Policy Background

Research policy is a significant part of Government policy on innovation, competitiveness and economic growth. The long-term science and innovation policy, strategy and investments are defined in the ten-year Science and Innovation Investment Framework (2004–2014), which is subject to amendment in the light of annual progress reviews. In November 2010, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published the Business Plan that specifies targets for science and innovation. Specific areas of research are not prioritised, but rather generic support is given to the overall performance of the national research system.

The Department for Transport considers the transport system to be an engine for economic growth but the system needs to be greener and safer and to enhance quality of life in the communities. The Business Plan 2012–2015 sets out the goals for the four-year period. In addition, there are a series of sectoral strategies including:

  • Green Light for Better Buses;
  • Support further transformation of the network through capacity improvements and Electrification, will start 2015;
  • Enhance local public transport started in 2013.

Institutional framework of transport research

The research system is largely centralised. At the political level, the key actors are the Parliament supported with advice from the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and the Council for Science and Technology, and the specific Select Committees and sub-Committees of the House of Lords and the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology.

At the operational level, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which contains the Government Office for Science, has responsibility for the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board. Other government bodies with significant research responsibilities are the Department for Health, Ministry of Defence, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Department for Transport determines the overall transport strategy and coordinates the Executive Agencies responsible for implementing Government transport policy.

The executive agencies and trading funds central to delivering the Government’s transport priorities and services are:

  • Vehicle Certification Agency
  • Highways Agency
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • Government Car and Despatch Agency
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
  • Vehicle and Operator Services Agency
  • Driving Standards Agency.

Funding for transport research is obtained through general research funding, dedicated transport research programmes and through the international and EU funded programmes.

At the national level, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is the major source of research funds for the public sector. The Department is also responsible for the allocation of the UK Science Budget via the Research Councils and, to a lesser degree, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering. Substantial funds are also allocated as block grants to UK universities from the Higher Education Funding Councils and their equivalents in the devolved administrations. The UK Government also provides support to the private sector to help companies invest in R&D, through mechanisms such as e-tax credits administered via the Treasury, and the Technology Strategy Board, which also is responsible for formulating a national technology strategy.

The Department for Transport has developed a special guideline for transport studies WebTAG, which is a requirement for

Funding Sources and Support Initiatives

There are several thematic programmes, which are funding research on transport related topics. For more detailed descriptions, please follow the links below.