Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund

The Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund supports the strategic expansion of excellent research units and departments in HEPs across England. In order to expand excellence, E3 focuses only on units and departments where there is demonstrable research excellence already, and limited scale of activity.


The E3 fund aims to:

  • Strengthen the contribution of English HEPs to our society, pushing the frontier of human knowledge, delivering economic impact and creating societal impact by supporting our society and others to become enriched, healthier, more resilient and sustainable
  • Build the capacity and quality of research in departments and units within English HEPs where excellence exists but at a small scale with potential for growth
  • Contribute towards the delivery of government strategy, including the Industrial Strategy, the Global Challenges Research Fund strategy and local priorities by supporting sustained improvements in research capacity across England while maintaining the principle of funding excellence wherever it is found
  • Enhance the skills base and build talent in areas of research excellence where there is untapped potential
  • Stimulate strategic partnerships between HEPs and other organisations outside higher education.

E3 Fund FAQs

Which projects are you currently funding?

The 13 bids that were funded in the first round, totalling £76.3 million, are:

Aston University
Unit name:
Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics
Investment: £5,434,597
Summary: The current Centre for Forensic Linguistics will radically expand into an institute with capacity to fully exploit strengths in investigative text analysis, linguistics in legal contexts, and forensic speech science, and establish capability in language and law, and create an open databank for research and practice in forensic linguistics.

Loughborough University
Unit name: Centre for Mathematical Cognition
Investment: £6,594,814
Summary: Loughborough University’s new Centre for Mathematical Cognition represents a substantial expansion of Loughborough’s internationally recognised mathematical cognition research. The Centre will study mathematical learning processes and use the resulting insights to design and evaluate educational interventions. A collaborative network of schools and colleges will ensure the Centre’s work addresses classroom priorities.

Newcastle University (with Northumbria University)
Unit name:
Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment
Investment: £8,000,000
Summary: The Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment is a collaboration between Newcastle and Northumbria Universities that will develop biotechnologies to create a new generation of buildings which are responsive to their environment, grown using engineered living materials, metabolise their own waste, and modulate their microbiome to benefit human health.

Open University
Unit name:
Astrobiology Research Unit
Investment: £6,737,350
Summary: The Open University Astrobiology Research Group is a multi-disciplinary research community focusing on fundamental questions about life beyond the Earth. The E3 funding will enable its expansion to address scientific and governance challenges within astrobiology, particularly in relation to space exploration, societal benefits and sustainability.

Royal Northern College of Music
Unit name:
Practice and Research in Science and Music
Investment: £914,000
Summary: E3 funding will enable the RNCM’s Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM) to bring together researchers and practitioners in composition, performance, mathematics, artificial intelligence, music perception and big data to engage in creative research collaborations between the sciences and music. A unique approach within UK HEPs and distinct worldwide, it will address fundamental questions about what it means to be human and creative today.

Sheffield Hallam University
Unit name:
Investment: £4,027,482
Summary: This award expands Lab4Living's capacity to advance its groundbreaking research in the development of innovative products and environments that promote quality-of-life. The Design4Ageing Academy, an international host hub, and resource to build future leaders in this space will form part of a systematic program of research activity centring on the ‘100 Year Life’.

University of Exeter
Unit name:
Diabetes Research Unit/ Aetiological Insights
Investment: £5,984,000
Summary: Exeter Diabetes Research has an international reputation for delivering excellent and clinically-relevant patient-based research. We will expand by recruiting individuals with interdisciplinary skills and innovative ideas, who are seeking to apply their expertise to the underlying mechanisms in diabetes. State of the art imaging and sequencing equipment will be provided.

University of Greenwich
Unit name:
Natural Resources Institute
Investment: £7,495,984
Summary: The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich will expand its existing interdisciplinary research excellence addressing food and nutrition security, especially in Africa. Using a food systems approach, NRI and partners will focus on climate change, sustainable agricultural intensification, food loss and waste, and improved nutrition.

University of Lancaster
Unit name:
Investment: £7,636,606
Summary: Beyond Imagination provides fresh perspectives on real world issues and facilitates innovation by addressing complex challenges faced by cities, communities, factories, workplaces and homes. Our design research creates a uniquely powerful socio-technical bridge between academic disciplines, industry, society and policy, transforming future products, places and services.

University of Lincoln
Unit name:
Lincoln Agri Robotics
Investment: £6,344,000
Summary: This project creates Lincoln Agri-Robotics, the first global centre of excellence in Agri-Robotics in the UK. This will include research into autonomous agri-robots that can efficiently tend, harvest and quality-control high-value crops with reduced human intervention, improving agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability, and addressing the demands of growing population.

University of Portsmouth
Unit name:
Centre for Enzyme Innovation
Investment: £5,828,000
Summary: The Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth is helping to solve the global challenge of plastic pollution through the discovery and engineering of enzymes to breakdown common single-use plastics. This pioneering research will enable the circular recycling of plastic waste.

University of Surrey
Unit name:
Centre for Translation Studies
Investment: £3,564,000
Summary: Automation is rapidly transforming the language services landscape, shifting industry practice and the research agenda in the direction of technological innovation. To harness the full potential of the AI revolution in this area, we will focus on the convergence of human and automated approaches to different modalities of translation and interpreting, combining them to create an ambitious and far-reaching research programme.

Unit name:
Centre for Fine Print Research
Investment: £7,718,713
Summary: The Centre for Fine Print Research will build on its unique knowledge of 19th century photomechanical, traditional printing and fabrication to develop novel methods and artefacts, exploring crossovers between art, science, and engineering. The vision is to solve real world problems, transforming ideas into physical artefacts that meet the needs of a changing society.

Is the E3 fund currently open for submissions?

The funding award process for round 1 of E3 funding has been completed. A future round of this fund has not been confirmed and we are not currently accepting applications.

Who was on the first round E3 panel?

Professor Sir Ian Diamond (Chair) - chair of Plan International and previously Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council and Chair of the Research Councils UK Executive Group.

Professor Siladatya Bhattacharya - Head of the School of Medicine at Cardiff University.

Professor Bruce Brown - Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art in London and was previously Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Brighton.

Professor Roger Goodman - Chair of the Council of the Academy of Social Sciences and Nissan Professor of Modern Japanese Studies and Warden of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford where he was previously Head of the Social Sciences Division.

Professor Karen M Holford CBE FREng - Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University and previously Pro Vice-Chancellor for Physical Sciences and Engineering.

Professor Lin Foxhall - Rathbone Chair of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology and Dean, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool.

Professor Frank Kelly - Professor of the Mathematics of Systems at the Statistical Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

Professor David Maguire - Vice-Chancellor at the University of Greenwich. Prior to this he was PVC Research at Birmingham City University and Chief Scientist at Environmental Systems Research Institute.

Professor Mona Siddiqui - Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, and Dean international for the Middle East at the University of Edinburgh.

In establishing the panel we sought a diverse membership, aiming to retain balance across a broad spectrum of discipline areas, who will provide established and insightful experience of HE research. To ensure independence, the majority of members are from outside of the English HE sector and from providers in receipt of sizeable QR funding (and therefore unlikely to be E3 applicants). In constructing an effectively sized panel with the Chair, we have made efforts to appoint a diverse and independent panel but we cannot cover all disciplines and backgrounds.

To support the panel with their decision making Research England sought the input of our colleagues in the research councils and peer review colleges.