Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Lead a network of innovation and research funding policy experts

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Apply for funding to lead a network of innovation and research funding experts. This is through the UKRI Innovation and Research Caucus.

This opportunity is open to:

  • principal investigators based at UK research organisations eligible for UKRI funding
  • business, third sector and government body co-investigators

You will work with the network and key UKRI stakeholders to, for example:

  • act as a trusted expert that supports UKRI in the development of evidence-led research and innovation policies, strategies and decision-making
  • create an interdisciplinary network of business innovation and research funding policy experts

This is a two-stage funding process.

Who can apply

Principal investigators must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding for the duration of the award.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

Co-principal investigators are welcome to apply for this opportunity. See the ‘how to apply’ section for information on how to apply as a co-principal investigator.

For further details, including the eligibility of co-investigators from business, third sector and government organisations, as well as international co-investigators, see the eligibility requirements in the ESRC research funding guide.

What we're looking for

UKRI aims to base funding and support for innovation and research on a robust and actionable evidence base. This includes identifying the optimal conditions for innovation and its successful adoption and diffusion across different firms, sectors and regions. This will drive development in policy and practice to achieve UK-wide growth and prosperity. It should also improve understanding of the wider research and innovation system, enabling evidence-based delivery of the UKRI strategy.

We need access to both new and existing evidence base, as well as to skilled individuals who can help us understand and action those insights. To help enable and support UKRI to be a global leader in understanding and creating the evidence in the research and innovation funding system, we are seeking to fund an ambitious new investment in an Innovation and Research Caucus.

The caucus will support UKRI to remove barriers and create the best conditions for a thriving innovation ecosystem. This will include supporting us to understand key innovation drivers, such as finance and business models, labour markets and skills, consumer behaviour, regulation and broader macroeconomic conditions, as well as effective approaches to the adoption and diffusion of innovation throughout society.

For a thriving innovation ecosystem, we also need a thriving research sector, and an understanding of the wide and interconnected research and innovation system. The caucus will support UKRI to use research to improve policy-making, building our understanding of what works in supporting the system efficiently and effectively. This could include:

  • supporting us to understand the importance of connectivity and porosity between the research base and business innovation
  • supporting us to foresee the changing nature of research and requirements in infrastructure and labour
  • building an understanding of the international context, UK comparative advantage, and collaborative opportunity.

Within innovation and across the research and innovation system, the work will likely include:

  • evidence syntheses
  • synthetic and comparative analysis
  • expert consultation
  • novel research
  • convening expert groups
  • building new networks across the community
  • articulating common agendas and questions
  • the production of accessible and actionable guidance for decision-makers.

Crucially, it will also mean providing the thought leadership to support UKRI to adapt its strategies and processes in ways which allow us to optimise innovation and our research base across the UK. This will ensure that the caucus will become a valued investment by the community and sectors as a go-to place for evidence.

Scope

The caucus directors will work for an initial period of three months to:

  • engage with key stakeholders in UKRI
  • develop a detailed proposal for a flexible programme of work with an appropriate and agile governance structure.

This three-month period will be in addition to the 35-month duration of the full grant.

The caucus directors will support research and innovation-led growth by:

  • convening and leading a network (or networks) of experts in business innovation and research funding policy who are able to provide expert insight and research as required. This is to add value to innovation and research activity across UKRI. It is expected that network membership will grow and evolve over the funded period and will be multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral. Non-academic network members are encouraged, but please refer to the ESRC research funding guide for more information on eligible costs
  • acting as a key contact point who can speak with authority on economic and social sciences perspectives on innovation and research funding policy and practice to the funders, key stakeholders and user communities
  • work closely with funders and key UKRI stakeholders throughout the funded period, acting as a trusted expert and supporting UKRI to hone research questions and fully understand the innovation and research funding and policy ecosystems,
    providing research insights on the theory, policy and practice of innovation and research support and funding
  • undertaking systematic assessments of relevant evidence on the effectiveness of innovation and research funding and support, and translating it into clear and actionable guidance for UKRI to put into practice
  • building an evidence base of knowledge and impact across the caucus. This includes identifying research and capability gaps and providing responsive research allied with actionable insights
  • managing a devolved fund to support those within and beyond the network to provide expert insight and research on evidence and capability gaps as required,
    sharing findings in a format that can be understood, interpreted and acted upon, not only by UKRI, but also by the wider business, research and policy-making communities. Creative approaches to communication and engagement are encouraged
  • acting as a champion for the social, behavioural and economic sciences and their role in understanding and harnessing innovation and research, enabling greater engagement between innovation and research funding policy scholars and key UKRI stakeholders
  • providing critical input into the development of new research and innovation policies and approaches at UKRI, as well as supporting the improvement of existing mechanisms of support
  • increasing capacity for engaging with innovation and research funding policy through network-building, and the development of early career researchers and knowledge exchange professionals. This also involves ensuring the activities of the caucus address and support diversity and inclusion.

