Press release

Scotland and the rest of the UK’s research base – a strong union

The latest Scotland Analysis paper is released today (11 November 2013)

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Scotland has been able to carry out world-leading research - from the creation of Dolly the Sheep to developments in quantum physics - by sharing funding and knowledge as part of the UK, according to the latest Scotland Analysis paper released today (11 November 2013).

As part of the UK, Scotland has 5 of the top 200 universities in the world and has been able to secure a higher percentage of UK research council funding (13%) than its population share.

Research activity in Scotland and the rest of the UK has flourished through sharing risks, infrastructure and expertise, according to the latest Scotland analysis paper by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Scotland Analysis: Science and Research found that as part of the UK, Scotland has a strong and vibrant research base which brings both economic and social benefits. Applying and commercialising research and technology has transformed lives by improving health, ways of working, transport and communication.

UK researchers and institutions benefit from a wide range of funding sources, including funding councils, UK Research Councils, business and research charities. Scotland’s strong performance in research means it often secures a greater share of funding from these sources compared to population. In 2012-13 Scotland received £257 million or 13% of grant funding from Research Councils.

The UK is ranked second only to the US in terms of world-class research. It has a large, heavily integrated research base comprising over 160 Higher Education Institutions, with Scottish universities a key part of the success story.

A UK-wide approach enables more large scale facilities such as the STFC Astronomy Technology Centre, minimising duplication. In addition, sharing facilities and a common set of frameworks helps to establish best practice and ensure research excellence.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

Research activity in Scotland and the rest of the UK has flourished because of its close integration. Working together benefits all, allowing money, people and knowledge to flow freely and has been pivotal in securing the UK’s international reputation for excellence.

At the heart of this system are the UK’s Research Councils who drive the UK’s including Scotland’s – world-class reputation for research. These drive excellence and ensure the UK stays ahead in the global race.

The Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael said:

Scotland’s pioneering research and innovation has made a significant impact across the UK and across the globe. We can see that through Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult at Strathclyde and the strides Abertay have made in life sciences and video games.

Today’s paper illustrates that being part of the vibrant and internationally renowned UK research base benefits Scotland. The access Scotland has to significant concentrated UK research council funding and opportunities for cross collaboration across the UK has enabled research activity in Scotland to flourish, to the benefit of us all.

Key findings in the report include:

  • the UK benefits from an integrated, interdependent research environment. Scotland is a success within this environment, with high quality research and higher education institutes, including 5 of the top 200 universities in the World
  • a significant amount of the funding Scotland receives comes from UK wide public and private sources, and in an independent Scottish state the destination of much of this funding may be determined by decisions taken outside of Scotland
  • Scotland also benefits from the UK’s common framework and scale of its research base. Collaboration between UK researchers and institutions is easier, compared to undertaking projects with international partners. Diverging processes and priorities in an independent Scottish state may make partnerships with researchers in the continuing UK less viable or attractive.

Notes to Editors

  1. Previous government papers considered currency and financial services respectively. For more information visit Scotland analysis.

  2. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 11 November 2013