Research Capability Funding

Key conclusions from the RCF Review

In 2017, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) began a review to identify the degree to which Research Capability Funding (RCF) is meeting its aims and whether any changes are required to ensure the policy remains fit for the future. RCF is allocated to research-active NHS organisations to enable them to maintain research capacity and capability.

DHSC’s review is now complete, and it has been decided that RCF will be retained as a funding stream for the foreseeable future. However, the formula used to allocate RCF has been revised and the total annual allocation will be gradually reduced from 2019/20 onwards.

Letter to RCF Recipient Finance Directors outlining the conclusion from DHSC review of RCF
Q&A on the outcome of the RCF review
Scenarios illustrating the financial impact of planned future RCF policy from 2019/20


What is Research Capability Funding?

Research Capability Funding (RCF) is allocated to research-active NHS organisations in proportion to the total amount of other NIHR income received by that organisation, and on the number of NIHR Senior Investigators associated with the organisation. 

The purpose is to:

  • Help research-active NHS organisations to act flexibly and strategically to maintain research capacity and capability.
  • Support the appointment, development and retention of key staff undertaking or supporting people and patient-based based research.
  • Contribute towards costs of hosting NIHR-funded or ‘adopted’ research that are not currently fully covered across NIHR’s programmes, and that are not met in other ways.

RCF is allocated to research-active NHS bodies or NHS health care providers under two circumstances:

  • Either they received sufficient NIHR income during the previous calendar year to reach a threshold to trigger an RCF allocation of at least £20k.
  • Or they recruited at least 500 individuals to non-commercial studies, conducted through the NIHR-Clinical Research Network (CRN), during the previous NIHR CRN reporting period of 1 October - 30 September

The aim is a quality-driven fund that allows for local discretion and management of people to support and develop patient and people driven research.

The NIHR briefing document, below, outlines the permitted uses of RCF for recipient Trusts and NIHR Clinical Research Networks.