Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE)

CAPE is a knowledge exchange and research project that explores how to support effective and sustained engagement between academics and policy professionals across the higher education sector.

CAPE is a partnership between UCL and the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Northumbria and Nottingham, in collaboration with the Government Office for Science, the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, Nesta and the Transforming Evidence Hub. CAPE is funded by Research England. 

CAPE logo. Black text on a white background saying: CAPE Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement


Four symbols with text above saying: fellowships; seed funding; knowledge exchange; training.

What's involved?  

At the Institute for Policy and Engagement, we oversee a number of projects that run or started through CAPE, feeding this activity into CAPE’s evaluation and learning workstreams. These projects sit within different mechanisms of engagement. We've outlined a few of the key areas for these below. 

Note for UoN staff: there are currently no calls open for funding through this project; however, future opportunities may arise, as well as the production of resources to support policy engagement. Subscribe to the CAPE newsletter to stay up to date.



CAPE policy fellowships

This is a programme of bespoke expert meetings between policy professionals and university staff, tailored to policy interests, promoting the use of evidence in policy and fostering relationships between sectors. 

The CAPE Fellowship is a flexible professional development programme which offers access to leading researchers across a range of disciplines at the five CAPE partner universities. The fellowships offer a chance to pose policy questions to be matched with academic researchers able to provide input and to develop a network of academic experts. Previous fellows come from a wide range of professional policy backgrounds, including those working in central government, local government and the civil society sector in the UK. 

So far, through this scheme, over 70 members of staff from UoN have been connected with policy professionals.


CAPE charity fellowships

Our team were interested to explore how academic-policy engagement could integrate the charity sector (which plays a large role in policy impact). We piloted a fellowship scheme that placed academics within charities, working on policy-facing projects. These supported the needs of the host organisation in accessing expertise, while allowing the fellow to develop skills and experience in an organisation outside of their usual setting. In addition, they allow for sustained engagement over a long period of time (often 3-6 months or longer), which aligns well with long term charity activity, such as campaigning.

Four of these fellowships ran in 2023, working with charities in education, health, economic and rural development sectors, impacting policy at different levels, including local authorities and parliamentarians.

Dr Tim Hutchings, one of the CAPE Fellows, meeting with local MP Lillian Greenwood as part of his project with the Religious Education Council for England and Wales.
Dr Tim Hutchings, one of the CAPE Fellows, meeting with local MP Alex Norris as part of his project with the Religious Education Council for England and Wales.
Dr Tim Hutchings, one of the CAPE Fellows, meeting with local MP Lillian Greenwood as part of his project with the Religious Education Council for England and Wales.


CAPE policy impact projects

 CAPE funded a number of projects intended to achieve but also test our understanding of policy impact. These projects fell into two main categories, outlined below: 

  • Collaboration projects: The purpose of this stream is to embed co-production in a project between a researcher and policy organisation, ensuring current policy needs are met, while building relationships between professionals in academic and policy sectors. An open call across CAPE universities for collaborative policy projects has so far resulted in the successful awarding of two projects at the University of Nottingham.
  • Challenge fund: This funding stream allows policy organisations to present a ‘policy challenge’, to which academics can apply with their proposed approach to meeting the challenge. Through this fund, we awarded a project to a researcher who effectively met data analysis needs for the Ministry of Justice.


CAPE policy impact development programmes

CAPE also funded the development of two academic programmes at the University of Nottingham. The Policy Impact Pathways Programme (PIPP) and Policy Impact Accelerator Programme (PIAP) provide access to individualised training and support to develop academics' skills, knowledge and experience in order to achieve policy impact or civic engagement with their research. 

The 2022/23 programme supported a cohort of ten academics from across the University. 

These programmes are only open to University of Nottingham researchers. Find out more via our SharePoint site

Picture of ten smiling people with the London skyline behind.