Research England invests £76m in 13 units in English universities to expand their excellence

Research England invests £76m in 13 units in English universities to expand their excellence

13 June 2019

Research England has awarded £76m to 13 research units in English higher education institutions (HEIs) to build the capacity and quality of their research in topics ranging from recycling plastic to meeting the needs of an ageing society, and manufacturing to agri-robotics.

The small, but excellent units are to receive the first ever investment from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund, launched in 2018.

The 13 units are varied in their research focus, with many aligned with the Grand Challenges in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The funded units will build capacity and capability across the higher education sector, helping the Government meet its commitment to increase R&D spend to 2.4% by 2027.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over.

“The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry.

“Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “The Expanding Excellence in England Fund reflects UKRI’s vision to enhance academic excellence, foster collaboration and increase access to new technologies.

“The first research units awarded this funding demonstrate the breadth and diversity of talent in UKRI’s portfolio, from astrobiology through to forensic linguistics and climate change, and our commitment to tackling important research questions in a changing world.”

Research England’s Director of Research, Steven Hill, said: ‘Research England’s investment in these units aims to strengthen the contribution of English HEIs to our society, push the frontiers of human knowledge, deliver economic impact, and create social impact by supporting our society and others to become enriched, healthier, more resilient and sustainable.

‘It will also enhance the skills base and build talent in areas of research excellence where pockets of excellence exist but there is untapped potential, and stimulate strategic partnerships between HEIs and other organisations outside of higher education.’

 

The investments include:

  • £5.8m to the University of Portsmouth for a sustainable Centre for Enzyme Innovation. The centre will discover new, naturally-occurring enzymes that can break down plastics, helping the Government meet ambitious targets for recycling plastic by 2025.
     
  • £4m to Sheffield Hallam University for the Lab4Living, which will use design to promote health and quality of life, with a focus on ageing and the 100-year life, helping to meet the needs of our ageing society.
     
  • £6.3m to the University of Lincoln to create the first global centre of excellence for agri-robotics in the UK. The centre will meet increasing global demand in the agricultural industry to use robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence to improve productivity to meet the needs of a growing population.
     
  • £6.6m to Loughborough University for the Centre for Mathematical Cognition, which will use psychology research to design and test new teaching practices, to improve the teaching of maths and address the STEM skills gap.
     
  • £7.6m to Lancaster University for Imagination Lancaster, an interdisciplinary design centre. Design research will address a range of challenges such as the future of manufacturing and future of cities.

Funding for the 13 units will run for three years, starting in August 2019, allowing successful bidders time to scale up their activity and build quality. Summaries of all 13 investments can be found below.

Notes to editors

  1. Aims of the Expanding Excellence in England Fund
    1. Strengthen the contribution of English HEIs to our society, pushing the frontiers of human  knowledge, delivering economic impact and creating social impact by supporting our society and others to become enriched, healthier, more resilient and sustainable;
       
    2. Build the capacity and quality of research in departments and units within English universities where excellence exists but at a small scale with potential for growth;
       
    3. Contribute towards the delivery of government strategy, including the Industrial Strategy, the GCRF strategy and local priorities by supporting sustained improvements in research capacity across England while maintaining the principle of funding excellence wherever it is found;
       
    4. Enhance the skills base and build talent in areas of research excellence where there is untapped potential;
       
    5. Stimulate strategic partnerships between HEIs and other organisations outside of Higher Education.
       
  2. Funded projects
    The 13 bids to receive funding from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund are summarised on the E3 page.
     
  3. Northern Powerhouse
    The Northern Powerhouse is the Government’s vision for a stronger Northern economy. This includes plans to improve transport connections, boost education and skills, strengthen innovation and enterprise and strengthen trade and investment. NPH has allocated £3.4 billion in Growth deals to Northern Powerhouse areas – to support locally – determined projects in order to unlock economic growth. Government has committed to £13 billion of transport investment in the Northern Powerhouse, this includes the Trans Pennine route upgrade, which will improve connectivity within the North.
     
  4. Midlands Engine

    The Midlands Engine is a coalition of Councils, Combined Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), Universities and businesses across the region, actively working with Government to drive economic and productivity and position the Midlands firmly on the world stage.

    The Midlands Engine Partnership’s vision for Growth includes five priority areas to ensure the Midlands drives the UK economy:

    • Connecting the Midlands through maximising new technologies to deliver a radical transformation of the Midlands transport network
       
    • Tackling the mismatch between business skills needs and the skill levels of Midlands residents
       
    • Growing International Trade and Investment in existing and new markets
       
    • Increasing Innovation and Enterprise, creating an environment where our science and innovation strengths can be maximised
       
    • And, Shaping Great Places by promoting the Midlands as a great place to live, visit, learn and work.