The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) sector has been plagued with budget cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Senior scientists are calling these cuts “catastrophic” and fear that this could have a detrimental impact on the UK research sector as a whole.
The news of funding being reduced first made the headlines after the UK’s main science funder, UK Research and Innovation had its budget for Official Development Assistance (ODA) cut from £245m to £125m. This, combined with the UK’s retreat from the European Union has left significant gaps within our research offering. A slump in medical charity funding due to COVID-19 has also done little to improve the situation.
The Prime Minister has previously expressed a desire for the UK to become a “global science superpower” but with little capital available to fund vital research projects, this isn’t likely to become a reality any time soon.
Research projects are a fundamental part of establishing effective international collaborations, which is why alternative solutions will have a vital role to play in maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in the Research and Innovation space.
Addressing global health problems
The role that UKRI plays in our day-to-day lives isn’t to be underestimated. The quick turnaround of the various COVID-19 vaccines shows the positive impact that research can have when given the right support and ultimately, sufficient funding.
While it’s a pivotal part of addressing existing health issues, research can also identify emerging health issues, identifying and responding to potential threats and providing solutions.
A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health from February 2020 serves to highlight the UK’s significant contribution within the so-called G7 group of countries, underlining the benefits that have come from this collaborative research into global health.
The UKRI sector must continue to grow in the coming months and years, which is where private sector collaboration and funding could be crucial.
Despite commitments laid out within the 2020 Budget stating that the government would invest £22bn per annum into Research and Development, more recent reports of cuts to the sector contradict this initial promise.
Having access to the right equipment is fundamental to the success of a new research and innovation project. For example, pioneering dementia research wouldn’t be possible without funding for equipment that would allow scientists to measure epigenetic changes in the brain. Similarly, molecular diagnostic equipment is vital for the analysis of haematological diseases and cancers.
Having the right equipment to complete research and collate data is an essential part of any project, which is where, in the absence of centralised funding, our team at SAF have been playing a vital role.
We’ve worked with university research departments and research companies to implement financial solutions that allow for the funding of much-needed equipment, which supports ongoing research programmes – something we wrote more about here.
Research equipment is a highly fundable asset and can cost many thousands of pounds to purchase outright. The successful procurement of the right equipment can make or break a project, which is why we’ve worked alongside suppliers to develop bespoke finance options that provide a structured repayment plan over an appropriate funding term.
Many research projects are developed alongside a comprehensive delivery timeline, which means there is a clear idea of how long access to equipment would be required for the project. This enhances the option of a funding solution, removing the pressure of finding the capital for an outright purchase of equipment from the outset and making the project more cost-effective overall.
Developing bespoke finance options
We understand that every project is different, which is why we work in such close collaboration with our suppliers to implement financial solutions that are flexible enough to adapt to any given project requiring any given piece of equipment.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen increased demand for the funding of research equipment, in particular DNA sequencer devices, which allow for the real-time analysis of DNA or RNA fragments.
We’ve previously helped finance the procurement of one of these devices for medical technology company, Origin Sciences. We’ve also implemented a finance solution for the funding of two specialist microscopes for the Roslin Institute and the Institute of Genetics and Cancer both based at the University of Edinburgh, on behalf of our long-term supplier, Carl Zeiss, through the Zeiss Rental finance program.
Reductions in capital availability mean that equipment suppliers need to consider the positive impact a finance option could have on their order book, while also helping to sustain UK Research and Innovation through improved procurement options.
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