Our grant-making in public policy focuses on the ongoing development of five activities – the Institute for Government; the Centre for Cities; the Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation Policy; the Policy Links unit; and the Babbage Policy Forum. Our support is based on a firm belief that pragmatic, non-partisan institutions can make a real and positive contribution to improving the quality of policy-making in various different areas.
Gatsby’s founder David Sainsbury was the UK’s Minister of Science and Innovation from July 1998 until November 2006. During his time in government he came to feel that politicians and civil servants' attempts to deliver change and best serve the public were being frustrated by outdated and inefficient processes surrounding government.
While some reform of this machinery was possible within government, David Sainsbury felt an independent organisation that examined issues and made objective recommendations would best keep such reform on the agenda on a continuing basis. The impartiality of this organisation would be critical to its success, so when the Institute for Government was founded in 2008 its board of governors included representatives from the three main political parties, as well as the civil service and business.
The Institute shares a philosophy with another think tank founded by David Sainsbury – the Centre for Cities (CfC), which looks to help Britain’s cities improve their economic performance.
Gatsby also supports the Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation Policy (CSTI), based at Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing. The Centre’s research projects are designed to explore what makes national innovation systems effective at translating new science and engineering ideas into technologies, industries and economic wealth. More recently, we also helped to establish the knowledge transfer unit Policy Links, which provides education and consulting services grounded in the latest academic research to address the needs of government officials and civil servants working in the fields of science, technology and innovation policy. Gatsby funding for the Babbage Policy Forum shares ideas, highlights new and emerging trends, and disseminates new findings relevant to policy-making in science, technology, innovation and manufacturing.
All these organisations aim to conduct quality research and assemble robust evidence bases, with a particular focus of looking beyond the UK to gather lessons from alternative models. All are aware of the importance of building a consensus. They focus on making recommendations that are first and foremost practical, measuring their success not on media coverage or plaudits, but on the basis of their recommendations being implemented and resulting in better performance.