Types of research funding
This section includes information on the types of research funding available. This is split broadly between commercial and non-commercial (including internal funding):
The key aim of research charities is to generate knowledge that benefits the public good. Charities provide an important independent stream of research funding which complements the objectives of the Research Councils and Government departments. There are hundreds of research funding charities covering a wide range of aims. All are regulated by charity law and are required to adhere to certain obligations and restrictions on the use of charitable funds for research, e.g. the requirement to disseminate research findings and a prohibition on funding research for the purpose of commercial or private gain.
Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC)
The AMRC is a member organisation of the leading UK charities that fund medical and health research. There are currently over 100 members, including the world’s largest charity, the Wellcome Trust, all with the common aim of improving human health by funding a wide range of research including basic, applied and disease specific. These charities provide funds in a variety of ways ranging from small pump-priming grants to substantial funds intended for programmes of research. Medical research charities can only fund research that falls within their charitable objectives, which may focus on a particular disease or condition, a range of diseases or more widely on improving human health through education and research.
Members are listed on the AMRC website.
UK Research and Innovation
UKRI, primarily through its Research Councils, invests approximately £2.8 billion per annum in research ranging from medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry, engineering, social sciences, economics, and the arts and humanities. The aim, scale and balance of the projects funded reflect the national research priorities agreed in consultation with Government and other stakeholders. UKRI is principally funded through the Science Budget by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
UKRI comprises nine organisations: seven Research Councils, which are organised by discipline, Innovate UK who support translation activities (often involving industry partners) and Research England, a funding council who support underpinning funding for universities:
UKRI also has its own funding streams:
- Official Development Assistance (Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund website - Imperial also has its Global Challenges Research Fund page)
- National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF)
- Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
- Talent - Future Leaders Fellowships (Imperial has an internal process for this scheme)
- Place - Strength in Places Fund
- Strategic Priorities Fund
The Strategic Priorities Fund is currently the newest stream of funding emerging from the UKRI NPIF and is primarily being strategically allocated at this stage. There may be open calls at later stages. A summary of the current status of this stream can be seen in the following table - UKRI does not group together calls for this stream in the same way as the other streams.
EMBL- European Bioinformatics Institute
Ensuring the Security of Digital Technologies at the Periphery (SDTaP)
PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for Internet of Things Systems Cybersecurity will manage a series of open academic funding calls throughout its lifetime, the first of which will be announced in summer 2019.
Additionally, Innovate UK is running calls:
Living with Machines
No – funds committed
AI and Data Science for Engineering, Health, Science and Government
EPSRC/The Alan Turing Institute/ BBSRC/MRC/NERC/STFC
Beginning of this spend is already committed but there may be future calls open to ATI members and the wider HEI community for subsequent spend in this area.
Physics of Life
2nd Open call expected end of 2019
UK Animal and Plant Health: understanding and countering bacterial plant diseases
Beginning of this spend is already committed but there may be future open calls
The Human Cell Atlas initiative
No – funds committed
Landscape Decisions: Towards a new framework for using land assets programme
UK Climate Resilience
The Met Office as a delivery partner, has a funding opportunities page
Clean Air: Analysis and Solutions
NERC/EPSRC/ESRC/ Innovate UK/ MRC/NPL/Defra
No current calls open.
Constructing a Digital Environment
NERC/EPSRC/Innovate UK/Defra/Cabinet Office
Other UK Goverment departments
A number of Government departments provide significant funding for a wide variety of research activities.
Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
DEFRA programmes on the environment, food and rural affairs.
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and QinetiQ
DSTL is an agency of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). QinetiQ is Britain's largest independent science and technology company. They both supply scientific and technical research and advice to the MOD.
Department for Transport (DfT)
The DfT oversees the delivery of a reliable, safe and secure transport system that responds efficiently to the needs of individuals and business whilst safeguarding our environment.
