Key themes in the allocation of science and research funding

21 Dec

As promised, the BIS pre-Christmas release of the allocation of science and research funding took place yesterday.  Much of the analysis has understandably focused on the changes to capital funding and this issue is well discussed in the following blog posts and articles:

Campaign for Science and Engineering: Press Release – Commenting on the Science Budget Allocations

Campaign for Science and Engineering: Capital Spending – a closer look

New Scientist The S Word blog: UK science allocation – more gloom

The Independent: Capital spending on science cut by 40%

In addition to news on capital spending, three key themes emerge.  None are new, but the number of times they are mentioned and referred to reinforces their importance and exemplifies Government thinking on these issues.

1. Funding to focus on critical mass and research excellence

‘The Science and Research funding allocations will support the very best research, by further concentrating resources on research centres of proven excellence and with the critical mass and multi-disciplinary capacity to address national challenges and compete internationally.’ (pg.5)

‘Norwich Research Park – ‘provides a unique concentration of research resources, plants and microbes, food and interdisciplinary environmental sciences.  This combination of strengths is central to the cross-Council programmes including Living with Environmental Change, Bioenergy, Global Food Security and Healthy Ageing.’ (pg.12)

‘Across the country, the UK has excellent university research capabilities with the critical mass to compete globally and the expertise to collaborate with businesses and other organisations.  Our policy is to concentrate funding further on research centres of proven excellence, so these centres have the critical mass to address national challenges and compete internationally.’ (pg.12)

‘The following criteria were developed for the prioritisation of science and research funding – covering the project-based RC funding, the block-grant HEFCE funding, and individual researcher support provided by the Research Councils and National Academies. (pg.13):

  • Further concentrating funding on research centres of proven excellence and with appropriate critical mass and multi-disciplinary capacity to address national challenges and compete internationally’

‘Greater prioritisation of research funding to high quality people (scholarships, fellowships, link with academies) situated in best research groups linked to growth.’ (pg.16)

2. Collaboration will be encouraged and rewarded.

‘These allocations and reforms will provide strong incentives and rewards for universities to improve and further their relationships with business, charities and government, and to deliver even more impact on the economy and society.’ (pg.3)

‘The research base has a number of clusters of excellent science which have strong relationships with industrial ‘hotspots’ of innovation and growth’ (pg.3)

‘[Research Councils and Funding Councils] will provide strong incentives and rewards for universities to further improve their relationships with business and deliver even more impact in relation to the economy and society.’ (pg.5)

‘The priority is to retain investment in these clusters (e.g. Norwich Research Park), to strengthen engagement between the research base and industry, and complement the existing portfolio of joint activity between the research bases, TSB and local and regional innovation bodies.’ (pg.12)

‘HEFCE will take forward reform of Higher Education Innovation Funding rapidly.  Reforms, based on the current formulaic approach, will provide greater incentives to HEIs to increase interaction with business and other users, through a focus on performance rather than capacity, incentivising the highest performing institutions further and supporting only the most effective performers.’ (pg.16)

3. Technology Strategy board to play several important roles.

‘The partnership (between the TSB and the Research Councils) enables investments in research to be closely informed by business; so that businesses will more readily adopt innovations that stem from excellent research.’ (pg.10)

‘The Research Councils will also work with the Technology Strategy Board to help deliver Technology and Innovation Centres.’ (pg.10)

‘Over the Spending Review period the Research Councils will (pg.44):

  • Strengthen collaboration between Research Councils and Technology Strategy Board, including working together to deliver effective technology Innovation Centres.’

Read ‘The Allocation of Science and Research Funding 2011/12 to 2014/15’ online in full (PDF).

More information about these developments and initiatives will come in the form of:

  • How the Research Councils will deliver their share of the efficiency savings – due by March 2010
  • A White Paper (made reference to in the BIS letter to HEFCE Chairman) which will ‘set out our intentions for the future powers and functions of the Council’.

 

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