Charity Research Support Fund

Last reviewed 
12 October 2017

Frequently asked questions about the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF):

  1. What is the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF)?
  2. Why is the CRSF so important? Why don’t charities pay indirect costs?
  3. When and why was the CRSF introduced?
  4. How much is the CRSF? How is it allocated?
  5. The CRSF is England-only. What happens in the devolved nations?
  6. Is all charity-funded research eligible for the Charity Research Support Fund?

What is the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF)?

Government block funding to universities includes a charity research support element. This means that researchers who are funded by charities can recover a greater portion of the full costs of research. In 2016, 88% of all UK medical research funded by AMRC’s members took place directly in universities.

In England this support element is called the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF). By providing support for indirect costs, it enables universities to unlock investment from the medical research charity community.

The CRSF is an element of Government funding administered to universities as part of quality-related (QR) research funding. In England, it is allocated by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) before April 2018, and through Research England, under UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), after April 2018.

Why is the CRSF so important? Why don’t charities pay indirect costs?

Charities exist because of donations from the public and philanthropists; in 2016 over 8 million people donated to medical research. The views and wishes of people who donate, particularly at a time of increased scrutiny on charities, are of paramount importance.

When people donate, they expect their money to be spent on research to ultimately benefit patients. This means that charities pay the direct costs of research and the CRSF is needed to enable universities to pay the indirect costs required for charity funded research to occur, e.g. estates, shared IT and administration.

Government have a responsibility to ensure that universities are funded in a sustainable way. For universities, particularly those in receipt of high proportions of charity funding, the CRSF is a key part of this.

When and why was the CRSF introduced?

The CRSF was set up in 2006 and was originally tied to charity spend in universities. It started at £180 million in 06/07 and rose incrementally to £198 million in 10/11; but has plateaued since.

The Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF) was first put forward in the 2004 Science & innovation investment framework 2004 - 2014.

On the development of CRSF, it was stated:

“Government has worked closely with the Wellcome Trust, involving other leading medical research charities through the Association of Medical Research Charities, to develop a partnership agreement which will provide the basis for working together towards fully funding research in UK universities.”

The CRSF was introduced as a partnership with Government to support charity research funding towards sustainability, enabling universities in receipt of charity grants to achieve a higher level of FEC. Charities do not fund as a portion of FEC, as Research Councils do, as charities do not pay the indirect costs of research.

How much is the CRSF? How is it allocated?

Since 2010 the CRSF has been fixed at £198 million per annum. Due to inflation, this has resulted in a real-terms decrease of £33.6 million over 7 years. To be eligible for CRSF, income from charities must have been awarded through peer review and open competition. Research funded by all AMRC members is eligible for the CRSF. The CRSF, as part of non-mainstream quality-related (QR) funding, is not administered according to Research Excellence Framework (REF) scores.

Universities report the income they have received from charitable sources annually to HEFCE. Until this year, the amount of CRSF awarded to universities was calculated pro rata to research income from eligible charitable sources in the two most recent years. For 2017-18, the allocation system for CRSF changed. Allocations are now calculated pro rata to research income in the most recent four-year period. Averaging research income over a longer period of time reduces year-on-year fluctuations caused by significant one-off charitable grants, e.g. those for an asset such as a building or equipment.

The CRSF is England-only. What happens in the devolved nations?

The four national higher education funding bodies each administer a charity support element as part of the QR funding they administer to universities.

Scotland

In Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) administers charity support as part of its Research Excellence Grant (REG). Part C of the REG is allocated for charity support. The REG part C has been fixed at £25 million per annum since 2015/16.

Wales

In Wales, £3.1 million of the £71 million of QR funding allocated by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to institutions in Wales in 2016/18 was aimed to meet the full economic cost (FEC) of research funded by charities. This funding is allocated in proportion to research income awarded by charities through open competition in units which meet the QR quality and volume thresholds.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy administers higher education quality-related research (QR) funding. In 2016/17 the total charity support awarded was just under £3.4 million.

Is all charity-funded research eligible for the Charity Research Support Fund?

The government will only partner charity funders who are funding research where:

  • The funder has a published research strategy.
  • The research contributes to the enhancement of the research base or in some other way provides a scientific good.
  • The research is of the highest quality and funders have appraisal systems such as peer review to ensure this.

These are all requirements of AMRC membership meaning that all AMRC members’ research will qualify for CRSF if it is awarded through open competition. Our member profiles indicate whether a charity’s funding streams are eligible for CRSF.