New types of scientific institutions are needed to accelerate and unlock research progress and enable startups in critical technical fields like energy, medicine, and biosecurity.
This new report, co-published with the Entrepreneurs Network and Convergent Research, sets out an emerging institutional model for scientific research – Focused Research Organisations (FROs).
FROs undertake projects that are:
too big for a single academic lab to do,
too complex for a loose, multi-lab collaboration,
and not directly profitable enough for a venture-backed startup or industrial R&D project.
Key features of FROs are:
They are run by full-time technical founders who oversee 10-30 employees
They pursue specific, quantifiable technical milestones rather than doing blue-sky research
They are finite-duration (5-7 years) efforts
As they near completion, they translate what they have built into venture-backed startup spinouts and/or longer-lived nonprofits
The UK has unique opportunities to leverage the FRO model in biomedicine and net-zero carbon technologies. This is thanks to research infrastructure like the UK Biobank and NHS data sharing programmes; ambitious, innovation-oriented programmes such as the Net Zero plan and ARIA; and research translation and technology dissemination mechanisms such as the Catapult Network and NHS Transformation Directorate.