Changes to AHRC responsive mode funding opportunities - AHRC

Throughout 2023 the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) implemented changes to our responsive mode funding opportunities.

AHRC’s responsive mode opportunities are now:

Pause in follow-on funding

As part of our wider responsive mode transition we will be pausing the follow-on funding scheme after the closure of round four until further notice, to enable us to commence a review of the scheme. We will provide updates on the review and potential opportunity to feed on this web page.

The review of follow-on funding is the next step in our transformation of responsive mode, following the introduction of Catalyst and Curiosity, and the pilot of Mission.

To enable the community to have more time prior to the pause, we have extended round four closure by three weeks. The new closure date for applications is now 18 July 2024.

Why we are making these changes

The changes that are being implemented are a direct result of our analysis of these schemes. Feedback from engagement with diverse voices from our community has underlined:

  • the value of responsive mode opportunities
  • the need for such funds to be more flexible and better aligned to the needs of all our researchers and their research ambitions, and we are responding to their challenges

Improvement for our community

The new offering will be better than before, by providing for a wider range of formats of research and provide greater flexibility for research ideas. It will also offer provision for larger and more ambitious projects, which acknowledge the increasing cost of research.

Supporting talent

The changes will help support emerging arts and humanities talent, by offering new and expanded provision for start of career and early career researchers.

The changes will embed the principles of the Researcher Development Concordat and UKRI Technician Commitment.

The new offering will enable greater support for the development of researchers at all career points and throughout their careers, providing a clear pathway of support for research ideas as they develop and expand. It will also offer more experienced researchers greater scope to meet their ambitions.

Improving reach of our funding recipients

These changes will help to increase the breadth of the researchers supported by our funding, such as more career stages, more career paths and more researchers, as well as the types of research organisations in receipt of our funding.

The focus of this change is the mechanism of our grant funding, rather than a fundamental shift in how we operate or in our vision and strategy.

As set out within the commitments in our strategic delivery plan, our funding must:

  • support diversity within the research community
  • enable career development
  • fund the best ideas wherever they are found

We will continue to:

  • fund outstanding research
  • support world-class researchers in the arts and humanities
  • remove barriers to accessing our funding
  • support and provision for research connectivity within the UK and internationally, and to the principles of robust and independent application assessment

Changes to responsive mode opportunities in 2023

There are two new opportunities, launched alongside a revised opportunity, that will meet the needs of the research community in a clearer pathway.

New and refreshed opportunities

Curiosity awards

In July, AHRC launched a new flexible award to fund fundamental research, networking activity and idea generation, which enables the development of further research opportunities and new research agendas. These awards will support teams, networks and solo researchers.

The scheme is intentionally flexible, indicative examples of the activities we will fund include:

  • idea generation
  • seed corn funding
  • high risk or high potential concepts
  • novel research
  • networking activity
  • partnership-building
  • knowledge exchange
  • public engagement
  • international collaboration
  • scoping and piloting, for example, early-stage proof of concept for ideas or change of direction, pivots in research focus at any career stage

International co-investigators are supported.

Funding available will be for projects with a total cost up to £100,000 and a duration of up to five years.

For further details see the UKRI funding finder.

Catalyst awards

In July, AHRC launched awards to fund researchers without prior experience of leading a significant research project to accelerate their trajectory as independent researchers to unlock their potential and build leadership and convenor experience.

The awards will provide applicants with an opportunity to support their own skill development and the skill development of research staff employed on the award.

Specific eligibility criteria apply to principal investigators, as outlined on the UKRI funding finder.

Funding available will be for projects with a total cost between £100,000 and £300,000 and a duration of up to five years.

For further details see the UKRI funding finder.

Research grants (standard route)

AHRC have increased the upper funding limit from £1 million to £1.5 million (100% full economic cost) to support more ambitious projects and enhanced team development, as well as accommodate the increased costs of research.

Funding available will be for projects between £300,000 and £1.5 million. The lower funding limit has been increased from £50,000 to £300,000, as the new catalyst and curiosity opportunities offer support to projects below £300,000.

The three new pathways are designed to meet the changing needs of our researchers in a clear and coherent suite of responsive mode opportunities, which means that we will close some of our current opportunities.

Follow-on funding for impact and engagement

At this time this opportunity will remain unchanged, though the work achieved by the new opportunities may lead to a future review.

Opportunities closed

Research grants (early career route)

The core aims and objectives of the existing targeted early career route will transfer to and be incorporated within the new curiosity and catalyst awards opportunities, offering more flexibility for sole-scholar and collaborative research.

The early career route closed on 29 March 2023.

