Wednesday, 03 September 2014
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Government adds £200m to research partnership fund

The government is tripling its contribution to the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (RPIF) — a decision expected to encourage further collaboration between universities, industry and charity donors.

Today’s announcement by chancellor George Osborne and David Willetts, minister for universities and science, sees the government add £200m of new money to the UK RPIF.

To access backing from the scheme, launched with a government investment of £100m in March’s Budget, universities must match the funding by at least double from private companies or charities.

As well as supporting the best proposals already submitted by universities, the fund — managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) — will now reopen for further bids to fund capital projects.

In a statement, Sir John Parker, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: ‘This is a particularly encouraging message and endorsement from government of the importance of research and development in creating and underpinning our nation’s future growth.

‘Our many universities, operating at the leading edge of research in co-operation with industrial partners, have the ability to lead in the development of world-class products and services that can fuel long-term growth and success.’

‘Moving towards a more science-based economy is critical if we’re to have a sustainable recovery,’ added Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE). ‘However, this £200m still doesn’t offset the huge cuts made to our research base in 2010 - we still have a £1bn deficit.

‘Osborne is doing the right thing in reversing some of those cuts, but we need to go much further or risk getting left behind by our international competitors.

‘Germany, for instance, has increased its research and education spending by nearly 20 per cent since 2010, while we’ve been cutting back.’

CaSE added in a statement that the Swedish Government has proposed to increase its spending with a new plan that calls for adding $609m to the annual budget by 2016, a increase of over 13 per cent.

Subject to final due diligence from HEFCE, successful projects from the first round of bidding for the fund include:

  • A £92m partnership between Warwick University, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) for a new National Automotive Innovation Campus; this will develop new technologies to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and will also address a shortage of skilled research and development staff in the automotive supply chain;
  • A £60m partnership between Birmingham University and Rolls-Royce for a research centre for high-temperature metallurgy and associated processes for components including turbine blades;
  • A £32m partnership between Oxford University and a consortium including UCB Pharma, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Boehringer Ingelheim and Takeda for a new centre for drug target discovery and for research based on medical data sets;
  • A £138m partnership between Oxford University and a consortium including Synergy Health, Cancer Research UK, Roche Diagnostics, GE Healthcare and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust to establish a new centre for targeted cancer research;
  • A more than £35m partnership between Surrey University and an industry consortium including many of the mobile communications global industry leaders to build a new collaborative international research centre that will support the development of fifth-generation cellular communications;
  • A £38m project at Dundee University, with co-investment from the Wellcome Trust and others, contributing to a new centre that will increase the scope for translating life sciences research into global healthcare solutions in areas such as cancer, infectious diseases, eczema and diabetes; and
  • A £33m partnership between Liverpool University and Unilever to develop a materials chemistry research hub, the ‘Materials Innovation Factory’, providing a suite of open-access facilities.

Source: BIS


Readers' comments (2)

  • again, lovely idea as so many: but in my view and experience (and far too many experiences) the intellectual infrastructure (is that a first?) just is not there
    within far too many university based staff of whatever academic level,
    the eventual manufacturing and marketing skills necessary to see successful culmination of a project and
    the funding bodies.

    Unless and until we address the next generation of those products presently 'imported' -the greed of retail is still dominant- and purchased in millions of units by citizens, not ones and twos by Governments...(and of course keep the patent agents well out of the field and equation) nothing will improve. I have listened to similar 'new initiatives' since 1971 and nothing has changed because we are still swimming in water of the wrong temperature and/or the mill GB plc (if colleagues will excuse a textile analogy) is completely unbalanced.

    Sorry to be a wet blanket.
    Best
    Mike B

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  • Colleagues and the moderator might enjoy the attached: written seven years ago! It describes the reality of so much industry/academic links!

    Here are some outline notes that might apply to an application for the post of
    Director, Great Western Research.(At Exeter University)

    They are based on some 65 years of ‘age’ – often confused with experience- and nearly 50 years of academic, commercial, technical and industrial experience(s) –embracing many (too many?) fields. They are offered as an opportunity to improve.

    Of all the links between elements of our society, that between artistic and scientific academia: and industry and commerce is surely the most important, yet the most difficult to achieve. CP Snow’s Two Cultures, 50 years after he highlighted such, are surely still too far apart.
    Throughout my career I have heard Ministers, civil servants, and industrialists talking endlessly about the need, routes, advantages & opportunities that will accrue to society and the Nation…when that proper and truly effective bond, bridge, link between academia and commerce is forged.

    I have seen initiatives, proposals, suggestions, inducements developed, offered, defined: and the net result is that almost nothing has altered or improved throughout that time. Most advances are NOT funded by public money. Our Nation, whether we care to admit it or not, languishes at the bottom of most economic, management and technology league tables! Within 150 years –six generations of citizens- we have fallen from first to almost last amongst the so-called developed world. And it shows, in too much of our society.
    AND HERE WE GO AGAIN: YET ANOTHER RESEARCH/COMMERCE LINK INITIATIVE FOLLOWING ALMOST IDENTICAL ‘LINES’.
    I look at present ‘academic’ routes to achieving success, or even obtaining support and funding to move somewhat along a new path…and smile.

    One group of ‘academic’ public servants, use public money (left over or diverted from the last ‘freebee’?) to try to persuade another group of ‘civil’ public servants (and in direct competition with many other groups of academic public servants) to give them some public money. So that they can then use the potential granting of that money to persuade those from industry/commerce who initially actually provided such to the State via corporation taxes to give them even more.
    So that they can employ? bright minds to do Higher Degrees. And reap the rewards.
    But …and here is the clever bit!
    The successful group of public servants then wish to ‘report’ whatever their academic researchers find out only to other academic groupings - first and foremost. And if there are any commercial benefits from the work, then they seek to retain the ‘lion’s’ share of any goodies that might accrue entirely for themselves, with no risk at all.
    The ultimate arbitrage .
    They sometimes make ‘noises-off’ about the importance of ‘intellectual property’ –surely a contradiction and oxymoron quite as profound as ‘military intelligence’ or ‘legal profession’- without recognizing that the pursuit of patent protection? gives benefit only to patent lawyers.
    98% of all patents result in …..NOTHING.

    As I have proposed to the Chartered Institute: if Patent Protection is believed to be so important to ensure future financial benefit, let those who ‘practice’ its provision do so merely for a share of the eventual profits. 98% would, happily, be out of work within a year.

    The Economy and academic/industrial research and development (particularly at the start of a project when it is most needed) would benefit from the re-allocated funding ……substantially.

    Who knows? perhaps 98%, not 2% of inventions would advance !
    MJB

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