Expected areas of focus include, but are not limited to:

  • understanding the innovation and research ecosystem and how UKRI funding impacts this, including developing frameworks to evaluate these impacts
  • responsible innovation and how UKRI can support innovation which meets UK and global societal goals
  • the role of UK research in growing and sustaining innovation in the UK and beyond, including through the commercialisation of UK research
  • place-based innovation and the role of the local in innovation, with particular reference to how UKRI can support and catalyse local development by place-based innovation
  • insights and evidence to support the implementation of Innovate UK’s Plan for Action and the UK Innovation Strategy
  • insights and evidence to help UKRI better understand what works in strategy and intervention decisions, enabling effective implementation of the UKRI strategy. This could include a focus on what works for enabling interdisciplinarity, understanding system sustainability, and addressing national and global challenges
  • international research and innovation comparators, including the benefits and opportunities for international research and innovation collaboration, competition and areas of UK comparative advantage
  • drivers and interactions between research and innovation system-level properties, such as resilience, connectivity, diversity and engagement
  • directors, who are expected to add value across the caucus activities (for example, by identifying opportunities for shared learning across projects and coordinating the activity of research groups). Where applications include co-directors, applicants are expected to evidence how the co-directors will work together to cover the expectations above and provide unified leadership across the caucus activities.

Aims

You should aim to meet the following:

Clear objectives

You should:

  • demonstrate good knowledge of the aims of the caucus and the context they are working within
  • show an understanding of the current relationship between the funders, evidence users and evidence producers, and of the drivers that influence users’ decision-making. This should include clear outcomes to work towards. Please note, while applicants are required to illustrate how they will manage an extended network of experts, and are encouraged to include potential network members in their application, it is expected network membership will grow and evolve over the funded period.

Robust governance

Co-design an effective agile governance structure with the funders during the three-month co-design period to manage the broader caucus activities.

Engaging users

Evidence of collaborating with different stakeholders to meet their needs, and increasing their capability, motivation and opportunity to use evidence. Key areas of work to enable evidence uptake may include:

  • engaging intended users about their evidence needs, including supporting problem identification, question development and developing actionable insights
  • collaborating with users to create new evidence, potentially including through placements and secondments between the caucus and UKRI
  • communicating and interpreting evidence, and creating actionable insights for diverse groups of end users, including funders, policymakers and businesses
  • increasing capabilities to use evidence
  • embedding evidence in working culture and practices
  • ensuring robust evidence is sourced from diverse communities
  • identifying evidence gaps and supporting users to address these.

Rigorous curation and creation of evidence

You should illustrate a robust and transparent approach to selecting and generating high-quality evidence for caucus partners and the wider research funding policy, business and innovation communities, including:

  • defining what the caucus considers to be ‘evidence’ and deciding what evidence the caucus will curate
  • mapping and synthesising existing evidence
  • filling gaps with primary research
  • building sector-wide capacity to create robust evidence and actionable insights.

Focus on impact

You should demonstrate an ability to co-design activities, create actionable insights for different users and a commitment to learn from your activities, including successes and failures, so that you can increase your effectiveness in achieving the caucus aims.

Skills development

You should demonstrate a commitment to skills development, including the development of researchers and project staff at all stages of their career.

