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Funding multi-institutional collaboration

This Framework of Principles relates to funding for collaborative, multi-institutional research and related research activities, such as capital investment, doctoral training, innovation, knowledge exchange, and public engagement. Collaborations may include public or private sector research organisations, as well as business and other partner organisations where these bring distinctive contributions to the collaborative research activity.

  1. UK Research and Innovation, Higher Education Funding Bodies, and the UK Space Agency (referred to collectively below as ‘UK funding bodies’) support collaboration in research and related activities through a range of mechanisms.

  2. Complex interdisciplinary research projects increasingly need to be tackled through multi-institutional proposals which bring together the necessary expertise to address challenging research problems. Multi-institutional research proposals have the potential, therefore, to demonstrate the excellence of their proposed approach in peer review.

  3. The UK funding bodies will ensure that scope for multi-institutional collaboration is made clear in funding calls, and that policies are developed taking into account their impact on university groups and consortia. Any costs relating directly to the management of the collaboration may be included in relevant funding bids.

  4. Subject or discipline based research consortia have the potential to create and build critical mass in new fields, and researchers and research groups are strongly encouraged to consider how their research proposals can be made more competitive through collaboration with appropriate partners, particularly in connection with bidding for EU and international funding.

  5. Effective collaborations are driven by the people who collaborate, not institutions; however institutions and their senior managers play an important role in encouraging and facilitating new collaborations.

  6. A multi-partner collaboration may or may not be based on an existing consortia - any collaboration must demonstrate that it brings together the capabilities, expertise and resources necessary to address the proposed project.

  7. Collaborative proposals must demonstrate clarity of leadership, a strategic use of funding across the partnership, agreement over intellectual property ownership, and clear mechanisms for the governance and monitoring of progress across the partner organisations.

  8. Where research requires contributions from more than one funding body, the funders have clear arrangements to manage joint funding arrangements and to ensure such proposals are appropriately assessed, avoiding any ‘double jeopardy’.

  9. Where proposals can demonstrate that a spatial concentration or clustering of the partners will help with exploring the potential social or economic impact for the research (e.g. as detailed in the Pathways to Impact for the proposal) this will be taken into account. Regional or geographical co-location of partners as such is not a funding criterion.

  10. Conflicts of interest when reviewing multi-institutional proposals will be avoided by seeking independent international reviews of a proposal where this is necessary.

  11. Research Councils only fund eligible research organisations which have the appropriate mechanisms in place to assure the Councils over the costing of research and the management of grant funds. Research Councils recognise that it will often be appropriate for a single research organisation to act as the accountable organisation for the purposes of a multi-institutional partnership.

  12. The Higher Education Funding Bodies play a vital role in ensuring that barriers to research collaboration within the Higher Education sector are minimised, and that institutions are supported in developing or extending their collaborative working.

  13. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ensured i) that it is possible for collaborations of significant scale to make a joint submission covering their work, if they so wish; and ii) that in other cases where research is undertaken collaboratively across two or more HEIs, full credit can be given to each of the partners for their contribution. A submitting unit that makes successful effort to forge collaborative partnerships can expect this to be taken into account in the assessment of their research environment – in addition to any credit that may be given in due course for research outcomes and impacts arising from such partnerships.

  14. For the purposes of research funding metrics, institutions are able to report on their share of research income and expenditure from a grant being managed centrally by another partner in accordance with HESA Finance Statistics Return procedures.