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R&D projects in the UK: finding your path to funding

25 July 2019

 

As UK businesses continue to focus on innovating and standing out, research and development (R&D) activities are rising. If you’re looking to apply for research funding for your company, here are the opportunities available to you in the UK and the EU, how Brexit may affect them and how to get support with the grant funding requirements.

UK funding opportunities

You may already have come across UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Established in April 2018, it’s an organisation that directs research funding.

The intent of the UKRI is to provide a strategic vision and voice for science, boost efficiency, foster interdisciplinary research, and – fingers crossed – strengthen an economy that is subject to Brexit uncertainty.

One big question is to what extent the UKRI can help bring about a science-friendly outcome for Brexit, preserving collaborations and funding from Europe. Also unclear is whether the UKRI will emphasise biomedical research and favour the “golden triangle” of London, Cambridge and Oxford.

This new research behemoth, formed by seven disciplinary councils and Research England, will continue to give about £6bn annually. Research England will provide half the £6bn annual budget on block grants to universities; the seven councils and an innovation agency (Innovate UK, formerly the Technology Strategy board) will provide the other half.

Companies wishing to apply for funding can find out more on the UKRI website.

EU funding opportunities

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s main research and innovation funding programme. It runs from 2014 to 2020 and has a budget of €80m.

UK universities, SMEs and other organisations participated in over 7,500 EU-funded research and innovation projects: more than their counterparts from any other country over the first three years of Horizon 2020.

Competition for funding under the programme remains high, with funds sufficient to support only one in four high-quality applications over the first three years. This demonstrates the need for applicants to consider their applications carefully with the help of experienced advisers.

Horizon 2020 is supported by UKRI through the National Contact Points (NCPs) it hosts. These enable participants and potential participants to find out more about research and innovation opportunities available from Horizon 2020, eligibility, applications in general and the EU participant portal.

Given the large number of high-quality applications submitted to Horizon 2020 and the limitation of funds, UKRI’s NCPs are a sensible way for applicants to support existing and future applications. Again, details are available on the UKRI website.

Brexit impact on funding opportunities

The UK Research Office published a clarity paper on 24 August 2018 providing factual answers to the most common Brexit-related questions. The paper provides the latest understanding and facts on the current UK situation in relation to Horizon 2020 and other EU funding schemes.

The key UK government messages included in the clarity paper were:

  • Until the date when the UK leaves the EU, it remains a member state, with all the rights and obligations that entails. This means that UK entities are eligible to participate in all aspects of the Horizon 2020 programme while we remain a member of the EU.
  • The government’s priority remains ensuring the draft Withdrawal Agreement is finalised. This would mean that UK Horizon 2020 participants and projects would be unaffected by EU exit.
  • The government’s Underwrite Guarantee and the Post EU Exit Guarantee Extension remain in place in the event that commitments made in the Joint Report are not met.

Since the publication of the clarity paper, the situation has developed significantly and is continuing to. While it seems that UK participation in Horizon 2020 funded projects remains unaffected at this stage, for how long remains to be seen.

Getting help with grant audit requirements

If your businesses are undertaking R&D activities, you should consider contacting UKRI to seek funding for these projects. Depending on the level of funds received, accountants’ reports prepared by an independent auditor may be required, as grant providers need to gain assurance on how recipients would use their grant funding and meet their specific spending criteria.

To meet the compliance requirements of the various grant providers, systems and procedures need to be put in place by the grant applicants. Pitfalls you may encounter include employee costs charged to the project not correlating with timesheet or salary records, ineligible costs claimed, and inaccurate indirect costs calculations being used. An experienced grant audit services team can help you to navigate these problems and give you the best possible chance to secure your funding.

For advice on how to arrange a grant assurance report, or any queries about grant funding, please get in touch with us using our enquiry form.