Research England invests £67 million in collaborative projects to drive university commercialisation

Research England invests £67 million in collaborative projects to drive university commercialisation

10 April 2018

Research England has invested £67 million in 14 collaborative projects between universities and with other partners to drive forward world-class university commercialisation across the country. 

The fourteen successful bids, funded under Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund (CCF), will:

In the North of England:

  • build the bioeconomy sector across Yorkshire, Humberside and Teesside through a collaboration led by University of York
  • through a project led by the University of Leeds, strengthen the medical technologies cluster in West and South Yorkshire
  • and deliver a step change in the contribution of research commercialisation to the North East’s priority technology sectors, through a collaboration led by Durham University.

In London:

  • strengthen the city as a world centre of commercialisation in medical technologies through a consortium led by King’s College London focussed on advanced therapies
  • and another on med-tech led by Imperial College to translate med-tech discoveries into clinical practice and use 
  • and draw on the strengths of London’s specialist HE institutes in a project led by the Royal Veterinary College, to counter infectious diseases and resistance to antimicrobials through portable devices.

In the Midlands:

  • support development of the largest UK formal technology transfer office collaboration to increase impacts on the area, through the Midlands Innovation alliance led by the University of Birmingham.

In the South West:

  • build a creative technology network through a project led by the University of the West of England 

In the East of England:

  • develop an agri-tech cluster partnership led by the University of Cambridge

Build UK-wide:

  • technology networks in the space sector, led by University of Leicester
  • and in green/clean technologies led by University of Brighton
  • and exploit the national commercialisation potential of social scientists through an entrepreneurship platform led by London School of Economics
  • and of the university design community through a new vehicle led by De Montfort University
  • and utilise multi-disciplinary research strengths across the country to use Internet of Things technologies more effectively for delivery of the Industrial Strategy, through a collaboration led by the University of Sheffield.

Three of these projects were announced by the Secretary of State, Greg Clarke, during a visit to Newcastle and Durham on 29 March 2018.  

This follows announcement of four winning CCF projects in October 2017, and completes allocation of the £100 million provided by the Government to support universities to help deliver the Industrial Strategy.

Overall these projects involve 54 higher education institutions collaborating with each other and directly with more than 120 individual businesses and investors, as well as wider business and investor networks. More than 12 different local enterprise partnerships will benefit specifically.

The projects are attracting over £322 million of additional investment from universities, businesses, investors and other partners.

With five Catapults and some Research Councils involved, the projects also build on partnership working across many of the organisations that make up UK Research and Innovation.

The CCF was first announced by Government at Autumn Statement 2016 (as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund).

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: 

“Britain is famous for its innovations. From the humble toothbrush to hip replacements, the ATM to the World Wide Web – these inventions have had a huge impact on our daily lives. Up and down the UK, some of the brightest and best talent are undertaking research which can deliver extraordinary innovations that will transform our society for the better. 
“Through the Industrial Strategy, Grand Challenges and the funding announced today, we are helping turn innovative new ideas into products and services which could help change our lives and keep the UK as a world leader in developing the products of tomorrow.”

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said:

“These projects demonstrate the commitment of universities to work together to strengthen the R&D and technological capabilities of the UK, building upon our successful Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF). In the Industrial Strategy, the Government asked us to improve our ability to turn exciting ideas into commercial products and services. Universities have stepped forward in these projects to show that they can do world-class commercialisation, alongside world-class science. 

“I believe these projects present important innovations that should inform our strategic approach to commercialisation in UK Research and Innovation for the future.” 

Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, and Chair of the CCF steering group, said:

“The new projects show the extraordinary potential of universities to deliver not only national but regional and local value. Universities are unique in having the reach to support technological and commercial development right across the UK’s industrial base. They are also deeply embedded in their local economies and communities, but with international networks to draw in talent, partners and investment. 

“The Connecting Capability Fund is a great showcase of how higher education can change the prospects of communities and places.”

The Connecting Capability Fund supports universities in working together, and with businesses and other partners, to commercialise research and share good practice and capacity. The Fund is highlighted in the Government’s Industrial Strategy and will help achieve its aims of enhancing UK industrial competitiveness and productivity. It builds on established processes and success of Research England’s HEIF programme.


