The UK leads the world in research and innovation. With just 0.9% of the world’s entire population, 2.7% of global research and development (R&D) expenditure, and 4.1% of researchers, the UK accounts for a whopping 10.7% of global citations and 15.2% of the world’s most highly-cited articles.

Creating UK Research and Innovation provides a landmark moment to strengthen the UK’s world-leading position. The Government has put research and innovation at the heart of its modern Industrial Strategy, committing additional funding of £7bn by 2021/22 and setting out an ambition to increase total R&D expenditure to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

As the Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation recently announced at the launch of our new organisation: “UK Research and Innovation builds on the excellence of our individual councils. We will work collaboratively with researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to develop the most exciting ideas and innovative technologies and bring these to fruition. Delivering this success will take commitment, a collective effort and new, ambitious ways of working.”

UKRI will work in partnership with government, businesses, universities, and other research organisations to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. One of the most important of these partnerships is the connectivity, collaborations and embedded relationships between our universities and business. Forming and building strong partnerships locally, nationally and globally delivers substantial economic and social impact.

At Research England, we are committed to continuing to support universities strengthen and build partnerships with significant growth in Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) in 2018-19 and new support for world-class commercialisation projects through the Connecting Capability Fund.

Generating £95bn annually in gross economic output for the country, universities are key influencers in their local and regional contexts as well as major players on the national and world stage.

These funds enable universities to build the capability and capacity to strengthen their interactions with business and the wider world, generating real-world impact from their research, teaching and knowledge exchange activities. The forthcoming Knowledge Exchange Framework, once implemented, will help further increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these investments.

Knowledge exchange is a key area where we plan to build a deeper understanding of how our investments create diverse benefits to research, to innovation and enterprise, and to students.

Working with NCUB and its members, we are keen to explore new ideas and approaches that support the connections between universities and businesses. This plays into the heart of the Government’s proposed Industrial Strategy which seeks to extend our strengths in the areas of science, research and innovation.

A framework for knowledge exchange we know has already raised much debate and discussion within the HE sector. We believe it is important milestone in the journey in further raising the profile of this activity within universities. But we are keen to engage with industry to understand how we further unlock the sector’s potential and create genuine impact and value.


David Sweeney is Executive Chair of Research England

This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.