Research across the UK

Working in Europe | Research Landscape | United Kingdom

The UK is currently home to some of the world's leading scientific research happening in universities, research institutions and companies. The rich source of research knowledge is a result of the UK government's investment in industry.

England is the largest and most populated country in the United Kingdom and most issues, including those relating to science and technology policy, are ruled directly from the UK Government in London.

The cities with the best known scientific centres are Oxford, Cambridge and London. The three cities host some of the world’s best research institutes. However, many other cities and universities are home to world class research institutes.

News from England

Several initiatives in recent years have aimed at creating pools of talent and expertise and encouraging collaboration around specific topic areas. England has generated and attracted funding for various scientific research and development activities covering a wide array of sectors.

The 2020 Spending Review

The UK government spending review is drafted for a single year in 2020, given the Covid-19 context, and has a number of initiatives highlighting the commitment to science and research, aiming to transform the UK into a scientific superpower with almost 15 billion pounds designated for R&D. Learn more on UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) website.

Following developments from the Spending Review in 2015 where key developments were:

The Alan Turing Institute

The institute received £42m government investment in 2014 with the aim of ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of data science, and to help strengthen the UK’s aims to be a world leader in the analysis and application of big data. 

Catapult Centres

The UK launched a network of seven technology and innovation centres aimed at attracting funding towards ideas, products and services. The seven areas to benefit are:

  • cell therapy
  • digital economy
  • future cities
  • high value manufacturing
  • renewable energy
  • satellite applications
  • transport systems.

Investment in Northern Ireland has increased exponentially in recent years as a result of the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Industry launching its first Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland in which science and technology played an important role.

Due to the necessity to increase scientific knowledge and industry in Northern Ireland, it provides world class research in key locations such as Belfast and Londonderry.

News from N.Ireland

Through its universities and academia-industry collaborations, Northern Ireland is actively promoting education and research and development.

Invest Northern Ireland

In May 2014 Invest Northern Ireland, theregion's economic development agency, announced, along with the other partners, it was investing £2.75m in collaborative feasibility studies to stimulate innovation across four technology areas that will enable and underpin UK growth:

  • Advanced materials
  • Biosciences;
  • Electronics, sensors and photonics
  • Information and communications technology (ICT).

Get more information.


Connected is an initiative funded by the Department for Education which introduces businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, to potential partners in universities and colleges to encourage collaboration and sharing of knowledge and expertise. 

Matrix Northern Ireland's Science Panel

The business led Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel (MATRIX) advises government, industry and academia on the commercial exploitation of R&D; and science and technology in Northern Ireland. 

Scotland is an attractive location for scientists and researchers, there are more research professionals per capita in Scotland that the rest of the UK. This means there is a rich source of knowledge and experience from which you can base your work and pursue your own goals.

News from Scotland

Scotland can be considered the most active country of the UK in scientific research and development. The country boasts a strong source of knowledge in this industry ranging from the many universities undertaking world leading research.

The Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council, British Council Scotland, Scottish Development International, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh have developed an active partnership approach to international collaboration through the Connected Scotland initiative. This involves identifying priority countries for collaborative engagement based on Scotland wide priorities and collective assets. To date, initiatives have involved using Scotland’s Research Pools to engage with Hong Kong, Brazil and a cross sector mission to Indonesia. In the case of Hong Kong this has resulted in a jointly funded post graduate scholarship scheme in the areas of Energy and Life Sciences. China, Malaysia and India are the next group of priority countries for Connected Scotland.

Science for Scotland

The Government's "Science for Scotland" strategy focuses on:

The Science for Scotland strategy, actioned by the Scottish government focuses on:

  • Developing, attracting and retaining skilled and talented people
  • Maintaining and growing capacity for world-class scientific research
  • Stimulating the co-creation and exploitation of knowledge for economic benefit
  • Closing the R&D funding gap between the public and private sector and building product development capacity
  • Promoting the image of Scotland as a vibrant centre of scientific excellence, enterprise and endeavour.

Innovation Centres

Innovation Centres (ICs) will create sustainable and internationally ambitious open-communities of university staff, research institutes, businesses and others to deliver economic growth and wider benefits for Scotland. In September 2013 three ICs had been funded with others expected in future. The first three ICs are linked to the following three administrative hubs:

Stratified Medicine Scotland – University of Glasgow;

Centre for Sensors and Sensor Imaging Systems (CENSIS) – University of Glasgow;

Digital Health Institute – University of Edinburgh.

Find more institutions

Scottish Institute for Enterprise

Scotland has a good reputation for the transfer of knowledge from the research base to industrial and commercial applications. The Scottish Institute for Enterprise helps university students to start their own business and social enterprises.

Scotland also has the highest number of spin-out companies per head of population in the UK with 28% of the total (Praxis Unico (2013) Spin Out Survey Annual Report 2013). Scottish universities comprise 5 of the top 10 most active UK institutions in terms of spin-outs. In comparison with the United States, the Scottish sector is a world-leader in this area. (Exploitation Efficiency Report 2009-10, University of Edinburgh, 2012). Learn more.

Useful links

Scottish Enterprise

Science Scotland
Beatson Institute for Cancer Research

James Hutton Research Institute

Moredun Research Institute

The Roslin Institute

Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health

In its Science for Wales strategy the Welsh Government is committed to building a strong and dynamic science base that supports the economic and national development of Wales.

Excellence in higher education and fundamental research are key elements in the Welsh science strategy, as well as supporting innovation through partnerships between academia and business.

News from Wales

Through its universities and academia-industry collaborations, Wales is actively promoting education and research and development.

World’s largest optical telescope

Glyndwˆ r University in north-east Wales has established a niche in high-precision optics and opto-electronic technologies; the university is developing prototype mirror segments for the world’s largest optical telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope, which will be sited in Chile. Find out more.

Ser Cymru (Stars Wales)

The Welsh Government has identified three Grand Challenge priority areas for development:

  • Life sciences and health
  • Low carbon, energy and environment
  • Advanced engineering and materials.

This goal us supported by the Ser Cymru (Stars Wales) initiative which will establish National Research Networks, in each area. Ser Cymru is also looking to recruit global leaders in research to work in Wales, to help with the three Grand Challenges.

Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC)

Glamorgan University’s main focus is sustainable environment research. The SERC has a multi-disciplinary team investigating low carbon energy solutions including renewable hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cells. Find out more.


Wales has eleven higher education (HE) institutions, but 95 per cent of research takes place in the five universities of the St. David’s Day Group: Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan and Swansea - which have a combined annual turnover of around £1 billion and account for more than two thirds of all students in Wales.

Other higher education institutions in Wales mostly focus mainly on teaching and applied research with leading work in:

  • Archaeology
  • coastal management
  • health science and product design,

Their research generally centres on creating and applying knowledge for the direct benefit of business and the community.

Swansea University campus

Swansea University's Science and innovation campus (to be completed by September 2015) will be a world leading example of this approach by bringing together academics, students and industry partners.

Useful links

Welsh Assembly Government

Aberystwyth University

Bangor University

Cardiff University

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Glyndŵr University (NE Wales Institute)

The Open University in Wales

Swansea University

Swansea Metropolitan University

University of South Wales