RCUK was established in 2002 to facilitate and enable the Research Councils to work together more effectively following the Quinquennial Review (QQR) of the Grant Awarding Research Councils and that of the Councils for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC).
The 2001 QQR concluded that the Research Council system was working well, that there was real strength in diversity from having separate Councils and that Councils had made good progress in working together in many areas. The QQR also identified the need to embed a culture of collective responsibility and collaboration within the Councils to enable them to increase their influence on national and international strategy and policy development, to work with their stakeholders more in a collegiate fashion and to "apply the principles of public service delivery" in all of their services. The creation of the RCUK partnership was recommended as the primary vehicle for achieving these outcomes.
RCUK was launched by Patricia Hewitt MP, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, on 1 May 2002. As recommended in the QQR, an RCUK Strategy Group (RCUKSG), comprising the Chief Executives and the Director General of Research Councils (DGRC), was established to lead the RCUK partnership.