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