By Daniel Hunter
World leading science projects are receiving a £1billion joint industry, university and Government boost, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon George Osborne MP and the Minister for universities and science, Rt. Hon David Willetts MP, announced today (Monday).
The Government will add £200 million of new money to the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UK RPIF), supporting long-term university capital projects. The fund, which launched with a government investment of £100 million at Budget 2012, was heavily oversubscribed and received an overwhelming number of high quality bids. This additional support will more than double the number of projects that will benefit.
To access the money, universities must match the funding by at least double from private companies or charities — taking the total investment, including universities’ own contributions, to at least £1billion.
As well as supporting the best proposals already submitted by universities, the fund will now reopen for further bids.
Subject to final due diligence from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), successful projects from the first round of bidding for the fund include:
• A £60 million partnership between the University of Birmingham and Rolls-Royce for a world-leading research centre for high temperature metallurgy and associated processes for components including turbine blades. This will ensure a more effective translation of fundamental research to production and train engineers from apprenticeships to postdoctoral fellows.
• A £32 million partnership of the University of Oxford and a consortium including UCB Pharma, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Boehringer Ingelheim and Takeda for a new centre for drug target discovery and for research based on medical data sets. Bringing together academia, industry and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, with capability to analyse massive medical datasets, it will help deliver improved medicines, better health care, and economic growth from UK’s life sciences.
• A £92 million partnership between the University of Warwick, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) for a new National Automotive Innovation Campus. This will develop new technologies to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. It will also address a shortage of skilled R&D staff in the automotive supply chain. JLR and TMETC, working with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, envisage a 10-fold return on investment through improved products, processes and services.
• A £138 million partnership of the University of Oxford and a consortium including Synergy Health, Cancer Research UK, Roche Diagnostics, GE Healthcare and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, to establish a new world-leading centre for targeted cancer research. This will take an all-encompassing approach to patients with early stage cancer, to develop, test and implement personalised minimally invasive treatments, combined with targeted diagnosis, imaging and therapy.
• A more than £35 million partnership between the University of Surrey and industry consortium including many of the mobile communications global industry leaders to build new collaborative international research centre which will support the development of 5th Generation cellular communications. The 5G Centre will provide real-time experimental facilities to underpin the development of new mobile broadband internet products and services.
• A £38 million project at the University of Dundee, with co-investment from the Wellcome Trust and others, contributing to a new centre which will increase the scope for translating life sciences research into global healthcare solutions in areas such as cancer, infectious diseases, eczema and diabetes. In collaboration with major pharmaceutical companies, it will help reduce the costs of bringing safe new drugs to market.
• A £33 million partnership between the University of Liverpool and Unilever to develop a state-of-the-art materials chemistry research hub, the ‘Materials Innovation Factory’, providing an unparalleled suite of open-access facilities. It will help accelerate research and reduce new product discovery times relevant to range of sectors including sustainable energy, home and personal care, pharmaceuticals, paint and coatings, thus helping to drive economic growth and international competitiveness.
The fund is managed by HEFCE, working with its counterparts in the devolved administrations. Universities bid for between £10 million and £35 million per project. Applications are judged on value for money and must build on existing strong research capability.
In May 2012 HEFCE launched a two stage process by inviting expressions of interest for funding, which closed in June. These were considered by an independent assessment panel and a number of shortlisted bidders were invited to prepare more detailed business cases for assessment. Further projects will be announced in due course.
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