International Investment Initiative (I3)

The International Investment Initiative (I3) is designed to support the scaling up of existing strategically significant internationally collaborative research relationships between English Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and universities and research organisations outside the UK.



The International Investment Initiative (I3) fund aims to support the scaling up of existing strategically significant, internationally collaborative research relationships between English HEIs (HEIs) and universities and research organisations outside the UK. To scale up existing collaborations, the scheme focusses on HEIs that can demonstrate existing research excellence, strategic alignment with partners, and evidence of an existing productive collaboration.

A total of £3.6m has been awarded to 8 successful HEIs via a competitive scheme. Awards are allocated over up to five years and must be led by an English HEI with a minimum of one international university or research organisation as a partner.

The primary use of the I3 awards is for scaling up international research collaboration at the institutional or organisational unit level (e.g. faculty). Awards are for a period of five years (AY 19/20, 20/21, 21/22, 22/23, 23/24), allowing successful HEIs time to scale up activity and build quality. The I3 funding has been matched by HEIs and their partners through cash and/or in-kind contributions. Funds are not available through this scheme to fund capital investment.

Research England worked with Universities UK International (UUKi) in the delivery of I3. UUKi advised on the development of the fund and provided advice and support to the assessment and panel process.

Aims of the initiative

As part of UK Research and Innovation’s investment in international research collaborations, the Research England I3 supports approaches in English HEIs that lead to increased scale of effective and sustainable research collaborations at an organisational level that enhance sector practice and research outcomes. The initiative’s objectives are to:

  • Increase the scale and impact of existing international research collaborations that are based on excellent research
  • Strengthen the contribution of international collaborations involving English HEIs to our society, pushing the frontiers of human knowledge, delivering economic impact and creating social impact by supporting communities to become enriched, healthier, more resilient and sustainable
  • Contribute towards the delivery of government strategy, including the Industrial Strategy, by supporting sustained improvements in institutional capacity and capability in England.


If you have questions about I3 please contact the Research England International Policy Team.

How to apply

The I3 fund is now closed for submissions. The deadline for the I3 fund was noon at Thursday 28 February 2019, and no further applications are being accepted beyond this date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the International Investment Initiative (I3) can be found on this page, which will be updated at regular intervals should additional questions arise.

Before submitting a bid to I3, applicants should first refer to the full applicant guidance, which contains information on the objectives of the scheme, application and assessment processes, and the eligibility and funding criteria.

If your query is not covered by the full applicant guidance or the FAQs below, please contact the Research England International Policy Team.


I3 FAQs version Date Changes



None – original document



Addition – ‘Costing’ questions section


Who is eligible to apply to I3?
All Research England-funded HEIs are eligible to apply as the lead organisation. Only applications submitted through the Office of the Vice-Chancellor or equivalent will be accepted.

What is defined as an ‘organisational unit’?
There is an expectation that an ‘organisational unit’ refers to a unit within the HEI of a significant size; for example, a faculty or larger. However, we are conscious that structures and the language to describe organisational units vary between institutions. Bids should be able to justify how the described organisational unit’s partnering represents a strategic partnership at the institutional level. Bids should not represent a single research project.

What activities will I3 fund?
The primary use of the I3 award must be for scaling up international research collaboration at the institutional or organisational unit level (e.g. faculty). Bids should not represent a single research project. Further details on what the Research England award may be used for can be found in paragraph 34 of the full applicant guidance.

Which countries are eligible as partners?
At a minimum, the lead institution must have at least one institution from a non-UK country as a partner.

How many partner organisations can be involved in a bid?
There is no limit to the number of partner organisations that can be involved in a bid, as long as the minimum eligibility criteria for partner countries is met (see paragraphs 20-22 of the full applicant guidance). The co-investment requirements for participating organisations must be met, as stated in the full applicant guidance (Annex B). The lead HEI must be able to clearly justify how and why collaborating with their partner(s) would lead to the scale up of internationally collaborative activity in the context of international collaboration and the priorities of the participating institutions.

Are DAC-list countries eligible as partners? Is I3 only for partnering with non-DAC list countries?
Lead institutions may partner with an organisation from an appropriate country. Universities and research organisations in countries on the OECD DAC list of countries eligible to receive Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) funding are eligible partners.

The primary objective of and justification of proposals to I3 must be the scaling up of existing strategically significant internationally collaborative research relationships between English HEIs and universities and research organisations outside the UK. Although development benefit may be a secondary outcome from a proposed activity, focusing on returning specific development benefit from the international partner(s) as per the objectives of GCRF and the Newton Fund is not expected from bids to this scheme.