Research organisation support

You should demonstrate research organisation support as appropriate. Transparent decision-making processes should be put in place for the award of any activity-based, grant or developed funding.

Support from the host research organisation will be essential in ensuring the budget is appropriately administered. As such, we will require a letter of support from a named senior contact supporting the application. This must detail the willingness of the institution to administer the devolved budget in a clear and transparent manner which meets ESRC expectations.

Funding available

This opportunity is for interdisciplinary collaborative grants, for which UKRI will contribute at least £6 million. This is a single opportunity, divided into two stages. You should detail your resourcing and activity plans for both stages in your application.

UKRI will provide up to £100,000 (80% full economic cost) for stage one (co-design), where one successful applicant will enter a three-month scoping period to co-develop a flexible programme of activity, and an agile governance structure with UKRI.

On submission of a successful report (including a flexible programme of work with an appropriate and agile governance structure) to UKRI at the end of stage one, we will provide at least an additional £5.9 million for the delivery of a programme of activity over 35 months. Successful applicants will be able to alter both costings and work plans for stage two during the co-design stage.

Stage one (co-design) must start on 9 January 2023 and be completed by 31 March 2023. Stage two (programme delivery) will start by 1 May 2023 and be completed by 31 March 2026.

Activities and costs

Stage one (co-design)

UKRI will contribute £100,000.

This will involve:

  • up to two caucus directors who can act as the leads for the caucus. This should include regular interactions with the funders as trusted partners in order to co-design a robust governance approach and a programme of activities to be delivered in stage two. During the scoping phase it is expected that the caucus directors would dedicate significant time to the co-design of the programme
  • a programme manager who can coordinate caucus activities and act as an administrative point of contact for stakeholders and network members. At the co-design stage, the programme manager would be expected to specifically support the co-development of a robust and agile governance structure with the funders
  • estates and indirect costs for those involved in the co-design process
  • funding for travel and subsistence as part of the scoping work, including travel to London and Swindon to meet the funders and UKRI partners.

Stage two (programme delivery)

Up to £5.9 million available.

This will involve:

  • up to two caucus directors who can act as the leads for the caucus:
    • regularly interacting with the funders and UKRI stakeholders as trusted partners
    • acting as champions for evidence-based approaches to innovation and research funding
    • convening and leading networks of innovation and research experts, and identifying gaps in network expertise and working to address them. Where relevant, co-directors may direct separate activity strands, but will be required to demonstrate how they will work together to provide a unified leadership structure for the caucus
  • a programme manager who can coordinate caucus activities and act as an administrative point of contact for stakeholders and network members. Key caucus activities will include communication with stakeholders and network members, tracking progress against deliverables (including any devolved funding and impacts), and coordinating multiple strands of activities
  • communications and engagement support to help ensure appropriate outputs are created to help deliver outcomes, and supporting the ambitious aims of creating interdisciplinary networks of business innovation and research funding policy experts
  • research assistance, which may be pooled across small projects, or used to support core activities such as evidence synthesis, the provision of briefings and the production of guidance for non-academic audiences
  • estates and indirect costs relating to staff employed by the caucus
  • funding for travel, subsistence and venue hire for events held by the caucus as well as for meetings with key stakeholders and network members
  • the cost of any external communication, including website development and engaging with network members
  • activity-based funding to be awarded by the caucus for responsive projects. It is expected approximately 80% of the grant should be allocated to responsive caucus activities, of which a significant proportion can be assigned as grants or devolved funding.

Please note, UKRI will fund travel and subsistence costs for network members when on caucus business, but will not pay salary, estates or indirect costs, unless that network member is working on a specific agreed caucus project, including those funded via the activity-based pot.

Further expectations

The grant will be expected to include a significant proportion of programme funding, which the caucus can access to support responsive activities agreed with the funders. Funding may also be used for internships into UKRI, including for PhD and early-career researchers, in order to increase capacity for engaging with research and innovation policy, and to help embed evidence-led decision-making into UKRI practices.

Due and appropriate consideration should be given to the career development of all caucus staff in line with broader objectives of developing skills among early career researchers and knowledge exchange professionals.

