Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Full bid stage: Expanding Excellence in England (E3) fund

Apply for funding to scale up small and excellent research units, clusters, and departments within English only higher education providers.

Your project must:

  • fund the strategic and sustainable expansion of a small excellent research unit
  • push the frontiers of human knowledge and deliver transformative impacts
  • enhance the skills base and diversify talent in any given disciplines

This is not funding for a research project. Applications must come through the office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research (or equivalent).

Up to £180 million is available for institutions. Owing to the range of disciplines and institutions eligible for funding we are not setting a minimum or maximum threshold for awards.

The full bid stage is only for those higher education providers who have been informed that they were successful at the expression of interest stage.

Who can apply

This fund is only available to higher education providers in England who have been informed by Research England that their expression of interest application was successful.

What we're looking for

The E3 fund aims to support the strategic growth of excellent research units and departments across England. To expand excellence, E3 focuses only on units and departments within higher education providers (HEPs) where:

  • they are operating at a limited scale of activity
  • demonstrable research excellence already exists
  • they do not have the internal resources to support strategic investments

In addition to the criteria set out at the expression of interest stage, at full bid stage we expect submitting HEPs to be able to demonstrate:

  • a credible and detailed plan for capacity building
  • evidence of the strategic commitments from the institutions involved
  • evidence on practice and principles for recruitment, career development and diversification of staff
  • evidence the proposal will deliver economic, social or cultural benefits within the host institutions’ local or regional context

Funding available

Owing to the range of disciplines and institutions eligible for funding we are not setting a minimum or maximum threshold for awards.

By way of example, in round one, the 13 successful units received between £900,000 to £8 million over three years of funding.

We expect E3 funding in the final year of the award (academic year 2028 to 2029) to taper as the funded units achieve a sustainable footing, aligned with additional institutional financial support.


You can apply for 100% of the full economic cost and these costs will be met should the unit be successful. The requested budget must be realistic, matching the scale of activities planned to reach a critical mass and taking account of the wider inflationary environment and the timescale of the award (five years).

To achieve the sustainable growth of research units, the E3 fund can be used flexibly to include the following types of spend:

  • staff recruitment (research, technical and professional)
  • activities related to conducting research and creating a conducive research environment, for example including (but not limited to) training, PhD stipends, conferences, workshops
  • equipment under £10,000
  • capital investment (refurbishment, new build, equipment over £10,000)

We expect most of the requested budget to be resource in nature, focused particularly on staff contracts and developing a talent pipeline, but institutions may explain the need for any significant capital expenditure.


Your award can last up to five years.

How to apply

Shortlisted higher education providers (HEP) should read the full bid guidance (see ‘Additional info’ section) and complete the required forms as provided.

Once completed, you must forward the template by email to by 15 September 2023 at midday UK time.


Please provide all documents relating to your bid in a single email.

Item one: a single 15-page PDF submission

The cover sheet for this item is provided as annex A.

This 15-page ‘free text’ submission will cover how the proposal meets the aims and objectives of the E3 fund and will be assessed in reference to the assessment criteria.

Item one should be no more than 15 pages in length, using Arial font no smaller than 10pt, with line spacing set to 16pt and margin maximum at 2cm. Text should be suitably subtitled, and figures can also be included (but still count towards the 15-page overall limit). Any listed, published academic references should be cited as ‘Author, (Date), Title, and Publication’.

Item two: details of spending strategies, equality, diversity and inclusion and the unit’s commitment to net zero targets as a single PDF document

The template is provided as annex B.

This document provides space to detail recruitment and staff development strategies and, for those bids with capital funding elements, details as to how this money will be spent.

We also seek to understand how the expanded unit will address the UK’s net zero target. Please do not add to, or write outside of, the template as provided unless otherwise requested to do so.

Item three: financial and personnel information as an Excel spreadsheet

The template is provided as annex C.

Please do not add to, or write outside of, the template as provided unless otherwise requested to do so.

Item four: letters of support as a single PDF document

A single document which should include supporting letters from your Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research (or equivalent) and any HEP collaborative partner in the case of a bid from several institutions, as well as letters from any external partners indicated within the submission.

Item five: a completed document checklist, confirming that all necessary elements of the bid have been included

The template is provided as annex D.

Bids with incomplete documentation will be automatically referred back to institutions.

The email file size of the whole bid (including all evidence, annexes and financial information) should be no greater than 10MB. Guidance on the structure to this part of the submission is provided.

The templates for annexes A, B, C, and D, should have been provided to institutions when invited to submit a stage two bid. They are also available to download in the ‘Additional info’ section of this page.

More information is provided in the full bid guidance document.

How we will assess your application

The assessment panel will apply the assessment criteria to all bids and will make recommendations to the Executive Chair of Research England on which institutions should be funded.

The assessment panel will continue to pay regard to the relative capacity and experience available for bid writing within the higher education providers that submit applications to support a level playing field across the sector.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

Please note that this is an institutional level fund to expand research capacity and not funding for a research project.

Queries and applications must include the office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research (or equivalent) or the Lead Contact named on the expression of interest submission.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Geoff Hill


We aim to respond within three working days.

Additional info

The E3 fund was established in 2018.

In the first round Research England allocated over £76 million to 13 projects across England.

Read more about the E3 fund.

Online event

We will be hosting an event for those invited to full bid stage.

More details will be provided to those invited to submit to the full bid stage.

Supporting documents

E3 round 2: full bid guidance (PDF, 439KB)

Annex A: cover sheet (DOCX, 37KB)

Annex B: information on equality, diversity and inclusion, recruitment, capital spending strategies and achieving net zero (DOCX, 47KB)

Annex C: quantitative evidence (XLSX, 61KB)

Annex D: document checklist (DOCX, 39KB)

Copy of web page from expression of interest stage: E3 fund, round 2 (PDF, 165KB)

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