Four new research centres put icing on cake of scheme’s success – UKRI


The universities of Cranfield, Hull, King’s College London and Nottingham have all received funding from round seven of Research England’s flagship UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) to create the centres.

Funding for the four new centres has now brought the total investment figure for the highly regarded scheme to £1 billion since its inception.

This has enabled universities up and down the country to establish 60 state-of-the-art research centres and facilities, 71 spin-out companies, at the same time creating more than 5,000 UK jobs.

£2.5 billion co-investment

Since 2012, the universities awarded UKRPIF funding have attracted a staggering £2.5 billion in co-investment from over 400 businesses and charities.

These have included household names like:

  • Aardman
  • AstraZeneca
  • the BBC
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Dyson
  • GKN Aerospace
  • Hitachi
  • Toyota
  • Unilever and many more

Boosting world-class research

The projects are boosting world-class research in UK universities in a diverse range of sectors like:

  • cancer research
  • neuroscience
  • agriculture
  • manufacturing
  • aerospace
  • the social sciences

The latest four universities benefitting from the fund join another three projects, led by the universities of Strathclyde and Birmingham, and King’s College London.

The three projects were funded in 2023, also through round seven of the scheme.

Tackling big research challenges

Science Minister, Andrew Griffith said:

Thanks to investments like the £1 billion UKRPIF scheme led by Research England in UKRI, the incredible work of our scientists and academics is making a real impact – from making our NHS work smarter to greener transport.

This longstanding programme is providing top-class facilities for our researchers across the country, from London to Hull, and is crowding in a further £2.5 billion from businesses and charities.

With the best support, the world-class research conducted at these facilities can lead to thriving industry that will benefit us all.

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair at Research England, said:

I am pleased to be able to award four more universities funding from our flagship UK Research Partnership Investment Fund to create four centres in a diverse range of topics, from net zero aviation to translational medicine, and disease therapies to future transport.

The fact that we have been able to fund 60 research centres and facilities from the fund since 2012, investing £1 billion to tackle some of today’s biggest research challenges, from developing treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease to tackling global inequalities, and finding better treatments for cancer to net zero growth, is something I am immensely proud of.

I very much look forward to seeing how these new facilities deliver against a variety of diverse challenges over the coming years.

Double-match funding

The projects from round seven will receive a total of £100 million from the fund, advancing sectors such as:

  • net zero transport
  • medicines manufacturing
  • the rail industry
  • childhood mental health

The four new projects have leveraged double-match funding to the value of £163 million from industry partners, charitable organisations, and philanthropic donors.

Four funded projects

The four projects funded are:

Cranfield University

Cranfield’s Hydrogen Integration Incubator at Cranfield University.

This will build a world-class hydrogen aviation ecosystem at Cranfield’s Global Research Airport.

It will design, validate and deliver green aviation at scale and shape emerging safety and environmental policies, helping the UK get closer to net zero aviation by 2050.

UKRPIF investment: £23 million.

University of Hull

The University of Hull will bring together industry, academics and clinical researchers to undertake and rapidly translate discovery science into innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS.

UKRPIF investment: £16 million.

King’s College London

UK Smart Trials Development Hub is led by King’s College London.

It will create a research facility to accelerate understanding of the biology of heterogeneous disease and enable equitable development of therapies to treat each patient.

UKRPIF investment: £10 million.

University of Nottingham

The Zero Carbon Translation Centre for Powering Future Transport is at the University of Nottingham.

It will accelerate disruptive propulsion solutions for heavy transport applications (aerospace, marine, trucks, off-road, rail) where full battery electric power is not viable.

UKRPIF investment: £14 million.

Game-changing investment

Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University said:

This game-changing investment builds on Cranfield’s expertise in hydrogen research and will help the aviation industry to make the leap to using hydrogen.

Working with research and industry partners nationally and internationally, we will unlock some of the most significant technical challenges around the future development and deployment of hydrogen in aviation.

It’s a very exciting prospect for our researchers, partners and for the aviation industry and helps build the pathway to net zero emissions aviation.

Translating research into solutions

Professor Dave Petley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hull, said:

This centre will enable a step-change in discovery research and innovation at a national and global level.

