Academics at Cranfield University are the most cost-effective in the UK when it comes to obtaining research grants, according to the latest performance indicators.
Cranfield leads a group of eight institutions where researchers attract more than twice the amount of research cash as the national average when funding is compared with staff costs.
The figures for 2004-05, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, are based on external research grants awarded by either the research councils, charities or industry.
Clifford Friend, deputy vice-chancellor at Cranfield, said: "The figures show how entrepreneurial academics can 'punch above their weight' to obtain funding, by engaging strongly with not only the traditional landscape of academic research and research councils, but also with UK and international business."
He added that these figures could be an important aspect of an alternative way to evaluate research performance, "reflecting the widest range of knowledge creation and its real benefit to the future UK economy".
Academics at York, Lancaster and Loughborough universities are also very cost-effective in attracting research grants.
Trevor MacMillan, pro vice-chancellor for research at Lancaster University, said: "We are delighted with this statistic as it reflects the intensity of the high-quality research at Lancaster."
He added: "These statistics also have implications for the debate on metrics because they highlight the fact that research quality is not simply a function of overall volume."
Meanwhile, Bradford University emerges as the most cost-effective institution in terms of the number of PhDs awarded in relation to staff costs. It produces more than twice the number of PhDs in relation to staff expenditure as the national average.
Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia also rank highly on this measure.