Research England funds for research and knowledge exchange - Research England


Reviewing the approach to Research England’s formula-based research funding

Research England is undertaking a review of our approach to some of our formula-based research funding, this is called the strategic institutional research funding (SIRF) review.

The review will consider the fundamental principles and the effectiveness of our current funding allocation mechanisms, in consultation with the sector and wider stakeholders.

Further updates on progress and opportunities for engagement will be published on this page.

Scope of the review

The term ‘strategic institutional research funding’ is intended to cover all formula-driven research funding allocations made to English higher education providers (HEPs) that can, broadly speaking, be used flexibly by the provider to serve their wider strategic priorities. The funds included in the SIRF review are:

  • all quality-related research (QR) funding streams
  • Research Capital Infrastructure Funding (RCIF)
  • Specialist Provider Element
  • ring-fenced funds: Policy Support Fund, Participatory Research Fund and Enhancing Research Culture fund

This review will explore how effectively SIRF is delivering on the aims and objectives that it is intended to achieve. The review does not extend to Research England competitive schemes or knowledge exchange funding.

SIRF principles and assumptions

Research England aims to create and sustain the conditions for a healthy, dynamic, diverse and inclusive research and knowledge exchange system in the English higher education sector.

Our formula-driven research funding provides flexible funding that allows higher education providers to make decisions on how to use these allocations, supporting their strategic autonomy.


These principles describe the high-level aims that Research England SIRF is intended to contribute to, as part of a healthy research sector and in collaboration with funding from other sources.

Enable research excellence

Strategic investment in enabling infrastructure, environment and culture to produce high-quality research outputs and high-quality impact beyond academia. SIRF supports research excellence wherever it is found, informed by the Research Excellence Framework.

Contribute towards research sustainability

Stable funding supports long-term financial and strategic planning and contributes to the full economic costs of research. This supports the sector’s ability to respond to current research needs without reducing its ability to meet them in the future.

Support a healthy and diverse research sector

Maintain and build capacity and capability across the range of type and size of institutions, disciplines and their missions, and support diverse, dynamic and sustainable research careers.

Address strategic policy priorities

Facilitate the response by HEPs and research community to current and emerging local, national, and global challenges.


The objectives outline the broad purpose of SIRF and how Research England uses it to support the research sector, by:

  • recognising research quality across the widest range of research outputs
  • enabling HEPs’ strategic autonomy, providing flexibility for providers to develop and progress their own research strategies and agenda
  • balancing stability and dynamism: SIRF seeks to balance specific funding for new priorities through ring-fenced funds, and stable longer-term funding streams (stable funding allocations over multiple years facilitates strategic planning within HEPs, the flexibility of the funding supports agile responses to changing priorities and new opportunities)
  • supporting people and culture, and contributing to building and maintaining an inclusive research system
  • driving research impact, supporting an engaged and impactful research system that connects research with wider society to bring about positive socioeconomic change
  • enabling partnerships and promoting collaboration across the research sector, including higher education providers, industry, charities and communities to promote a diverse, resilient and connected system
  • enhancing and increasing the effective use of research infrastructure across the sector
  • balancing the need for accountability and transparency of public funding while managing administrative burden


There are two broad funding mechanisms used by Research England to allocate SIRF:

  • flexible funding, which can be used by HEPs to support any research activity
  • ring-fenced funding streams, which must be allocated to activities that support the aims of those funds

These funding mechanisms support multiple activities across HEPs, and these contribute to the achievement of the objectives described above. We expect the portfolio of SIRF funding streams to support a balanced range of activities designed to contribute to these objectives.

Last updated: 11 April 2024

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