Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Engage the public with impacts of digital economy research 2021

Apply for funding to support a public engagement activity. Your activity must tell the story of the impact of a digital economy (DE) research project.

You can be from any sector or career stage, as long as the research involved was funded by our ‘Digital Economy theme’ grants.

Your activity can last up to 18 months and is expected to:

  • show the benefits of the research
  • engage the public in a creative and interactive way
  • involve a diverse audience, or include groups underrepresented in DE
  • share best practice in research and project partner engagement.

We will fund 100% of the full economic cost of your activities.

This funding comes from the Telling Tales of Engagement awards.

Who can apply

Applications for the Telling Tales of Engagement (TTE) awards must be associated with a previously funded Digital Economy (DE) theme research grant supported by one of the theme partners:

  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Applications are welcomed from teams and individuals. Applications can come from:

  • academia (including PhD students)
  • industry
  • users
  • the third sector.

Applicants can be at any career stage.

If the applicant would not normally be eligible for EPSRC funding, please include the name of a mentor who is eligible, for example, the principal investigator of the previously funded associated grant. The role of this mentor would be to provide guidance to the applicant in, for example:

  • supporting the development of this application
  • project governance
  • framing
  • articulating impact.

Only one application for a TTE award will be accepted per DE research grant, and per applicant.

For information on the eligibility of organisations and individuals to receive EPSRC funding, see the EPSRC guidance for applicants.

What we're looking for

The three aims of the TTE funding opportunity are to:

  • capture the impacts of DE theme-funded research, how the impacts unfolded, and the benefits of the research to society and the economy, particularly highlighting any impacts that are relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • help the wider research community learn examples of best practice in research and project partner engagement from your experiences
  • engage the public with DE research, focusing on ensuring audiences are diverse and activities are inclusive, helping to address UKRI’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda.

TTE has the ambition of promoting the impact of applied DE research. UKRI defines impact as ‘the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy’.

Impact embraces all the diverse ways that research-related skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations. These include, but are not limited to:

  • fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom
  • increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy
  • enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.

A key aspect of this definition is that the potential impact must be demonstrable. It is not enough just to focus on activities and outputs that promote engagement, such as staging a conference or publishing a report.

Evidence of the research impact is required to demonstrate, for example, that it has been taken up and used by policy makers or has led to improvements in society.

Therefore, applicants are encouraged to carefully design their demonstrable public engagement activity.

In addition, careful consideration of how research impacts could benefit a diverse community and society could help to draw out even more demonstrable outputs from your activity. For more information, see appendix A: previous TTE awards (PDF, 57KB).

Increasingly rapid digitalisation of human communication has accelerated the transition to virtual socialising, online knowledge-sharing and technologically-mediated immersive cultural experiences.

We encourage applicants to consider the target audiences for their proposed engagement activities from an EDI perspective.

For example, we are interested in seeing activities that engage with different:

  • community groups
  • ages
  • gender identities
  • ethnicities
  • abilities
  • neurodiversity characteristics
  • social classes
  • incomes
  • levels of digital literacy.

We are particularly interested in engaging digitally-excluded audiences, or those typically disenfranchised or underrepresented in the DE research space.

For examples of potential audiences to engage with, see appendix B: guidance from previous TTE award winners (PDF, 26KB).

Submissions to this funding opportunity will not count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.


Your application must be associated with a previously funded DE theme research grant. It should focus on telling the tale of how this research grant’s impact arose, and capture elements of any engagement with partners in an interesting and engaging way.

Your application should tell the story of how your impact pathway unfolded in practice, clearly linking the research to its impact:

  • describing how the impact arose
  • explaining how you went about engaging with partners
  • evidencing a diverse range of positive, demonstrable changes.

Your story should help the wider research community and public understand how engagement and impact occurs in practice. Allowing you to tell the story of your engagement should enable the spread of best practice within the research community.

