The Policy Engine works with a network of policy active professionals across the institution, offering exemplars of influence and providing a repository of evidence to respond to the needs of policymakers.

This page provides examples of academic teams who are engaging in policy activities and responding to some of society's biggest challenges.


Assuring Autonomy International Programme (AAIP)

AAIP is funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the University of York. It was established in the field of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) to address the global challenges of Assurance and Regulation.

The programme is addressing core technical issues underlying the assurance of RAS through foundational research in York; funding industrial demonstrator projects; delivering training and education; and creating freely accessible guidance for developers, regulators and others to use to support the safety assurance of their autonomous system.

Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA)

ISA is based in a dedicated new building with specialist laboratories and testing facilities, and aims to find solutions to the global challenges in assuring the safety of robotics and connected autonomous systems. Its mission is to ensure that robotics, their software and their communications are safe. The team provides a world-leading ecosystem for research and innovation, education, public engagement and commercial realisation. Its Research Pillars are - Design and Verification; Assurance; Communications; and Society & Ethics. ISA is part of the Assuring Autonomy International Programme.

Bio-Yorkshire is led by the University of York, Askham Bryan College and Fera Science. The project harnesses scientific expertise to develop bio-based supplies of fuel, chemicals and materials. It also works with the region’s farmers and agricultural industries to drive innovation while enabling more productive and sustainable crop production and land use. The project also supports North Yorkshire's ambitions to become one of the first areas in the UK to be carbon negative.

The BioYorkshire Innovation & Skills Central comprises a suite of world-leading science infrastructure and training for bioeconomy entrepreneurs and innovators including - globally recognised research institutes; scale-up & demonstrator facilities; and skills & training centres.

Born in Bradford is an internationally-recognised research programme which aims to investigate what keeps families healthy and happy by tracking the lives of over 40,000 Bradfordians. Using findings to develop new and practical ways to work with families and health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing of communities.

BiB's mission is to conduct rigorous and applied health research that improves the health and wellbeing of families in Bradford and beyond.

Their research falls into three key areas:

- The Born in Bradford Study, tracking the health and wellbeing of over 13,500 children, and their parents born at Bradford Royal Infirmary between March 2007 and December 2010; 
- Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub which started recruiting in 2016 and aims to recruit 5000 families living in selected areas of Bradford to see the impact of early life interventions on the health and wellbeing of mothers and children; 
- Catalyst for change which uses the findings from the studies to develop a range of additional research projects which are evaluating and developing new interventions to improve health.

ESAY brings together the environmental sustainability community at York, creating a collaboration between research, teaching, policy, and campus operations. ESAY is made up of an interdisciplinary community of York researchers and local, national and global external partners, to develop and deliver solutions to the pressing challenges of environmental sustainability and planetary health. 

ESAY is also committed to creating sustainability leaders for the future, through inspirational research-informed teaching and generating new opportunities for students to work on ‘live’ environmental sustainability challenges. The campus becomes a living lab to test out theories, try solutions, and act as a springboard to scale up learning.

PREPARE is a partnership between the King’s Fund and the University of York, supporting policy making by providing fast, responsive analysis for the Department of Health and Social Care.

PREPARE aims to inform the development of health policy and conduct early evaluations of newly implemented changes. Evidence-based healthcare has focused mainly on patient-level clinical decisions, using randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews to inform clinical practice. These methods, although they provide ‘gold-standard’ evidence of effectiveness are not always feasible and appropriate to inform, develop or evaluate new policies or policy change. PREPARE provides expert advice and analysis using rigorous but appropriate methods to inform and evaluate policy.

The York REAL research unit will carry out research on the supply of health and social care, with the aim of shaping a more resilient and equitable health and care system through long-term, sustainable policymaking. The research unit will also work in collaboration with Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Scottish Policy and Research Exchange and Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York.

SEI York has a diverse research agenda including air pollution, climate change, sustainable consumption and human health. Using a range of participatory approaches, the intent of the Institute is to help policymakers in the UK and around the world make informed decisions for a sustainable future.

