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‘Top performing’ universities get extra £6m innovation funding

An additional £6 million for Higher Education Innovation Funding is to be distributed among the 12 top performing universities in the scheme, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The extra cash, announced by universities and science minister David Willetts in a speech on 13 September at the Universities UK conference, will be available during the 2013/14 academic year.

Of the 12, only one—the University of Hertfordshire—is not a member of the Russell Group.

“We are pleased the government are making additional funding available to the highest performing institutions,” Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said. “Increasing funding to the most effective institutions will allow them to expand their innovation and knowledge transfer activity and help generate greater economic impacts.”

A HEFCE spokesman said the formula used to allocate the full HEIF funding was applied. Changes to this method were criticised last year when 31 institutions lost their funding entirely due to the introduction of a minimum threshold of “innovation activity”.

It was argued at the time that this discriminated against smaller universities—previously all institutions had received at least £100,000—and gave others, including many Russell Group members, a boost.

HEFCE, which distributes the innovation funding, said that in return for the funding the universities must outline how they will use the money to drive economic growth.

The aim of the awards is to drive growth and create innovative enterprises, and the extra cash has been found from “efficiency savings in the science and research budget”.

According to a report published in April, investment through the HEIF produces a six-fold return in investment—and even more where research intensity is greater.

The 11 Russell Group universities receiving the extra funding are Birmingham, Cambridge, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton and University College London.