Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: AHRC responsive mode: Catalyst Award: round three

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Awards to support researchers without prior experience of leading a significant research project to accelerate their trajectory as independent researchers, to unlock their potential, build leadership and convenor experience.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for AHRC funding.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £300,000. AHRC will fund 80% of the FEC. Funding for projects up to five years in duration.

The scheme will launch as consecutive rounds with defined opening and closing dates.

Applications can be submitted at any time while a round is open.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, please check:

Who is eligible to apply

Eligibility is determined on the basis of funding history.

You are required to self-define your eligibility based on the below criteria and include a justification in your application. We will not provide specific advice on eligibility for this scheme, beyond the standard UKRI eligibility rules. Peer reviewers will consider eligibility as part of their assessment of fit to scheme and you have the right to reply to any commentary in your applicant response.

You cannot be a current or former project lead on AHRC or other UKRI research grants or fellowship grants, except:

  • doctoral training awards (any)
  • early career fellowships (any)
  • AHRC Research Networking (or equivalent)
  • AHRC Curiosity Awards
  • AHRC Small Grants in the creative and performing arts
  • AHRC Research Grants Practice Led and Applied
  • institutional lead on a UKRI Impact Accelerator Award (IAA)

You cannot be a current or former project lead on research grants or fellowship grants from any other funder, with the exception of awards that reasonably meet the aims of the above list.

You may hold a current or previous award from AHRC, UKRI or any other funder that falls outside the scope of a research grant or fellowship grant, for example, travel grant, public engagement grant, skills training grant.

Project co-leads

Project co-leads are permitted and encouraged for interdisciplinary applications or where a co-lead would provide specific technical expertise that is essential to the project. This can include international co-leads as per the guidance below. However, it must be clear that the project lead is responsible for leading the project.

Employment

The project lead and any project co-leads must be employed and supported by an eligible organisation for at least the duration of the UKRI support; it is not a requirement that a contract be in place at the point of application submission. It is also not a requirement to have a permanent employment contract to apply for funding.

Skills and qualifications

You must have the appropriate skills to lead the project in line with UKRI’s terms & conditions. There are no specific qualification requirements, and you do not necessarily need a qualification such as a PhD. During your project, you must be primarily based and permitted to work in the UK.

You do not need to hold an academic research or teaching post to apply; applications are welcomed from those working as archivists, curators, librarians, technicians, practitioners.

International applicants

We also encourage international researchers to participate as project co-leads. See sections two and three of the AHRC research funding guide for full details on eligibility of researchers, organisations and costs.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

Scope

Catalyst awards support researchers without prior experience of leading a significant research project to accelerate their trajectory as independent researchers, unlocking their potential and building leadership and convenor experience through the delivery of ambitious or complex projects.

The scheme takes a people-centred approach with funding available to support the development of researchers and their research ideas. It is flexible, and applications are welcomed from teams, networks and solo researchers.

Development is at the core of this scheme; projects must clearly articulate how the funding will contribute to the development of all those involved through the way that the project has been designed and will be managed, with appropriate support structures in place.

Projects can be single discipline, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary. The majority of the disciplinary focus of the project must fall within the AHRC’s subject remit, see section seven of the AHRC research funding guide for our remit coverage. Practice-based and practice-led research is supported by this scheme.

Partnerships and collaboration are supported, and you should outline how this collaboration contributes to your career development and the development of any project team members. Applications should articulate how collaborative activity will be conducted, considering good practice in creating equitable partnerships. Further guidance is available in the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) good research resource hub.

Duration

The duration of this award is maximum of five years.

The project start date must be at least nine months from the point of the application submission to AHRC. The earliest possible start date for applications to round three is 31 October 2024.

Funding available

The FEC of your project must be between £100,000 and £300,000.

We will fund 80% of the FEC.

Where mentoring is included for the researchers, salary costs to cover the mentor’s time can be claimed from the grant.

Costs associated with international co-leads can be claimed subject to AHRC’s standard policy as stated in section three of the AHRC research funding guide.