We encourage a model in which all caucus members, the funders and UKRI stakeholders play an active role in the intellectual direction of the network.

These aspects of the role are not exhaustive, and you are encouraged to present your vision of how you think you can add value.

It is expected that the caucus directors will also draw upon existing UKRI investments including other ESRC and UKRI activities.

You should carefully consider the full range of costs needed for your research (in particular, costs associated with non-academic staffing and delivery costs, to ensure the caucus can effectively deliver actionable insights and engage and communicate with key stakeholders).

Capacity-building

We will be looking for evidence of a strong commitment to the development of researchers and project staff at all stages of their career. Capacity-building must be an integral part of the programme.

Proposals will be expected to include a strong development programme shaped to suit the career stage of researchers and professional support staff. This should include, but is not limited to, early career staff. You are encouraged to consider how you can support the continuing career development of all members of the team regardless of their career stage.

Examples of building capacity include, but is not limited to:

  • supporting and mentoring for all members of the team
  • building networks within and beyond academia (including with UKRI stakeholders)
  • supporting placements from or to UKRI.

Impact

This is an impact-led opportunity, and it is expected that this will be central to all applications. For more information on impact expectations and advice on maximising your impact, see ESRC’s impact toolkit.

Webinar

A webinar to support applicants was held on 28 July 2022 at 13:00 UK time.

Watch a recording of the webinar with the Access Passcode: nHWHAh&8

How to apply

This is a single opportunity with two stages. You should detail your resourcing and activity plans for both stages in the application.

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

  • the Je-S handbook
  • ESRC’s research funding guide.

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.
When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: UKRI Innovation Caucus 2022.

This will populate:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: Research Grants – Strategic (ESS0074)
  • call/type/mode: UKRI Innovation Caucus 2022

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Je-S currently requires one nominated principal investigator. Please add one of your co-principal investigators as the principal investigator and the other as a co-investigator. In the case for support, please note which co-principal investigator will be acting as a co-principal investigator in Je-S. ESRC will then treat that person as a co-principal investigator throughout the application process.

Deadline

ESRC must receive your application by 27 September at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

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

Attachments

Proposals should address the aims of the opportunity and include the following.

Case for support

This is the body of your research proposal. It must not exceed 12 sides and must include the following details:

  • information on who the co-directors are and how they will work together (where you are proposing co-directors)
  • plans for the co-design stage, as well as the full programme delivery stage
  • a full description of the project aims, methods and initial work packages (including proposed timings), as well as details of how the project will address the aims as listed in the opportunity details. We expect work packages to alter during the co-design stage, and you will be able to alter these in your final submission
  • how you will convene, lead and manage a network (or networks) of academic experts in innovation and research funding policy and practice
  • an outline of how you will act as a champion for the social, behavioural and economic sciences and their role in understanding and harnessing innovation and research, enabling greater engagement between innovation and research funding policy scholars and key UKRI stakeholders
  • consideration of how you will act as a key contact point, who can speak with authority on economic and social sciences perspectives on innovation and research funding policy and practice to the funders, key stakeholders and user communities. This should include an indication of how you would expect to provide critical input into the development of new research and innovation policies and approaches at UKRI, as well as supporting the improvement of existing mechanisms of support
  • how you will work closely with funders and key UKRI stakeholders throughout the funded period, acting as a trusted expert and supporting UKRI to hone research questions and fully understand the innovation and research funding and policy ecosystems
  • what steps you will take to provide opportunities for UKRI users to benefit from your research. For the following elements, please ensure you outline how you will share findings in a format that can be understood, interpreted and acted upon, not only by UKRI, but also by the wider business, research and policy-making communities. Creative approaches to communication and engagement are encouraged:
    • reference to providing research insights
    • undertaking systematic assessments of relevant evidence
    • building an evidence base. Indicate your intended approach to managing a devolved fund to support those within and beyond the network to provide expert insight and research as required
  • any potential for linkages to other research activities (for example, those supported by other funding bodies in the UK or beyond) or for international collaboration
  • any capacity-building activities, including identifying research and capability gaps, and increasing capacity for engaging with research funding policy and innovation through network-building and the professional development of researchers (including, but not limited to, early career researchers) and professional support staff involved in the caucus.

