Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding


Who can apply for funding

Eligibility is normally based on:

  • your suitability to lead or work on a research proposal or business innovation project
  • the research organisation or business where the work is intended to take place.

Your business or organisation could be eligible for some levels of funding, but not others. For example, it might not be eligible to get a grant directly from UKRI, but could take part in a funded project as a collaborator.

Some funding opportunities require your idea for research or innovation be in a specific area to apply.

Your eligibility as an individual

Your eligibility to work on a project as an individual will depend on whether you’re applying for:

  • an individual funding opportunity (for example, a fellowship)
  • a role in a research team (for example, principal investigator or co-investigator).

Fellowships and other individual funding opportunities

Some funding opportunities are for a single person only. These include research fellowships and Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation and Ideas mean business – Young Innovators awards.

If you’re interested in applying for one of these funding opportunities the first thing to do is to check the specific eligibility criteria.

Each has its own criteria. For example, some fellowships will require you to be in a specific career stage or situation, such as returning to research after a career break.

Individual roles on research teams

You usually need a certain level of experience or job status to be eligible for particular roles in UKRI-funded projects.

For example, to be a principal investigator you might need to:

  • hold a PhD or equivalent qualification
  • be a permanent employee or treated as one throughout the proposed research project – see organisational eligibility for more information
  • devote a set amount of your working hours to delivering the research project.

Eligibility varies. You should check the specific criteria of a funding opportunity before applying.

You can participate in UK-based projects if you are a researcher based outside the UK.  Find out more about getting funding as an international researcher.

Check your organisation is eligible for funding

Some research organisations and businesses are eligible for grant funding, while others can participate as non-grant claiming partners only.

Higher education institutions

Higher education institutions can apply for research grants and funding for postgraduate training and other associated activities. Specific criteria apply for each opportunity.

Eligible higher education institutions typically receive grant funding from one of the UK’s higher education funding bodies (Research England, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Scottish Funding Council or Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy).

These are institutions that take part in the Research Excellence Framework and receive annual funding. You should check within your organisation if you’re not sure if this is you.

Research institutes

Research institutes are organisations in which UKRI has made a long-term funding investment. They are eligible for many of our research grant funding opportunities.

Check the full list to see if your organisation is included or apply to become an eligible organisation.

NHS bodies

UKRI research grants are open to NHS bodies with research capacity. This includes:

  • the NHS board
  • NHS Clinical Commissioning Group
  • NHS Foundation Trust
  • NHS Special Authority
  • NHS Trust
  • NHS Local Health Board.

Grants can be used for research and development activities only, not treatment or support costs.

Public sector research establishments

A public sector research establishment is classified as an organisation that:

  • is sponsored directly by a government department or UKRI
  • has research and development capacity
  • has met UKRI criteria for public sector research establishments and is registered as being eligible for funding.

Independent research organisations

Organisations might conduct research and development activities and still not fit into one of the other categories for UKRI funding. These organisations can apply to become an independent research organisation and may become eligible this way.

Independent research organisations need to demonstrate:

  • existing in-house capacity to carry out research that extends and enhances other research happening in the UK
  • the capability and skills to independently undertake and lead a research programme.

Research and technology organisations

The UK’s network of catapult centres are classified as research and technology organisations. There are nine catapult centres. No other organisation meets the definition for a research and technology organisation and you cannot apply to become one.

Some funding opportunities with Innovate UK are open to catapult centres to get grant funding. Catapult centres can also be involved as collaborators on other council applications, for example, as named contractors within a research grant.

Catapult centres can also apply to become eligible for research grants on some UKRI funding opportunities.


There are innovation grants for businesses to develop new and novel products, processes or services. These are offered by Innovate UK. The best way to understand if something is open to a business is to check the funding opportunity.

Check the funding opportunity for requirements your business needs to meet. For example, it might have to be:

  • registered in the UK
  • intend to carry out project work in the UK
  • be a particular size.

We use the European Commission definition of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Check the definitions.

Businesses may also be able to be a collaborator on certain research grants and not claim funds. This will be specified within the funding opportunity.

Last updated: 16 June 2022

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