ESRC large grants, centres and institutes funding - ESRC

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ESRC centres

ESRC centres are world-leading centres of excellence that carry out interdisciplinary, cutting-edge and impactful research in the social sciences and beyond.

ESRC centres deliver challenge-led research, bringing together the right people, disciplines, institutions, and infrastructure to respond to that challenge within a 5-year timeframe.

ESRC centres range from £5 million to £10 million at full economic cost for up to 5 years. ESRC funds 80% of full economic cost.

ESRC centres deliver:

Research

ESRC centres deliver high-quality, interdisciplinary, internationally recognised research findings to address unanswered questions about a defined challenge to our society, economy, or both.

Impact

ESRC centres have significant economic and societal impact, demonstrating that the centre is responding to their specified challenge. Impact is a major consideration throughout the scoping of a proposal, and during and beyond the lifetime of a centre.

Research users are engaged from the initial planning phases through to the end of an award.

Capability

ESRC centres develop the resources needed to become a centre of excellence that adds value to the wider community. This includes developing the people, producing the data, and creating the infrastructure needed to respond to their specified challenge.

ESRC offers graduated support to help centres establish a self-sustaining funding model once ESRC funding comes to an end. The graduated centres funding pathway aims to foster and sustain a larger number of ESRC centres over the longer term.

Centres competition

We aim to run periodic centres competitions (typically every 2 years) to fund a limited number of centre proposals.

For applications we require evidence of long-term commitment to the centre by the host research organisation, including additional financial resources to extend the work programme beyond the funding that is applied for.

A centre is eligible to apply once for a centres competition during the period of full centre grant (defined by the start and end date of the centre grant).

Excellence of the proposal will remain the overriding criterion for funding.

Centre transition funding

The ESRC centres transition funding provides graduated follow-on funding for centres coming to an end of their ESRC centre funding. It provides a lower level of funding for an additional 3 to 5 years, in order to:

  • reduce the ‘cliff-edge’ effects of a sudden drop-off in funding at the end of the centre grant
  • maximise the impact of the research activity and investment to date
  • support centres to become self-sustaining

The transition funding is supplemented by a commitment from the centre’s host research organisation. Together this provides the centre with funding worth a minimum 45% of the ESRC centre grant for the transition funding period.

A centre is eligible to apply only once for the open centres competition funding during the term of the transition funding (defined by the start and end date of the transition grant).

Legacy centre status

The ESRC legacy centre status review is carried out to establish the ongoing excellence and credibility of a former ESRC centre, and to assess potential for continued recognition as an ESRC centre for a further 5-year period.

Centres will typically be invited to apply as their transition funding comes to an end, and they should be largely self-sustaining. Application is by invitation only.

If successful, legacy centre status will enable the centre to continue to brand itself as an ESRC centre, and receive up to £100,000 funding over the 5-year period.

The extended period of recognition is intended to:

  • maximise the impact of the research activity and ESRC investment to date, through support for knowledge exchange, user capacity-building and communication activities (for instance research methods and skills training for users)
  • support the centre, through recognition of excellence, in leveraging further funding and supporting the centre’s efforts to ensure the influence and use of its research

Last updated: 15 November 2022

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