Research England announces one-off extra cash for knowledge exchange and research

The increase in funding is equivalent to a 3.5% increase, but is only guaranteed for a year

Research England will increase university funding for research and knowledge exchange for the 2021-22 academic year with an additional one-year grant worth £132 million. 

The increase in funding is equivalent to a 3.5% increase – but the one-off grant only increases total funding by £77m, after the government scrapped the entire £63m Official Development Assistance research fund earlier this year.

Total spending rises to £2,258m, up from £2,181m in 2020-21. The details of allocations are contained in a letter published by Research England on 30 September. 

This funding allocation will further support the sector as it moves beyond addressing immediate pressures
– David Sweeney, Research England

The £132 million grant will “strengthen university capacity and partnership working capabilities to build back better post-pandemic”, Research England said. The new monies may become recurrent, but this rests on the outcome of the comprehensive spending review on 27 October, Research England said.

“In resetting the balance of dual support funding at around 64p in the pound there is further resource available to allocate to providers, but this additional funding is subject to the current spending review and cannot be guaranteed into future years,” the Research England letter explained.

Quality-related research (QR) funding remains at £1.75 billion, and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) remains at £250 million. Institutional allocations are to follow “in due course”, the funder said. The freeze in QR funding follows years of successive increases – last year, the government increased QR funding by £97m, following a £45m boost the year before. 

Of that £132m grant, Research England has earmarked £30m for postgraduate researchers impacted by Covid, £30m to improve research culture, £10m to boost business-university research collaborations and £32m for HEIF. 

David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England, said: “Universities have played an enormous role in the response to, and recovery from Covid-19, and this funding allocation will further support the sector as it moves beyond addressing immediate pressures.

“However, no one university can address these challenges alone. As the sector has demonstrated, when we work collaboratively with industry, the public sector, and with one another, we can deliver wider societal and economic benefit for our communities and the country.

“This funding allocation will provide stability in a volatile funding landscape and will ensure our world-class higher education research base has the capacity to continue to partner with civic leaders, business, and public services across challenges and opportunities as we build back better.”

Earlier this year, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) said it was gathering “robust evidence” of the impact of Official Development Assistance (ODA) research spending “to make the case for ODA allocation at the next spending review”.

Read more: Russell Group submits comprehensive spending review recommendations

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