Strategic partnerships with universities

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests around £260 million per year in UK universities to fund excellent research and training for the widest possible benefit.

We work closely with the university sector and value our interactions with all higher education institutions.

However, we recognise that certain universities, based on their volume of funding or strengths in strategically important areas, are key in helping us deliver our ambitious strategy for UK bioscience.

We maintain strategic partnerships with 15 universities that meet these criteria.

How do university strategic partnerships work?

Strategic partnerships involve increased dialogue between BBSRC and senior management of partner universities to understand each other’s strategic priorities and direction.

Through this dialogue, we enable a more joined-up and efficient approach to supporting and championing UK bioscience.

Interactions take place through regular teleconferences and visits, where we discuss a range of strategic issues of mutual interest. Continued dialogue is important and underlines the two-way nature of our relationships.

A valuable aspect of this dialogue is the role that universities play as BBSRC’s ‘critical friends’ in the early stages of wider consultations on new strategies and policies, and as advocates for the importance of bioscience research.

Being a strategic partner does not mean special funding or favouritism for the university.

How are strategic partnerships established?

Our current strategic partners have been identified via 2 different metrics.

Given the long-term nature of relationship management, and to ensure that both parties can gain value from the relationship, strategic partnerships are reviewed every 3 years. The next review will take place in 2024 to 2025.

Strategic partner universities (SPUs) represent the top-funded universities based on average value of an institution’s BBSRC-funded research grants portfolio for the 3 years preceding the review date.

We typically expect to support 10 partnerships, representing approximately 50% of BBSRC’s research grant funding to universities.

Additional strategic partner universities (ASPUs) are ranked within the top 5 research organisations based on average value of an institution’s BBSRC-funded grant spend from 2019 to 2021 in 1 or more of our forward look priority areas.

BBSRC’s forward look priority areas are:

  • transformative technologies
  • bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth
  • bioscience for an integrated understanding of health
  • bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

We typically expect to support around 5 ASPUs, though the exact number of ASPUs is determined at the point of review, based on the data.

BBSRC university strategic partnerships

Strategic partner universities

Our current strategic partner universities are:

  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Glasgow
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Leeds
  • The University of Manchester
  • The University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • UCL

Additional strategic partner universities

Our current additional strategic partner universities are:

  • University of Liverpool
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Warwick
  • University of York


If you have any questions or queries about BBSRC’s strategic partnerships with universities, please contact the BBSRC Strategy and Planning Team via email at:

Last updated: 12 September 2023

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