A good TTE project will help others to stimulate their thinking on more imaginative and illustrative ways to tell the story of their engagement and enhance the impacts and benefits of their research.

Please see appendix B: guidance from previous TTE award winners (PDF, 26KB).

In particular, your application must address the following areas.

Your research and its impacts

What was the main research challenge of the associated DE research grant? What were the key outputs?

What has been the societal and economic impact of these outputs? What individuals or community groups did the research have an impact on?

What positive changes have resulted from your research, and how did these changes come about? Can you showcase a diverse range of impacts resulting from your work?

What evidence can you provide to demonstrate these positive changes or impacts?

How did you go about engaging with any partners on the project?

Your proposed TTE activity or activities

How do you propose to ‘tell the story’ of your demonstrable impacts?

What kind of public engagement do you propose to have with your target audience?

Which sectors of society or members of the public will you seek to engage with and why?

How will you incorporate an element of audience interaction? How will you ensure that you engage with the public in a creative and meaningful way for mutual benefit?

How has equality, diversity and inclusion been taken into account in your public engagement activities? Are you engaging audiences that are:

  • diverse, for example, in:
    • age
    • gender identity
    • ethnicity
    • ability
    • neurodiversity
    • social class
    • income
    • digital literacy
  • typically disenfranchised or underrepresented in the DE space?

How will your public engagement contribute to the further development of your research and impact?

Your plans for dissemination within the digital economy research community

How do you plan to share your understanding of the overall impact process with other parts of the digital economy research community, who may not be so advanced in their thinking and practice?

This could help researchers set impact-related goals and metrics and help UKRI provide further guidance on impactful research.

Funding available

Three awards of £10,000 each are available to support an activity, or activities, that will allow you to tell your impact story in a creative, interesting and engaging way to a wider audience and the general public.

One of the three awards will be reserved for early career researchers only. If you consider yourself to be an ‘early career researcher’, please explain and justify this in your application.

Please note that funding is not available to conduct further research.

Activities could include, but are not limited to:

  • video or podcast production
  • outreach activities in schools
  • in-person or online public lecture series
  • community events
  • artistic interpretation
  • specialised media training or attendance at high profile, non-academic focused conferences
  • online interactive or immersive experiences
  • virtual reality.

Please refer to the appendices for further suggestions and examples of previously funded activities. Activities carried out as part of a TTE award should add value beyond those that have been run as part of the research grant itself.

The funding will support projects of up to 18 months in duration, starting from April 2022. We will fund 100% of the full economic cost of your activities.

If you are successful, payment will be made to your higher education institution, who will then be responsible for issuing the award and ensuring funds are released as required.

EPSRC reserves the right to retain 40% of the total funding until an account of the expenditure has been submitted from the university finance office.

Please note that TTE awards are not eligible for extensions.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted through the online form by 16:00, 21 December 2021.

Submit application (SmartSurvey).

The online form contains guidance on how to complete each section.

You will need the title, reference number and principal investigator name for the DE theme grant your application is associated with.

You will also need to upload two PDF files to the form:

  • Gantt chart or similar breakdown of your workplan
  • one-page summary that visually tells the tale of your research and its impact in an interesting, engaging and creative way.

Entrants should note that the visual summary PDF submitted may be made publicly available, and successful entries may be used in future TTE opportunities and engagement material. Therefore, it is advised that:

  • no material that is confidential is included in the application
  • the necessary permissions to share the information are sought in advance from the relevant individuals.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Entries will be assessed by the external Digital Economy programme advisory board members against the assessment criteria detailed below.

In the event of this opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, EPSRC reserve the right to modify the assessment process.

You will be notified of the result as soon as possible following on from the assessment panel.

Assessment criteria

Strength of DE research impact and benefits evidenced from associated grant (primary criterion), including:

  • evidence provided of a positive, demonstrable change and benefits arising as a result of this research
  • fit of research to DE theme priorities.

