Creating world-class research and innovation infrastructure

What is research and innovation infrastructure?

The UK’s world-leading status in research and innovation is in large part founded upon its network of internationally competitive, high-quality and accessible research and innovation infrastructure.

This includes:

  • large-scale physical research facilities, equipment and sets of instruments, such as:
    • synchrotrons
    • research ships
    • scientific satellites
    • ‘living labs’ like The Energy Systems Catapult Living Lab
  • knowledge-based resources, including scientific, cultural and artistic collections and archives, like the Archaeology Data Service, the UK’s openly accessible repository of heritage data
  • networks of technologies and digital infrastructures, including data and computing systems and communication networks, like the high-performance computing service ARCHER.

Through our Infrastructure Fund we also support investments in digital research infrastructure. This includes hardware, software, people and the underpinning tools and networks needed to advance the work of the UK’s researchers and innovators.

Find out more about UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) investment in digital research infrastructure.

The UKRI Infrastructure Fund

Research and innovation infrastructure is fundamental to delivering the UK’s wider ambition of increasing UK investment in research and development to 2.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2027. This is needed to tackle society’s most complex challenges and drive economic growth.

The 2020 government research and development roadmap highlighted how UKRI will provide a long-term, flexible pipeline of research and innovation infrastructure investment priorities for the next 10 to 20 years. It is built on the recommendations from our infrastructure programme, published in our opportunity report and landscape analysis.

This will help advance the government agendas set out in the:

How the fund works

We have set up a new process to deliver this investment.

This enables us to prioritise significant infrastructure investments funded through the UKRI Infrastructure Fund to:

  • ensure the UK remains a partner of choice for collaboration
  • demonstrate that the UK is a global leader in infrastructure
  • put our infrastructure to use in tackling global challenges.

The Infrastructure Fund supports step changes in infrastructure capability and capacity, including:

  • new infrastructure
  • major upgrades
  • repurposing
  • transformative developments
  • decommissioning.

It covers investments:

  • across the complete disciplinary spectrum
  • from fundamental research to innovation-focused activities
  • located across the UK’s regions and nations, or which form part of major international collaborations.

To ensure the development of a long-term pipeline, an element of the Infrastructure Fund will be focused on the development of future infrastructures by supporting pilot, design and scoping studies. This will help better understand the costs or de-risk and refine the approach before a full proposal can be developed.

How we will make infrastructure investments

The Infrastructure Fund is not an open funding opportunity for proposals.

Our UKRI councils and teams identify potential projects using our existing engagement work with our research and innovation communities.

These are assessed by the infrastructure advisory committee, set up to make recommendations to UKRI’s decision-making boards on the pipeline and prioritisation of infrastructure investments through the fund.

What the infrastructure advisory committee does

We have appointed committee members from:

  • higher education
  • innovation and research organisations
  • industry and commerce
  • policymaking and civil society.

The committee assesses the proposed projects for:

  • research and innovation quality
  • impact potential
  • sustainability
  • environmental sustainability
  • strategic importance.

Its responsibilities include:

  • advising the UKRI Executive Committee and Board on the prioritisation of infrastructure investments and portfolio options which meet the criteria of the UKRI Infrastructure Fund, including full infrastructure projects and associated scoping, design and pilot work
  • keeping a watching brief on delivery of the infrastructure portfolio, recommending refinements as investments move to implementation and further information about feasibility becomes known
  • supporting UKRI in maintaining and developing its understanding of the UK research and innovation infrastructure landscape’s needs
  • providing advice on the wider research and innovation infrastructure landscape.

Find out who is on the infrastructure advisory committee.

Contact infrastructure@ukri.org if you would like more information.

Last updated: 10 November 2021

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