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Research Excellence Grant (REG)

Research Excellence Grant

Our Research Excellence Grant (REG) supports world-leading research in Scottish universities, ensuring Scotland remains globally competitive and attractive to the best researchers.

REG has a dual purpose:

  • To recognise and reward research excellence wherever it is found and in whatever discipline.
  • To uphold the principles of the dual support system, through making a contribution toward the full economic costs of research.

REG provides a long-term, stable source of research funding which institutions can use flexibly to develop and support excellent research as best fits their individual circumstances, thereby supporting the diversity of the sector and their ability to respond to challenges.

The REG funding model takes into account the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a UK-wide system for assessing research in higher education institutions. It is conducted jointly by all four UK higher education funding bodies.

In Academic Year 2023-24 we are providing £247 million through the REG.

REG funding method

REG = REGa + REGb + REGc where:

  • REGa (70%): supports quality and is allocated on the basis of: volume of research active staff, moderated by a quality weighting (4* = 4, 3* = 1) and a subject weighting (high/medium/low). Information on volume (staff FTE) and quality (the ‘overall’ quality profile) derives from the Research Excellence Framework (REF). It is calculated for each of the 34 REF units of assessment for each institution and then summed.
  • REGb (17%): is a contribution towards meeting the full economic costs (fEC) for UK Research Council and other competitively funded research and is allocated in proportion to the amount of non-charity research income each institution receives – i.e. if they secured 10% of Scotland’s research income they will be allocated 10% of this grant.
  • REGc (13%): is a contribution towards meeting fEC for charity funded research and is allocated in proportion to the amount of competitively-won charity research income each institution receives – i.e. if they secured 10% of Scotland’s charity research income they will be allocated 10% of this grant.

Research Excellence Grant Principles

  • A sustainable and predictable framework to support ambitious and excellent research across the Scottish higher education institutions.
  • Robust and transparent allocation method based on clearly defined criteria and avoiding unnecessary complexity.

The Research Excellence Grant provides the majority of SFC’s funding for research in Scotland. It is intended to support sustainable research excellence across Scotland’s universities.

REG has a dual purpose:

  • To recognise and reward research excellence wherever it is found and in whatever discipline.
  • To uphold the principles of the dual support system, through making a contribution toward the full economic costs of research.

REG provides a long-term, stable source of research funding which institutions can use flexibly to develop and support excellent research as best fits their individual circumstances thereby supporting the diversity of the sector and their ability to respond to challenges.

Excellent research demonstrates originality and rigour in its approach and significance in its advancement of understanding and in the reach of its impact.

By supporting universities in Scotland to explore and improve the world by doing excellent research, they develop the knowledge and techniques which: deal with current challenges; address future challenges; and create future opportunities.

REG supports institutions to:

  • Sustain an excellent research environment and a thriving and inclusive research culture.
  • Consolidate and/or expand existing excellence to attract global investment and talent to Scotland.
  • Respond flexibly to changing priorities and invest in new and emerging areas of research, ensuring that the research base is in a position to respond to the challenges of the future.
  • Support researchers in their early career stages.
  • Help meet the full economic costs of research work contributing a public good, supported by, for example, Research Councils and charities.

Research Postgraduate Grant (RPG)

Research Postgraduate Grant

SFC’s Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability included a commitment to ‘Restate the purpose of the RPG to include support for postgraduates to acquire the skills to develop careers in or outside of academia, and to support collaboration between universities in areas of researcher support and development.’

Following consultation with expert working groups and the sector the following principles for RPG were endorsed by SFC’s Research & Knowledge Exchange Committee.

The Research Postgraduate Grant supports institutions to:

  • Invest in a collaborative environment for research training and development that values positive culture, inclusivity and exposure to high-quality research as central to the postgraduate research experience; and
  • Secure a pipeline of skilled postgraduate researchers and support their career development in a way that meets the needs of academia, industry and society.

In Academic Year 2023-24 we are allocating £37 million through RPG.

