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New fund to boost excellent research at 13 universities


New fund to boost excellent research at 13 universities

Funding announced today will boost the capacity and quality of research at 13 universities in topics ranging from recycling plastic to meeting the needs of an ageing society, and manufacturing to agri-robotics.

The investment of £76 million is the first announced from the Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund, launched last year by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation.

The 13 units are varied in their research focus, with many aligned with the Grand Challenges in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The funded units will build capacity and capability across the higher education sector, helping the Government meet its commitment to increase R&D spend to 2.4 per cent by 2027.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over.

“The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry.

“Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “The Expanding Excellence in England Fund reflects UKRI’s vision to enhance academic excellence, foster collaboration and increase access to new technologies.

“The first research units awarded this funding demonstrate the breadth and diversity of talent in UKRI’s portfolio, from astrobiology through to forensic linguistics and climate change, and our commitment to tackling important research questions in a changing world.”

Research England’s Director of Research, Steven Hill, said: “Research England’s investment in these units aims to strengthen the contribution of English HEIs to our society, push the frontiers of human knowledge, deliver economic impact, and create social impact by supporting our society and others to become enriched, healthier, more resilient and sustainable.

“It will also enhance the skills base and build talent in areas of research excellence where pockets of excellence exist but there is untapped potential, and stimulate strategic partnerships between HEIs and other organisations outside of higher education.”

 The investments include:

  • £5.8m to the University of Portsmouth for a sustainable Centre for Enzyme Innovation. The centre will discover new, naturally-occurring enzymes that can break down plastics, helping the Government meet ambitious targets for recycling plastic by 2025.
  • £4m to Sheffield Hallam University for the Lab4Living, which will use design to promote health and quality of life, with a focus on ageing and the 100-year life, helping to meet the needs of our ageing society.
  • £6.3m to the University of Lincoln to create the first global centre of excellence for agri-robotics in the UK. The centre will meet increasing global demand in the agricultural industry to use robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence to improve productivity to meet the needs of a growing population.
  • £6.6m to Loughborough University for the Centre for Mathematical Cognition, which will use psychology research to design and test new teaching practices, to improve the teaching of maths and address the STEM skills gap.
  • £7.6m to Lancaster University for Imagination Lancaster, an interdisciplinary design centre. Design research will address a range of challenges such as the future of manufacturing and future of cities.

Funding for the 13 units will run for three years, starting in August 2019, allowing successful bidders time to scale up their activity and build quality.

For further information visit the Research England website.

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