The role of public and non-profit research organisations in the UK research and innovation landscape

22 September 2020

The UK has a diverse research and innovation ecosystem including universities, research-intensive businesses and research institutes. Public and non-profit research organisations are an often overlooked but essential part of this ecosystem. They include Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs), Research Council institutes, Catapult centres and private non-profit organisations such as institutes and charities.

Together these organisations deliver substantial benefits to government, the economy and wider society. However, the diversity of these organisations means that they have not always been considered holistically and cuts to science budgets, mergers, closures, constant changes in governance and a shift to short-term project-based funding, have left the UK’s ecosystem fragmented.

The Government has ambitions to become a science superpower. To achieve this, it has committed to increase public funding for R&D to £22 billion per year by 2024-25 as part of its longer-term goal to increase UK investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. If the UK wants to do this, it must consider holistically how best to utilise public and non-profit research organisations to drive innovation and make the UK a true science superpower.

The explainer sets out what public and non-profit research organisations are, where they are located, their background, their functions and how they are funded. A list of UK public and non-profit research organisations has been compiled in the accompanying document. 

Professor Nick Talbot FRS shares his thoughts on how public and non-profit research organisations can be utilised as a driver of innovation in this blog article

Find out more about the Society’s work on research and innovation

The explainer and list are accurate as of December 2020 and are no longer being updated.