both for recipient businesses and the wider economy. This has provided evidence on the importance of the role of Innovate UK.

"One of my most recent collaborations is with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). WECA are interested in understanding the R&D, innovation and productivity landscape in their area of jurisdiction, which, in turn, will help them to develop their regional economic strategy and their 'Plan for Innovation'. As local governments have recently gained more power in making decisions on affairs relating to innovation, they have naturally become more interested in the drivers of and barriers to R&D and innovation. To date, we have published an IPR report on productivity, R&D, and innovation in the West of England with more work to follow.

"My policy fellowship at DSIT is expected to yield important insights on various fronts too. Currently I am working on areas relating to innovation clusters, researchers in public and private settings, R&D tax credits and direct R&D funding, both at regional and national level."

Also see: Academic policy fellowships and placements; Devolved, regional and local Government and policy engagement

What have you learnt about the process of policy engagement?

"The most important and difficult part of the process is the beginning. Making a start can be hard as a lot of things need to come together to kickstart some sort of engagement. But once you have started engaging with policy actors you gain invaluable experience and expertise that will help you in starting more and even better policy engagement. Throughout the process, what pays off is adaptability, perseverance in addressing challenges and remaining vigilant about new opportunities.

"Someone must also bear in mind some fundamental differences in research taking place in academia and in policy settings. For example, academics, unsurprisingly, tend to focus more on the academic side in answering research questions, develop theory and contribute to the literature itself, whereas policymakers naturally don’t place as much emphasis on this. They are more interested in practical solutions and relatively quick answers to contemporaneous issues they are facing.

"I’ve learnt that while policymakers would like to have some academic rigour in their research, they quite like their work, including reports and policy briefs, to be translated into a form which is more accessible to them and the wider public. So, it is important to present your research in a way which is easily digestible, specific and practical."

Also see: What is policy engagement?; Communicating research for policy audiences; IPR Policy Fellowship Programme

What advice would you give others?

  1. Start internally. Get in touch with the IPR and work with the University’s Engagement Team as they can give guidance and facilitate your engagement with policymakers.
  2. Look for schemes that are out there already to engage your research with policymakers, such as the UKRI Policy Fellowships. There are also opportunities provided by the Parliament and the Royal Society.
  3. Networking is vital, especially with policy organisations that you believe are the most relevant to you and your research.
  4. Do stuff your own way. Do not hesitate to take the lead and do not get overly discouraged by the views of others. Sometimes you may see things others cannot and vice-versa.
‘Often, one thing leads to another and by getting involved in different projects and making new connections, more opportunities for stronger engagement will emerge.’
Dr Chris Dimos School of Management

Find out more about the Bath Policy Engagement Academy

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Get in touch with the IPR if you would like help and support with policy engagement.