What to Do When Applying for ESRC Funding

Jar spilling out silver and copper coins

The Economic and Social Research Council has traditionally been seen as one of the key funders for business research in the UK.

Although HESA data suggests that business schools have recently tried to diversify their income streams away from their over-reliance on the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the council still accounts for 48% of the total UKRI funding received by Business and Management scholars and it is the third-largest single source of income for business schools after the European Commission and the British Public Sector. So, what will you have to consider when applying for ESRC funding?

Find a way to make your research relevant to them

If you are applying for a directed call, this should be relatively simple as you will be expected to produce a programme of research which addresses the call’s stated aims. If you are applying through an open call, then there will be a need for you to explicitly map your research on to one of the priorities outlined by the ESRC in their delivery plan. These seven wide-ranging topics span ‘Understanding the Macroeconomy’ and ‘Productivity’ to ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Innovation in Health and Social Care’.

While not all proposals will match neatly into one of these, chances are there will be a way around it (if there isn’t one, maybe you should consider a different funder!). When applying, you will also need to consider your career stage and the type of research you will be carrying out. If you are an early career researcher (ECR), the New Investigator Grants will provide you with a great opportunity to manage your first significant research project.

If you are looking at buying out your time and analysing data which has already been collected and is available to you, then the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative would be the way to go. If you have an ambitious project in mind which would require a large team and a significant amount of data collection, then consider applying for a Project Grant.

Capitalise on their plans

Lately, the ESRC has been looking to integrate further with the other research councils. As such, many of their larger investments have been funded under collaborative agreements with other funders, for instance, their Future of Treescapes which is co-funded with NERC or a number of health-related calls which have been co-funded by the MRC.

This signals a willingness to invest in larger interdisciplinary projects, so do not shy away from those! Similarly, the ESRC (and UKRI more broadly) have been working to establish new collaboration agreements with other international funders: current agreements are in place with the main US funder, the national funding body of Luxemburg and regional funders in other countries such as Brazil. This new development offers you the chance to get funding not only for yourself but also for your co-investigators in those countries.

Last but not least, remember that there is a team here to help you! To discuss anything further please email Research Manager, Jess Cockell j.cockell@kent.ac.uk

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