Research and innovation has a significant role to play in addressing global development challenges – by improving our understanding of issues such as climate change, environmental degradation and sustainable food supply, and applying practical, evidence-based solutions.
Tackling such problems requires international cooperation and, with this in mind, the UK government established the Newton Fund in 2014 to strengthen collaboration, harness world-leading science, research and development in partner countries to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Newton Fund is part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance and run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It aims to promote the economic, sustainable development and social welfare of 18 Partner Countries through research and innovation.
As evaluators of the Newton Fund, our role was to determine whether the goal of the £735 million fund – to develop research and innovation partnerships that promote economic development and welfare in Partner Countries – is being delivered.
Our team delivered a six-year evaluation that provided evidence and lessons on whether the the fund has, or will, contribute to increases in economic development and welfare, and a reduction in poverty in Partner Countries.
We adopted a mixed method theory-based approach, applying case-based portfolio evaluation as the main analytical approach. We used range of evidence sources, including: 11 partner country case studies, 17 partner country end line assessments, a pilot value for money (VFM) assessment, a UK benefits study, a review of approaches to gender equality, a research quality review and an award holder survey.
Our work provided evidence on the effectiveness and emerging results of the fund. It also provides recommendations on fund processes, areas for improvement and good practice. Our insights and recommendations are informing how the fund could improve in any future fund cycle beyond 2021.
Our work during the final evaluation phase involved a review of the Newton Fund Theory of Change to improve its utility and relevance, and its readability as a communication tool. The now simplified and streamlined Theory of Change builds on the original design and additional consultations with key stakeholders conducted in early 2020 and was published by BEIS as part of their Operational Framework in August 2020. Our work on the theory of change was published on the Newton Fund website in 2020: Newton Fund’s theory of change: making it useful.
Our Review of Approaches to Gender Equality in the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund provided BEIS with insights into the fund-level approaches to gender equality and potential additional steps that could be taken to improve the overall approach. Our review can be read here: Approaches to gender equality in the Newton Fund and GCRF: thematic review