UKRI receives record funding allocation

Although the national research funding agency has received a record three-year allocation, high inflation means not all the increases will spell real terms spending increases.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced that UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) will receive a “record” budget allocation over the next three years.

Although budgets in 2024/25 will be 14% higher than 2021/22, high inflation means those figures will be lower in real spending terms. Currently, the Bank of England says inflation is 9% – and expects this figure to increase and peak towards the end of 2022.

Overall budgets will rise from £7.9 billion in 2022-23 to £8.4bn the following year, reaching £8.9bn in 2024/25, which is 12.6% higher than current levels.

However, the allocations mean that research will receive a funding uplift as the government maintains its commitment to help grow R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. Figures were announced on 30 May.

The importance of research and innovation to the future of the UK is reflected in UKRI’s increasing budget at a time of significant pressure on public finances
– Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, UKRI

BEIS figures show that annual funding will increase for all research councils and UKRI bodies. Research England will remain the largest overall constituent of UKRI: its core budgets will increase to roughly £2.3bn per annum by 2024/25, after a £42m-dip next year. Overall, RE’s budget will increase 31.6% between 2021/22 and 2024/25.

UKRI confirmed it would maintain the balance of “dual support” of institutional block grants and competitive grants. For every £1 spent through the councils and cross-UKRI funds in competitive funds, which come with more spending conditions, Research England will distribute 64p of quality-related (QR) funding.

Innovate UK’s budget will grow the most proportionally over the same period, 53.7%, to £970m. The seven research councils receive more modest rises – in some cases as low as 6% over the three years.

It is the first time UKRI has received a three-year settlement. In its report, UKRI revealed most of next year’s funding was already committed but would operate with more financial headroom in the latter parts of the three-year period.

UKRI chief executive, Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser said: “Research and innovation underpin the creation of high-quality jobs and public services and are key in tackling the many challenges we face, from achieving sustainable and affordable energy to improving life-long health and wellbeing.

“The importance of research and innovation to the future of the UK is reflected in UKRI’s increasing budget at a time of significant pressure on public finances.”

Added Dame Ottoline: “We have set out in our five-year strategy how we will align incentives and investments to support the very best ideas, talented people and teams, and places across the UK, to build a positive research and innovation culture that delivers impact.”

“Overall, this is a good outcome for UK Research and Development, and UKRI more generally,” said Stephanie Smith, head of policy (research and international) at the Russell Group. The Russell Group – which represents 24 research-intensive universities, said the allocations represent “a golden opportunity to reverse the decline in quality-related funding over the past decade”.

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