London South Bank University is aiming to boost its research base through a new scheme that has given 40 lecturers funding to explore their research over the next 12 months.
After losing research staff to rival institutions in the run-up to the 2008 research assessment exercise, the university has established a research opportunities fund targeted at early-career researchers and those who have had a break from research.
Ed Tinley, head of the research and business development office, said: "We are relatively modest in research terms. We know we are never going to compete with the likes of Imperial (College London) and the big research people, but our view is that we have pockets of research strength ... and they are the areas in which we want to continue to grow and maintain 'critical mass'.
He said the fund could help early-career researchers "buy out" some of their teaching time. They could also use the grant to establish a network and go to conferences, he continued. "It will help them with purchasing equipment, or with relatively limited research support."
Thanks to the positive reception of the scheme, two rounds of funding totalling £130,000 have already been allocated. A third round will be announced soon.
An individual can win up to £5,000. "We've been down the route before of giving certain researchers larger sums of money. I don't always think it helps," Dr Tinley said.
"I think sometimes it is better to give relatively modest amounts and not to overwhelm people with expectations, as it were."
He said the university would support those who had been successful in trying to publish and gain external funds. "In the lead-up to the RAE, we did lose people. A few of our good researchers went elsewhere," he added.
"We are really hopeful this is going to provide South Bank with ... a good base for the future."