Potential scope for further impact (primary criterion), including:

  • appropriateness of plan for ‘telling the story’ for the intended audience
  • evidence of well-developed activities proposed to highlight the impact story
  • evidence of how the engagement strategies will contribute to the development of their research and impact.

Creativity and quality of approaches to public engagement whilst addressing the UKRI EDI agenda (primary criterion), including:

  • degree to which EDI has been considered in planning of engagement activities
  • degree of creativity used in approach to public engagement with the community being targeted
  • degree to which the proposed activity would add demonstrable value to the sphere of DE research.

Clear plan for sharing understanding of the research impact process with the wider DE research community (primary criterion), including:

  • strength of plans to disseminate best practice, lessons learnt and features of a successful research project to the wider research community.

Resource management (secondary criterion):

  • appropriateness and justification of resources requested
  • appropriateness of mitigation plans for identified risks.


Feedback will not be provided.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

Dr Greg Smith


Dr Giada Alessandroni


Digital Economy Theme Team


Additional info

Supporting documents

Grant additional conditions (GACs)

Grants will be subject to the standard UKRI grant conditions. However, the following additional grant conditions will be added to this opportunity.

GAC 01 publication and acknowledgement of support

The grant holder must make reference to DE TTE 2021 and funding supported by any of the UKRI councils which are partners in the theme, and include:

  • the DE theme logo and EPSRC logo
  • relevant branding on all online or printed materials (including press releases, posters, exhibition materials and other publications) related to activities funded by this grant.

GAC 02 EDI plan

The grant holder is expected to prepare an EDI plan for the duration of this grant to demonstrate good practice in EDI throughout the lifetime of this funding award. This must be recorded through the grant reporting process.


The DE theme strives to rapidly realise the positive transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of:

  • community life
  • cultural experiences
  • working lives
  • future society
  • the economy.

Led by EPSRC in partnership with ESRC and AHRC, the DE theme is about much more than just digital technologies. It’s about how we as human beings interact with the digital world: how we live with it, and how it affects us.

This is why a defining feature of the DE theme has been the way that it brings researchers together across a wide range of very different disciplines, uniting:

  • information and communication technology
  • mathematical science
  • engineering
  • social sciences
  • economics
  • arts and humanities.

They unite with stakeholders in different application domains to create digital technologies, platforms and solutions that are designed with and for users of the digital technology.

The DE theme aims to address key societal challenges and enable social change across a wide number of different key sectors, including, but not limited to:

  • energy
  • transport
  • healthcare
  • education and skills
  • services
  • government
  • the creative industries.

In its first 10 years, the DE theme has invested more than £200 million in outstanding research.

And because the theme is all about real-world impact, it has brought researchers together with businesses, government bodies, charities and public organisations, bringing in over £80 million in additional funding, and supporting work with direct, practical applications.

The DE theme has developed the following five priority areas:

  • trust identity privacy and security
  • content creation and consumption
  • beyond a data driven economy
  • sustainable digital society
  • equitable digital society.

The priority areas reflect the broad relevance and remit of DE research and form the basis for the majority of DE theme funding.

People and societal challenges are at the heart of DE research, and public engagement and other impact activities play a significant role in the DE research process.

Research conducted in this area should have an impact on users and society and increasing the public engagement activities with the DE community is important.

The DE theme has recognised the importance of impact and has conducted significant review exercises around this.

We also recognise that telling the story around the economic and societal benefits arising from DE theme-funded research, and how researchers went about making their research impactful, can provide an opportunity for other researchers to learn elements of best practice. As well as, provide inspiration to the next generation of researchers.

The latter is important, because the long-term strength of the UK research base depends on harnessing all the available talent.

This will help to connect the research landscape to accelerate impact, which can also be leveraged from accessing talent through EDI, both of which are two of the 12 priorities of the EPSRC delivery plan (PDF, 4.3MB).

Please see our website for more information about EPSRC’s portfolio and strategies.

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