Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: leadership team for a National Capability in Behavioural Research

Apply for funding to establish a leadership team to form a behavioural research ‘hub’ with outputs targeted towards addressing major societal challenges.

You must be based at an eligible UK research organisation.

ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

This funding opportunity will open in September 2022. More information will be available on this page by then.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change.

Who can apply

We are seeking an interdisciplinary leadership team based at institutions eligible for ESRC funding.

The team must be led by a principal investigator based at an eligible UK research organisation. That organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UKRI.

UK co-investigators across different sectors (including government, the third sector and business) and international academic co-investigators are encouraged.

For guidance on eligibility, please refer to the ESRC research funding guide.

What we're looking for

We’re looking to fund a leadership team to act as a ‘hub’ to develop the UK’s national capability in behavioural research.

ESRC is inviting proposals to support the development of a National Capability for Behavioural Research. This will be part of a wider £15 million initial investment in this initiative over the next four to six years.

The overarching aim of the national capability is to harness, connect, and extend the UK’s existing capacity and capability to research fundamental questions about how and why people, organisations and groups behave in the way they do to inform policy and practice.

We take a broad definition of what ‘behavioural research’ encompasses which goes beyond individualistic approaches to behaviour change. We require a range of disciplinary perspectives to be involved in the investment. We expect understandings of behaviour to be situated within wider societal and economic contexts. Outputs from the investment should be targeted towards addressing major societal challenges.

National capability objectives

The key objectives of this national capability are to:

  • facilitate evidence-based decision making through timely, high impact and independent research on human behaviour that meets the needs of policymakers, industry, and civil society
  • enhance national capability by building a critical mass of researchers with the knowledge and skills to transform our understanding of human behaviour. Researchers may apply for a range of relevant methods such as data science, human-centred design, and experimental methods. This objective will be achieved in part by a Centre for Doctoral Training Plus (CDT+).

The ‘hub’

The ‘hub’ will sit at the heart of a ‘hub and spoke’ model and be complemented by a series of ‘spokes’ (or centres of excellence) that will be established to deliver key elements of the programme.

The interdisciplinary leadership team will be responsible for the core management and running of the ‘hub’. The ‘hub and spokes’ will be expected to work together to achieve the overarching ambition of the initiative.

The ‘hub’ does not need to be based in a single location, and therefore members of the leadership team do not need to be co-located.

Requirements for the ‘hub’ are likely to include:

  • working across a diverse set of partners to co-create and promote a vision for behavioural research
  • delivering a core research programme operating at the global frontier of research and methods
  • providing agile funds for exemplar projects
  • providing strategic direction by coordinating, connecting and facilitating across different stakeholders
  • signposting and synthesising evidence for use in policy and practice
  • promoting and maximising value from existing and novel data.

The full specification for the funding opportunity will be released in September 2022.

Specific requirements will be made available once the full opportunity is posted. Until that time, details are subject to change.

How to apply

Applications must be made through the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

Your host organisation must be registered for Je-S, and you must hold a Je-S account. For more information please contact your organisation’s research office for further guidance.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed and shortlisted by an expert panel in late spring to early summer 2023, followed by interviews with shortlisted applicants.

Applicants will have the opportunity to respond to panel comments before the expert panel meeting.

The award will commence in September 2023.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity


We cannot provide further information about this funding opportunity in advance of the full opportunity being published.

Additional info

Centre for Doctoral Training Plus (CDT+) in behavioural research

ESRC plans to establish a dedicated CDT+ in behavioural research, which will be the first ‘spoke’ commissioned alongside this major behavioural research ‘hub’.

Find out more about the pre-announcement for this CDT+.

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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