The University of Manchester

New £10 million hub for behavioural research

A new UK hub for behavioural research, which includes University of Manchester researchers,  has been funded to help tackle societal and economic challenges. 

Behavioural Research UK (BR-UK) is supported by a £10 million grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and will form the centrepiece of ESRC’s investment in behavioural research.

Understanding human behaviour and how it shapes organisations, communities and societies is fundamental to addressing current and future global challenges.

The five-year funding will support BR-UK to build a behavioural research community to address these challenges, driving interdisciplinary innovation.

From the Division of Medical Education at the University of Manchester, Professor Jo Hart will co-lead a work package on Capability Building. Professor Lucie Byrne-Davis will co-lead on the theme of Organisations, Markets and the Economy.

Professor Byrne-Davis said:

“Behavioural research has garnered an increasing profile since covid, but the study of behaviour is crucial not just for health but also finance, sustainability and many other challenges facing the world. This hub gives us the opportunity to bring together researchers across the UK, to make the most of our excellent behavioural research and researchers. It is exciting to be part of this ambitious attempt to improve our science and practice.”

Leading academics across a range of disciplines from eight universities – Edinburgh, UCL, Cardiff, Manchester, Oxford, Queens University Belfast, Sheffield and St Andrews – will join forces with partners from government, industry and charities.

These include the Scottish and Welsh Governments, government departments and agencies in Northern Ireland, and organisations covering transport, food security, health protection, communication, entrepreneurship and other areas.

Professor Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health at The University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and Chief Social Policy Advisor to the Scottish Government will co-lead the Hub along with Professor Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behavioural Change at University College London.

The collaboration will provide leadership to harness, connect and extend the UK’s existing capacity and capability in behavioural research, supporting the mobilisation of research into policy and practice.

BR-UK will support effective future policy-making, service delivery and innovation; including establishing a service to help research users draw on behavioural expertise to address challenges they face, including when environmental, political, health or social shocks occur.

The team have ambitious plans including setting up a fund to support exemplar projects to drive behavioural research advances.

BR-UK will be underpinned by community involvement, equity and social justice, with systems thinking and the importance of context at its core.

The award is part of a larger £18 million investment in behavioural research from the ESRC which will include development and training opportunities for academics and practitioners from a wide range of sectors.

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