Costs associated with international co-leads will be funded at 100% FEC but must not exceed 30% of the total project costs. Visit sections two and three of the AHRC research funding guide for details on eligibility of such costs.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email support@funding-service.ukri.org
    Please allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. If using visual elements, you must:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • ensure files are smaller than 5MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:

Deadline

AHRC must receive your application by 30 April 2024 at 4.00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

AHRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your Funding Service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

AHRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at What AHRC has funded.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Summary

Word limit: 550

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • context
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))
  • specialist
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Application questions

Discipline classification – primary

Word limit: 5

Please provide the primary research area of your proposal.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You must select from one of these research disciplines:

  • archaeology
  • area studies
  • classics
  • cultural and museum studies
  • dance
  • design
  • development studies
  • drama and theatre studies
  • education
  • history
  • human geography
  • information and communication technologies
  • languages and literature
  • law and legal studies
  • library and information studies
  • linguistics
  • media
  • music
  • philosophy
  • political science and international studies
  • social anthropology
  • theology, divinity and religion
  • visual arts

This information will be used for the purposes of processing your proposal and in the selection of appropriate assessors.

Discipline classification – secondary

Word limit: 50

Please describe, using keywords, the research area of your proposal and where relevant the approach, time period or geographical area.

This will further help with the selection of appropriate assessors.

Eligibility to apply for opportunity

Word limit: 250

Provide confirmation that you meet the eligibility requirements for the catalyst award scheme.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Confirmation that you meet the scheme criteria for eligibility by either:

  • confirming that the project lead has not been a current or former lead on a significant grant or fellowship from any funder
  • if they have been a project lead, provide an explanation on how this meets the aims on permitted exclusions stated in the ‘Who can apply’ section

You should refer to the AHRC Catalyst awards guidance for information about previous awards status.

Vision

Word limit: 500

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, or generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context, and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy, or the environment

Within the ‘Vision’ section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be

Within this section you can also:

  • demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form, if relevant

You must:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words

Approach

Word limit: 2,000

How are you going to deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • uses a clearly written and transparent methodology (if applicable)
  • summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed (if applicable)
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the ‘Approach’ section you can also:

  • demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form, if relevant

You must:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word limit: 1,500

Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the service.

The word count for this section is 1,500 words: 1,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

As a minimum, all named members of the leadership team should be discussed within this section of the form.

If references or citations are deemed appropriate, these should be included within the section’s word limit. We would advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application. If you are linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible. You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

Additions

Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.

Within this section you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 500

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations

If you are collecting or using data, identify:

  • any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical considerations and, in particular, strategies to not preclude further reuse of data
  • formal information standards with which your study will comply

Within this section you can also:

  • demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the Funding Service.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Add the following project partner details:

  • the organisation name and address (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • the project partner contact name and email address
  • the type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If a detail is entered incorrectly and you have saved the entry, remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Project partners: letters or emails of support

Word limit: 10

Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the ‘Project partner’ section.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box, or if you do not have any project partners enter N/A.  Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance, and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project

Save letters or emails of support from each partner in a single PDF no bigger than 8MB. Unless specially requested, please do not include any sensitive personal data within the attachment.

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Project partner’.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply. If you do not have any project partners, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Ensure you have prior agreement from project partners so that, if you are offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the contributions template.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Do not provide letters of support from host and project co-leads’ research organisations.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 1,000

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Justify the application’s more costly resources, in particular:

  • project staff
  • significant travel for field work or collaboration (but not regular travel between collaborating organisations or to conferences)
  • any equipment that will cost more than £10,000
  • any consumables beyond typical requirements, or that are required in exceptional quantities
  • all facilities and infrastructure costs
  • all resources that have been costed as ‘Exceptions’

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Additionally, where relevant you should explain:

  • support for any project partners organisations

We do not fund individual items of equipment over £10,000. Please read the AHRC research funding guide for further information.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite peers to review your application independently, against the specified criteria for this funding opportunity.

You will not be able to nominate reviewers for applications on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. Research councils will continue to select expert reviewers.

We are monitoring the requirement for applicant-nominated reviewers as we review policies and processes as part of the continued development of the new Funding Service.

Panel

Following peer review, we will invite peers to use the evidence provided by reviewers and your applicant response to assess the quality of your application and rank it alongside other applications after which the panel will make a funding recommendation.

AHRC will make the final funding decision.

Find out more about AHRC’s assessment process.

Timescale

We aim to complete the assessment process within nine months of receiving your application.

Feedback

Written feedback will only be provided in the form of the anonymised peer reviews and the final grade from the panel.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.
We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment areas

The assessment areas we will use are:

  • Eligibility to apply for opportunity
  • Vision
  • Approach
  • Applicant and team capability to deliver
  • Ethics and responsible research and innovation
  • Resource and cost justification

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page.

Important note: The helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent funding opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility, content or remit of a funding opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact enquiries@ahrc.ukri.org

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org
Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and funding opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find out more information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact enquiries@ahrc.ukri.org

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Webinars

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.

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

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