Research England - Research England


What formula-based funding can be used for

Formula-based funding can be spent on your high education provider’s own priorities, as long as these relate to activities we are empowered to fund, which are:

  • research
  • knowledge exchange
  • related activities.

You must comply with Research England’s terms and conditions. If there are further requirements you need to meet we will let you know.

Knowledge exchange funding

Most of our funds for knowledge exchange are allocated on the basis of knowledge-based interactions by higher education providers and the wider world, which result in benefits to the economy and society.

We support and incentivise performance through the Higher Education Innovation Fund. Individual allocations are calculated using:

Your higher education provider 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
  • do not need to account for your spending in detail.

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

Research funding

Most of our funds for research are distributed on the basis of quality, known as quality-related research funding.

Your higher education provider can use Quality-Related Research (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 higher education provider’s priorities.

Find out more about quality-related research funding.

For a full breakdown of how we allocate different types of funding on an academic year basis, see our funding allocations.

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, for example, 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.

Research degree programme supervision fund

This fund is to help your higher education provider 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 within those departments. The allocation also considers quality, relative costs and London weighting.

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 your higher education provider 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 this to be considered, charities must contact Research England ( in advance of awarding funding. Higher education providers will be informed by the charity if funding has been awarded under this exception.

Business research element

We provide funding to support higher education providers that carry out research with business and industry. This is allocated in proportion to the income they receive from business for research.

Policy support fund

This fund replaces the QR strategic priorities funding (QR SPF) allocated over the last two years to support policy-related research and activity.

As with QR SPF, this is a financial year allocation so this year (2021 to 2022) the funding can support activity undertaken between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022.

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.

We will be seeking more information on how funding has been spent following the end of the funding period but do not anticipate undertaking a full monitoring exercise.

Enhancing research culture

Research England allocated a total of £30 million to higher education providers (HEPs) for 2021 to 2022. To enable them to develop and initiate new activities, or increase the scale of already-proven activities, in response to the research and development people and culture strategy.

The funding was allocated based on a measure of total volume of research staff and postgraduate research students.

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

Research England allocated a total of £6 million to HEPs for 2021 to 2022 to be used for 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 implement findings.

The funding was be distributed to HEPs in proportion to their total recurrent QR allocations for academic year 2021 to 2022.

Participatory research funding can be used 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.


Last updated: 2 May 2024

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