Newton Fund

The Newton Fund is an ODA-funded intergovernmental research and innovation partnership fund under the responsibility of BEIS with a budget of £735 million until 2021.

Background

The Newton Fund was launched in April 2014 to promote the economic development and welfare of partner countries by increasing their science and innovation capacity, and unlocking further funding to support poverty alleviation. It has active partnerships with government counterparts in 17 middle-income countries. All of the partner countries are on the OECD DAC list of ODA-eligible countries, except for Chile, which graduated from the list on 1 January 2018 and whose Newton Fund partnership is currently under review.

The Newton Fund is an example of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending with a dual purpose. It aims both to contribute to poverty reduction (its primary purpose) and to pursue the UK national interest – in this case to strengthen UK ties with Newton partner countries, promote UK science and innovation institutions as global leaders in development research and unlock wider opportunities for collaboration and trade (the Fund’s secondary purpose).

The purpose of this review is to assess how well the Newton Fund is delivering on its ambition “to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries”. It will also explore how the Newton Fund’s dual purposes are pursued in tandem and how the secondary purpose aligns with the primary one.

Scope

Given its scale, maturity and strategic importance, we have decided to conduct a performance review of the Newton Fund. The review will cover Newton Fund activities since its inception in 2014. It will examine the Fund’s operations in a sample of countries, assessing whether it has appropriate governance and management arrangements to ensure effectiveness and value for money. As it can take time for investments in science and innovation to lead to development outcomes, we will explore the likelihood of the Fund achieving its intended development results.

This is one of a series of ICAI reviews of aid spent by departments other than the Department for International Development (DFID), undertaken to ensure robust scrutiny of  non-DFID aid instruments, and follows on from a September 2017 rapid review of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). It will also compliment an ongoing independent evaluation of the Fund, commissioned by BEIS, which will focus primarily on the grant level, assessing the impact of individual research and innovation projects in the Newton partner countries. This review will focus primarily on the strategic level of the Fund and on the quality of country partnerships at the inter-governmental and delivery partner levels.

Review questions

  • How well do the Newton Fund’s portfolio and approach support its strategic aims?
  • How well does the Newton Fund build partnerships for achieving development results?
  • How well does the Newton Fund learn and adapt?

Approach paper

For more information read the full approach paper:

ICAI approach paper – performance review of the Newton Fund