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The Centre for Science and Policy

Energy is at the centre of many of the most challenging policy questions facing government and industry today – particularly in the areas of energy security, supply-side regulation, and global sustainability.  The Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) – the University’s unique initiative to build connections between researchers and policy professionals in government and industry – has a particular focus on these issues as part of its Global Resources and Sustainability theme, and other themes relating to behaviour, emerging technologies, infrastructure and innovation.

CSaP is a networking organisation, designed to connect researchers in the sciences and engineering with policy makers in such a way that insights from science and technology help create the best public policy. Specialising in three core areas - Knowledge Exchange, Professional Development and Research - CSaP’s vision is to provide mechanisms for translating scientific thinking into robust policy:

  • Knowledge Exchange: building longstanding relationships and bringing about behavioural and culture change, CSaP provides an interface between government, academia and industry bodies.
  • Professional Development: helping to develop the future generation of scientists and policy makers, armed with an understanding of both worlds and of the constraints under which each of them operates.
  • Research into Science and Policy: investigating the processes by which expertise informs policy making, CSaP undertakes its own research to study the landscape and connections between public policy and scientific research.

The Centre’s recent work in Energy has involved all of its major programmes of work: Policy Fellowships Programmes; its Policy Workshops; and, its Professional Development Seminars. In undertaking its programmes in this area, CSaP works with the University’s experts across all the relevant disciplines, including engineering for sustainable development, chemistry, physics, climate science, policy modelling and the EPRG.  The connections with researchers are well summed up by Doug Crawford-Brown of the Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, who commented: “We have a mandate to bring our work to the attention of key policy makers so they’re better informed of the evidence.  CSaP has emerged as the primary avenue for this engagement, allowing us to get our findings in front of significant actors, and to tailor our research to meet the needs of organisations that set and are governed by policies.  The Centre frees us from needing to scout out those we seek to inform, giving us more time to focus on the research itself.

Policy Fellowships Programme

Policy Workshops

Professional Development Seminar

As part of its Policy Fellowships Programme, which brings policy makers to Cambridge for bespoke one-on-one meetings with leading researchers across all disciplines, it has elected three Policy Fellows from the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and others from the energy industry:

  • Ross Gribbin, Deputy Director, Strategy Directorate, whose visits as a Policy Fellow have covered issues as diverse as public engagement in climate science, innovation relevant to climate change, and investment  decision-making in regulated markets
  • Liz Owen, Head of Customer Insight, whose discussions with researchers have related to how individuals and companies make decisions about energy use and efficiency; how smart meters affect behaviour, and more broadly what models other than economic rationality can be used to predict behaviour; and what factors influence the public acceptability of new technology
  • Phil Wynn Owen, Director General for International Climate Change & Energy Efficiency, whose interests lie in understanding the relevance and impact of the latest research in business economics, climate change economics and behavioural economics
  • Gordon McGregor, Energy and Environment Director, Scottish Power, whose focus relates to technology adoption, financial incentives for innovation, security of investment, and the coherence of EU energy policy
  • Bob Sorrell, VP for Technology, BP, whose discussions with researchers have centred around consumer perception and behaviour, both in energy and other markets, and how risk can be understood and modelled in energy systems modelling.

DECC has now built the Policy Fellowships into its Professional Development Programme for Senior Civil Servants, and the Centre expects to elect around three new Fellows each year.  Policy Fellows from elsewhere in government and industry have also drawn on the University’s expertise in energy: for instance, Rohan Silva (Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister, Number 10 Policy Unit), who comments:

“these discussions have had a direct impact on my policy work – for example, insights from the team at the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory were fed directly into our work on the multi-billion pound smart meter rollout programme.”

The Centre has also run a number of  Policy Workshops on energy-related issues.  For example, it hosted the Renewable Energy and International Law (REIL) network’s 2011 roundtable on climate change and clean energy, focussing on solutions to climate change that protect water, food and energy security, and the challenges of implementing renewable energy solutions in developing countries.  The Centre also worked with DECC to run a Policy Workshop on behaviour and energy efficiency, designed to challenge existing thinking and kick-start a process of dialogue.  This event provides an excellent example of the impact of this kind of event; it led directly to a programme of research within government and the rolling out of a learning and development module throughout the Department.  The initial workshop was credited by the policy makers with a critical role in raising awareness on the importance of behaviour, and its consequences can also be seen in the form of a toolkit for making practical use of behavioural theories in policy making.

Energy policy has also been a significant focus within the Centre’s Professional Development Seminar series, particularly in the engineering area.  Following one such seminar, one of the Centre’s Junior Associate Fellows was invited to take a placement within the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team, supporting the development of Green Deal incentive trials through research investigating the link between household perspectives towards energy consumption and energy efficiency technology adoption.

For further details please contact the Centre for Science and Policy at or by phone on +44 (0)1223 768392.