Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund

The Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund is designed to build the capacity and quality of research in departments and units within English universities where excellence exists at a small scale.



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

A total of £75m has been awarded to 13 successful HEI department/research units via a competitive scheme. . Awards will be for the three year period (AY 19/20, 20/21 and 21/22), allowing successful bidders time to scale up activity and build quality. Funding is primarily resource in nature, with some capital funding where necessary to support the scale-up.

Aims of the fund

  • 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;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • Enhance the skills base and build talent in areas of research excellence where there is untapped potential;
  • Stimulate strategic partnerships between HEIs and other organisations outside of Higher Education.

How to apply

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


The Expanding Excellence Team

E3 Panel

Professor Sir Ian Diamond (Chair)

Professor Sir Ian Diamond (Chair) is Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen until July 2018 and current chair of Plan International. Sir Ian was previously Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council and Chair of the Research Councils UK Executive Group. Sir Ian has chaired a number of important higher education committees including Universities UK’s Research Policy Network, Universities Scotland’s International Committee, Funding Policy Group and Efficiencies Task Force.

Professor Siladatya Bhattacharya

Professor Siladatya Bhattacharya is the new Head of the School of Medicine at Cardiff University. Prof Bhattacharya serves on several national and international committees relating to reproductive medicine.

Professor Bruce Brown

Bruce Brown is Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art in London and was previously Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Brighton. He currently chairs a panel in the Hong Kong Research Assessment Exercise 2020 [arts] and before this was chair of Main Panel D in the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014. His work for other organisations has included being chair of the Portuguese Government’s Fundação para a Ciência ea Tecnologia Research Grants Panel [arts], membership of a panel convened by the Austrian Science Board to make recommendations on the developments of arts universities in Austria and membership of an OECD review on national provision in arts and culture higher education in Portugal. He is an editor of Design Issues Research Journal published by the MIT Press.

Professor Roger Goodman

Professor Roger Goodman is 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. As a social anthropologist, Prof Goodman’s research over the past thirty years has been mainly on Japanese education and social policy.

Professor Karen M Holford CBE FREng

Professor Karen M Holford CBE FREng is Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University and previously Pro Vice-Chancellor for Physical Sciences and Engineering. Prof Holford’s engineering career spans industry and academia. Karen is a member of STFC council and of EPSRC SAN.  She was a panel member for the recent “Reid Review of Government Funded Research and Innovation in Wales”.

Professor Lin Foxhall

Professor Lin Foxhall is Rathbone Chair of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology and Dean, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool. Her research focuses on material culture, landscapes, agriculture and gender in the classical world.

Professor Frank Kelly

Professor Frank Kelly is Professor of the Mathematics of Systems at the Statistical Laboratory, University of Cambridge. Prof Kelly’s main research interests are in random processes, networks and optimization.

Professor David Maguire

Professor David Maguire is 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. He originally trained as a Biologist and Geographer, and has spent most of his career working on computer mapping and geographic information systems. He was a member of the Stern REF Advisory Board. Currently he is Chair of Jisc and the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site. He is a UUK Board member and co-leads research policy for the University Alliance.

Professor Mona Siddiqui

Professor Mona Siddiqui is Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, and Dean international for the Middle East at the University of Edinburgh. Prof Siddique’s research areas are primarily in the field of Islamic jurisprudence and ethics, and Christian-Muslim relations.

In establishing the panel we have 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 institutions 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 we will be seeking the input of our colleagues in the research councils and peer review colleges.

Funded projects

The 13 bids to receive funding from Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund are summarised below.

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 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 HEIs and distinct worldwide, it will address fundamental questions about what it means to be human and creative today.

Sheffield Hallam University

Unit name: Lab4Living
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: ImaginationLancaster
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 cross-overs 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.