Application process

Is it possible to lead on multiple bids?
No – an HEI may only be the ‘lead organisation’ on one bid. However, HEIs are not restricted on the number of bids they may be a partner on, whether they are leading a separate bid or not.

Is there a minimum amount that may be applied for?
The maximum amount an institution can apply for is £500,000. A proposal must be able to demonstrate the ability to scale and sustain the partnership at the increased level. Institutions should take this into account when specifying the level of investment they are requesting.


Does a Full Economic Cost (fEC) Policy apply?
Research England does not have a full economic cost (fEC) policy as with Research Council proposals. Instead, institutions should consider the financial sustainability of the activities for which they are requesting funding. All bids will be required to be fully costed and you should set out the costs and the basis upon which they have been calculated. You should include transparency as to how these costs are to be met, ie through a mix of dedicated I3 funding or co-investment. Where applicable, they should also make a case for any proposed mix of contributions (e.g. co-investment) to cover these costs. When costing, the bid should follow Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) principles, ensuring that total costs are reasonable. Detailed guidance on TRAC.

What are eligible costs for the Research England I3 investment?
We expect the use of the funding to be resource in nature and focused on the scaling up of the partnership with the international institution(s) (e.g. staffing/studentships/fellowships, software, subscriptions, equipment under £10,000, travel, workshops/conferences). Overheads should be listed as unit operating costs.

This investment may not be used for capital (e.g. infrastructure, equipment over £10,000). Bids should not represent a single research project.

The I3 panel will review the costings closely and reach their decisions based on what are deemed reasonable requests.

Can the Research England I3 investment be used to fund new PhD studentships?
Yes – in line with the objectives of the fund, the bid will need to justify how and why the studentship is essential to the scaling up of the relationship with the international partner(s) and how sustainability of the relationship will be supported. We expect applications to I3 to take account of equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels and aspects of research practice.

Are PhD studentships eligible forms of co-investment?
Yes – in line with studentships funded through the Research England I3 investment, the bid will need to justify how and why the studentship funded as co-investment is essential to the scaling up of the relationship with the international partner(s) and how sustainability of the relationship will be supported. We expect applications to I3 to take account of equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels and aspects of research practice.

Can the Research England I3 investment be used for equipment purchase?
Equipment under £10,000 in cost is considered resource and is an eligible cost. However, equipment over £10,000 in cost would be considered a capital purchase and would not be eligible. However, equipment over £10,000 in cost may be funded through co-investment sources and would be counted as an eligible source of matched funding.

I3 Panel

Dr Richard Armour (Chair)

Dr Richard Armour is currently a member of the Research England Council, and formerly Secretary-General of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee (UGC). The UGC is the main funding, policy making and planning body for Hong Kong’s highly ranked university sector. It serves also as the main research grants awarding body. Richard has extensive experience in higher education, having served in senior faculty and administrative positions at universities in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. An MA graduate of the University of Glasgow, he subsequently took an MSc degree and then a PhD at the University of London. His research and publications have concentrated principally on the nature of knowledge, its relationship to student learning and more recently on higher education policy. In 2014 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace (JP) by the Government of Hong Kong.

Professor Nora de Leeuw

Nora de Leeuw is Professor of Computational Chemistry at Cardiff University, where she also serves as Pro-Vice Chancellor International. With a PhD in Computational Chemistry from Bath University, previous appointments have included Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at the University of Reading, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Advanced Research Fellow at Birkbeck College London and Professor of Computational Materials Science at University College London, where she also led an EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training. Nora has been awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award, Royal Society Industry Fellowship and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, elected Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and elected Member of Academia Europaea.

Ms Vivienne Stern

Vivienne is the Director of Universities UK International (UUKi) which represents UK universities around the world and works to enable them to flourish internationally. Prior to her role in UUKi, Vivienne was Head of Political Affairs at Universities UK. In this role she led the sector’s response to several major pieces of legislation relating to universities, including the Higher Education Act 2004. She previously worked in the UK Parliament for the Chair of the Education and Skills Select Committee, and as a higher education policy specialist working on topics including quality, student experience, innovation and university-business links. She is a Director of Universities UK; a member of the Board of the UK India Research and Innovation Initiative and the Strategic Partnerships in Higher Education Fund; she is a member of the British Council’s Education Advisory Group and a number of other Boards and Committees. She is a graduate in English Literature from the University of Cambridge.

