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.
- large-scale physical research facilities, equipment and sets of instruments, such as:
- 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 infrastructures, such as data processing and storage capabilities, which address a defined discipline area. Underpinning and cross-disciplinary digital infrastructures, like high-performance and high-throughput computing facilities, are funded through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) new investment portfolio for digital research infrastructure.
Find out more about UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) funded research and innovation infrastructure.
Find out more about UKRI’s 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:
- Build Back Better: our plan for growth
- Integrated Review Refresh 2023
- UK Innovation Strategy
- Net Zero Strategy
- Independent Review of the Future of Compute
An independent report commissioned by UKRI has outlined that UKRI’s infrastructure programme has succeeded in its goals of further enhancing the UK’s position as a global research and innovation leader.
How the fund works
The process to deliver this investment 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
- transformative developments
- scoping, design studies and pilots
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 is focused on the development of future infrastructures by supporting pilot, design and scoping studies. This helps better understand the costs or de-risk and refine the approach before a full proposal is 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 infrastructure advisory committee advises UKRI on the prioritisation of infrastructure investments and portfolio options which meet the criteria of the UKRI Infrastructure Fund on:
- research and innovation excellence
- strategic importance
- impact potential
- step change in capability
- delivery and feasibility, including financial sustainability
- accessibility to the wider community
- environmental sustainability
Its additional responsibilities include:
- 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
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Last updated: 19 June 2023