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The seven Research Councils have common objectives, which are to:

  • fund basic, strategic and applied research;
  • support postgraduate training (PhDs and masters students and fellows);
  • advance knowledge and technology and provide services and trained scientists and engineers to contribute to the economic competitiveness, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and quality of life;
  • support science in society activities.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) owns and operates large facilities. These world-class institutions support the research community by providing access to advanced facilities and an extensive scientific and technical expertise.


The Research Councils support research through three principal mechanisms:

  • By providing project or programme funding to higher education institutions, as part of the dual support system.
  • By funding research in their own research facilities. The status of these facilities varies – some are located in universities, some are wholly owned and administered, while others are more independent, “sponsored” institutes;
  • By providing access to large facilities for UK researchers. This can be through international subscriptions or the funding of national facilities.

Further information on Research Council policies can be found here.


Research Council training encompasses those activities that develop the careers of researchers and includes postgraduate training at masters and PhD level, postdoctoral awards and research fellowships to established individuals.

Each year, the Research Councils invest around £300 million in these activities.

For more information on the Research Councils Training activities please see the Research Careers area.

Knowledge Exchange

Government support for the research base aims to increase the contribution made to improving exploitation of the research base to meet national economic and public service objectives.

The Research Councils believe that the maximum benefit is derived from their investments.  They run a number of initiatives that aim to encourage the flow of ideas, trained people and knowledge to potential users and beneficiaries in business, in government and in the voluntary and charitable sectors.

These activities can be placed under four broad headings:

  • Co-operation in education and training at masters and doctoral level
  • People and knowledge flow
  • Collaborative research with users
  • Commercialisation including IP exploitation and entrepreneurial activities

More information can be found about knowledge exchange in the Innovation section of this website.

Public Engagement

The Research Councils promote the flow of  information and exchange of views between scientists, members of the public and policy-makers. In doing so, they:

  • Foster a climate of trust between these different groups, to enable UK scientists to carry out world-leading research.
  • Contribute to the development of a society which is equipped to engage with science and ensure the supply to the UK economy of scientists, engineers and other researchers.

As the UK’s largest investor in fundamental research, the Research Councils are well placed to bring cutting edge science and scientists into schools.

The Research Councils increasingly work together to deliver a number of initiatives.

For more information please explore the Public Engagement section of this site.


The UK is among the world’s top research nations, but its research base can only thrive if it engages with the best minds, organisations and facilities wherever they are placed in the world. A thriving research base is essential to maintain competitiveness and to bring benefit to the society and economy of the UK.

Further information can be found in the International section of the website.

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