World-leading teams will translate research into innovative health solutions and deliver direct and indirect improvements to local, national and global health and wellbeing.

Accelerating our understanding

Professor Maddy Parsons, Dean for Academic Research Excellence Frameworks at King’s College London, and Scientific Director for the Hub said:

King’s College London’s UK Smart Trials Development Hub is a game-changing facility that will accelerate understanding disease biology and enable development of therapies to treat each patient.

We know there are differences in drug response due to ethnicity and genetic background but we, as a scientific community, do not understand why.

Our unique facility will use advanced technology to drive a greater understanding of biological variation in cells and tissues.

This will enable precision therapeutic development for conditions such as cancer, autoimmune and respiratory disease.

International research and facilities

Professor Chris Gerada, lead for strategic research and innovation initiatives at the University of Nottingham, said:

We’re proud of our track record of internationally leading research and facilities in electrification, hydrogen, and manufacturing.

Our research strengths, together with today’s investment from UKRPIF, accelerate our shared vision to create world-class facilities, build strategic partnerships with industry, stimulate investments in the UK, and drive economic growth.

The projects start in April 2024 and funding will run until March 2025.

Further information

Funded projects

The Cranfield Hydrogen Integration Incubator (CH2i), led by Cranfield University

CH2i is a £69 million collaborative project to provide a fully integrated, world-leading research and innovation capability.

Based at Cranfield University, with its deep specialism in aerospace, engineering and energy, the project focuses on developing hydrogen enabled aviation at scale.

It will provide specialist facilities for the rapid development of technologies in a safe environment up to the highest technology readiness levels.

CH2i will comprise new research laboratories and specialist testbeds as well as enhancements to Cranfield’s Global Research Airport.

It will sit at the heart of a broader hydrogen eco-system on campus.

On the campus research and industry partners work together to unlock some of the technical challenges around the future development and deployment of hydrogen within the aviation industry.

Research England’s UKRPIF is contributing £23 million to the project, with a further £46 million committed from industry partners and academic institutions.

University of Hull

The centre brings together world-leading academics, clinical researchers and industry to tackle some of the major health challenges of today.

The project will focus on translating research discoveries into clinical settings, addressing major health challenges that cost global healthcare systems, including the NHS, billions of pounds per year.

The new centre will act as a national hub for translational health research.

It will catalyse new discoveries across diagnosis, treatment and care that will deliver direct and indirect improvements to local, national and global health and wellbeing.

UK Smart Trials Development Hub, led by King’s College London

Recent advances in therapeutic development have delivered transformative benefits to patients with common life-threatening diseases, but not all treatments benefit all patients.

This poses two significant challenges:

  • we do not understand the biological reason why some patients do not respond to therapy
  • clinical trials across the world under-represent the population so the biological diversity in ethnic minorities is also not considered

King’s College London’s UK Smart Trials Development Hub is the first facility in the world to meet these challenges.

The hub will study diverse patient data and samples to understand the mechanisms behind individual’s response to treatments to develop targets for therapeutics with clinical, academic and pharmaceutical partners.

The facility will house state-of-the-art experimental data and artificial intelligence-driven techniques to define characteristics of individual patients’ diseases.

This innovative approach enables accurate predictions of which patients will benefit from existing and new therapies, critical for designing efficient, cost-effective and inclusive clinical trials.

The Zero Carbon Translation Centre for Powering Future Transport at the University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham has been awarded £14 million by UKRPIF to establish new world-leading research facilities to decarbonise future transport.

It will build on the university’s internationally leading capabilities in electrification, hydrogen and manufacturing.

The investment will enable testing of novel powertrains, including cryogenic electrical machines and systems fuelled by liquid hydrogen and other green fuels.

It will also create advanced manufacturing capabilities to allow rapid market introduction of the latest research into decarbonised transport solutions where battery electric power is not viable.

The project has already secured more than £70 million in funding from public and private investment.

The facilities will offer open access and space for industry collaboration, placing UK science into a globally leading position in a significant market.

At the same time, they strengthen the university’s position as part of a national network of research, infrastructure, and skills development, while also enhancing regional impact.

Top image:  Credit: CHUNYIP WONG, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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