Research development and engagement fellowships

The aims and objectives of this scheme have been incorporated within the new curiosity and catalyst awards opportunities.

This opportunity closed on 29 March 2023.

Research networking

The aims and objectives of this opportunity have been incorporated within the new curiosity awards opportunity, and closed to applications on 29 June 2023.

Transition from Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system to the new Funding Service

Throughout 2023 and 2024 AHRC will transition from Je-S to the new UKRI grants system, the Funding Service.

Read more about the new system and how we will transition to the Funding Service.

Details of the transition will be published as and when they are available in the AHRC research funding guide and on the relevant funding opportunity pages of the UKRI funding finder.

This transition is part of UKRI’s Simpler and Better Funding programme, which is creating a single, consistent user-centred Funding Service.

Making changes to 'always open' funding opportunities

‘Always open’ funding opportunities now have a more consistent set of application questions and assessment criteria across and within councils, as part of a harmonised responsive mode. This harmonisation will result in applicants having a new and simplified experience when writing and submitting proposals to UKRI’s funding opportunities.

The introduction of a new grants system presents us with an opportunity to implement changes to funding opportunities at the same time as the transition. This will reduce the number of points at which change is applied and therefore make it easier for our research community to manage.

During this transition to a new system AHRC will run responsive mode funding opportunities as consecutive rounds, however they are still essentially ‘always open’ and applications can be submitted at any time throughout the year. AHRC will not be able to provide our usual levels of service if applications and associated questions are only submitted at or close to a round closing date, therefore applicants are strongly encouraged not to wait until the end of a round for the submission of their application. Further details on the rounds can be found in the timeline section below and also on the relevant funding opportunity pages of the UKRI funding finder.


Piloting ways to strengthen digital arts and humanities capacity within responsive mode schemes

We are conducting a limited pilot to encourage applications which seek to build digital arts and humanities capacity. This is in response to a request from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to UKRI to drive investment in DSIT and National Science and Technology Council critical technologies. Details can be found on the UKRI funding finder pages for round four of our Curiosity and Catalyst schemes.

In 2023, we transformed our responsive mode schemes with the ambition to diversify research and researchers that we support and to fund the best ideas wherever they are found. We hope to use this pilot to better understand the potential that different funding mechanisms may hold to help us pave the way in addressing critical gaps within our responsive mode portfolio, including capacity building and sustainability in strategic priorities.

We will be taking a phased, iterative approach to ensure that we are reflecting and embedding learning at each step. As such, we welcome your feedback; please email with ‘Curiosity/Catalyst Critical technologies’ in the subject line.


The dates of the rounds are as follows, these are subject to change:

Research grants

  • Round one opened on 29 June and closed on 14 September 2023
  • Round two opened on 25 September and closed on 7 December 2023
  • Round three will open on 8 December and close on 26 March 2024
  • Round four will open on 27 March and close on 27 June 2024
  • Round five will open on 28 June and close on 24 September 2024
  • Round six will open on 25 September and close on 10 December 2024

Follow-on funding

  • Round one opened on 29 June and closed on 14 September 2023
  • Round two opened on 25 September and closed on 7 December 2023
  • Round three will open on 8 December and close on 26 March 2024
  • Round four will open on 27 March and close on 18 July 2024

Curiosity and Catalyst Awards

  • Round one opened on 17 July and closed on 19 October 2023
  • Round two opened on 30 October and closed on 30 January 2024
  • Round three will open on 31 January and close on 30 April 2024
  • Round four will open on 1 May and close 30 July 2024
  • Round five will open on 31 July and close 30 October 2024
  • Round six will open on 31 October and close 30 January 2025

Dates of further rounds for all four opportunities will be added here throughout 2024.


The launch of the Curiosity and Catalyst Awards schemes were supported by a webinar for prospective applicants and professional research support staff that presented an overview of the schemes, followed by an opportunity to ask questions. The webinars were recorded, and a copy can be found below.

Watch webinar recording from 8 September 2023 (YouTube)
View a transcript of the webinar from 8 September 2023

Note that this webinar is British Sign Language interpreted.

Watch webinar recording for Peer Review College members from 6 September 2023 (YouTube)

Please note that similar webinars were also provided in July and September to:

  • members of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA). See correspondence from ARMA for details.

Further information and contact details

Further information on these changes will be published on this web page, in future editions of the AHRC research funding guide, and within the relevant funding opportunity pages on the UKRI funding finder.

Ask a question about the changes to the opportunities

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Find out more about guidance and training resources about the Funding Service.

Last updated: 17 June 2024

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