UK government support for university and business research partnerships favours the South of England

28 November 2012

Seven new university and business research partnerships in sectors including life sciences, energy efficiency and advanced manufacturing were announced earlier this month by UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts.

The new projects double the number of winning bids from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UK RPIF) to 14. When complete, the combined government, business and charity support will deliver more than £1 billion of new funding for research.

The 14 winning bids will take up £220 million of public funding and leverage over £600 million of private support. There will shortly be a new bidding round for the remaining £80 million of public investment and both new and resubmitted bids will be eligible.

The funding is part of the Government's economic policy objective to achieve "strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries". So to show how evenly shared the policy outcomes are, the total funds arranged by geography are shown below.

Funding by geography

London (South) 235
Oxford (South) 170
Warwick (Midlands) 90
Birmingham (Midlands) 60
Uxbridge (near London, South) 60
Manchester (Northwest) 38
Dundee (Scotland) 38
Swansea (Wales) 38
Liverpool (Northwest) 35
Nottingham (Midlands) 34
Belfast (Northern Ireland) 33
Guildford (South) 32

This amounts to £497m for the South, £184m for the Midlands, £73m for the Northwest and the rest is as above.

The seven projects are:

  • A £38 million partnership between the University of Manchester, The Christie hospital and Cancer Research UK to develop the Manchester Cancer Research Centre. This will look at cancer treatments targeted to individuals based on the specific characteristics of their tumour biology. It will span laboratory research through to clinical trials and patient care and focus on five research areas: radiation therapy, lung cancer, women’s cancers, melanoma and haematological oncology.
  • An £85 million partnership between UCL (University College London) and the Great Ormond Street Hospital. The Centre for Children’s Rare Disease Research will combine the specialist research expertise of the UCL Institute of Child Health with the unique patient cohort at Great Ormond Street to find treatments and cures for rare diseases of which over 6,000 have been identified.
  • A £32 million partnership between Queen's University Belfast, The Atlantic Philanthropies, a Wellcome-Wolfson Capital Award, The Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust and the Insight Trust for the Visually Impaired to deliver the next phase of the Institute of Health Sciences. The Centre for Experimental Medicine will bring researchers working on vision sciences onto the campus alongside new research programmes in diabetes and genomics.
  • A £34 million partnership between the University of Nottingham, GlaxoSmithKline and other co-investors to support the Centre in Sustainable Chemistry. This will be housed within the iconic GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry and will minimise environmental impact. It will ensure that chemistry becomes more energy and resource efficient and sustainable in meeting society's needs for new and better medicines, safer agrochemicals and better materials.
  • A £38 million partnership between Swansea University, British Petroleum (BP), and TATA Steel Europe for the development of the Energy Safety Research Institute. This will capitalise on the university’s strengths in petroleum and chemical processing and focus on the safety issues surrounding the development of existing energy processes, as well as the safe deployment and integration of new green energy technologies.
  • A £60 million partnership between Brunel University, (based in Uxbridge, Middlesex) TWI and other companies to develop the National Research Centre for Structural Integrity. This will act as a dedicated national hub for interdisciplinary research into the soundness of the design and constructions of products, plant and infrastructure across the energy, transport and advanced manufacturing sectors.
  • A £150 million partnership between Imperial College London and Voreda to contribute to the development of a major new campus adjacent to the White City regeneration area. The centrepiece will be the Research and Translation Hub, which will provide high specification research and incubator space for 1,000 researchers investigating next generation materials and spin-out companies.

UK RPIF was first launched with £100 million of public finance in May 2012 and, in response to the large number of high-quality bids, the Government recently tripled the public support to £300 million. All projects have to include private funding from industry or the charitable sector worth a minimum of double the public contribution – making more than £1 billion of investment in total.

The 14 projects will provide a base for developing new knowledge to support economic growth, and to help meet the health needs of the UK and the wider world. Universities are contributing over £70 million from their own resources.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said, "It is fantastic that our top businesses and top charities are queuing up to collaborate with our world-class universities. They want to work together to deliver innovation, commercialisation and growth, which will help make sure the UK competes and thrives in the global race. The winning projects will tackle the key issues we face — like fighting disease, ensuring energy efficiency and improving infrastructure — for the benefit of all.”

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), said, “The demand for funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund demonstrates the power of universities in promoting economic growth through research and knowledge exchange. The support from international companies and world-leading charities — all making hard-headed investments — is a tribute to the excellence of scientific and research staff in our universities.”

The projects announced in October were:

  • A £60 million partnership between the University of Birmingham and Rolls-Royce for a world-leading research centre for high-temperature metallurgy and associated processes for components including turbine blades. This will ensure a more effective translation of fundamental research to production and train engineers from apprenticeships to postdoctoral fellows.
  • A £32 million partnership of the University of Oxford and a consortium including UCB Pharma, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Boehringer Ingelheim and Takeda for a new centre for drug target discovery and for research based on medical data sets. Bringing together academia, industry and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, with capability to analyse massive medical datasets, it will help deliver improved medicines, better health care, and economic growth from UK’s life sciences.
  • A £92 million partnership between the University of Warwick, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) for a new National Automotive Innovation Campus. This will develop new technologies to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. It will also address a shortage of skilled R&D staff in the automotive supply chain. JLR and TMETC, working with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, envisage a 10-fold return on investment through improved products, processes and services.
  • A £138 million partnership of the University of Oxford and a consortium including Synergy Health, Cancer Research UK, Roche Diagnostics, GE Healthcare and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, to establish a new world-leading centre for targeted cancer research. This will take an all-encompassing approach to patients with early stage cancer, to develop, test and implement personalised minimally invasive treatments, combined with targeted diagnosis, imaging and therapy.
  • A more than £35 million partnership between the University of Surrey (Guildford) and industry consortium including many of the mobile communications global industry leaders to build a new collaborative international research centre which will support the development of 5th Generation cellular communications. The 5G Centre will provide real-time experimental facilities to underpin the development of new mobile broadband internet products and services.
  • A £38 million project at the University of Dundee, with co-investment from the Wellcome Trust and others, contributing to a new centre which will increase the scope for translating life sciences research into global healthcare solutions in areas such as cancer, infectious diseases, eczema and diabetes. In collaboration with major pharmaceutical companies, it will help reduce the costs of bringing safe new drugs to market.
  • A £33 million partnership between the University of Liverpool and Unilever to develop a state-of-the-art materials chemistry research hub, the ‘Materials Innovation Factory’, providing an unparalleled suite of open-access facilities. It will help accelerate research and reduce new product discovery times relevant to a range of sectors including sustainable energy, home and personal care, pharmaceuticals, paint and coatings, thus helping to drive economic growth and international competitiveness.

Further information

1. The £300 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund will provide investment in higher education research facilities. Universities are required to secure at least double the amount they receive from the fund from non-public sources. The Fund was set up in 2012 and will allocate all funding across two funding rounds.

The Fund is managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), working in collaboration with devolved counterparts, with proposals assessed by an independent assessment panel. Funding awards are subject to further due diligence being conducted satisfactorily. Details of the UK RPIF are available on the HEFCE website at:>
ukresearchpartnershipinvestmentfund20122015/#d.en.72999 <

2. The UK government's plan for growth published at Budget 2011:

The Government's economic policy objective is to achieve "strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries".


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