Looking to the future: Follow-on Fund

We are pausing our Follow-on Fund scheme to enable us to consult with the community and think about how to best adapt this form of funding for the future.

The Art and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) responsive mode is undergoing some changes to improve the diversity of researchers we fund, provide more clarity on our schemes and enable increased flexibility and more ambitious projects.

Part of this change has been to pause our Follow-on Fund scheme to enable us to consult with the community and think about how to best adapt this form of funding for the future.

This blog post intends to share more information with you about this work, and to help keep you informed of what to expect during the months ahead.

Phase one: Catalyst, Curiosity and Mission

Catalyst and Curiosity were launched in summer 2023, as a direct result of feedback gathered from our research community. Catalyst better supports emerging arts and humanities talent by offering expanded provision for researchers without a track record of significant funding capture. Curiosity creates a flexible space for researchers at all career stages to explore novel, early-stage ideas prior to developing further funding bids.

Increasing the upper limit for Research Grants to £1.5 million and the launch of Mission in April this year to fund projects between £2 million and £3 million, both acknowledges the increasing cost of research and invites our community to apply with more ambitious projects that are innovative in their research leadership and collaboration.

Until now, we have not included Follow-on Fund in our review, waiting until these other schemes had launched and were establishing themselves.

Follow-on Fund: learnings for the future

Follow-on Fund is not the only avenue for extending the impact of funded research, but it is a very popular scheme nonetheless and enjoys relatively strong success rates in comparison to some of our other funding.

It supports our innovation focus and our explicit desire to diversify the beneficiaries and participants of arts and humanities research. We were also encouraged to see the strength of Follow-on Fund in 2021 Research Excellence Framework; it is clear that Follow-on Fund generates excellent research impact.

Yet during our focus groups over the last few years, although we were not explicitly discussing Follow-on Fund, we heard from members of our community that there is room for improvement. And it is important that we take the time to better understand where the scheme is working well and where it is not. Now our other changes to responsive mode are beginning to bed in, it is the right time to carry out a review of Follow-on Fund.

The review

Our evaluation will allow us to assess value for money of this scheme and provide AHRC with an enhanced evidence base for how we are supporting outstanding arts and humanities research and innovation. It will also explore how best to deliver efficient and effective pathways to impact and ways to upskill researchers to collaborate and engage with diverse partners and audiences.

The review will aim to assess:

  • how do the aims of the Follow-on Fund scheme support our broader ambition for impactful, engaging and diverse arts and humanities responsive mode funding?
  • how does the current design of the Follow-on Fund enable delivery of its aims?
  • how does the Follow-on Fund fit within the wider arts and humanities funding landscape?
  • what is the overall contribution of this scheme to the UK economy and society between 2015 and 2024?
  • what examples demonstrate the variety of impact the scheme has funded?

How you can get involved

The review will include interviews with a variety of sector wide stakeholders, in addition to working with previous and current grant holders. But we also want to give an opportunity for feedback from all our community. We will have more information on how you can engage with us towards the end of 2024 via our newsletter and socials.

While the review is underway, applications for Follow-on Fund will be paused. We will continue to process all applications received up until the deadline of round four, closing 18 July 2024.

We will publish the review’s findings once it is completed. I am keen that the review provides a really strong evidence base for improvement and sets out ways we can shape our plans for the future. It is important to me, and to AHRC, that we can demonstrate what we have learnt.

To continue to be updated with the latest AHRC news and opportunities:

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