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13 May 2009

Capital investment in research drives up productivity and attracts business

Public capital funding in universities has supported the UK's dominant position in international research and produced many other benefits, according to a report published today.

The independent review conducted by Technopolis found that around 1 billion investment in research buildings and equipment in higher education institutions over two academic years (2004-05 and 2005-06) had produced a wide range of benefits - with the following ranked as most important:

  • making more universities more attractive partners for business
  • increases in research productivity
  • ability to perform new types of research and do research in new areas
  • improved ability to attract research funding from the public and private sectors.

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

'This review confirms the immense importance of continuing to provide public capital funding to support new research platforms and improved facilities and equipment. This investment - as part of a programme of capital funding over the past decade - has underpinned the development of world-class research in universities and colleges, which was demonstrated in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.

'It is vital that we maintain this stream of funding to preserve the UK's leading position in conducting world-class research, which is critical to the future economic and social well being of our country. In many cases the funding has levered in public and private investors and national and international funds, in some cases far outstripping the original Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF) investments.'

Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson said:

'The Government's creation of the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF) has done a huge amount to improve our universities' infrastructure.

'SRIF funding has been used to attract world-class researchers and increase collaboration with business. This investment has also enabled universities to create jobs.'

Government funding was provided by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Devolved Administrations, and distributed by HEFCE, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland. It was allocated by formula, driven by research excellence and volume. The funding bodies made funding available to over 150 UK institutions with the amounts varying between 11,000 and 64 million per institution under the Science Research Investment Fund Round 2 (SRIF2).

In response to a survey, 390 project leaders made it clear that SRIF2 had produced multiple benefits. Eighty per cent of respondents indicated that their project had led to 10 or more distinct benefits, ranging from improvements to research productivity, the ability to carry out research that is more interdisciplinary in nature and greater recognition on the international stage.

The review also suggests that 3,300 new jobs will have been created through the SRIF2 portfolio as a whole. More than half (58 per cent) of respondents confirmed that other organisations gain access to SRIF-funded infrastructure.


1. 'Science Research Investment Fund: a review of round 2 and wider benefits'. A report to HEFCE by Technopolis.

2. Technopolis carried out the review on behalf of: the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills; HEFCE; the Scottish Funding Council; the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales; and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland.

3. SRIF2 funds could be used for:

  • the refurbishment of premises for research
  • the replacement, renewal or upgrading of equipment
  • the replacement of premises by new build or acquisition.

4. While the main focus of the report was SRIF2, in some of the cases investment complemented government funding made in earlier rounds stretching back to 1998.

5. SRIF2 and more recent public capital funding have underpinned the UK's leading position in international research. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise demonstrated that 17 per cent of the research activity submitted to the exercise was world leading (4*), and 37 per cent was assessed as internationally excellent (3*).

6. The UK has only 1 per cent of the world's population but carries out 5 per cent of the world's research and produces 12 per cent of all cited papers. The UK ranks second in the world to the USA on research.