  1. CCF funding of £100 million was allocated from 2017-18 for four years from the science and research budget to the then Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). From 1 April 2018, CCF has become the responsibility of Research England in UK Research and Innovation. In 2017-18 HEFCE allocated £15 million from the Connecting Capability Fund through a formula linked with main HEIF allocations. Following this a further £85 million is supporting competitive projects, managed by Research England. The total allocated for CCF projects includes an additional £1.4 million from the Research England HEIF programme which has enabled 18 CCF projects in total to be supported. Further information.
  2. The fourteen successful CCF awards being announced today are: 
    Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA)
    • Lead HEI: University of Birmingham
    • HE partners: Aston University, Cranfield University, Keele University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, University of Nottingham and University of Warwick
    • CCF award: £4,990,000
    • Will establish the UK’s largest, formal technology transfer office collaboration, across the eight Midlands Innovation (MI) alliance universities.  Will provide a shared knowledge exchange network and ‘gateway’ to the MI alliance’s collective intellectual property (IP) resources, develop the alliance’s entrepreneurial academic capacity, showcase the MI’s collective IP to business and investors and drive a connected Midlands incubator and accelerator ecosystem. Aims to create a joint pipeline of scalable investment opportunities that will attract major private investment funding and increase the number of Midlands spin out jobs generated from research investment.
    Connecting Innovation for Clean Growth
    • Lead: University of Brighton
    • HEI Partners: Universities of Portsmouth and Liverpool John Moores
    • CCF Award: £3,500,000
    • Will create a National Clean Growth Innovation Network, founded by initially uniting the significant experience of 3 successful university-led regional cleantech networks led by HEI partners, and then extending across the country and HE sector. The network will link university expertise to SME innovators and connect them to large public and private sector organisations via challenge led innovation events and demonstration projects.
    The Ceres Agritech Knowledge Exchange Partnership
    • Lead HEI: University of Cambridge
    • HEI partners: Universities of East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Lincoln and Reading
    • CCF award: £4,781,000
    • Will create a new cluster supporting growth, productivity and innovation across the agri-food supply chain in the East of England. Revolutionise uptake of early-stage agri-tech opportunities, pooling both KE expertise and technology capabilities across leading HEIs, research institutions and industry. Provision of translational funding to projects co-created with industry to accelerate impact delivery across the agri-tech domain. Aims to catalyse the translation of agri-tech opportunities, building on successful and sustainable models in other technology sectors.
    Impacting Business by Design
    • Lead HEI: De Montfort University
    • HEI partners: Brunel University London, Nottingham Trent University
    • CCF award: £4,648,000
    • Will address SMEs’ needs for responsive and holistic support for design innovation to enable the successful development and commercialisation of new products. With a new specialist trading body, the university-industry association consortium will improve the matching of consultancy and financing needs from an ever-expanding range of specialist sources, business issues, forging new business-relationships with actors from our network, and nurturing new design innovation skills, culture and systems.
    The Northern Accelerator – Integrating Capabilities in the North East
    • Lead HEI: Durham University
    • HE partners: Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland
    • CCF award: £4,933,767
    • In a local innovation ecosystem which has yet to reach its potential and has a high dependence on HEI research, the four North East Universities aim to deliver a step change in commercialising research to deliver economic impact in support of the North East priority technology/industrial sectors. The Northern Accelerator will enhance the network of entrepreneurs embedded in early stage spin-out formation, enhance academic commercialisation aspirations though an ideas impact hub, deliver proof of concept support and establish a seed capital investment fund. This integrated approach aims to provide the commercial pipeline to feed into, and de-risk, the establishment of a legacy NE Universities Investment Fund.
    MedTech SuperConnector
    • Led by Imperial College London
    • HEI Partners: Buckinghamshire New university, The Francis Crick Institute, Institute of Cancer Research, Queen Mary University of London, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, Royal Veterinary College
    • CCF award: £4,947,000
    • An open experiment in acceleration, bringing together talented early career researchers (ECRs), academic discoveries and pooled know-how from 8 academic institutions with 3 bioscience incubators, industry expertise, NHS patients and enabling partners (investors, service providers, designers etc.) to determine the most effective methods for translation of Medtech discoveries into clinical practice and consumer use.
    Grow Med-Tech: Collaborating for a Competitive Future
    • Lead HEI:  University of Leeds
    • HEI partners: Universities of Bradford, Huddersfield and York, Leeds Beckett University and Sheffield Hallam University
    • CCF award: £4,995,000
    • Focusing on technology convergence and the de-risking of technologies, Grow Med-Tech will bring together leading technology and translational expertise in the Leeds and Sheffield city regions in a patient-focussed and commercially-driven innovation system. It will enhance productivity and economic growth in the UK medical technology sector, while addressing the evolving health needs of the population.
    SPRINT - SPace Research & Innovation Network for Technology
    • Lead HEI: University of Leicester
    • HEI partners: Open University and Universities of Surrey, Edinburgh and Southampton
    • CCF award: £4,796,000
    • A space sector focused SME high growth programme, engaging 400 businesses and supporting 150 over 3 years and delivering GVA and jobs in support of the UK Space Sector Growth Strategy. Will allow SMEs to access the HE knowledge Base, interact with other support structures such as the Satellite Applications Catapult, regional SME growth projects and facilitate commercial deal flow to investors - optimising the scale up of businesses who are enabled by space data and technology. 
    A Social sciences Platform for Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Transformation (ASPECT)
