Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Expression of interest: astronomy large awards

Provide an expression of interest for astronomy large award funding. Large awards support themed, programmatic large projects tackling big research questions or technology development with the potential to produce world-leading research. Your project must fall within the STFC astronomy remit.

You must be:

This will be a single opportunity which covers astronomy observation, astronomy theory, solar system and planetary studies. We welcome applications for funding to support theory, including modelling, simulation and related software development, observation, experiment and new technology research.

STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost (FEC) for most fund headings.

Applications should be proposed for a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years starting 1 April 2025.

We anticipate inviting a maximum of 10 applications to submit a full proposal to the March 2024 deadline and we expect to fund a maximum of four large awards. We aim to contact you by 7 December to inform you of the outcome.

Who can apply

Before submitting your expression of interest for funding, check the eligibility of research organisations and your eligibility to apply as an applicant.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

Find out more about: roles in funding applications: eligibility, responsibilities and costings guidance.

We encourage multidisciplinary research within the astronomy remit and collaborations with other UK organisations. Applications to the large awards scheme are welcome from single research organisation or multiple research organisations (consortium applications).

International and non-academic collaborators can be involved as projects partners.

If you are submitting an application from multiple research organisations you should submit a single expression of interest.

Applicants (previously principal investigators or co-investigators) may be included in a maximum of one large award application per funding opportunity as a project lead or co-lead.

Demand management

If your expression of interest (EOI) is not invited to submit a full application you will be eligible to submit an EOI to the next large awards closing date.

If you are invited to submit a full application (either as project lead or co-lead) but are subsequently unsuccessful in securing funding, you will not be permitted to apply to the next large awards opportunity in 2025. You would next be eligible to apply in 2026.

If you are invited to submit a full application (as project lead or co-lead) and are successful in securing funding then you cannot apply again to the large awards scheme (as project lead or co-lead) for funding which would overlap your award (you cannot hold concurrent large awards).

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


Your application must be in one or more of the astronomy observation, astronomy theory, solar system and planetary studies remits which includes:

  • stellar physics, including star formation and extra-solar planetary systems (studies of the Sun as part of a programme of stellar physics may fit here)
  • studies of transient phenomena
  • the interstellar medium and galactic astronomy
  • extra-galactic astronomy and cosmology
  • the astrophysical aspects of particle astrophysics, where particle astrophysics includes dark matter, the origin of cosmic rays and gravity
  • laboratory astrophysics, including software development, relevant to the above programmes
  • solar physics and heliospheric physics
  • space-based terrestrial magnetospheric science and fundamental space plasma physics (excluding the impact on the Earth’s neutral atmosphere)
  • planetary science, including the surfaces and interiors, atmospheres, ionospheres, and magnetospheres of the solar system bodies other than the Earth
  • laboratory studies of solar system material such as meteorites, returned samples, solar system analogues, other laboratory physics relevant to the area of the funding opportunity and related software development
  • blue skies technology or instrumentation development applicable to the above areas (technology readiness levels (TRL) one to four)

If your application is in one of the following research areas we strongly advise you contact the STFC astronomy team to check the remit ahead of submitting:

Technology development

The Astronomy Grants Panel (AGP) will consider funding astronomy and space science applications at TRL one to four or their equivalent (eligibility of TRL). Modest upgrades to existing equipment, related to the delivery of science within the course of the project requested, may be considered. The UK Space Agency (UKSA) will consider space mission-related applications at TRL five and above.

Gravitational wave research

The AGP will consider funding support for some aspects of gravitational wave research: clarification of STFC support for gravitational waves research. STFC is considering the peer review route for gravitational wave exploitation science and will provide specific guidance with respect to this in the near future. You should contact the STFC astronomy awards team for urgent advice as required.

Space weather and the impact of the Sun on terrestrial systems

STFC will support non-Earth-orientated solar-terrestrial physics research, for example, fundamental space plasma physics not related to the Earth. STFC will also fund space-based facilities (spacecraft, instruments and operations) for solar terrestrial physics and their associated primary exploitation.

NERC is responsible for funding solar terrestrial physics where the primary goal is to understand the Earth’s environment from the deep interior to the upper atmosphere (meaning, mesosphere, thermosphere and ionosphere).

Mars exploration and sample return

Studies related to the UKSA’s programme of Aurora science (Mars exploration and sample return) should be addressed to the UKSA ( in the first instance, as separate funding may be available.


Large awards will cover funding for a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years of research activity starting 1 April 2025.

Large awards support themed programmatic large projects tackling big research questions or technology development. Our expectation is that large awards will have the potential to produce world-leading research. To achieve this, they will involve several different interdependent components coherently interacting in a single overall structure that is more than the sum of its parts. Proposals that appear as a collection of small individual projects are likely to be unsuccessful.

Under no circumstances should applicants receive duplicate funding for the same or similar proposal from more than one funding agency. We cannot prohibit the submission of the same or similar proposals to other funding agencies (outside of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)), but you must include details of similar proposals that have been submitted to other funding.