The Centre’s research falls into five categories - Air quality, climate & environmental change; Citizen science; Critical environmental governance; Environments, human health & wellbeing; and Sustainable consumption & production (SCP).

The Institute of Mental Health Research epitomises the determination at the University of York to bring together ambitious, enquiring academics and students with partners working at the forefront of mental health. The experiences and insights of the public inspire and are at the heart of its work.

The Institute embraces University staff, students, alumni, donors and affiliates, who have ‘mental health’ as a common ground in their work.

The Institute also brings together external partners and beneficiaries who have a vested interest in mental health, including the NHS and social care; education and academia; the justice system; the industry and business sector; charitable/voluntary organisations; communities and the general public.

YESI was set up by the University of York to facilitate and deliver interdisciplinary research in environmental sustainability at local, regional and global levels. YESI harnesses the talents of world class researchers to generate the evidence for sustainable solutions to global challenges, focusing on three key research themes - Food, Water & Waste; Resilient Ecosystems; and Health & Environment.

Arts and Humanities

The Centre's aim is to undertake research and support teaching through books and international conferences and the provision of cultural tools to enable students to engage with literature, history, art, architecture and music significantly influenced by Christian thought and spirituality. The books and interactive digital resources created by Christianity and Culture are now used worldwide in universities and schools and by a general audience.

Current activities include - Undertaking major research projects; working with heritage bodies, particularly historic churches & cathedrals to research & create innovative interpretation projects which engage a wide range of audiences; creation of research & teaching resources including books, digital resources & web-based material and coordination of an extensive network of leading scholars & teachers.

The Humanities Research Centre provides leadership and support for research, impact and knowledge exchange across the world-leading faculty for the Arts and Humanities at York.

It has a three-fold mission: to support and advocate research projects with reach and impact; to nurture productive and creative partnerships with academic and non-academic collaborators and to inspire, train and empower the arts and humanities postgraduate cohort to be the next generation of cultural leaders.

From 2020 to 2023 the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN) supported the growth of the TV, film and games industries in Yorkshire and the Humber. Led by the University of York in partnership with Screen Yorkshire and eight other Yorkshire universities, the initiative facilitated connections and provided training, development and research to individuals, businesses and universities in the region. The three-year programme of activity was underpinned by a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Take a look at the latest policy briefs from SIGN:

SIGN policy brief - Embedding EDI into research programmes (PDF , 802kb)

SIGN policy brief - Employability in the video games industry (PDF , 610kb)

SIGN policy brief - Creativity Unlocked? (PDF , 504kb)

SIGN policy brief - Screen Tourism (PDF , 1,052kb)

Streetlife is a project funded by the UK Government Community Renewal Fund. It explores new ways to revitalise and diversify York’s Coney Street, drawing inspiration from the city’s rich history and heritage and vibrant creative communities, and involving businesses, the general public, and other stakeholders in shaping the future of the high street.

The project is led by the University of York in partnership with the City of York Council (including Make It York/My City Centre), York Civic Trust, York Music Venues Network, and creative practitioners including Thin Ice Press. Current projects include -  innovative, immersive experiences combining digital & physical engagement in the StreetLife Hub, 29-31 Coney Street; and A series of collaborative workshops that will address the themes of public realm, connectivity, sustainability, adaptive reuse, diversity, equality & access, retaining and developing talent, & rebuilding creative infrastructure.

XR Stories supports research and development for companies working in cutting-edge digital technologies in the Yorkshire and Humber region through a programme of funding, research collaboration and connection. Working across film, TV, games, media arts, heritage, advertising and technology, XR Stories champion a new future in digital storytelling.

XR Stories is a £15M investment by AHRC, ERDF, the University of York, the British Film Institute and Screen Yorkshire.

Take a look at the latest policy briefs produced by XR Stories:

XR Stories policy brief - Virtual Production (PDF , 437kb)

XR Stories policy brief - Creative XR Tech Disruption (PDF , 1,297kb)

XR Stories policy brief - Universities and R&D for the Creative Industries (PDF , 627kb)

Centre for Applied Human Rights is an interdisciplinary research and teaching centre. It is a friendly community of scholars and visiting practitioners who have a shared focus on the real world challenges of putting human rights into practice and protecting human rights defenders at risk. A focus on human rights defending and defenders shapes all the Centre’s work.