    • Led by London School of Economics and Political Science
    • HEI partners: Universities of Manchester and Sussex
    • CCF award: £5,000,000
    • Will develop, implement and scale up a globally leading social sciences commercialisation ecosystem, based on an innovative new approach successfully piloted with Zinc, an LSE spin-out. Will create new companies to improve productivity and solve the most pressing social challenges; address social needs through market solutions, and overcome traditional barriers to market by bringing together the best social sciences ideas with top entrepreneurs.
    Connecting Capabilities in Advanced Therapies
    • Led by King’s College London
    • HEI partners: University College London, Imperial College London
    • CCF award: £4,922,055
    • Utilising Advanced Therapies’ complementary expertise and strengths at each institution, will provide a comprehensive set of activities to catalyse knowledge exchange between the HEIs, SMEs and industry, building on the structure of a successful MedCity programme, to position London, and the UK, as a global leader in sector.
    The Bloomsbury SET: Connecting Capability to Combat the Threat from Infectious Disease and Antimicrobial Resistance
    • Lead HEI: Royal Veterinary College
    • HE partners: London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Oriental and African Studies University of London
    • CCF award: £4,960,000
    • Focusses on low-cost, portable diagnostic tools to counter infectious diseases and increasing resistance to antimicrobials. The Bloomsbury SET (Science, Economics, Technology) will connect place, people, businesses, ideas and infrastructures in pursuit of innovative scientific / technical solutions (tools, vaccines, models) that will help safeguard human health. At the same time, it will use the collaboration’s convening power to test whether proposed public health interventions are acceptable socially, economically and politically - the factors which determine their success in the real world. This will facilitate innovation and productivity within UK and other partner businesses, whilst also helping to shape public health policies and practices.
    Promoting the Internet of Things via Collaborations between HEIs & Industry (Pitch-In)
    • Lead HEI: University of Sheffield
    • HE partners: Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Newcastle University
    • CCF requested: £4,917,863
    • The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data, and is critical to UK industrial, societal and economic development. The Pitch-In collaboration aims to extract benefit for the UK from IoT technologies via wide-scale collaboration between academic institutions and the public and private sectors. It will investigate barriers to collaborative IoT exploitation, trial solutions, capture KE good practice learning outcomes, and disseminate guidance regionally, nationally and globally. Supports the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy by significantly enhancing the commercialisation and wider exploitation prospects of UK IoT research and technology.
    South West Creative Technology Network
    • Lead HEI: University of the West of England
    • HEI partners: Bath Spa University, Falmouth University and University of Plymouth
    • CCF award: £4,585,416
    • Will develop a new, networked model of KE for creative technologies innovation through a series of interdisciplinary R&D programmes that grow the capabilities and connections between the participating HEIs and industry partners. Invest in interdisciplinary R&D fellowships and prototype production across three challenge areas: Immersion, Automation and Data. Produce commercial and social impact across the challenge areas in a range of sectors including Creative Industries, Health and Manufacturing.
    THYME Project - Teesside, Hull and York - Mobilising Bioeconomy Knowledge Exchange
    • Lead HEI: University of York
    • HEI partners: University of Hull and Teesside University
    • CCF award £5,000,000
    • New collaboration between the HE partners to build the bioeconomy sector across Yorkshire, Humberside and the Tees Valley.  In collaboration with regional industry, LEPs and the wider community, the universities will deliver projects focused upon 3 areas: transforming bio-based waste into new products; converting industrial sites by re-purposing them for bio-based manufacturing; growing the productivity of the region’s bioeconomy as a whole by bringing together research and commercialisation capabilities within the three universities.  Will grow the region’s economy, create jobs and have major environmental benefits.
  3. The four CCF awards announced in October 2017 were:
    • Universities of Bath (lead), Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey – SETsquared across Sectors in the South of England (SaSSE): award of £5 million
    • Universities of Essex (lead), East Anglia and Kent – Eastern ARC: Enabling Innovation: Research to Application (EIRA): award of £4,696,000 
    • Universities of Manchester (lead), Leeds and Sheffield - The Northern Triangle Initiative (NTI) company: award of £5 million 
    • Universities of Oxford (lead), Birmingham and Dundee – UK SPINE KE: award of £4,820,000 
  4. The Government’s Industrial Strategy is available to download: Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future.
  5. The UK’s Industrial Strategy is a long term plan to build a Britain fit for the future through a stronger, fairer economy. Through this we will help businesses to create better, higher-paying jobs - setting a path for Britain to lead in the high-tech, highly-skilled industries of the future. 
  6. A high level steering group of university and industry experts was appointed to oversee the process of making competitive awards from the CCF (for the membership, see at Annex A of this document).
  7. Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. We are responsible for funding, engaging with and understanding these institutions, and working with devolved funding bodies and the Office for Students to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity. We support and challenge universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. We distribute over £2.2 billion to universities in England every year in the form of quality-related (QR) funding, and via the Higher Education Innovation Fund. We are responsible for administering the Research Excellence Framework, used to inform QR research funding, and for delivering the forthcoming Knowledge Exchange Framework. We also support specific activities with dedicated project funding, including the £900 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, and the £100 milion Connecting Capability Fund. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 established Research England as a Council of UK Research and Innovation alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.