The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background and references. It should not depend on additional information such as the inclusion of external links.

Peer reviewers are advised to base their assessment on the information contained within the application and are under no obligation to access such links (so they should not be used to provide critical information).

CVs for principal investigators

A CV for each applicant, named research staff member and consultant must be included. This should include:

  • contact details
  • qualifications (including class and subject)
  • academic and professional posts held since graduation
  • a list of the most relevant and recent publications
  • a record of research funded by ESRC and other bodies.

This should not exceed two sides of A4.

Justification of resources

This is a two-side A4 statement justifying that the resources requested are appropriate to undertake the research project.

The justification of resources should explain why the resources requested are appropriate for the research proposed, taking into account the nature and complexity of the research proposal.

It should not be simply a list of the resources required, as this is already given in the Je-S form. Where you do not provide an explanation for an item that requires justification, it will be cut from any grant made.

Please ensure full costs associated with stakeholder engagement, project administration and travel and subsistence are included.

Please ensure you clarify which staff and resources will be committed during the co-design stage (UKRI will provide a maximum of £100,000 (80% fEC) to this stage).

Proposals which include co-investigators from third sector organisations that are deemed not to engage in economic activity must provide evidence of this status within the justification of resources statement.

Estates, indirect and infrastructure technician costs do not need to be justified within the justification of resources.

Letters of support

This must include those from organisations involved in the project, including research, engagement, impact and knowledge exchange activities.

A letter of support will also be required from a named senior contact at the host research organisation outlining that the devolved budget will be appropriately administered.

The Je-S guidance for the opportunity will provide details on the information that you will be required to submit as part of your proposal. You are strongly advised to consult ESRC’s research funding guide, which sets out the rules and regulations governing its funding. However, please note that opportunity-specific guidance supersedes standard guidance where there is a conflict.

How we will assess your application

Proposal assessment

Proposals will be assessed by a panel of academic and non-academic experts.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview. Final recommendations for progression to the co-design stage will be made by the panel on the basis of the written proposal, panel assessment and interview. Interviews for shortlisted applicants are expected to be held on the week commencing 28 November 2022.

Progression from the co-design stage to the programme delivery stage will be determined by a scoping report assessed by a sub-section of the panel. This report will consist of an updated case for support and justification of resources. Changes to costings and work plans based on the co-design period are welcomed at this stage.

Assessment criteria

Proposals will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • fit to scope of the opportunity
  • relevant experience and expertise: how your prior experience and expertise (and those of your proposed network) meet the requirements of the call. Please reference any previous experience of co-producing work with policymakers (particularly research funders) as well as your experience of creating accessible advice and actionable insights, particularly for the research funding policy and business innovation communities, that have had a measurable impact on the activities of those you work with
  • appropriateness of proposed activities:
    • how you will work with the funders, and the social science community, as well as any additional audiences or partners fully justified in the application
    • how you will ensure equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded into caucus activities, including ensuring diversity within the caucus network
  • vision for the caucus and its network: how the caucus will meet the aims of the opportunity, including:
    • the expertise that the Directors will need to recruit into the caucus network
    • an understanding of the context and priority areas of focus for the funders, as well as how the caucus complements other investments and sources of evidence
  • appropriateness of management structure: considering how best to coordinate the network and encourage active participation, as well as the delineation of roles and responsibilities among the Directors and the programme manager and other members of the core team
  • value for money, including how any activity, research or devolved budget will be managed. This includes a letter of support from a named senior contact supporting the application which details the willingness of the research organisation to support the administration of the budget in a clear and transparent manner, meeting ESRC’s expectations.

You should expect to be notified of final decisions on 16 December 2022.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

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

Ask about this funding opportunity

If you have any questions or would like further information about the scheme, please contact:

Luke Shipman, Senior Portfolio Manager, or Emma Bushell, Grants Delivery Manager

e-mail: InnovationCaucusUKRI@esrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

e-mail: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org
Telephone: 01793 444164

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