UKRI funds research and innovation on a competitive basis. Individual applications for research are assessed by relevant independent experts from academia and business.
Core research funding to the higher education sector for its research is targeted where the research quality is highest.
How we review academic-led research proposals
Your proposal for research funding will be assessed by experts for excellence and, where applicable, impact. This process is sometimes referred to as peer review or expert review.
We appoint experts from the UK and overseas with recognised expertise in the relevant areas of research to review applications independently of other applications. They do this against published criteria to assess whether they are fundable.
We try, where possible, to give you the opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments before your application goes to a panel.
A panel of independent experts then assesses applications against each other and recommends which ones should be funded.
Assessment is designed to be sensitive to different needs and cultures in the academic community. It reflects the need to support different types of research, from basic or strategic research to adventurous or multidisciplinary research.
Your application is treated as confidential.
Assessment and decision-making processes by research council
Each research council publishes information about its own assessment and decision-making process:
- Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
More details about the research councils’ and Innovate UK’s expert review and the assessment process can be found in the principles of assessment and decision-making (PDF, 176KB).
How we assess business-led innovation proposals
If you are a business applying for funding for an innovation project, you make your application to Innovate UK.
Your application is reviewed by independent expert assessors from business and academia in the relevant areas of technical and commercial expertise.
The Innovate UK funders panel makes the final assessment on which projects to fund.
We may also make funding allocations based on a ‘portfolio’ approach spread across:
- scope areas
- categories of research and development
- project durations
- project costs, including demonstrating value for money
This is to ensure that funds are allocated across all the strategic areas of the competition. All successful applications must meet the required quality threshold.
How we allocate research funding to institutions
Research England uses a different process. Most of its funding is allocated to eligible higher education institutions based on the Research Excellence Framework assessment.
The money supports the research they carry out and is not tied to any specific projects. The way funds are allocated is based on a formula that includes:
- number of research staff
- amount and quality of research undertaken
- amount of research and knowledge exchange income received.
Performance is assessed periodically through the Research Excellence Framework, a research assessment exercise across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This was last carried out in 2021 and has been used to determine grant awards from 2022 to 2023 onwards. The next exercise is due in 2029.
Last updated: 13 December 2023