Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: ESRC centres

Apply for funding to establish an ESRC centre. Our centres are world-leading centres of excellence that carry out interdisciplinary, cutting-edge and impactful research in the social sciences and beyond.

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

The full economic cost of your project can be between £5 million and £10 million for up to 5 years. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change.

The outline stage of this funding opportunity will open in February 2023. More information will be available on this page by then.

Who can apply

Standard ESRC eligibility rules apply.

The principal investigator for this funding opportunity must be based at an organisation eligible for ESRC funding for the duration of the grant.

Eligible organisations are:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity

Check if your institution is eligible for funding.

What we're looking for

ESRC are looking for centres that deliver challenge-led research, bringing together the right people, disciplines, institutions and infrastructure to respond to that challenge within a 5-year timeframe. At least 50% of the proposed programme of research must fall within ESRC’s remit.

You will be expected to demonstrate that proposed centres can deliver:

  • research: ESRC centres should deliver high-quality, interdisciplinary, internationally-recognised research findings to address unanswered questions about a defined challenge to our society, economy or both
  • impact: ESRC centres should have significant economic and societal impact, demonstrating that the centre is responding to their specified challenge. Impact should be a major consideration throughout the scoping of a proposal, and during and beyond the lifetime of a centre. Research users should be engaged from the initial planning phases through to the end of an award
  • capability: ESRC centres should develop the resources needed to become a centre of excellence that adds value to the wider community. This will include developing the people, producing the data and creating the infrastructure needed to respond to their specified challenge

This is an open opportunity where applications can respond to any societal or economic challenge that can be addressed through social science research. You should consider the structure of your proposed centre to ensure it can successfully deliver challenge-led research, whether through a consortium approach or single institution. Partnerships with non-higher education institution organisations across government, industry and civil society are also encouraged where appropriate.

Further details will be made available when the full opportunity is posted in February 2023.

We intend to commission additional centres in areas relevant to ESRC’s delivery plan and these competitions will be announced at the same time as the open centres competition.

This is a pre-announcement and information may change.

How to apply

Full guidance on how to apply will be published on the funding finder in February 2023.

How we will assess your application

The assessment of applications will be a two-stage process:

  • outline proposal stage
  • full proposal stage

Outline proposals will be assessed and shortlisted by an assessment panel. Shortlisted applicants will subsequently be invited to submit applications to the full proposal stage.

Full proposals will be subject to external peer review and assessed by a commissioning panel. Shortlisted proposals will be invited to interview.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

ESRC centres team


Enquiries about this announcement can be sent to this email. However, we will not be able to provide additional information about the opportunity in advance of its publication.

Additional info

Demand management

We have decided to limit the number of applications per institution in order to alleviate pressure on all involved in the application and peer review process.

Research organisations are asked to support the most competitive bids from their institutions using the assessment criteria for the opportunity. Research organisations may submit up to 2 applications for centres through this open competition. In addition, if your research organisation has an existing ESRC centre, this may re-apply where eligible without counting towards the limit. Applications to other competitions for ESRC centres in specific areas of our delivery plan will also not count towards the limit.

Please note that demand management measures may be necessary for future ESRC centres competitions, and there is no guarantee that existing ESRC centres will be excluded from the limit in future.

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