Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: AHRC responsive mode: Catalyst Award

Awards to support researchers without prior experience of leading a significant research project to accelerate their trajectory as independent researchers, to unlock their potential and build leadership and convenor experience.

Awards are available for projects between £100,000 and £300,000 (full economic cost) and AHRC will fund 80% of this. Funding is available for projects up to five years in duration.

This scheme will launch as consecutive rounds with defined opening and closing dates. Applications may be submitted at any time while a round is open.

This is a pre-announcement for round 1 and information is subject to change.

Who can apply

Who is eligible to apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

UKRI is introducing new role types for opportunities being run on the new Funding Service from 22 May 2023. For full details please visit Eligibility as an individual.

You are required to self-define your eligibility based on the below criteria and include a justification in your application. AHRC will not provide specific advice on eligibility for this scheme, beyond the standard UKRI eligibility rules. Peer reviewers will consider eligibility as part of their assessment of fit to scheme and you have the right to reply to any commentary in your principal investigator response.

Previous awards:

The principal investigator cannot be a current or former principal investigator on AHRC or other UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) research grants or fellowship grants, except:

  • doctoral training awards (any)
  • early career fellowships (any)
  • AHRC Research Networking (or equivalent)
  • AHRC curiosity awards

The principal investigator cannot be a current or former principal investigator on research grants or fellowship grants from any other funder, with the exception of awards that reasonably meet the aims of the above list.

The principal investigator may hold a current or previous award from AHRC, UKRI or any other funder that falls outside the scope of a research grant or fellowship grant, e.g., travel grant, public engagement grant, skills training grant, etc.

Years of active research experience:

We do not consider years post-PhD or job title to be a marker of career progression. Eligibility is determined on the basis of funding history.


Co-investigators are permitted and encouraged for interdisciplinary applications or where a co-investigator would provide specific technical expertise that is essential to the project. However, it must be clear that the principal investigator is responsible for leading the project.


The principal investigator and any co investigators must be employed and supported by an eligible organisation for at least the duration of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) support; it is not a requirement that a contract be in place at the point of application submission. It is also not a requirement to have a permanent employment contract to apply for funding.

Skills and qualifications:

You must have the appropriate skills to lead the project in line with UKRI’s terms & conditions. There are no specific qualification requirements, and the individual does not necessarily need a qualification such as a PhD. During your project, you must be primarily based and permitted to work in the UK.

You do not need to hold an academic research or teaching post to apply; applications are welcomed from investigators working as archivists, curators, librarians, technicians, practitioners, etc.

International applicants

The awards support the inclusion of international co-investigators as per AHRC’s standard policy stated in section 1 of the AHRC research funding guide.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI and AHRC’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy.

What we're looking for


Catalyst awards support researchers without prior experience of leading a significant research project to accelerate their trajectory as independent researchers, unlocking their potential and building leadership and convenor experience through the delivery of ambitious and/or complex projects.

The scheme takes a people-centred approach with funding available to support the development of researchers and their research ideas. It is flexible, and applications are welcomed from teams, networks and solo researchers.

Development is at the core of this scheme; projects must clearly articulate how the funding will contribute to the development of all those involved through the way that the project has been designed and will be managed, with appropriate support structures in place.

Projects can be single discipline, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary. The majority of the disciplinary focus of the project must fall within the AHRC’s subject remit, see section 7 of the AHRC Research Funding Guide for our remit coverage. Practice-based and practice-led research is supported by this scheme.

Partnerships and collaboration are supported, and you should outline how this collaboration contributes to your career development and the development of any project team members. Applications should articulate how collaborative activity will be conducted, considering good practice in creating equitable partnerships. Further guidance is available in the UKRI Good research resource hub.


The duration of these awards is up to five years.

The project start date must be at least nine months from the point of the application submission to AHRC. The earliest permissible start date is 1 June 2024.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project should be between £100,000 and £300,000. AHRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Where mentoring is included for the investigators or research assistants, salary costs to cover the mentor’s time can be claimed from the grant.

Costs associated with international co-investigators can be claimed subject to AHRC’s standard policy as stated in section 3 of the Research Funding Guide.

What we will fund

You are encouraged to request and justify costs for activities that best meet the aims of your project.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply:

  1. Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this page.
  2. Confirm you are the project lead.
  3. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email
  4. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the ‘How to apply’ section on this Funding finder page.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service.

Core application questions

The application process across UKRI councils is being streamlined by simplifying and standardising the questions we ask you to explain your ideas. You will be asked to provide information about:

  • the vision of the project
  • the approach to the project
  • the capability of the applicant or applicants and the project team to deliver the project
  • the resources requested to do the project
  • the ethical and responsible research and innovation considerations of the project

Further details of the application questions and what assessors are looking for can be found on the UKRI website: how applicants use the UKRI Funding Service.

Further application form guidance will be published in July 2023.


During the initial phases of the Funding Service, the system will continue to develop in response to internal and external user needs. As an interim measure we will launch AHRC responsive mode funding opportunities as consecutive rounds with defined closing dates. Opening in rounds means we will be able to accommodate system developments and assess applications in a batch submitted under the same conditions.

Applications may be submitted at any time while a round is open; you do not need to wait until the closing date. AHRC will begin to process applications as soon as we receive them, so if an application is submitted early in a round we may be able to provide you with an earlier decision.

The first round of the Catalyst Awards scheme on the Funding Service will open on 17 July 2023 at 9:00am UK time. The closing date for the first round via the Funding Service will be 19 October 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

The second round will open at the end of October, details of the dates will be published in July.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

The proposed start date of your project must be at least nine months after the date of your proposal submission.

Processing personal data:

AHRC as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite three peers to review your application independently, against the specified criteria for this opportunity.

Applicants will be provided with a right to reply/ principal investigator response opportunity.


The peer reviews and principal investigator response will be moderated by an expert panel who will then assign a final grade to the proposal and rank it alongside other applications after which the panel will make a funding recommendation.

Find out more about AHRC’s assessment process.


We aim to complete the assessment process within eight months of receiving your application.


Written feedback will only be provided in the form of the anonymised peer reviews and the final grade from the panel.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI Principles of Assessment and Decision Making.

Assessment criteria

Your application will be assessed against criteria that directly relate to the core application questions listed in the ‘How to apply’ section. The assessment criteria for this funding opportunity will be published in July 2023.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity


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