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UK Government announces £60m Regional Innovation Fund

Written by Thu 5 Oct 2023

The UK Government has announced a new £60 million ($72 million) Regional Innovation Fund.

Revealed by Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, the fund will support universities in areas with lower levels of research and development.

The money will be allocated based on the size of each UK nation.

A total of £48.8 million ($59.1 million) will be provided to 110 universities in England. A further £5.8 million ($7.03 million) will be given in Scotland, £3.4 million ($4.1 million) for Wales, and £2 million ($2.4 million) for Northern Ireland.

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said effective university and business collaboration is the ‘linchpin’ to growing the UK’s knowledge led economy.

“We warmly welcome today’s news that the Regional Innovation Fund will enable better collaboration at a local level in England to drive up regional economic development,” said Marshall.

Marshall identified the importance of establishing a flexible fund that helps English universities work with others. He also stated that support for transformative local opportunities was an important step forward.

However, Marshall also sounded a note of caution.

“Supporting regional development, like the European Regional Development Fund has done in the past, requires sustained effort, commitment and resource from a range of stakeholders. 

“This Fund can help to catalyse university-business collaboration at local levels in the short term, but a stable fund and firm plan will be needed in the years to come,” added Marshall.

Research England will oversee the delivery of the RIF fund.

UK Government Announces Additional Initiatives

Alongside the new regional fund, £8 million ($9.7 million) will go towards 800 scholarships on the study of artificial intelligence (AI).

Eligible students can study a range of Master’s courses across England. Topics include practical AI, data science, coding, programming, machine learning, and AI ethics.

The Government said these courses aim to prepare students for future job opportunities. The courses are also expected to contribute to Britain’s goal of becoming a global leader in AI safety.

Separately, a review into sex and gender data will be launched to ensure researchers and public bodies can gather the information they need to effectively plan key services.

As a funder of research and producer and user of statistics, the Government relies on accurate information to inform research and effective policy making in a wide range of fields, from health to crime, to education to the economy.

UK Government Launches Consultations on Gigabit-Capable Network

In the same announcement, the Government launched two consultations to advance gigabit-capable network access across the UK.

This includes reviewing and updating the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USO gives homeowners and businesses the ‘legal right to request an affordable, decent broadband connection’.

The consultations will build on the goal of reaching 85% coverage by 2025 and striving for nearly 100% by 2030.

These consultations opened on 2 October and will conclude on 27 November.

The Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT) is currently reviewing its strategy for connecting Very Hard to Reach premises (VHTR). This includes rural areas that are unable to access an ultrafast broadband connection.

The review will evaluate whether Government support is necessary to address the connectivity challenges faced by these VHTR locations.

It will also assess the approach needed for VHTR locations in comparison to Project Gigabit and its alignment with the broadband USO policy.

As of July, Project Gigabit had not allocated all of its £5 billion ($6.5 billion) budget. Meanwhile, 50% of residential properties have yet to benefit from Project Gigabit funding.


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Written by Thu 5 Oct 2023

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