Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: Creating Opportunities Trial Accelerator Fund

Apply for funding to test and rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at spreading opportunities and reducing disparities in economic, health and social outcomes for people and places across the UK.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

The full economic cost of your project can be between £1,000,000 and £2,500,000. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects should last between 13 and 48 months.

This is a pre-announcement and information may change.

The funding opportunity will open in June 2023.

Who can apply

Who is eligible to apply

This is a UKRI wide funding opportunity.

The principal investigator for this funding opportunity must be based at an organisation eligible for UKRI funding for the duration of the grant.

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
  • co-principal investigators

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

This is a pre-announcement of the funding opportunity, which is due to open in June 2023. This funding opportunity falls under UKRI’s ‘creating opportunities, improving outcomes’ strategic theme, which seeks to improve outcomes for people and places across the UK by identifying solutions that promote economic and social prosperity.


The Creating Opportunities Trial Accelerator Fund is aimed at enabling the research and innovation community to test interventions on the ground, primarily using robust counterfactual impact evaluation methods. In doing so, grant holders will help address gaps and weaknesses in the existing evidence base underpinning the thematic areas covered by the UKRI creating opportunities, improving outcomes strategic theme.

The fund will support ambitious research trials spanning multiple years, which are focused on tackling persistent local and regional inequalities within the UK.

Trials can be conducted at a variety of scales. This includes:

  • pilot studies where an intervention is at an early stage of development. Evaluation activity would be focused on developing and refining the approach and testing the feasibility of the intervention. Initial, indicative data would be collected to assess the intervention’s potential to improve outcomes
  • efficacy trials where an intervention or programme is tested under controlled conditions. Evaluation activity would be focused on assessing the impact of the intervention on outcomes of interest, supported by an implementation and process evaluation to identify delivery challenges
  • effectiveness trials that test a scalable intervention under everyday conditions. Evaluation activity would be focused on assessing the impact of the intervention on outcomes of interest, supported by an implementation and process evaluation to identify the challenges for delivery at scale

This categorisation is based on the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) ‘Pipeline of EEF trials’: Pipeline of EEF trials, EEF.

This is one of two funding opportunities focused on supporting evaluation activity under UKRI’s creating opportunities, improving outcomes strategic theme.

The second funding opportunity is for the Creating Opportunities Evaluation Development Fund, which will be open during the same period. Although both funding opportunities have the same thematic focus, the duration, funding available and requirements differ.

You cannot submit the same or similar proposals to both funding opportunities. Applicants that do submit the same or a similar proposal to both will be withdrawn from the Creating Opportunities Evaluation Development Fund.


The programme objectives are to:

  • generate causal evidence on what works to spread opportunities and reduce spatial disparities in outcomes for people and places across the UK
  • accelerate the development of innovative and ethical methods for robustly testing and evaluating the impact of interventions related to the thematic areas outlined
  • build the capacity of the research and innovation system to forge interdisciplinary collaborations and lasting partnerships with local communities (including those with lived experience) in designing and delivering robust research trials and related evaluation activity
  • provide actionable evidence that responds to the needs of decision makers and informs policy or practice at a local, regional, national or international scale

Thematic areas

Proposals will be required to address one or more of the following three thematic areas within the UKRI creating opportunities, improving outcomes strategic theme:

  • sustainable economic growth and innovation​: addressing long-standing regional economic disparities and delivering solutions that focus on sustainable, inclusive growth and innovation
  • health inequalities: identifying sustainable and cost-effective solutions to address disparities in population health across the UK
  • community connectedness: strengthening civic engagements, relationships, trust, and local pride to reduce the social and economic marginalisation of groups and areas​


Proposals should also address the following requirements:


This includes:

  • proposals must clearly identify a specific intervention or series of interventions they intend to evaluate
  • proposals should demonstrate how the intervention or interventions and approach to evaluation address an evidence gap for decision makers involved in policymaking or the delivery of services


This includes:

  • to ensure proposals are feasible and grounded in local priorities, you are strongly encouraged to engage community partners and those with lived experience in the development of bids
  • where proposals are dependent on other non-academic organisations for their successful delivery (for example to facilitate access to participants and data or for the delivery of the intervention) they should demonstrate that an equitable partnership has been established
  • this fund can only be used for evaluation purposes and not for the delivery of the interventions. Therefore, partnerships with non-academic organisations that will be funding or delivering the intervention are likely to be essential to a competitive proposal


This includes:

  • this funding opportunity is primarily aimed at supporting research trials that use experimental methods or quasi-experimental methods
  • however, it is recognised that for some interventions it may not be possible to identify an appropriate counterfactual. In these cases, applicants may propose other methodological approaches that enable rigorous impact evaluation (for example, theory-based evaluations). You should explain why an experimental or quasi-experimental approach would not be appropriate

For more information on the background for this funding opportunity, go to the ‘Additional information’ section.


Projects should last for between 13 months and 48 months. Applicants wishing to undertake projects lasting 12 months or less should review details of the Creating Opportunities Evaluation Development Fund.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can range from £1,000,000 minimum to £2,500,000 maximum at full economic cost.

UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

What we will fund

You can request funding for costs primarily relating to undertaking the evaluation activities:

  • a contribution to the salary of the principal investigator and co-investigators
  • support for other posts such as research, technical, project management, and administration
  • research consumables
  • equipment
  • travel costs
  • data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs
  • estates and indirect costs

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • the delivery of the interventions or clinical interventions
  • costs for PhD studentships

Team project partner

You may include project partners that will support your research project through cash or in-kind contributions, such as:

  • staff time
  • access to equipment
  • sites or facilities
  • the provision of data

How to apply

UKRI Funding Service

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

If you do not already have an account with the UKRI Funding Service, you will be able to create one by selecting the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page once full funding opportunity details are published. Creating an account is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.

If you are a member of an organisation with a research office that we do not have contact details for, we will contact them to enable administrator access. This provides:

  • oversight of every UKRI Funding Service application opened on behalf of your organisation
  • the ability to review and submit applications

Research offices that have not already received an invitation to open an account should email

To find out more about the role of research office professionals in the application process, watch a recording of a recent research office webinar on YouTube.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Applications will be independently assessed by expert peer review and an assessment panel.

More information will be made available when the funding opportunity opens in June 2023.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help and advice on costings and writing your application, please contact your research office in the first instance. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity


Enquiries can be sent to this email. However, we will not be able to provide additional information about this funding opportunity in advance of its publication.

Help applying through the Funding Service

We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm UK time
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm UK time

Additional info


Creating Opportunities, Improving Outcomes is one of five strategic themes set out in UKRI’s Strategy, Transforming Tomorrow Together 2022 to 2027. The theme addresses the causes and effects of place-based disparities and aims to identify empowering new solutions that promote prosperity and improve outcomes for people and communities across the UK.

Investments made under the theme are intended to develop the capacity of the research and innovation system to work at a local and national level in testing approaches that accelerate prosperity and support the scaling of effective practices.

The creating opportunities theme is led by ESRC’s Executive Chair, supported by a programme board made up of representatives from across UKRI’s research councils.

For the purposes of this funding opportunity, research trials are defined as studies in which participants (people, organisations, places etc.) receive specific interventions in accordance with a research plan or protocol that allows for the effectiveness of that intervention to be understood. The funders are particularly interested in the use of randomised controlled trials and quasi-experimental methods to understand the effectiveness of different interventions. However, in some contexts, other approaches such as observational studies or theory-based evaluations may be more appropriate.

Supporting documents

UKRI policies and standards

ESRC research funding guide

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback.