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Follow the Money

Capture a glimpse of the future by reviewing the research priorities of today.
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15 Jan 2018

Follow the Money

Have you ever tried predicting the future? What will our world look like in 10, 20, 50 years?  

I was recently browsing the EPSRC grant website where you can see all of the funded research projects, organized by theme, organisation, research focus and a number of other criteria.  You can dig deeper and see the specific titles of the research.  

This on it's own is an extremely interesting exercise as you can see what problems the smartest people in the world are trying to solve, and you can see what problems the UK government is investing significant resources to find solutions for.  These human and financial resources should result in new technologies that will be impacting our lives for decades to come.  

If you want to know what our future will look like, there is a logic to following the money that is being invested today.  So, I decided to follow the money and this is what I found.  


Top Funded National Capability Themes

National Capability Theme

Number of Grants

Proportional Value

(£M)

Physical Sciences

902

710

Engineering

692

535

Information & Communication Technologies


576


434

Mathematical Sciences

345

199


Research Infrasructure



262


246


Top Areas of Focus within National Capability Themes

Grant Focus

Number of Grants

Proportional Value

(£M)

Photonic Materials

106

64

Fluid Dynamics & Aerodynamics


123

61

Functional Ceramics & Inorganics

135

57

Performance &  Inspection of Mechanical Structures & Systems


74

49

Catalysis


103

46

Statistics & Applied Probability


69

42

Synthetic Biology


40

41

Materials for Easy Application


77

40

Analytical Science


92

38

Materials Engineering - Metals & Alloys


38

35


Top Funded Challenge Themes

Challenge Theme

Number of Grants

Proportional Value

(£M)

Energy

501

690

Manufacturing & Future

378

485

Healthcare

415

398

Digital Economy

124

155

Global Uncertainties


75

51


Top Areas of Focus within Challenge Themes

Grant Focus

Number of Grants

Proportional Value

(£M)

Manufacturing Technologies

253

194

UK Magnetic Fusion Research Programme

1

184

Medical Imaging

133

92

Clinical Technologies

144

82

End Use Energy Demand

81

75

Nuclear Fission


90

72

Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering


86

55

Energy Storage


66

48

Process Systems: Components & Integrations


59

42

Information Systems


74

41

If you want to know what's important to someone, find out where they spend their time and money.  Reviewing the funding profile provides an interesting guidepost to both the priorities and the likely trajectory of our society.  

This is a high level and cursory analysis and if you have a spare 20 minutes, it's interesting to browse through the projects listed on the EPSRC Website. Maybe explore your area of interest or maybe check out something entirely different.  If you look close enough you may just capture a  small glimpse into the future.