Large awards must follow the guidance below:

  • between nine and 25 years of research and innovation associate (previously referred to as postdoctoral research assistant (PDRA)) effort in total. The panel recognises that technical or lab-based projects may require fractions of the time of specialist research and innovation associates, but this should not exceed the overall full time equivalent (FTE) limits
  • applicant FTE (the below are suggested for guidance, you are permitted to request the FTE you require to carry out the proposed research and should ensure it is explicitly justified):
    • five to 10% where you have a clear and significant, but not major, personal role in the research
    • 10 to 20% where you are leading a work package (or equivalent) or are heavily involved in the research at a personal level
    • applicants managing a PDRA are expected to request a minimum of 10%. Please ensure such management roles are clearly identified
  • technician time

UKRI is signatory to the Concordat for Researchers.

Supporting skills and talent.

You are free to make best use of the resources available for the application, but should bear in mind the principles of the concordat regarding employment and career development when planning research and innovation associate roles.

It is your responsibility to demonstrate that the programme to be carried out in the large award is clearly distinct from existing support.


Large awards must be minimum of three and a maximum of five years in duration, all awards must start on 1 April 2025.

What we will fund

Applicants who are not requesting a salary contribution may request support costs such as travel and subsistence or other directly incurred costs. You must make it clear whether estates and indirect costs will be included in the request.

Requesting un-named research staff and named research staff (PDRA posts), please refer to the grants handbook (staff and investigator costs).

Technical and other staff, please refer to the grants handbook (other staff).

You can also request and make the case for the following project specific costs:

The research organisation is expected to provide standard laptops from indirect costs.

Laptops may only be costed to the application where a higher specification of laptop is required for the completion of specific grant-related activities such as data modelling, enhanced graphics and more.

What we will not fund

Studentship posts are not permitted on large awards.

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

How to apply

Expression of interest

You must submit an expression of interest (EOI) for this opportunity. The EOI will be accepted by email only to and

You must meet the deadline outlined in the timetable section.

We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about your eligibility or the application process. We can also give advice on the best funding route for your proposed research project.

Your EOI will be assessed by a panel with broad expertise in the astronomy area on:

  • research excellence
  • capability to deliver
  • fit to scheme

We will invite a maximum of 10 EOIs to submit a full application to the March 2024 deadline and we expect to fund a maximum of four large awards.

Your EOI should comprise a single case for support which should be maximum of four sides of A4. The document, including any references and figure captions, must be written in Arial (standard) 11pt font, with a minimum of 2cm margins around each page.

Your case for support should be split into the three sections below and must address the following (note these section page limits are not transferable):

Vision, approach and capability to deliver (two pages)

You must address the following:

  • objectives and anticipated outputs
  • an outline of the research proposed and its international context
  • justification for why a large award is more appropriate than several small awards (small awards guidelines to applicants 2023)
  • capability to deliver, demonstrate the ability of the team to conduct ground-breaking, innovative research and that they have the capability to successfully execute the project. The assessment process will consider your ideas and contribution, relative to career stage, to your field of science, the wider research and innovation community and users of research. It will not be based on metrics (for example, publication numbers and income)
  • an outline of your project management and data management plans
  • figures, references or tables as required

Summary of FTE and associated costs (one page)

You must address the following:

  • a summary of the resources you plan to request. This should include:
    full time equivalent (FTE) for applicants (project lead and co-leads, formally principal investigator and co-investigator), research and innovation associates (formerly known as postdoctoral research assistants), technicians and any other personnel required for the proposed application
  • cost at 100% (£) for:
    • equipment (please note if your request is for 50% or 100% of the total cost of equipment as per the STFC equipment guidance)
    • travel and subsistence
    • directly incurred costs (computing consumables etc.)
    • research facilities costs

You do not need to provide costs for salaries, estates, indirects or infrastructure technicians.

You are advised to carefully consider the costs and FTE required to carry out the proposed research. If you are invited to submit a full application you will not be permitted to vary costs or FTE by 10% above or below those submitted in your EOI. Please ensure you refer to the ‘what we will fund’ for information on eligible costs.

Relevant current or submitted support (one page)

You must address the following:

  • a summary of any current or submitted funding which is relevant to this application

STFC must receive your EOI by 4.00pm UK time on 31 October 2023.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Full applications

If your EOI is successful you will be invited to submit a full application to the large awards closing date in March 2024. Applications will be accepted via the UK Research and Innovation Funding Service and full opportunity details will be made available ahead of being invited to submit to the opportunity closing date.

We aim to have contacted applicants by 7 December to inform them of the outcome of the EOI assessment.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process for expression of interest (EOI)

We will assess your EOI using the following process.

Sift panel

We will invite experts to assess the quality of your EOI and rank it alongside the other EOIs submitted. Your EOI will be assessed on:

  • research excellence
  • capability to deliver
  • fit to scheme

The assessment process will consider applicants’ ideas and contribution relative to career stage, acknowledging that not all team members will have evidence against all criteria.

We will invite a maximum of 10 EOIs to submit a full proposal to the large awards deadline.

We aim to have contacted applicants by 7 December to inform them of the outcome.


We will provide short feedback with the outcome of your application.

If your EOI is not accepted then you and your team will be eligible to submit an EOI to the 2025 large awards funding opportunity.

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 UK Research and Innovation principles of assessment and decision making.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your expression of interest, contact your research office.

Ask about this expression of interest

Chloe Woodcock: Senior Programme Manager, Astronomy Awards


Kim Burchell: Head of Astronomy Awards


Additional info

Equality impact assessments

Astronomy awards equality and inclusion impact assessments.

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.


  • 28 September 2023
    Content updated under the 'Summary of FTE and associated costs (one page)' heading in the 'How to apply' section.

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