Press release

Re-balancing R&D budget vital to levelling up, says MillionPlus

03 Oct 2021

In a policy briefing published today (4 October) MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, calls for the pledged increase of the research and development budget to £22bn to be shared more equitably around the country if the government’s goals to level up are to be met.

Levelling up to £22bn: research, innovation & local business support emphasises the importance of re-balancing the way research in the UK is funded so that modern universities, many of which sit in marginalised areas of the country, and those hit hardest by the pandemic, can do even more to support a world-class system of research and innovation, for the benefit of their regions and the country.

Levelling up to £22bn recommends the government should:

  1. Scale up the Higher Education Innovation Fund, so that knowledge exchange makes up a greater proportion of overall grant funding from Research England.
  2. Increase the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships funded across the UK.
  3. Expand the Strength in Places Fund.
  4. Ensure that the Shared Prosperity Fund is devolved, based on long-term funding cycles, and accessible to universities and local businesses.

A second publication, Innovate and generate: modern universities supporting local businesses, highlights the vital partnerships that modern universities, with their deep local roots and industry-facing outlook, have with businesses in their regions and emphasises the need for government to heed our calls for prioritising specific R&D funding streams dedicated to facilitate these relationships and the positive impact they can have in levelling up the UK.

Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:

“Modern universities are vital anchor institutions within their local communities and their sense of place is central to their core mission. As such they are well placed to make an enormous contribution to the government’s levelling up agenda and in the recovery from Covid-19.

“With this pair of publications we focus on just two of the ways this contribution could be made: world-class research and innovation and close ties with local business.

“In 2019-20 modern universities provided services to more than 21,000 small and medium-sized business. They are hubs of support, infrastructure and translational research. As we emerge from the pandemic, these institutions should be recognised as a key asset to boost innovation and economic growth in the very places that need it most.

“The government should take this opportunity to re-balance the way research and development is funded and ensure that investment is spread across the country to support effective recovery and help reduce inequalities between and within regions. This, surely, is the very definition of ‘levelling up’.”


Notes to editors

  1. For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dan Blows on 020 3927 2916 or email
  2. Levelling up to £22bn: research, innovation & local business support and Innovate and generate: modern universities supporting local businesses can also be found online here
  3. MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities in the UK, and the voice of 21st century higher education. We champion, promote and raise awareness of the essential role and impact of modern universities in the UK’s world-leading higher education sector. More information can be found at
  4. What are modern universities? Modern universities are long established centres of higher education in their communities with roots that stretch back decades, if not centuries. Many gained university title following legislation agreed by parliament in 1992. They make up almost half of the UK university sector with over a million students studying at modern universities every year.
  5. Modern universities: facts and stats 2021