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University-business alliance calls for more balanced research funding

An alliance of universities and businesses has launched a campaign to persuade political parties to back a “more balanced approach” to research funding.

Growth by Research, backed universities and businesses including several members of the Million+ new university think tank, aims to ensure that the next government matches the UK’s competitors in funding for research and innovation and that all research that has been judged to be excellent is funded, wherever it occurs.

The campaign launch was launched ahead of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills'  strategy for Science and Innovation, expected soon, and ahead of the results of the Research Excellence Framework on December 18.

Growth by Research argues that current research funding system in the UK has resulted in increasing concentration of resources in fewer universities. In 2012/13, five of Britain's 161 universities received 25 per cent of the annual recurrent research funding from government, while 75 per cent was been allocated to just 31 universities.

Professor Dave Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University and a leading supporter of the Growth by Research campaign, said:

"Ministers of all governments have been right to say that research and economic growth are closely linked.

"While I would expect and support a degree of concentration the current funding system has resulted in hyper-concentration with taxpayer investment being focused on just a few universities.  This limits the capacity of most universities to provide research support, particularly for their local businesses and public services. In turn, this limits innovation and is particularly unhelpful to small and medium size businesses that are more likely to turn to their local university for research support."

The Growth by Research campaign is calling for government to:

  • Reassert its commitment to the need for a broad and balanced research base, including investing in the research infrastructure of all universities.
  • Increase the existing science and innovation budget so that the UK is in the top 10 OECD countries measured by the proportion of GDP spent on science and innovation.
  • Fund research wherever it occurs so that all universities can support British businesses and public services to capitalise on our country's scientific discoveries.
  • Explore innovative ways of using existing public funds to allow them to support research, including greater investment in translational research.
  • Secure increased funding from the private sector and non-governmental organisations.