Funding rules failing applied research

Engineering research in UK universities is being hampered by funding criteria that encourage academics to concentrate on writing papers rather than working with industry, a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering has warned.

According to the report, Measuring excellence in engineering research, funding criteria need to be changed to promote more relevant research. This will mean engineers working more closely with the end-users of their research in industry, unlike graduates in disciplines like mathematics, where research can take place in relative isolation.

Philip Ruffles, director of engineering and technology at Rolls-Royce and chairman of the working group that published the report, said the higher education funding council for england criteria are heavily focused on producing publications, while programmes such as the government’s LINK scheme, which was designed to bring academics and industry together, are being denied cash.

`Changing the criteria would drive research activity more in the direction of partnership with industry,’ he said.

The 2001 University Research Assessment Exercise by the HEFCE will establish funding levels for departments across the country for the next five years.

Project manager Dr John Rogers said his team is addressing a number of concerns raised in the report. He said all forms of research will be recognised in the exercise.