The Centre is both genuinely interdisciplinary and committed to practice. The work of the Centre is international in breadth and draws on the University of York’s rich tradition of rigorous and engaged scholarship in the fields of development, post-war reconstruction, public policy, public health, disability rights, gender and women's rights, environmental issues, and refugee law. The Centre has particularly strong links to the Department of Politics and International Relations and York Law School.

Social Sciences

The Administrative Fairness Lab’s aims to make front line administrative processes fairer through research, engagement and building expertise. 

The Lab's priorities are:
a) Significant impacts - administrative processes that affect large amounts of people that impacts their everyday life and wellbeing.
b) Social disadvantage - administrative processes that particularly affect people in a position of social disadvantage.
c) New technologies - analysing administrative processes that seek to deploy AI, automation, and other new technologies.
d) UK systems - current work focuses on administrative fairness processes in the UK but international connections are being developed.
e) Complex policy challenges - Administrative fairness intersects with major policy challenges such as climate change and poverty. 
f) Fundamental insights - Developing and testing new insights into the fundamental nature of administrative fairness.

The Equal Parenting Project aims to improve the use of family friendly policies in the UK and encourage equality in the workplace. The project has undertaken a wide variety of engaged research around working parents, and particularly fathers. This body of work has included interviews, a national survey and focus groups with new parents to understand how they construct their roles as parents and how they understand and use the policies available to them. They have also recently conducted four national surveys to understand employees and managers experiences of working from home during COVID-19 and the impact on their future attitudes and intentions regarding flexible working.

The Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre aims to reshape how the police and other organisations work together in order to reduce harm among vulnerable people in society.

Its research is built on effective collaborations with police and those partner organisations, such as local authorities, charities and non-governmental organisations, to understand perspectives from a range of services and the people who use them, while gaining new insights through a variety of research methods.

This research allows understanding into how vulnerability develops in different areas and how organisations can work together to tackle problems such as exploitation by county lines drug networks, online child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, mental illness and homelessness.

Through this research, new, integrated approaches can drive positive change in the ways police and other services respond to these problems, benefitting vulnerable people and the organisations who work with them.

The Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre is jointly hosted by the University of York and the University of Leeds, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

FixOurFood is a research collaboration led by York, other partners include: Spark: York, The Food Foundation, Grow Yorkshire and the universities of Leeds, Cranfield, Oxford and the Centre for Food Policy at City University. FixOurFood is funded by UKRI and is part of the Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund programme. The collaboration aims to co-create a regenerative food system across Yorkshire, inspiring, envisioning and transforming practices to ensure healthy people and a healthy planet. This is being achieved by focussing on 3 key areas: Regenerative Farming practices, Sustainable and healthy food for children and hybrid business models. The aim is to influence policy and practice, so that in 5 years’ time Yorkshire will be rapidly transforming towards a regenerative food system.

The NIHR Policy Research Programme Reviews Facility supports the Department of Health and Social Care England (DHSC) to ensure that independent evidence supports the development and implementation of health policy through the NIHR Policy Research Unit (PRU).

NIHR Policy Research Unit - York is partner on two Research Policy Units (PRU) funded by NIHR PRU Economics of Health Systems and Interface with Social Care providing a long-term resource for policy research and a rapid response service to provide evidence for emerging policy needs. PRU in economic methods of evaluation in health and social care interventions provides evidence to make the best use of scarce resources, to maximise benefits.

Cost of Living Research Group

The Policy Engine is facilitating the University of York Cost of Living Research Group, bringing together expertise from across the University to focus on the drivers of the cost of living, and its impact on the wellbeing of people and communities.

Regional policy engagement

The York Policy Engine works in collaboration with partners across the Yorkshire region in order to enhance regional development policy and strategy by supporting new research networks, developing capacity and focusing on key regional challenges.

Find out more about our regional policy work

Experts database

Browse our full range of research projects and publications.

Browse our database of experts