Economic and Social Impact of £3.4 Billion of Research Investment Reported by the Research Councils UK

April 21, 2017

In their press release of 27th March the combined Research Councils of the UK reported the impact of their £3.4 Billion research funding activities in 2016. All used Researchfish data in their research impact assessment.


Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of Research Councils UK, said; "These latest impact reports are valuable documents because they not only show the breadth and diversity of the research the UK research councils fund but also draw attention to the benefits science, engineering and the arts and humanities bring to the lives of UK citizens."


"Often these positive impacts go unnoticed because they are connected to processes that go on behind the scenes or they are in areas that enable other areas of science, technology and wider research to move ahead. However, these are important stories to tell as they inform the public and can also inspire tomorrow's engineers, scientists and researchers."




Impact Reports are available from the following Research Councils:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 

  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

  • Medical Research Council (MRC)

  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

The reports include detailed research impact assessment that would not have been possible without Researchfish. Highlights listed include:

  • The AHRC’s four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy (2012-16), saw 29 Universities working with 1,700 innovators to create 208 new jobs, 17 new companies and 192 innovative new products and services leveraging £30.8m of additional funding for new university-based research and postgraduate training.

  • NERC-funded research is cutting billions of pounds-worth of costs for the UK water industry between 2015 and 2051.

  • Ten years of EPSRC-supported artificial intelligence research, brought to market by the University of Cambridge spin-out VocalIQ, was bought by Apple in a deal estimated to be worth up to US$100 million.

  • ESRC-funded Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) has pioneered new ways to quantify management quality that has now been implemented in over 20,000 organisations in 34 countries around the world from manufacturing firms to hospitals, retail stores and schools.

  • STFC’s Harwell and Sci-Tech Daresbury Campuses currently host over 300 enterprises and support more than 6,000 jobs, creating the right conditions for high-tech SMEs to grow. This has led to over £100 million being invested by external partners into STFC’s business incubation companies over the last 5 years. In this period, over 230 new jobs were created and companies generated 110 new products, 69 patent applications and two licences.

  • In 2016 MRC-funded research provided the first UK-specific estimate of spill-over benefits from medical research. The analysis concluded that investment in medical research had stimulated the private sector to invest more in UK research and development, equivalent to a return on investment from public and charitable funding for medical research of 15-18 per cent. When added to the health gain from cardiovascular disease and cancer research, the total return on investment from medical research is estimated to be 24-28 per cent.

  • Including historical data, and data submitted to Researchfish in 2014, the BBSRC has identified 374 spin-out companies with links to BBSRC investments. Of those, 267 were still active in 2016, employing 2,375 people in the UK.

Detailed annual impact reports from each of the seven UK research councils are available, in addition to slides summarising key impacts.

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