Capital projects funded by Research England attract £1.73bn of co-investment for research at UK universities

Capital projects funded by Research England attract £1.73bn of co-investment for research at UK universities

5 July 2018

A flagship Research England scheme has so far attracted £1.73bn of co-investment from industry partners, charitable organisations and philanthropic donors since its launch in 2012, according to a report published today.

The report reveals the findings of an interim evaluation of Research England’s largest competitive grant funding scheme, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).

The evaluation shows that UKRPIF is successful across all of its objectives, leveraging significant co-investment, leading to impressive research outcomes, and is showing early signs of contributing to economic growth. 

Research England’s Executive Chair, David Sweeney, said:

‘This UK scheme, managed by Research England, is a key contributor to the government’s commitment to see Research and Innovation investment rise to 2.4% of GDP. UKRPIF also plays a vital role in fostering long-term strategic partnerships between universities and research stakeholders including business and philanthropic donors. Capital funding used specifically for research is crucial in establishing the UK as a place where world-leading research can take place, and in realising – and delivering – the UK’s research and innovation capabilities.’

Specifically, £681m of capital funding to research projects at UK universities attracted almost £1bn of co-investment from industry partners, such as Siemens, Rolls-Royce, Samsung, and other big-name companies. Over £320m of co-investment has come from charitable organisations, with a further £415m from philanthropists. 

Head of Standards and Industrial Affairs at Samsung, Howard Benn, said:

‘Samsung was a founding member of the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre as well as working with other leading universities in the UK. Universities are able to provide unique, trusted platforms for cross industry collaboration and interdisciplinary research which will be increasingly important if the UK is to develop the innovative approaches needed to capitalise on the growing global digital economy.’

At King’s College London, the creation of the Research and Innovation Hub in Cancer has led to a significant increase in the number of patients providing tissue samples to the cancer Biobank, more than doubling the number of samples available to clinicians and researchers. Patient engagement activities have also grown, largely due to the close proximity of the Hub to patients receiving treatment at Guy’s Hospital.

At the Centre for Translational and Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Dundee, UKRPIF funding has enhanced drug discovery capabilities. In 2017, following a decade of work, research teams brought together at the CTIR identified the structure of a key enzyme that protects the brain against Parkinson’s disease.

The 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey has secured more than £5 for every £1 of UKRPIF invested, with contributions from industry partners more than doubling since the original award was made in 2012.

Funding through the UKRPIF has a positive impact on the local economy. At the University of Birmingham’s High Temperature Research Centre (HTRC), investment has supported the recruitment of fifty new members of staff and a programme of apprenticeships.

Facilities funded by the scheme often provide space to co-locate industrial partners and academic researchers. Funding for The Maxwell Centre at University of Cambridge led to the development of an innovative open-space, which has helped to breakdown silos between research staff, helping foster interdisciplinary and cross-departmental collaborations.

The report indicates positive impacts on the research community’s ability to contribute to wider innovation and business growth. It adds: ‘Longer term, it is not unreasonable to assume that job creation can be linked to these developments and that this will have wider impacts on indirect job creation and local supply chains.’

To date, the UKRPIF has awarded £681m of public funding to 43 projects across 25 institutions in the UK and Northern Ireland in a range of disciplines, including high-value manufacturing, engineering, clinical medicine, biomedical research, and the social sciences.

UKRPIF grants and matched funding from private partners amounts to approximately a quarter of total university non-residential capital expenditure – £6.2bn – in the period from the establishment of UKRPIF in 2012 until 2015-16.

The interim evaluation, commissioned by the former higher education funding body, HEFCE, and led by Middlesex University and Belmana Consulting in 2017, sought to gain an overview of the emerging project outcomes resulting from the UKRPIF. It is based on evidence and data provided by HEFCE, and on a series of case studies which involved a document review, interviews with key stakeholders and site visits.

Round six of the competition is currently underway, with £220m of capital funding available until 2021, taking the total government investment in the fund to £900m.

Research England will develop a framework for a full evaluation of UKRPIF in 2018.