UK Government Announces Funds to Support Research Sector through COVID-19

The UK Government has announced the future launch of two funds to help support higher education institutions (HEIs) and researchers affected by the impact of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

The plans, announced by UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma, will involve a mixture of loans and grants to cover up to 80% of institutions’ income losses caused by the expected decline in international students. Additionally, additional resources will be made available to support UKRI grant-funded research and fellowships affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the final details of both schemes are yet to be finalised, initial details are as follows:

University Research Support Package: Loans and Grants

From the autumn, the Government will provide a package of support to research-active universities, consisting of low-interest loans with long pay-back periods, supplemented by a small amount of government grants (at a ratio of at least 75% loans, 25% grants). The government will cover up to 80% of a university’s income losses from international students for the academic year 20/21, up to the value of non-publicly funded research activity in that university.

The package will be made available to fund research and high priority projects, such as medical research, in order to support universities to continue to be at the cutting edge of innovation. Funds must be used on research and on retaining research talent, with a particularly strong focus on STEM subjects, and they will not cover loss of income from EU Research and Innovation programmes.

While the final format of the funds will be decided in the coming weeks based on consultation, currently available details of the funds are available here.

UKRI Costed Grant Extension Allocation

The aim of the UKRI grant extension allocations is to provide UK organisations with resources to sustain UKRI grant-funded research and fellowships affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The first amounts will be made immediately available and can support research and technical staff and research infrastructures during the period of pandemic disruption and its immediate aftermath.

The total investment from UKRI is £180 million. In addition, a permitted change in use for existing UKRI grant funding (for grants ending after FY2020 to 2021) of up to £80 million will give the sector further flexibility to redistribute likely grant underspends due to coronavirus disruption. Individual allocations to organisations will be calculated based on the value of the UKRI grants held by an organisation whose funding finishes between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. Organisations will be contacted by UKRI in due course with details of their grant allocation.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

‘The brilliance of our talented researchers and scientists has been absolutely critical not only to our medical response to coronavirus but also as we begin to emerge from this pandemic and support the UK’s economic recovery.

‘The support we are putting in place will give our world-leading universities a lifeline by protecting jobs to ensure our best minds can continue discovering new innovations that will benefit us all for generations to come.’

Further details, including the conditions attached to the funding, will be available in due course.

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