Professor Richard English

Richard English is Professor of Politics at Queen's University Belfast, where he is also Distinguished Professorial Fellow in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, and the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalization and Engagement. He is the author of eight books, including the award-winning studies Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (2003) and Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland (2006). His most recent book, Does Terrorism Work? A History, was published in 2016 by Oxford University Press. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, an Honorary Fellow of Keble College Oxford, and an Honorary Professor at the University of St Andrews. In 2018 he was awarded a CBE for services to the understanding of modern-day terrorism and political history.

Professor Federica Di Palma

Prof Federica Di Palma is the Director of Science at the Earlham Institute, and director of the BRIDGE Colombia Global network of researchers across the UK and Colombia. Prof Di Palma leads a number of research programmes aimed at understanding the evolution of complex traits and the regulatory processes underlying evolutionary change. She has also implemented several research programmes for countries on the DAC list aimed at building partnerships, generating genomic resources and delivering technical training events in genomics and informatics. Prof Di Palma received her Ph.D. in Immunogenetics from the Institute for Animal Health and the University of Reading. Previously, she was at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where she served as Assistant Director of Vertebrate Genome Biology, and remains a visiting scientist. Prof Di Palma holds a Professorship position at the School of Biological Science and Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia.

Mr Dan Shah

Dan Shah joined the British Council as Director Research in December 2018, leading a strategic programme of research underpinning and supporting the cultural relations vision and mission of the British Council. The Research and Policy insight team works collaboratively across the organisation, in cultural relations generally and within key priorities and themes including Arts to Education and Languages and from Civil Society to Peace and Conflict Resolution. Dan joined the British Council from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) India as Director, developing and delivering UKRI’s India strategy, bridged interests across HMG networks in New Delhi and Whitehall and worked with high level stakeholders in the Indian Government and academy. Prior to joining UKRI, Dan was Assistant Policy Director at Universities UK International and before that, Senior Policy Advisor at the Russell Group. He has also worked in Government in the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Professor Michael J Roberts

Prof Michael Roberts holds a UK-SA Bilateral Research Chair between the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), the University of Southampton (UoS) in the UK and the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Chair is co-funded through the UK Newton Fund and the National Research Foundation (NRF), and is focused on Ocean Science and marine Food Security in the Western Indian Ocean. Prof Roberts has over 30 years of experience doing oceanographic and marine ecosystem functioning research in this region covering coastal, slope and deep ocean domains. He has led 6 large international multi-disciplinary, ship-intensive, research projects in the WIO and is well connected to regional and international researchers and institutions. A fundamental component of the Chair is to grow research capacity in WIO using an “Innovation Bridge” approach between NOC, UoS and major research institutions in the Western Indian Ocean.

Professor Claire O’Malley

As Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) at Durham University, Claire is responsible for leading the University’s international strategy. She joined Durham University in January 2018 from the University of Nottingham, where she held the post of Vice-Provost (Research & Knowledge Exchange) at Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus. Claire has extensive experience of service on UK and international funding panels, including Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Research Committee (2012-14) and ESRC Grants Board (2004-8, Vice-Chair 2006-8). Claire has a BA in Psychology and Philosophy and a PhD in Education from the University of Leeds. She has over 150 peer reviewed articles in international journals and international conference proceedings in psychology, education and computer science. She has been PI and CI on grants from UK Research Councils (worth over £20m) and EU grants (worth over €16m).

Professor James Smith

Prof James Smith was appointed Vice Principal International at the University of Edinburgh in November 2014, having held his personal chair in African and Development Studies since 2010. As Vice Principal he is responsible for shaping and implementing the University’s global engagement plan, and oversight and support of the University’s international activities and collaborations. Prior to working at Edinburgh, he held academic appointments at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he also completed his masters and doctorate, and worked with Oxfam Southern Africa. His current research is primarily funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant and examines research into and control and treatment of African trypanosomiasis in both humans and animals across the tsetse fly belt of Africa. Previously he has worked on innovation around low carbon technologies in East Africa and South Asia, and agricultural innovation in the global south.

Professor Simon Gaskell

Simon Gaskell has had an academic career (with multiple industrial connections), both in the UK and US. After spending several years at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, he returned to the UK to take up a chair in mass spectrometry at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. His research career has been devoted to the application of physical chemical techniques to the solution of problems in the biomedical sciences. He was closely involved with the merger of UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester (2002-4), and subsequently became Vice President for Research. In 2009, he was appointed President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London. In 2012 he began two terms as an elected member of the executive board and Treasurer of Universities UK. He served as chair of the Higher Education Statistics Agency from 2013-17. He retired from full-time roles in 2017.

