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BBSRC increases overall spend on sponsored institutes

17 February 2006

The recommendations of BBSRC’s latest four-yearly assessment of research in its sponsored institutes (the 2005 Institute Assessment Exercise 3) are published today.

BBSRC Council has been considering these reports and commends the overall quality of the basic and strategic research. It noted that

45 of the 55 assessed programmes scored either high international/International (quality of science) or outstanding/good (strategic relevance).

At its meeting on 14 February 2006, the Council made several overarching decisions about future institute funding and support. These are:

  • an increase of £11M on a recurrent baseline of £63M in overall funding to the institutes by 2007-08
  • to support capital investment in infrastructure and equipment totalling around £200M over the next 4 years
  • to support the highest quality research and enable its development, and to provide additional support for high calibre researchers in early and mid-career
  • to increase the proportion of institute core funding that supports research on animal health and welfare
  • to introduce a range of mechanisms, from collaborative partnerships to increased opportunities for joint grant funding with universities, to help underpin progress to long-term financial and scientific sustainability
  • to promote collaborations to exploit scientific synergies across the UK research base
  • a review of facilities and expertise in mathematical biology across institutes to inform BBSRC on maintaining and developing appropriate skills and infrastructure
  • to increase support for Knowledge Transfer activities at institutes
  • to develop institute programmes in science and society

The Council’s decisions were based on its commitment to the following guiding principles:

  • Providing an environment that fosters and rewards high quality basic and strategic research
  • Matching the scientific focus, expertise and capacity of institute research to national scientific and strategic needs
  • Providing a framework for institute science in which 50-60% of funding is relatively stable, enabling institutes to plan the longer term research that distinguishes institute science from that at universities, and protecting them from destabilising changes in contract income. As Defra is a major funder at several BBSRC-sponsored institutes, the Council endorsed BBSRC’s ongoing negotiation with Defra concerning RIPSS 5 principles which is aimed at securing a joint approach to longer-term funding
  • Incentivising collaborative and interdisciplinary science between institutes, and between institutes, universities and other research centres. This is part of the ongoing evolution of bioscience research which worldwide is increasingly conducted through large multidisciplinary centres, virtual centres and research networks; and mirrors changes in working practice and infrastructure already seen in many UK universities

Further more detailed work on funding is underway and will be made public shortly.


Notes to editors

  1. The BBSRC-sponsored institutes are:

    Animal Health and Welfare

  2. Sustainable Agriculture and Land Use

    Biomedical and Food Sciences

  3. The institutes have charitable status and are companies limited by guarantee. They receive core strategic grants from BBSRC and also receive funding from other sources including government departments, industry and the EU . BBSRC is reviewing institute governance arrangements in response to recommendations of the recent OST Review
  4. The IAE is BBSRC's four-yearly assessment of the institutes on the excellence of the science and how each is meeting its strategic objectives. It includes assessments across all institute activities, including postgraduate and fellowship research training, knowledge transfer, and science and society. Institute research programmes are assessed by Visiting Groups that are made up of independent experts, representative of academic scientists and each institute's end-user community, and are chaired by a member of BBSRC Council.

    Institute research programmes were assessed in three categories: BBSRC-funded; externally funded; and mixed. For programmes in the first category, and for the BBSRC-funded elements of programmes in the third category, quality of science was of overriding importance; these were assessed similarly to grant applications for BBSRC Research Committees. For externally funded programmes and elements of mixed-funded programmes that were externally funded, key considerations were 'fitness for purpose', needs of the funder and broader strategic relevance. Where Defra/Food Standards Agency were major external funders, the Department and Agency were represented on the Visiting Group.

    The 2005 IAE did not include the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) which had been subject to a major review of its science programme ahead of the IAE schedule; the new science strategy of IAH had been considered independently by BBSRC Council. A full Visiting Group was deferred to allow time for this to be embedded, and will take place in June 2006. Decisions about funding to IAH were informed by Council's earlier deliberations.
  5. BBSRC published “Science and Innovation in BBSRC-sponsored Institutes – the next ten years” in December 2005.
  6. Research Council Institute and Public Sector Research Establishment Sustainability Study (RIPSS). The aim of this project is to clarify and harmonise the strategic planning and trading relationships between public funders, users and providers of non-university research in the public sector, chiefly, the Research Council institutes and Government department laboratories.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382