Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund

The Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund supports small and excellent research units and departments in higher education providers across England to expand and increase their activity where they have potential to grow.

£230 million since 2018
Partners involved:
Research England

The scope and what we're doing

E3 is a competitive grant funding scheme designed to support the strategic growth of small and excellent research units and departments across England.

E3 funding can be used for both resource and capital spend and is open to all approved (fee cap) registered higher education providers (HEPs) and any disciplinary or interdisciplinary field of research.

This programme aligns with Research England’s aim to create and sustain the conditions for a healthy, dynamic, diverse and inclusive research system in the higher education sector.


The aims of the E3 fund are to:

  • support the contribution of English universities to our society by pushing the frontiers of human knowledge and delivering transformative economic, environmental, and societal impact
  • fund the strategic and sustainable expansion of research capacity across England’s regions. E3 will focus on where distinctive research excellence with the potential for expansion already exists, and where those existing disciplinary or interdisciplinary foci can benefit their local or regional setting at an increased scale
  • contribute towards the delivery of government priorities while maintaining the principles of funding excellence wherever it is found, and deliver a research environment that reflects the rich diversity of the UK and cultivates future talent

The E3 fund will:

  • build capacity and quality in units where research excellence exists, but at a smaller scale with potential for growth
  • diversify the regional spread of research disciplines to support the sustained enhancement of research capacity across England.
  • enhance the skills base, build and diversify talent, and bring disciplines together to develop new skillsets and ’future leaders’ in areas of research excellence where there is untapped potential
  • reinforce the contribution of HEPs to their region through strategic local partnerships, focusing on sharing resources and infrastructure and generating local impact, backed by robust institutional leadership
  • encourage institutions to explore novel or disruptive approaches to fundamental, applied or interdisciplinary research and research practices through a risk-sharing approach

Opportunities, support and resources available

Round two: 2024 to 2029

Research England has allocated funding to 18 bids in the second round of the E3 fund. £156 million has been made available to fund the expansion of 18 research groups from across a broad range of disciplines from academic year 2024 to 2025, to 2028 to 2029.

Find out about E3 round two funded projects.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Round one: 2018 to 2024

Research England funded 13 bids in the first round of E3 funding, distributing £76.3 million of funding from academic year 2018 to 2019, to 2023 to 2024.

As a result of disruption due to COVID-19, each unit was offered a further year’s bridging grant to support their long-term sustainability. A further £6.5 million was therefore made available at the end of each unit’s original E3 allocation.

Find out about E3 round one funded projects.

Outcomes and impact

Based on initial evidence and feedback from round one, the benefits of E3 investment across the programme as a whole include:

  • doubling the number of research staff in funded units
  • doubling the research income, including larger average grant size capture
  • almost doubling research publications
  • ensuring the sustainability of funded units through:
    • improving research infrastructures
    • diversifying income streams
    • increasing networking and partnership opportunities
    • diversifying research agendas
    • raising external profiles of the funded units
    • improving grant capture capacity
    • strengthening existing and adding new teaching programmes
    • increasing internal resource capacity and strategic importance

Research England will undertake a long-term evaluation of the E3 programme in the future.

Who to contact

Governance, management and panels

Panel members (round two)

  • Professor Mary Stuart (Chair), Director of Leadership Development, Minerva UK
  • Professor Bashir M. Al-Hashimi, ARM Professor of Computing Engineering and Vice Principal (Research and Innovation), King’s College London
  • Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, Professor and Head of School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen and Sir Dugald Baird Chair in Women’s Health
  • Professor Sara de Freitas, Director of the Digital Futures Institute, University of Suffolk
  • Professor Lin Foxhall, Rathbone Chair of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology and Dean, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool
  • Professor Tony McEnery, Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University
  • Professor Karen Olsson-Francis, Professor of Geomicrobiology, School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Open University
  • Professor Leon Terry, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Cranfield University
  • Professor Carol Wagstaff, Professor of Crop Quality for Health and Research Dean for Agriculture, Food and Health, University of Reading
  • Professor Roger Whitaker, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Cardiff University
  • Professor Philip Whyman, Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Lancashire Centre for Business, Management and Enterprise Research, University of Central Lancashire

Last updated: 16 January 2024

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