Budget 2017

13 November 2017

The Chair of the Russell Group of universities today called for a budget boost to an innovation fund that could deliver £2.5 billion in economic benefits every year across the UK.

In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the budget on 22 November, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli called for an increase to Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) and equivalent funds across the UK which support the development of knowledge-based interactions between universities and businesses, and provides resources to help new technologies get to market.


Analysis has suggested that every £1 invested through HEIF generates £9.70 in economic benefits for the UK. In his letter, Professor Muscatelli called on the Chancellor to boost HEIF to £250 million.

Professor Muscatelli also highlighted the importance of protecting quality-related “QR” funding to leverage research investment that would otherwise leave the UK.

In his letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Professor Muscatelli said:

“HEIF is extremely effective at developing knowledge-based interactions between universities and businesses and for essential proof of concept and proof of market work. Evidence shows that every £1 of HEIF funding returns £9.70 in benefits for the economy and society. A targeted HEIF boost to £250 million, while lifting caps on the amount of funding available to individual universities, would allow those with the most success in this area to do even more. We are asking the Devolved Administrations to follow suit and encourage the commercialisation of research across the UK. The potential is certainly there to deliver economic benefits of over £2.5 billion per year from such a move.

“The research funding currently distributed by HEFCE supports strategic thinking, planning and action by giving universities the flexibility to deploy resources into cutting-edge areas of research and innovation. This allows them to respond quickly to emerging opportunities, to invest in people and facilities, and leverage investment from business and charities that could otherwise go out of the UK. Focusing on excellence, these ‘quality-related’ (QR) funds complement other ‘challenge-based’ approaches to research funding. 

“A boost to QR from the £4.7 billion already announced would ensure there is a sustainable pipeline of new ideas and talent to keep the UK research and innovation ecosystem vibrant. This could be focused around the existing business element of QR and the Charity Research Support Fund, both of which have direct potential for securing additional investment in the UK.”

Chief Executive of the Russell Group Dr Tim Bradshaw added:

“HEIF has helped universities work with everyone from brand new small businesses to well established international companies. It has a proven record of delivering economic impact by supporting a wide range of activities from proof of concept work, to entrepreneurship training and incubator space for university spin-outs. Activity funded through HEIF is central to the priorities set out in the industrial strategy and we want to see similar investments being made right across the UK.

“Increasing resources available through this programme will help boost productivity across the economy. It would be another positive step towards achieving our ambition to increase investment in research and development to 3% of GDP.

“Commercialisation of research at Russell Group universities and the links our members have built with businesses across the UK already add tens of billions to the economy every year. Research activities at our member universities in 2015/16 generated £34.1 billion for the UK, contributing to high value jobs and growth up and down the country.”



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