Looking at the UKRI budget plan for the next five years you can see that Research England is one of the winners. Their budget goes up quite considerably over the next few years whilst Research Councils are fairly stable with only small incremental increases. So what are they going to do with that budget? As if reading my mind, RE helpfully published their Strategic Delivery Plan this week. The main chunk of the RE budget is QR (Quality Research) funding arising from REF performance, and HEIF which is linked to knowledge exchange and specifically the annual HEBCI return. This goes up 17% from £2.1Bn to £2.5Bn from 2022/3 to 2024/25. However there are some other interesting changes, for example, the Research Council budget only goes up by 10% in the same period, roughly distributed across the 7 councils. There are some clear messages about the value of partnerships (to both leverage additional income and to speed up the translation, adoption process) e.g. the nearly tripling of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund from £29M/yr to £75M/yr by 24/25.

Place is also still firmly on the agenda, and there is some subtle messaging around the role that Research England Development (RED) fund will play in delivering more place based projects. Indeed, I think there are indicators in the Delivery Plan that suggest that RE is still very much interested in funding excellence wherever it is found, and in the idea of universities having a fundamental role to play in regional economies. Interesting to observe where RE has gone for its case studies/exemplars that pepper the Delivery Plan. I was delighted to find our very own Centre for Enzyme Innovation featuring as an exemplar of the Enhancing Excellence in England (E3) scheme, and my eyebrows were raised on seeing that the majority of examples come from the modern and newer HEIs rather than being dominated by Oxbridge/Imperial and Russell Group. As to what this means on the ground – well it’s a bit early to tell, however, the indicators are that there are going to be more opportunities for large strategic research, innovation and knowledge exchange over the coming years.