£60m Regional Innovation Fund (RIF) to boost R&D

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan announces new support for universities in areas with lower levels of investment in research and development   

In a speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester this week, Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, announced a number of new initiatives in the science and tech sector – including this new Regional Innovation Fund.

man holding gray steel frame

Photo by Rob Lambert

The money will be allocated to each UK nation relative to their size. Some £48.8m is to go to 110 universities across England, delivered by Research England. There is then £5.8m for universities Scotland, £3.4m for Wales and £2m for Northern Ireland. This will be allocated to the devolved administrations so that they can support local and regional economies, which it is hoped will in turn boost growth and increase productivity. 

The Secretary of State referred to the fund as, ‘a cash injection that will be felt almost immediately.’ 

In response to the announcement, Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said: ‘Effective university and business collaboration is the linchpin to establishing and growing the UK’s knowledge-led economy. We therefore warmly welcome today’s news that the Regional Innovation Fund will enable better collaboration at a local level in England to drive up regional economic development.’ 

Yet he added: ‘Whilst the benefits of collaboration are clear, and whilst we are supportive of the measures announced today in furthering this, we also sound a note of caution. Supporting regional development, like the European Regional Development Fund has done in the past, requires sustained effort, commitment and resource from a range of stakeholders. This fund can help to catalyse university-business collaboration at local levels in the short term but a stable fund and firm plan will be needed in the years to come.’ 

The announcement coincides with news of the 14 projects that have been successful in the latest round of Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund / Research England Development Fund programmes. This includes £1.5m for the IMPACT-IP project led by the University of Southampton and the same amount for seed funding, training and support for social ventures led by the University of Oxford. Overall, nearly £19m will be shared between these projects, all based at universities around England. They are also attracting match funding of a total £9.5m from businesses and other partners. For details of all 14 projects, see Successful CCF RED short call projects 

The Secretary of State also announced £8m to fund 800 scholarships in the study of artificial intelligence (AI), an independent review into the gathering of data related to sex and gender, and two consultations on broadband:

In related news:

UK Space Agency announces £65m fund for space tech

Government rolls backs on commitments to reaching net zero 

£500m upgrade for Diamond Light Source science facility in Oxfordshire


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