Northern brains undervalued at £8.75 per head, say researchers

University of Manchester researchers have shown that government spending on research in ‘the Northern Powerhouse’ is increasing at only a third of the rate of that in the south.

In a letter published in the Lancet, the researchers use Office for National Statistics data to show that per head and adjusted for inflation, the population in London, the east and south-east received an increase of £3.02 per person in government funding for research between 2012 and 2013, compared with a rise of only 99p in the north west and north east.

This shows that the gap in investment is growing and the figure now stands at £8.75 per person in the north and £60.18 in the south east, London and east. This appears to be out of tune with the Chancellor’s vision announced in 2014 to “make the cities of the north a powerhouse for our economy again – with new transport and science and powerful city governance.”

Lead researcher, Dr Martin Yuille from the University’s Centre for Epidemiology in the Institute of Population Health said: “Our work identified a large and growing disparity in funds spent on research in two different parts of the UK. We drew attention to the contrast between the south-east and the north of England because of the high profile that the latter region has had recently, for example with the plans for devolution in Greater Manchester.

“A complete analysis of research spending across different UK regions was not undertaken. Our main aim is to draw attention to the fact that the Office for National Statistics data at least allows such comparisons to be made. Study of the links between research, innovation, better jobs and improving population health will be assisted by this ONS data, and this will directly help our own research in the Centre for Epidemiology.”

Dr Arpana Verma, Director of the Centre for Epidemiology at The University of Manchester, said: “The gap between funding is already large but these figures show it is also growing.  In the North, we already have some of the greatest inequalities in health outcomes. If the government wants to build the economy and reduce inequalities in the North then it needs work to bring parity to this situation and encourage innovation.”

The figures were calculated by taking the total funding in 2012 and 2013 and dividing this by the total population of the regions assessed.  Figures were adjusted for inflation.

Dr Verma said: “Targeted funding for innovation has been shown to drive strategic objectives. There’s currently a feedback loop in operation in England where more funding for the south drives ever greater increases. If the government really wants to push the idea of a Northern Powerhouse, addressing the large and growing disparity in funding will make a difference across all sectors.”

The letter: ‘Research investment disparities in England’, appeared in the Lancet.

Notes for editors

Media enquiries to:
Jamie Brown
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 2758383
Email: jamie.brown@manchester.ac.uk