Assurance and Accountability

Research Assurance and Accountability

SFC’s new Research Assurance and Accountability process will be the key element for monitoring the Research Excellence expectation within the Outcomes Framework (OF) and Assurance Model (AM).

It comes from the commitment in our Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability (June 2021) to increase accountability for the use of SFC research funds, to obtain better evidence on the use of those funds and the value of the investment.

Research Assurance and Accountability Webinar – 25 June 2024

SFC ran this webinar on completing the Research Assurance and Accountability return in October 2024,

REG and RPG review

Research Excellence Grant and Research Postgraduate Grant review

In 2021 SFC’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (RKEC) conducted a review of REG and RPG including extensive sector consultation:

In light of the review, the following changes were made to the REG formula allocation model from AY 2022-23:

  • Removal of STEMM premium.
  • Changes to unit of assessment (subject) weightings (informed by the 2019 review of subject weightings).
  • The budget for Part A of REG (REGa) has been divided using the same proportions as the REF sub-profiles (60% Outputs, 25% Impact and 15% Environment) and those shares of the REG(a) budget have been allocated by reference to the relevant REF sub-profile quality scores.
  • The percentage of funding allocated through Part C of REG (REGc) has been increased from 11% to 13%, bringing Scotland more in line with the rUK.
  • The quality weighting has been changed to 4:1 (4*=4, 3*=1).

From AY 2022-23 the REG allocation model refers to the REF 2021 results.

The 2021 REF results had a significant impact on universities’ REG allocations. To avoid significant disruption to individual institutions, SFC limited the level of any university’s reduction in REG for
AY 2022-23 to -10%. This transition will be for one year and limitations have been removed for AY 2023-24.

Horizon Europe

Background

In December 2020 the European Commission and the UK Government agreed that the UK could fully associate to Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research and innovation funding programme. Horizon Europe is the successor to Horizon 2020 and runs until 2027.

As an Associated Country the UK can participate in Horizon Europe on equivalent terms as Member States and other Associated Countries. Researchers can therefore continue to access funding via all parts of the Framework Programme. As with other Associated Countries, on very limited occasions there may be limited access to some topics under exceptional and justifiable circumstances.

UK Government Horizon Europe guarantee notice and guidance

On 17 December 2021 the UK government announced guaranteed funding for the first wave of eligible, successful UK applicants to Horizon Europe who were unable to sign grant agreements with the EU prior to formalisation of the UK’s association to the programme.

The funding has been delivered through UK Research and Innovation who published Horizon Europe guarantee guidance. This gives details on:

  • Eligibility for the guarantee scheme.
  • Scope of the scheme.
  • How to apply.

It also includes a Q&A. Any questions on the guarantee guidance should be directed to eugrantsfunding@ukri.org.

European Research Council funding

More information about available funding is available and the ERC UK National Contact Point service is open for anyone who is currently based in the UK or who wishes to apply with a UK-based organisation for an ERC grant.

University Innovation Fund (UIF)

University Innovation Fund (UIF)

The University Innovation Fund (UIF) provides incentives to universities to work collaboratively to exploit their research to improve Scotland’s economy.

Our Outcome Agreement Guidance sets out arrangements for the UIF.

UIF institution submissions

Each institution submits its UIF plan as part of its outcome agreement.

Further information

University Innovation Fund Review

The review was supported by SFC’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee’s (RKEC) UIF Review Group. The review assessed progress against the original aims of the UIF approach and provide recommendations for improvement and enhancement. The Review Group was chaired by former SFC Board member, Douglas Mundie with membership from SFC’s RKEC and other partner organisations.

Further information about the review.

Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Fund

The Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Fund (KEIF) will begin from AY 2024-25 and will replace the University Innovation Fund. For further information see Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Fund Further Information 2024-25.

The KEIF Strategy Guidance for AY 2025-26 to AY 2029-30 provides provides detailed guidance on the submission of five-year KEIF strategies. It covers the requirements and priorities for all universities in receipt of KEIF as well as information on SFC approval and annual reporting.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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