Research England funds for research and knowledge exchange - Research England


Using Research England’s formula-based funding

Higher education providers (HEPs) can spend formula-based funding on their own priorities, as long as they relate to the activities we are empowered to fund:

  • research
  • knowledge exchange
  • related activities

For a full breakdown of how we allocate different types of funding, see our funding allocations.

Quality-related research (QR) funding

We distribute most of our funds for research on the basis of quality. This is called quality-related research (QR) funding.

Your HEP can use QR funding as it chooses, rather than funding being directed to a particular research programme. This includes investing in research infrastructure and doing research in keeping with your your HEP’s priorities.

Mainstream QR funding

Mainstream funding makes up about two-thirds of the total QR funding we allocate. It is based on research:

  • quality
  • volume
  • costs of working in a particular subject area such as laboratory-based research

We also take into account London weighting.

We use the Research Excellence Framework (REF) to measure quality. We administer this every five to seven years on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies. As well as Research England this includes the:

  • Scottish Funding Council
  • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland

QR research degree programme supervision fund

This fund is to help your HEP meet the costs of supervising research degree programmes.

We allocate funding based on the departments that receive mainstream quality-related research funding by the number of full-time equivalent postgraduate students in those departments. The allocation also considers quality, relative costs and London weighting.

QR charity support element

Many charities support research in higher education but are not always able to meet the full economic costs of research. This is particularly common in medical research.

We allocate additional funding to HEPs in proportion to the income received from charities for research. This includes London weighting.

Generally, income from charities must be awarded through open competition and peer review in order to be included in the calculation of the charity support element.

However, in exceptional circumstances Research England may accept alternative quality assurance processes where there is an urgent requirement for research to commence and an external peer review process would cause detrimental delays.

For Research England to consider this, charities must contact in advance of awarding funding. The charity will inform HEPs if we award funding under this exception.

QR business research element

We provide funding to support HEPs that carry out research with business and industry. We allocate it in proportion to the income they receive from business for research.

Capital investment for physical infrastructure

Higher education providers can get additional funding to support sustainable capital investment, called the Research Capital Investment Fund.

We do this to:

  • enable high-quality research
  • support sustainable infrastructure development
  • grow higher education provider’s research capacity and capability

We allocate funding through:

  • HEI Research Capital England, which looks at your HEP’s research income from quality-related research funding and other sources
  • Higher Education Research Capital England, which looks at your HEP’s research income from the research councils

Knowledge exchange funding

We support universities and other HEPs to exchange knowledge with the wider world, in a way that contributes to society and the economy.

Your HEP must only spend this funding on knowledge exchange. This should be in keeping with your knowledge exchange strategic objectives and government priorities for the funding.

In this way you can target spending towards your own priorities and do not need to account for it in detail.

Find out more about Higher Education Innovation Fund policies and priorities.

Policy support fund

This funding supports universities in undertaking research with local, regional, national and international structures.

Eligible activity includes:

  • new and extended research activity working in partnership with policymakers
  • activity aimed at improving the dialogue and facilitating the use of existing research and the exchange of knowledge between universities and policymakers
  • activity and training to better equip academics to communicate effectively with policymakers
  • partnerships and collaborations aimed at supporting evidence-based policymaking
  • the exchange of people, for example, staff secondments, contributing towards professional doctorates in policy, joint PhDs

Enhancing research culture

The Enhancing Research Culture fund (ERC) supports HEPs to develop and initiate new activities in response to the government’s research and development people and culture strategy.

Areas for potential investment by HEPs include, but are not limited to:

  • improving access to and participation in research, including postgraduate research study, for people from currently underrepresented groups
  • furthering open research practices
  • improving research conduct and reproducibility
  • tackling bullying and harassment
  • improving research leadership skills across all career stages
  • creating routes for collaboration and exchange with businesses, third sector organisations and government
  • securing and supporting the careers of researchers and associated professions
  • diversifying recruitment, reward and recognition approaches at all career stages
  • delivering new approaches to public dialogue and community-led research

Participatory research

Participatory or co-produced research strengthens research outcomes by involving the communities and users of research, better recognising their experience, needs and preferences, and giving greater agency to communities to put findings into practice.

HEPs can use participatory research funding to cover the costs of co-produced research and to run capacity-building activities such as:

  • pilot projects using innovative models and methodologies for participatory research
  • the development of materials to support researchers interested in developing their skills in participatory research, and public engagement activities that are related to participatory and co-produced research
  • case studies and evidence of the impact of co-produced research, and evaluations of the effectiveness of co-production from different institutions or disciplines

Specialist provider element

The funding recognises the characteristics of specialist providers and the contribution they make to their disciplines, associated industries, and more widely to society and the economy.

It aims to support the excellence and capability of small and specialist providers, ensuring their continued contribution to the economy and society.

Its objectives are to provide funding that enables specialist providers to:

  • have the capacity to continue delivering world-leading research developments in their specialisms
  • sustain their role in training talented researchers with sector-specific knowledge and skills
  • translate their research into economic and societal impact

Funding is allocated in proportion to providers’ total recurrent QR funding. Your HEP can use the funding as it chooses for research and research infrastructure, in keeping with your HEP’s priorities.

HEIF business and commercialisation supplement

We allocate a supplement to HEIF to focus on meeting the government’s requirement to increase focus and funding on university-business collaboration. The allocation for each HEP is calculated using knowledge exchange income indicators relating only to business and commercialisation activity. This supplemental funding must be used solely for business and commercialisation activity, in addition to that supported through HEIF.

Areas for potential investment by HEPs include, but are not limited to:

  • intellectual property exploitation
  • business engagement with large and small businesses
  • local economic development

Last updated: 11 April 2024

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