The aim of the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) is to develop and sustain a Higher Education research sector that holds a strong position within the UK and beyond and makes a major contribution to economic and social well-being.
Research funding
The Department provides research funding for the Northern Ireland universities through a range of mechanisms. The majority of year on year or recurrent research funding is distributed by reference to quality as assessed by performance in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). (New arrangements are currently being developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), in partnership with the other UK Higher Education (HE) funding bodies, for the next assessment of research performance, the Research Excellence Framework (REF)). This is known as Quality-related Research (QR) funding and is used to cover the essential costs necessary to carry out research.

The Department provides capital funding for research through the Higher Education Research Capital fund, previously known as the Research Capital investment Fund (RCIF)and prior to that the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF). It also operated the Support Programme for University Research (SPUR), an initiative unique to Northern Ireland which directed funding towards interdisciplinary research activity capable of competing at the highest international levels.

The universities also apply for funding to cover the direct costs of specific research projects from the Research Councils, along with other funders such as industry, charities, government departments and the European Union. More...