Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, has announced that the government is investing £100 million to attract highly-skilled researchers to the UK through a new Rutherford Fund.

The fund is named after Ernest Rutherford, one of the UK’s most distinguished scientists: the pioneer of nuclear physics, a Nobel Laureate, holder of chairs at the Universities of Manchester and Cambridge – and an immigrant who came to the UK at the age of 24 from New Zealand.

The Rutherford Fund will provide fellowships for early-career and senior researchers from the developed world and from emerging research powerhouses such as India, China, Brazil and Mexico, helping to maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in science and research.

The fund will be administered by Innovate UK and the Research Councils until the new body, UK Research and Investment (UKRI), is formed in 2018. UKRI, under the leadership of its recently appointed Chief Executive Prof Sir Mark Walport, will play a key role in strengthening the UK’s competitiveness through the Industrial Strategy.

Speaking at a UKRI event, Jo Johnson MP said:

“Research and innovation is at the heart of the government’s Industrial Strategy. At the 2016 Autumn Statement, the government announced a significant increase in public research and develpment spending, totalling £4.7 billion.

“In her vision for the UK as the go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors, the Prime Minister has made clear she wants us to be a country that attracts the brightest and best minds.

“To that end, I am pleased to announce today that we are investing £100 million in a Global Talent Research Fund that will be used to attract highly skilled researchers to the UK.

“Rutherford and his immense contributions to science exemplify our vision of a Britain that is open to the best minds and ideas in the world, and stands at the forefront of global collective endeavours to understand, and to improve, the world in which we live.

“We look forward to welcoming these talented Rutherford research fellows to the UK. The Rutherford Fund will send a strong signal that, even as we leave the European Union, we are open to the world and will reinforce our ambition of making the UK the go-to country for innovation and discovery.”

UK Research and Innovation will bring together the Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new body, Research England. The organisation’s ambition is to be the best research and innovation agency in the world.

At the event, Prof Sir Mark Walport gave a speech outlining the vision, objectives and next steps in development for the organisation. Sir Mark highlighted the strengths of the UK’s current research and innovation system and bodies. He also detailed the challenges and opportunities arising from disruptive change in society, technology, research and business that mean the UK needs to develop new approaches and structures. Sir Mark said:

“We are building on component parts of the funding landscape which, individually, are very strong, but there is considerable untapped potential for the whole to be much more than the sum of the parts.

“We need to stimulate and reward audacity, ambition and agility, where imagination and innovation are actively encouraged and important proposals do not fall foul of artificial divides.”
Sir Mark explained that the success of UK Research and Innovation will ultimately be measured through the impact it delivers: through pushing the frontiers of human knowledge, delivering economic impact and creating better jobs and by supporting society to become stronger, healthier and more resilient.

All speeches at the event can be viewed below.