Department of Health (DH)
The DH funds significant programmes of research and development in the NHS through the National Institute for Health Research. The national programmes investigate a broad range of healthcare matters including the provision of funding to support the training and education of future health researchers. In addition, DH spends about £30 million per annum through ad-hoc research budgets (held by Departmental policy branches) and through research undertaken by arm's length bodies including the Public Health England (previously known as the Health Protection Agency).
National Academies, including the Royal Society
There are four English-based National Academies, all of which have the same principal roles:
- an independent fellowship of world-leading scholars and researchers
- a funding body that supports new research, nationally and internationally
- advocacy for their respective research fields
- a forum for debate and engagement
The four organisations are as follows:
The Royal Society is a leading independent scientific body in the UK and the Commonwealth, promoting excellence in science by supporting scientists from postdoctoral level to senior professorships. They offer grants for a variety of purposes ranging from conference travel to the modernisation of laboratories.
The British Academy is the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences – the study of peoples, cultures and societies, past, present and future. The British Academy provides a variety of grants and fellowships to support academic research, career development and wider engagement. Funding opportunities cover UK and international research from the postdoctoral level upwards.
The Royal Academy of Engineering is the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, bringing together the most talented and successful engineers to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society. The Academy runs a programme of grants and prizes to support and celebrate the pursuit of engineering activities and to enable closer contact between academia and industry.
The Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent body in the UK representing the diversity of medical science, advancing biomedical and health research and its translation into benefits for society. The Academy is committed to supporting the careers of the next generation of biomedical and health researchers through a portfolio of grant schemes, a mentoring programme, career development events and careers policy work.
National Institutes of Health, USA (NIH)
The NIH is the United States’ national medical research agency and consists of twenty-seven institutes and centres. It funds grants, cooperative agreements and contracts that support the advancement of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behaviour of living systems to meet the NIH mission of extending healthy life and reducing the burdens of illness and disability.
Comprehensive information on NIH policies, funding opportunities is available on the NIH website.
Further information: NIH Financial Conflict of Interest Policy
The European Commission’s main mechanism for funding research and innovation in Europe is Horizon Europe which offers a range of funding opportunities to UK HEIs.
Information on funding opportunities, application processes and details of support is available from the Research Office Europe team: Horizon Europe
The UK Research Office (UKRO) is the UK's leading national information and advice service on European Commission funding for research and higher education, and their mission is to promote effective UK participation in European Commission funded research programmes, higher education programmes, and other related activities. This includes:
- Supporting sponsors and subscribers through early insight and briefing on developments in European programmes and policies
- Disseminating timely and targeted information on European Commission funding opportunities
- Providing high quality advice, guidance and training on applying for and managing European Commission projects
Details on European Commission funding are also available at UK Research Office (UKRO)
The application and award processes of a number of College internal funding schemes are managed by the Funding Strategy team in the Research Office on behalf of the Vice-Provost (Research). These include, but are not limited to:
- Research Council supported Impact Acceleration Accounts
- EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowships
- Imperial College Research Fellowships
These awards go through the research ledger and are managed post award by Faculty Research Services teams.
Industry and private companies (national and multinational)
A wide variety of activities are funded by industry and the private sector. A good understanding of the market context is critical when entering into negotiation with industry. This includes:
- Understanding the investigators’ and Imperial’s position within the wider market, i.e. retaining or gaining market share
- Acquiring sufficient knowledge of competitors
- Taking advantage of opportunities, e.g. gaps in the market
- Minimising risks and threats
- Relating supply with demand, e.g. reacting to funders’ priorities, where appropriate
- Understanding the funders’ willingness and ability to pay
- The value of the research to its business
- Consideration of multiple services to provide a competitive edge
Imperial has faculty-based contract negotiators who liaise with companies on the terms and conditions of funding. The requirement to retain the academic freedom to disseminate knowledge and ownership of background and arising Intellectual Property is central to contract negotiations. Because of this, negotiation can be a lengthy process. Background information to the contracting process and associated policies is available in the Contracts pages.