In establishing the panel we have sought a diverse membership, aiming to retain balance across a broad spectrum of discipline areas, policy expertise, experience of international collaborations and large international grant management. We have drawn membership from across the UK and internationally to support the assessment process. 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.

Funded projects

The 8 bids to receive funding from Research England’s International Investment Initiative (i3) fund are summarised below.

Brunel University London

Bid title: UK and Finland: Research Collaboration for Prosperity and Health
Partner(s): Tampere University (Finland)
Investment: £343,918
Summary: The award will accelerate the development of a strategic partnership between Brunel and Tampere University in Materials & Manufacturing, Biomedical Engineering, Structural Integrity, Digital Technology, Water Resources and Ageing & Wellness. It will deliver benefits to the UK and Finland in the form of research competitiveness, societal impact and innovation.

Imperial College London

Bid title: Data 4.0: leading the fourth industrial revolution with data-driven technologies
Partners(s): Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France), Technical University of Munich (Germany), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
Investment: £500,000
Summary: Imperial will establish Data 4.0 clusters in: Mathematical sciences, with France’s CNRS; AI and robotics, with Germany’s Technical University of Munich; Technology and healthcare, with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. Each cluster will; develop flagship international studentships, expand academic exchange, accelerate frontier research with seed funding, and launch bespoke doctoral programmes.

Liverpool John Moores University

Bid title: i-CARDIO – International Collaboration Assessing novel health models: A Research Design Intervention Opportunity
Partners(s): University of Western Australia (Australia)
Investment: £488,829
Summary: The UK faces a growing crisis of physical inactivity and associated disease risk. In Australia "registered exercise professionals" support the healthcare system and have reduced healthcare costs. This system does not exist in the UK and this award will evaluate healthcare model development in Australia and pathways to changes in the UK.

Loughborough University

Bid title: An International Research Centre to study the effects of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles on Vulnerable Road-Users
Partners(s): Queensland University of Technology (QUT, Australia), Tongji University (China)
Investment: £436,067
Summary: This project will scale up an existing strategic, international collaboration between 3 world-leading research centres - Loughborough University (UK), Queensland University of Technology (Australia) and Tongji University (China). It will establish a new International Research Centre to study the impacts of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles on Vulnerable Road Users’ safety.

Newcastle University

Bid title: Newcastle University/Monash Academic Track (NUMAcT) scheme
Partners(s): Monash University (Australia)
Investment: £500,000
Summary: Building on the recently launched and extremely popular NUAcT scheme supporting researchers making the transition to independence, NUMAcT will allow investigators to work in two long-standing partner Universities, Newcastle and Monash. The initial focus on drug discovery provides complementary access to world-class facilities, expertise, and bespoke training and mentorship.

University of Birmingham

Bid title: Industrialisation of Energy, Waste and Recycling
Partners(s): Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT, Germany), Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute (JITRI, China)
Investment: £499,099
Summary: Investment of £2.6m, made up of nearly £0.5m from Research England, and £2.1m co-investment, over five years will scale up the partnerships between the University of Birmingham, Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology, and Jiangsu Industry Technology Research Institute. This three-way multi-country bridge will provide a comprehensive research and innovation pipeline from fundamental research to close-to-market innovation.

University of Brighton

Bid title: 3DMed - Anglo Canadian Collaboration on Interface Science for Medical Innovation
Partners(s): York University (Canada)
Investment: £455,080
Summary: 3DMed scales up a well-established strategic collaboration between University of Brighton, UK and York University, Canada. The project will capitalise on the synergy between programmes of excellent research in engineering and biomedicine to develop industrial applications and novel research skills in 3D bio-printing and additive biomedical manufacturing technologies.

University of Hull

Bid title: Building Critical Mass for Palliative Care Research through Collaborative Support, Exchange and Challenge
Partners(s): University of Technology Sydney (Australia)
Investment: £403,510
Summary: This award will increase the scale and impact of our international collaboration between the Wolfson Palliative Care Research Centre, University of Hull, and the Improving Palliative and Chronic Care Through Clinical Research and Translation group, University Technology Sydney, forming critical mass to drive societal benefit through high-quality palliative care research.