Details of this funding were first set out in the 2016 Autumn Statement. It is intended to support universities to help deliver the Government’s industrial strategy priorities, forge external technological, industrial and regional partnerships, and share good practice and capacity internally across the higher education sector. It addresses the Government’s objective, as set out in the ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ green paper (Note 1), to better commercialise our world class science and research and to continue to support best practices in universities for commercialising research. In allocating the funding, HEFCE builds on the established processes of the successful Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) programme.
HEFCE is calling for bids and expressions of interest now to allocate up to £85 million from the Connecting Capability Fund (CCF) for competitive projects in two rounds (Note 2). The first awards from the fund will be announced in autumn 2017, and the second round in early 2018.
HEFCE is allocating £15 million in 2017-18 from the CCF through a formula linked with evidence of collaboration strengths underpinning the main HEIF allocations. This initial funding will enable universities to further their established knowledge exchange collaborations and identify new opportunities to work with business and to seize opportunities for commercialisation.
This funding is allocated from an increase to the science and research budget and, subject to Parliament, will be managed from 1 April 2018 by Research England within UK Research and Innovation.
Jo Johnson, Universities Minister, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said:
‘Through our Industrial Strategy we will build on our strengths to secure the long-term growth of the UK economy, and a key part of this is capitalising on our research and scientific excellence.
‘This fund will strengthen collaboration between universities across England and enhance their working with industry to support the development of more innovative businesses that use research to deliver real benefits.’
David Sweeney, Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE, said:
‘Universities clearly have a vital role to play in delivering the Government’s Industrial Strategy, alongside business and local partners. The Connecting Capability Fund will help universities respond together to the high expectations of the nation, building on our successful HEIF programme. Research England, when it comes into being next year, will play a key role in supporting universities to deliver on these responsibilities, and this fund will be a key part of our armoury.
‘I am particularly excited to explore partnerships that can be made between universities, Research England and the British Business Bank.’ (Note 3)
A high-level steering group of university and industry experts has been appointed (Note 4) to oversee the process of making competitive awards from the fund. The group is chaired by Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, who led the McMillan review of technology transfer (Note 5) and currently leads the HEFCE-universities knowledge exchange framework programme.
Professor McMillan said:
‘It is important that the Connecting Capability Fund enables universities to play to their different strengths in addressing the priorities of the Industrial Strategy. I look forward to seeing innovative and exceptional projects that explore the opportunities for industrial, technological, interdisciplinary, regional and local partnerships. It is important that universities work together for the public good, and I will be keen to see novel partnerships form between different types of higher education institutions.’
2. ‘Higher Education Innovation Funding: Connecting Capability Fund’ (HEFCE 2017/03).
3. The British Business Bank is 100 per cent owned by the UK Government, but independently managed. It brings expertise and Government money to the smaller business finance markets. The British Business Bank will work with HEFCE and universities to support the commercialisation of university-based intellectual property.
4. Membership of the Connecting Capability Fund Steering Group: