Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop Digital Research Services for Heritage Science Research

Apply for funding to build and host a set of services that will enable researchers and other users to find and access equipment, facilities, expertise, reference collections, and research data relating to heritage science research.

To lead this project, you must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for AHRC funding.

The full economic cost (FEC) of building the service can be up to £12.4 million over three years. You will then have up to £0.7 million per year to host and maintain this platform. We will fund 100% of the FEC of building and hosting the service.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on UKRI’s new Funding Service from 22 May 2023.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

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 and AHRC’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy.

What we're looking for


You will design, build, test, launch and host a digital data service which will bring together data from heritage science and conservation research-practicing and collections-holding organisations across the UK. You will make the data freely available to researchers and other users, in line with principles.

There are three components to this data service:

  • a directory of research facilities, equipment, reference collections, and specialist expertise
  • an online portal, to make existing resources findable, navigable and searchable
  • a repository for research data and software

The service will be designed to be the first point of contact for a researcher or other user to find and contact UK organisations where they can access facilities, equipment, scientific reference collections, and specialist expertise, which are of relevance to heritage science and conservation research.

In designing the data service, you may wish to consider:

  • which standard nomenclature you will use for the different types of scientific analysis used in heritage science and conservation research
  • what will be the most efficient means of collecting data on the existence and location of equipment and expertise
  • how you will maintain the catalogue of equipment and expertise as a ‘live’ resource

We require that all research data arising from the non-private use of the Research Infrastructure for Conservation and Heritage Science (RICHeS) equipment and facilities, or funded by UKRI research grants, will be deposited in the repository (unless commercially sensitive). We expect up to two petabytes of data will be deposited in the repository within the first five years of operation, and that this will increase. Therefore, the service must be designed as a scalable solution, to which additional capacity can be added if required. We expect this will be cloud storage. You should consider how you will support users to deposit their data in a usable form.

The service will be compliant with General Data Protection Regulation. It will be designed in line with FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship; that digital assets should be, as far as possible, Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. The principles emphasise machine-actionability (such as the capacity of computational systems to find, access, interoperate, and reuse data with no or minimal human intervention). This is because humans increasingly rely on computational support to deal with data as a result of the increase in volume, complexity, and creation speed of data. So, the platform should include a method of aggregating data.

In designing the repository and data aggregation, you may wish to consider:

  • whether, and to what extent, you can include existing online repositories of digital data
  • whether, and to what extent, you can include existing databases of physical archives (whether searchable online or otherwise)
  • how to integrate or link to information held in existing online catalogues
  • how to integrate and conduct meta-searches across different online catalogues and repositories
  • how you will support users to deposit and download data
  • which data standards will be used, and how you will promote their use
  • how you will manage intellectual property, copyright and licenses to access and use information, and which open data standards are applicable

You must ensure the service as a whole, and particularly the user interface, complies with Government Digital Service (GDS) Service Standard. In your application, please outline how your design will incorporate this standard. In summary:

  1. Start with user needs.
  2. Do less.
  3. Design with data.
  4. Do the hard work to make it simple.
  5. Then iterate again.
  6. This is for everyone.
  7. Understand context.
  8. Build digital services, not websites.
  9. Be consistent, not uniform.
  10. Make things open: it makes things better.

For more information on the background of this funding opportunity, go to the Additional information section.


The duration of this award is up to five years to design, build, test and launch the service. Projects can start from September 2024.

Once the digital data service has been built, We will give you an annual grant to host and maintain the platform. You will report semi-annually to the RICHeS Infrastructure Headquarters, and you will contribute to project-level reporting to the RICHeS Project Board.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £12.4 million to build the platform and up to £700,000 every year after that to host and maintain it.

We will review the annual maintenance grant periodically, in consultation with you, to ensure it is sufficient to support the platform as it grows, and that it continues to represent good value for money.

We will fund 100% of the full economic cost.

What we will fund

  • capital costs (hardware and software)
  • time of the project manager and staff who provide technical support to build the infrastructure
  • estates and overheads for the host organisation
  • costs associated with scoping, testing, and providing guidance and support to users of the platform
  • costs of research partners and contractors (if you work in partnership with, or subcontract, a commercial supplier to design, build or host the platform, or any element of it)

What we will not fund

  • original research that is not directly related to building the digital data service
  • digitisation of collections (except where this is required to develop or test part of the digital data service
  • training programmes (except for users of the service, in order to enable them to access the platform)
  • studentships or postdoctoral research associates through this funding opportunity

This is a capital funding opportunity, and all costs associated with building the service must be capitalisable.

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.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new 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 UKRI 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:

  1. Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this page.
  2. Confirm you are the project lead.
  3. Sign in or create a UKRI 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
  4. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to them, or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the ‘How to apply’ section on this Funding finder page.
  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.

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service. About Simpler and Better Funding.

As citations can be integral to the application, you should balance their inclusion and the benefit they provide against the inclusion of other parts of your answer to each question. Bear in mind that citations, associated reference lists or bibliographies, or both, contribute to, and are included in, the word count of the relevant section.


We must receive your application by 17 October 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

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.

Outcomes publication

AHRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity via the UKRI website and social media channels in August 2024. Additionally, all funding outcomes are published on the UKRI website, with further details on funded projects available at the Gateway to Research website.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance


In plain English, provide a summary that can be sent to potential reviewers to determine if your proposal is within their field of expertise.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so please ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community
Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context
  • the challenge the project addresses and how it will be applied to this
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits

Word count: 550


List the key members of your team and assign them roles, for example:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK)
  • specialist
  • professional enabling staff
  • technician

You should only list 1 individual as project lead.

Section: Vision

Question: What are you hoping to achieve with the proposed infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how the proposed infrastructure will:

  • enable high quality and important research
  • meet the strategic aims of the Research for Infrastructure and Heritage Science) (RICHeS programme
  • enable FAIR data practices
  • enhance and complement the existing landscape

Word count: 500

Section: Approach

Question: What are your plans to manage the proposed infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

We expect you to show how your approach includes:

  • a credible management plan including strategic and operational matters (proportionate to the scale and complexity of the activity)
  • details of governance (how the management and advisory bodies of the grant will interface with the wider infrastructure programme)
  • feasibility of the project plan including a work plan (Gantt chart), milestones and deliverables
  • identification of risks and appropriate mitigation
  • plans for support and maintenance of the proposed infrastructure
  • details of access and usage
  • training and development of staff involved in delivering the service
  • a description of the working environment
  • plans for sustainability and legacy during the operational phase of delivery funding – these could include cost recovery models, securing additional funding, development or expansion after the initial period of funding

Word count: 2,500

Section: Applicant and team capability to deliver

Question: Why are you the right individual or team to procure and manage the proposed infrastructure?

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 deliver the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing the positive research environment and wider community

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 (investigators, researchers, other (technical) staff for example research software engineers, data scientists and so on, and partners), have and how this will help to 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 below. You should 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

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).

You should complete this section as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

Word count: 1,500

Section: Resources and cost justification

Question: What will you need to procure and manage the proposed infrastructure 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 to be assured that:

  • all resources are appropriate
  • the project will make optimal use of resources to achieve its outcomes

Word count 1,000

Section: Project partners

Provide details of any project partners’ contributions, and letters or emails of support from each named partner.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

Download and complete the project partner contributions template (DOCX, 52KB). Then copy and paste the table within it to the text box below.

Include letters or emails of support from each partner in a single PDF.

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

The UKRI 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 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.

Word count: 1,500

Section: Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Question: 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

Word count: 1,000

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.


We will use an assessment panel to assess your application. We will invite experts to collectively review your application against the criteria 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.


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


We will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Assessment criteria

The criteria we will assess your application against are:

  • Vision
  • Approach
  • Applicant and team capability to deliver
  • Resources and cost justification
  • Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation

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

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity and help applying through the UKRI Funding Service


Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open Monday-Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm and Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Sensitive information

If you, or a key team member, need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email Include ‘Sensitive information: [Develop Digital Research Services for Heritage Science Research]’ in the subject line.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • applicant 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, see  UKRI’s privacy notice

Additional info


RICHeS is the Research Infrastructure for Conservation and Heritage Science. With a programme team based at Daresbury Campus, RICHeS will be a distributed, national capability, providing national and international access to facilities, resources and expertise for conservation and heritage science.

RICHeS will be built over five years, through an investment of £80 million, comprising £59.5 million from UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund, £17.7 million from AHRC’s WCL baseline and £2.8 million from third parties. It will build on and enhance heritage science capability in universities, galleries, libraries, archives, and museums, and in multidisciplinary national scientific facilities such as Diamond Light Source and the National Environmental Isotope Facility.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 243KB)

Webinar for potential applicants

We held webinars in July 2023 to provide more information about the opportunity and a chance to ask questions.

Watch the general webinar recording on Zoom (passcode: ^i9=0H8*)

Watch the digital research services webinar recording on Zoom (passcode: &z#.n4@S)

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.


  • 18 August 2023
    Webinar recording links added to the 'Additional info' section.

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