1. The conservation of biodiversity depends upon both policy and regulatory frameworks. Here, we identify priority policy developments that would support conservation in the UK in the light of technological developments, changes in knowledge or environmental change. 2. A team of seven representatives from governmental organizations, 17 from non-governmental organizations and six academics provided an assessment of the priority issues. The representatives consulted widely and identified a long-list of 117 issues. 3. Following voting and discussion during a 2-day meeting, these were reduced to a final list of 25 issues and their potential policy options and research needs were identified. Many of the policies related to recent changes in approaches to conservation, such as increased interest in ecosystem services, adaptation to climate change and landscape ecology. 4. We anticipate that this paper will be useful for policy makers, nature conservation delivery agencies, the research community and conservation policy advocates. 5. Although many of the options have global significance, we suggest that other countries consider an equivalent exercise. We recommend that such an exercise be carried out in the UK at regular intervals, say every 5 years, to explore how biodiversity conservation can best be supported by linked policy development and research in a changing world. 6. Synthesis and applications. Opportunities for policy development were prioritized and for each of the top 25 we identified the current context, policy options and research questions. These largely addressed new issues relating to developing topics such as ecosystem services, landscape planning and nanotechnology. We envisage that this will largely be used by researchers wishing to make a contribution to potential policy debates.