UK unveils plan to "level up" R&D funding outside the South East

Reading time
3 mins
UK unveils plan to "level up" R&D funding outside the South East

The UK government released its much anticipated “levelling up” whitepaper this week. It consists of 12 quantifiable missions to be achieved by 20301, with special focus on innovation, increase in productivity, and strengthening the country’s science base.

In an attempt to ensure evenly distributed funds across the UK, a key component of this plan is to increase domestic public investment by at least 40% across the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will contribute to help meet the UK government’s goals.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said, “From day one, the defining mission of this government has been to level up this country, to break the link between geography and destiny so that no matter where you live you have access to the same opportunities.”2

The government has also promised to increase the investment by at least one third over the span of the current spending review period, which will end in 2025. It also hopes to leverage at least twice the amount from private sectors in the long run.

This seems to be in line with the spending review investment plan3, announced at the end of October 2021, where targets were set for R&D investment at £20 billion in 2024-25 and £22 billion by 2026-27.

For the longest time, around 31% of all investment4 in the UK has been concentrated within the golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge, and inner west London. This move to increase funding and spread them evenly throughout the country is expected to reduce regional imbalances in funding and unlock more opportunities for research to flourish across the country. 

Replicating the MIT-Greater Boston and Stanford-Silicon Valley models, £100 million has been allocated for local businesses and researchers. They are private-public-academic partnerships, with pilots being run in the three new “innovation accelerators” – the Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow.

While the former Labour-voting communities in the Midlands and the north of England came out in full support of this decision in the 2019 general election, some university leaders have raised concerns over this shift, stating that in an attempt to distribute funds more evenly, scientific excellence might be compromised.

Graeme Reid, professor of science and research policy at UCL, alerted against having “regional quotas for part of the R&D budget”. He expressed concern about quotas overriding research excellence, explaining that it “will not serve anyone at all and may depress national performance overall”5.

Similarly, Diana Beech, chief executive of London Higher, which represents the capital’s universities, said the plans to direct R&D investment outside the greater south-east region were “akin to shutting the door on the capital and risk overlooking London’s world-leading research base, which benefits the entire country”6.



1. Levelling Up the United Kingdom Executive Summary .

2, 4. UK regions promised research funding boost under ‘levelling up’.


3. Budget 2021: UK pushes research spending pledge back to 2026-27.


5, 6. Plan to ‘level up’ UK research funding ‘unambitious’.

Be the first to clap

for this article

Published on: Feb 04, 2022


You're looking to give wings to your academic career and publication journey. We like that!

Why don't we give you complete access! Create a free account and get unlimited access to all resources & a vibrant researcher community.

One click sign-in with your social accounts

1536 visitors saw this today and 1210 signed up.