Russell Group universities lead the world in producing excellent research which benefits the economy, creates technological breakthroughs and improves quality of life. The films below feature just a few examples of the impact that has followed from research undertaken in our universities:
The UK has just 4% of the world’s researchers but we generate 12% of citations and 16% of the most cited papers (three quarters of which are produced by Russell Group researchers). We rank first in the world on the quality of research produced. But we risk falling behind as our competitors in North America, East Asia and Europe are investing billions more in higher education and research.
Our world-class universities, with their heavy concentration of brainpower, established excellence, and the sheer numbers and facilities to achieve global impact, are best placed to attract investment by leading global companies and they have the critical mass of talent, resources and infrastructure. High concentrations of research excellence across disciplines are a foundation for the innovative, interdisciplinary research collaborations that are key to solving global challenges.
The UK invests a lower proportion of GDP on research and development than our rivals: while we invest 1.63% of GDP, China spends 2.08%, the US 2.73% and Germany 2.85% of GDP on R&D.
The many societal and economic benefits that come from research require ongoing public investment for them to be realised. The Government should continue to ring-fence the science and research budget and should increase investment on research to ensure the UK remains internationally competitive. This long-term commitment is important to sustain economic growth, secure overseas and business investment and support one of the country’s leading industries.
Funding for research from the European Union is currently a key part of our research income. Russell Group universities win 17% of the competitively-awarded European Research Council grants, a higher proportion than all research organisations in Germany win. In light of the UK's decision to leave the European Union, we will work closely with the Government to secure this vital investment in research. See our section EU & International for more information.
Dual support and excellence with critical mass
The UK’s dual support system of funding for university research plays an essential part in sustaining research of the highest quality. The combination of stable core funding through the funding councils, and competitively awarded grants from the Research Councils ensures the diversity and breadth of research in the UK.
Public funding for research is most effective when distributed on the basis of true international excellence, with a clear recognition of the importance of critical mass. The breadth and depth of activity in Russell Group universities provides the greatest opportunities for multidisciplinary research, for the most effective use of facilities through collaboration and equipment-sharing initiatives, and for training the next generation.
Our response to the higher education green paper looks at some of the Government's proposals to change the research funding landscape in more detail.
Infrastructure and capital funding
World-class infrastructure, particularly buildings and equipment, is needed to facilitate the very best environment for research. Capital funding is under great pressure, making it increasingly difficult for our institutions to compete with better-resourced institutions internationally. So we are pleased the Government has committed to maintaining capital funding for science and research in line with inflation at £1.1 billion a year until 2021.
Open access and open data
The Russell Group is committed to open access. However, research-intensive universities in particular face a number of challenges in implementing open access policy.
We would like to see a wider acceptance and financial support for so-called ‘green’ open access routes as a valid option. The green route is a simple, genuine and cost-effective way of delivering open access.
The Russell Group is supporting the development of a concordat on open research data to address practical issues such as capability, capacity and costs.
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Dr Tim Bradshaw
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