Reflecting on the success of Research England's UKRPIF scheme
5 July 2019
Earlier this week colleagues from Research England were lucky enough to attend a sneak preview of the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children, a newly completed research facility built upon a partnership between UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The Zayed Centre for Research is the latest in a long line of state-of-the-art higher education research facilities supported through Research England’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF). In fact, the centre was one of the first investments made through the fund when the fund was first established in 2012, alongside 11 other research facilities, in universities such as Liverpool, Nottingham, Surrey and Manchester.
Seven years on, after five funding rounds, £680m of public investment and £1.75bn of committed co-investment from over 150 non-public partners, it is clear to see the impact the scheme has had in supporting world-leading research across the UK.
43 specialist higher education research facilities are funded through UKRPIF and cover a diverse range of research disciplines, while supporting key sectors – from advanced manufacturing, rail, automotive and aerospace, to specialist medical research, drug discovery and social science.
And despite existing for longer than the government’s 2017 Industrial Strategy, the fund is a key contributor to its objectives – driving innovation to raise productivity, catalysing regional growth through targeted investment, and supporting the government’s ambitious target to raise total investment in UK R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
For people less familiar with the policy that underpins Research England and UK Research and Innovation’s mission, UKRPIF-funded facilities and the research they support tell a remarkable story, providing a snapshot of where UK research is now and where it is heading.
Central to that story are the people working within these facilities, and the world-leading research they do, including:
- Developing 2D materials into wearable ‘e-textiles’
- Developing drugs to combat neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease
- Research into new ways of capturing CO2 to reduce emissions
- Discovering experimental treatments for chronic lung disease
Although these centres of research excellence vary in focus and geographic location, they share important characteristics underpinned by the scheme’s core objectives.
Each facility is:
- Designed to support and build upon existing research excellence within a higher education institution
- Founded on strategic partnerships and collaborations between universities, companies and charities
- Supported by considerable financial commitments from those partners, as well as philanthropic donors, who, as a requirement of the fund, collectively invest at least double the amount of funding that UKRPIF does.
It is the partnerships and collaborations underpinning each facility that makes the UKRPIF scheme so unique, as a capital fund. The mixture of public and private investment coupled with the co-location of university, industry and charity researchers under one roof helps enable, not only new research innovation, but accelerates its practical application, translation and commercialisation.
Although the Zayed Centre for Research is not yet populated, the centre’s design and layout has been developed with partnership and collaboration at its very core, enabling the scientists, clinicians and patients who will share the space to work together to fight rare disease in children.
That collaborative approach to research is what UKRPIF facilities are founded on, and reflects the direction that UK research and innovation is heading, to the benefit of society, the economy and the world we live.