Capability for Collections fund

The Capability for Collections Fund (CapCo) was launched by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in September 2020. It supported a series of targeted, capital investments to renew and upgrade research facilities within UK galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs), including university collections. The funding was available for conservation and heritage science facilities, digital capture equipment and specialist study spaces and reading rooms. The investment funded two types of activities:

  • Refresh/upgrade of major facilities, costed at up to £3million per bid.
  • Urgent replacement or upgrade of core equipment and instruments, including instrumentation for spectrometry, spectroscopy, digitisation and imaging, and conservation equipment, costed at between £10,000 to £1 million per bid.

In total £25 million was available in funding, following a one-off £300 million investment from the UK government in the UKRI’s World Class Labs programme

In January 2021, AHRC announced which organisations had received funding, some of whom are NHSF members. There were 48 awards to 42 organisations. Individual awards can be found on UKRI's Gateway to Research and the UKRI website.

Our Members' Meeting held on 28 January 2022 provided an insight into some of the benefits and challenges associated with the recent CapCo infrastructure investment. Read a full summary here

Some examples from NHSF members are listed below, and we'll continue to update this page with fresh information.

‘Tate has been awarded a substantial grant to facilitate a series of targeted interventions to renew and upgrade UK research facilities supporting world class labs. Led by Dr Bronwyn Ormsby, Tate’s Principal Conservation Scientist, the award will transform Tate's Conservation Science and Preventive Conservation (CSPC) labs, offices and meeting spaces and support the upgrade of key pieces of scientific instrumentation, such as the Pyrolysis Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometry (PyGCMS) instrument, accelerated ageing chambers and microfader, which are used to identify materials in Tate’s collection, explore how material-based works of art may fare over time and develop innovative strategies for their preservation’.

You can read more about Tate’s plans here and download a presentation about their renewal project here
University of Cambridge Museums
‘The Cambridge Heritage Science Hub (CHERISH), a consortium of five departments across the University of Cambridge, has been awarded £3m to refurbish, upgrade and future-proof our distributed infrastructure for research in material culture and collections. Building on existing networks and bottom-up collaborations, the funding will enhance our capacity to document, preserve, understand, and share heritage with our diverse audiences and beneficiaries. The award will - amongst other things - significantly upgrade facilities for digital and scanning electron microscopy; expand the range of X-ray fluorescence spectrometers, which will allow reliable quantitative analyses as well as large-scale compositional mapping; and enhance  advanced digital imaging infrastructure, including multi-spectral image capture as well as 3D scanning and photogrammetry’.

More information on the project is available here.
The National Archives
‘We are delighted to have received £264,000 in funding as part of the AHRC Capability for Collections (CapCo) fund. The CapCo fund is a landmark £15m investment in the arts and humanities that will help secure the future of the UK’s galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
The Funds will be used for an urgent upgrade of core equipment for our digitisation programme, and the Heritage Science and Conservation Research Laboratory in our Collection Care studio.’

You can find more information here.
Historic England
‘The CapCo grant allows us to replace ageing microscopes and cameras with state-of-the-art equipment to improve research facilities for our staff. It will also transform our imaging capabilities, making it possible to develop new training resources for professionals, create ways to access our collections virtually, and help us to show the public how we do research, as well as what we find’.


English Heritage
'We’re pleased to announce a major £623k award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to upgrade our Heritage Science and Conservation Treatment Facility at Ranger’s House. This award comes from AHRC’s highly competitive Capability for Collections Fund (CapCo), and is the result of a collaborative submission alongside Historic England, who received funds for equipment at Fort Cumberland.

The first part of this capital funding will enable vital upgrades to the fabric of the conservation science buildings and workshop, as well as enhanced lighting in the painting conservation studio. The second part of the funding will be used to upgrade conservation science equipment including a fibre optic spectrometer, which can non-invasively determine the state of glass deterioration and identify the pigments and varnishes used in oil paintings, and environmental chambers which can be used to measure the response of materials such as archaeological bone to different climates.

This transformational grant is an endorsement of the world-leading research being undertaken by our Conservation Science Team. Their research into the environmental response of objects in historic environments is crucial for our work caring for collections, and this investment will allow us to build on the work they have undertaken over the past 15 years'. 


National Museums Scotland

National Museums Scotland has been awarded over £300K to advance collections and research facilities at the National Museums Collection Centre in Granton, Edinburgh. The award will enable the upgrade of access and research facilities for science & technology and natural sciences collections, and the purchase of new science and digitisation equipment including a Computed Radiography Unit and a high-specification digital microscope with flexible arm particularly adept for working with large objects.