Russell Group universities lead the world in producing excellent research. Their work benefits the economy, creates technological breakthroughs and improves quality of life in their local communities, across the UK and around the world.

Our universities have a track record of cutting-edge research and world-class facilities. This means they are best placed to attract investment from leading global companies. Research excellence across a range of disciplines means our universities can get involved in innovative projects to help tackle global challenges.

The UK has just 4% of the world’s researchers but they generate 16% of the most highly-cited papers, used most frequently by other researchers. Nearly three-quarters of these highly-cited papers are produced by Russell Group researchers.


Research funding

The UK invests a lower proportion of GDP on research and development than its rivals; we spend 1.73% of GDP, compared to China’s 2.07%, the US’s 2.79% and Germany’s 2.87%.



The many economic and societal benefits from research require ongoing public investment and funding must be sustainable. We support the Government’s existing commitment to increasing spending on research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, with a longer-term goal of 3%. This commitment is important to sustain economic growth, secure overseas and business investment, and support one of the country’s leading industries.

Funding from the European Union is currently a key part of our research income. Our researchers have won more awards from the European Research Council (ERC) than our nearest competitor. The UK wins 21% of ERC grants, compared to Germany’s 17%; Russell Group members win 17% of the total on their own.


The economic benefit of a well-funded research programme cannot be underestimated. We identified economic benefits of at least £21 billion resulting from the work of just a sample of Russell Group university projects – a return of £100 per £1 invested. More information about universities' economic impact in Engines of Growth.

 The UK’s dual-support system plays an essential part in sustaining research of the highest quality. The combination of stable core funding and competitively-awarded grants from funding councils ensures diversity and breadth of research in the UK.

Public funding for research is most effective when it is distributed to institutions that can demonstrate international excellence. Russell Group universities provide the greatest opportunities for multidisciplinary research, effective use of facilities through collaboration and equipment-sharing, and training the next generation.


Infrastructure and capital funding

World-class facilities and equipment are needed to create the very best environment for research. The UK Government has committed to maintaining capital funding for science and research, in line with inflation, at £1.1 billion a year until 2021. This will allow UK universities to rival the standard of their competitors’ overseas. However, ongoing funding for the cost of maintaining these crucial pieces of infrastructure needs to be considered.


Open access (OA) and open data

The Russell Group is committed to open access, allowing journals and articles to be available to anyone who wants to use them. Indeed, many Russell Group universities are themselves lead players in moves towards OA, particularly through the development of repositories and other initiatives to ensure the widest possible sharing and discussion of research.

We would like to see one coherent policy across the UK, with a mixed approach that values ‘green’ and ‘gold’ routes equally, and with minimal and proportionate costs of implementation. The Russell Group supported the development of the concordat on open research data, working with sector partners to address practical issues such as capability, capacity and costs.




Media Enquiries
Policy Enquiries
  • Stephanie Smith

    020 38161 310