University research

Scotland's universities have an international reputation for excellent research that delivers economic and social benefits for both Scotland and the wider world. More information on Scotland's reputation is available on the science and research page.

We support Scottish universities to use this reputation to consistently attract and secure funding from a range of sources.

Public funding

Public funding for university research in Scotland is delivered by a dual support system comprising:

  • a block grant given by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
  • competitively awarded grants from the UK-wide Research Councils

The Scottish Government is the largest single source of university research funding in Scotland, with funding allocated through the SFC. The SFC supports the competitiveness of Scotland's research base through a range of investments, as well as the training and development of postgraduate teaching and research students.

As part of our overall funding for higher education, we are investing £279 million in core research and knowledge exchange and innovation in our universities from 2017 to 2018.

EU funding

Scotland is also an active and valued partner in a large number of EU research collaborations and has secured significant funding from EU research programmes as a result.

From 2015 to 2016 our universities secured £97 million from various EU sources (including EU government, charities, business and other sources) representing 10.1% of their total research income.

One prominent source of EU funding is the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. Between 2014 and 2020, Horizon 2020 is making more than €76 billion of funding available for cutting-edge projects. The aim is to ensure that the best ideas and discoveries are brought to the market faster, so that their results may help drive social and economic growth in Europe. Scottish Higher Education Institutions have secured a total of €289 million and almost €24 million to research institutes under Horizon 2020 (up to May 2017) based on our world-class research.

Advice and information for Scottish organisations on accessing Horizon 2020 and other EU funding can be found at the Scottish EU Funding Portal.

International collaboration

Our excellence in research is underpinned by extensive collaborations worldwide.

Scotland can point to significant successes in working across European boundaries with international research centres that are increasingly attracted to Scotland by the quality of our research base. These include:

  • the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Photonics – the first Fraunhofer Institute to be located in the UK, located at Technology and Innovation Centre, University of Strathclyde
  • the £100 million Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) European Lead Factory Programme, which will speed up the development of new drugs – won by BioCity Scotland, the University of Dundee and the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA) with the support of Dutch and English partners
  • the world's first international Max-Planck Partnership – a multi-million-pound partnership with five prestigious Max-Planck Institutes (MPI) in Germany and leading physics research groups from the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, St Andrews, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh

Our university research also works across international boundaries. One example is the Gravitational Waves collaboration, where scientists from 17 countries – including researchers at the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, West of Scotland and Edinburgh – were involved in the research and discovery of gravitational waves. Glasgow is the UK's leading university for gravitational research.

Research pooling

We also support the internationalisation of the Scottish Funding Council's research pooling initiative. This initiative encourages researchers across Scottish higher education institutions to pool their resources and respond to increasing international competition by forming dynamic collaborations.

Since 2005 the SFC has allocated £156 million to 11 research pools, covering:

  • physics
  • chemistry
  • engineering
  • geosciences/environment and society
  • economics
  • life sciences
  • brain imaging
  • informatics and computer science
  • Gaelic language and culture
  • marine science

Innovation Centres

Universities routinely translate their research into tangible economic and social benefits for Scotland, supporting sustainable economic growth.

We are investing up to £120 million over six years in our network of Innovation Centres: collaborations between businesses, universities and others to capitalise on Scotland's world-class research to enhance innovation in and across Scotland's key economic sectors.

There are currently eight Innovation Centres:

The Innovation Centres are bringing together the research excellence within our universities and our business sector to deliver real social economic benefits. You can read more about them on the Innovation Centres website.

Spin-out creation

Scotland is the most successful part of the UK for the creation of spin-outs: companies formed as the result of work done in universities.

Scotland hosts 20% of all active spin-outs from UK universities, and five spin-outs from universities in the UK top 20 (source: 2015 Spinouts UK Report).