This commentary reflects on a series of strategic questions facing the energy and buildings research community and research funding bodies in the UK. These include the problems of research capacity and funding, the need to find a new balance between competition and cooperation between research groups, and a need for a renewed focus on the empirical performance of buildings. The authors argue that conventional distinctions between research, development and the deployment of technologies are inappropriate for the built environment. A wider range of approaches to research is needed to enable researchers to engage more effectively with stakeholders throughout the research, development, and deployment process, to reduce the distinction between research and knowledge transfer, and to reduce the length of learning cycles. Without such developments, there is a risk that the energy and buildings research community will be reduced to commenting on accelerating developments in the real world and, at the same time, an increased risk that the massive investments currently being envisaged in the refurbishment and decarbonization of the built environment will underperform.