United Kingdom

The United Kingdom features many significant research organizations, in particular independent ones and some of which are also engaged at a national level. Research agendas are developed depending on the form of heritage (for instance, there are regional and national archaeological research strategies).

The UK features a bottom-up mechanism, in which the academic community and stakeholders are involved in a process of identifying the priorities within the research sector, where there are needs or research gaps. Experts from the broad cultural heritage sector, the governance structures within AHRC, the external advisory board and council are also involved in this process.

Research strategies and priorities

National level

UKRI has a dedicated research strategy for cultural heritage. This strategy looks at heritage through a broad lens which encompasses tangible, intangible, artistic, digital or intellectual elements, and also examines the processes and connections between them.  

Programmes and calls for cultural heritage

AHRC-UKRI is the largest funder of cultural heritage research funding in the United Kingdom, through dedicated programmes such as:

  • “Towards a National Collection” (TaNC), which will take the first steps towards creating a unified virtual national collection by eliminating the barriers between different collections, thus taking advantage of the new digital technologies;
  • Research Infrastructure for Conservation and Heritage Science RICHeS, which aims at setting up research infrastructure across the UK;
  • Cultural Heritage Capital Framework, aiming to create publicly available statistics and guidance that allow for improved articulation of the economic, social and cultural value of the culture and heritage sectors in decision-making;
  • Early career fellowships in cultural and heritage institutions, including galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) sector;
  • Creative Research Capability (CResCa), with its three funding strands (replacement and upgrade of equipment, refurbishment of small to medium sized facilities, major renovations and repurposing);
  • The Digital research fellowships at US cultural institutions.

Complementary forms of funding

There are mechanisms for different funders to come together, such as the collaboration between AHRC and the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

EU joint actions: state of the art and future opportunities

EU Work Programmes interactions with national/regional level

EU Work Programmes have had an influence on the programmes and/or calls, with the identified EU priorities being addressed by the national or/and regional priorities. AHRC is engaged in Joint Programme Initiatives, while also supporting researchers who apply to Horizon Europe (and its predecessor programmes).

European actions’ added value

UKRI has synergies with HERA as well as the JPI Cultural Heritage got obviously mentioned by AHRC UKRI. The EU collaboration is noted in the UKRI strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025. The Horizon Europe Cluster 2 also includes a significant number of UK funded projects addressing cultural heritage.

European collaboration also allows for collaborative research projects to happen, projects which national funders wouldn’t be able to provide the resources for. Furthermore, through the EU actions, a wider audience is exposed to the importance of cultural heritage.

The research landscape in cultural heritage builds through two approaches: on one hand, there is learning lessons from other organizations, followed by informing and bringing the know-how to the UK in order to take the investments to the EU or global level of collaboration.

Looking ahead

There are several cultural heritage research areas that could benefit from being addressed at EU level, rather than at national or regional level. These would be Maritime heritage – shipbuilding and sailing communities, mountain communities, the cultural heritage of traveller communities (e.g. Roma, gypsy, Sami, Jewish people), folk traditions and industrial heritage. In addition, the international collaborations that UK heritage institutions and organisations are part of have not had a comprehensive evaluation or formal evaluation to point out their specific impacts.