Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Ideas on research priorities for Northern Ireland economic policy

Apply for funding to develop research priorities for economic policy through the ‘ADR UK: Business Data for Research (BDR) Northern Ireland’ programme.

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

Challenges must support the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland economic policy, specifically their ‘10X Economy’ economic vision for a decade of innovation.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £65,000. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project must run for up to six months.

Who can apply

You are eligible to apply if you:

  • meet standard ESRC eligibility criteria
  • are based at a research organisation that has a recognised research capacity and is permitted to hold grants from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The legal gateway for making data available to researchers is through the Digital Economy Act. As such, the following conditions will also apply:

  • researchers will be required to hold accredited researcher status under the Digital Economy Act (2018). Details on obtaining accreditation are outlined on the UK Statistics Authority website
  • successful applicants’ projects must be approved at the UK Statistics Authority Research Accreditation Panel (RAP)
  • the data will be made available through the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service (ONS SRS). The research organisation will have to have access in place with ONS SRS either through Assured Organisational Connectivity to the ONS SRS or through SafePods in advance of applying here.

What we're looking for

We are looking to fund projects which use BDR to address research priorities covering areas within the Department for the Economy’s ‘10X Economy’: an economic vision for a decade of innovation.

The de-identified datasets are being made available to a small number of research teams through this funding opportunity to:

  • enable beta testing of the BDR in advance of making the dataset available to wider researchers
  • provide feedback on the quality of documentation created by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) such as the metadata, synthetic data and other resources
  • inform the future development of the BDR including identifying a programme of making future data available to all Administrative Data Research (ADR) UK researchers and increasing the volume of data from BDR that researchers can access.

This is the first time NISRA is making this data available in the UK.

NISRA is requesting that successful applicants complete a data insight report and a data explained report during the project. These will cover:

  • outcomes from the researcher
  • data access
  • documentation
  • data quality issues
  • future research areas.

Templates will be issued to successful applicants.

In addition to the research requirements, successful applicants will be required to attend three meetings with NISRA to provide feedback that will be used to improve user access for future researchers.


You can apply for up to £65,000 for up to six months. Eligibility decisions will be made mid-August.

Projects we will not fund

We cannot fund projects using data available outside BDR. Other data cannot be linked to BDR at this stage. We will not consider projects that could be funded through existing UKRI funding schemes and funding opportunities.

Available data

BDR is available on a restricted basis for analysis by government researchers. NISRA would like to widen its use and make it available to ADR UK researchers.

View a summary of the de-identified business surveys (NISRA).

The release of data to researchers is for three main datasets.

Northern Ireland Annual Business Inquiry (NIABI) 2014 to 2020

The NIABI 2014 to 2020 collects both financial and employment information from businesses and other establishments and covers about two thirds of the economy.

This includes the production, construction, distribution and service industries in Northern Ireland but excludes public sector activity for the most part.

The NIABI provides a number of high-level indicators of economic activity such as the:

  • total value of sales and work completed by businesses (turnover)
  • value of the purchase of goods, materials and services
  • total employment costs.

The contribution of different industries to the overall value of economic activity can be assessed and because estimates of employment are collected at the same time, it is also possible to get a measure of value added and costs per head to allow better comparison between different sized industrial sectors.

The NIABI is designed to provide the best estimates for Northern Ireland as well as providing information that is used at a later stage to inform UK National and Regional Accounts estimates.

In 2011, questions relating to the value of trade were added to the NIABI questionnaire and as such, the NIABI also includes data used to produce a number of trade-related measures within the Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics (BESES).

BESES is a National Statistics annual measure of local businesses’ sales to and purchases from markets outside Northern Ireland.

Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) 2014 to 2020

The BRES 2014 to 2020 collects employee job figures by gender and working pattern from public and private sector businesses in Northern Ireland (NI).

The data is collected at local unit level (individual business sites) which allows for disaggregation of the employee job counts by NI geographies. The business description is collected which allows for disaggregation of the employee job counts by industry.

The BRES collects information at a local unit level that is used to update the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR). The data collected includes:

  • contact details including email address and business address
  • business operational status
  • business activity.

The business register information obtained from the NI BRES is processed within the Economic Labour Market and Statistics Branch (ELMSB) within NISRA. This data is used to update the NI element of the IDBR which is used as a sampling frame for business surveys.

Earnings and Employees Study (EES) 2011

The EES 2011 links together variables from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2011 with variables from the Census of Population and Housing 2011, and Capital Value data from the Land and Property Services.

The dataset takes the form of one pre-linked table. As the ASHE sample comprises approximately 1% of all employees in NI who were covered by Pay As You Earn (PAYE) schemes, the EES contains 5,770 distinct ASHE records which have been linked to Census records.

The EES includes data from ASHE. The ASHE is a UK-wide survey that provides data on hourly, weekly and annual earnings by gender, work patterns, industry and occupation, including public versus private sector pay comparisons.

The EES links ASHE variables with variables from the Census (NISRA) of Population and Housing 2011.

The Census of Population and Housing collects information every 10 years about people and households in NI. It is used by central and local governments, health authorities and many other organisations to plan and provide future services.

It is hoped that research involving the EES data will help to inform the development and monitoring of public policy as well as provide an evidence base for decision making.

There are a number of potential EES research themes. These include, but are not limited to:

  • factors influencing variation in median pay
  • graduates and the workplace
  • disparity in pay and migration
  • public versus private jobs
  • geography and pay.

The data will be made available to successful applicants remotely through the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS).

How to apply

Applying using Je-S

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying, select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: outline
  • scheme: outline proposal
  • call/type/mode: ADR UK NISRA Business Data for Research outlines 2022.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You need to submit the application form through Je-S by 16:00 on 16 June 2022.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

About your proposal

Your proposal must draw on relevant business research literature, concepts or approaches and include significant research expertise within the remit of business research.

You will need to show how your research provides impact for the DfE’s 10X Economy: an economic vision for a decade of innovation throughout the application. You should especially highlight this within section three of the form.

Further details on where impact should be included will be provided in the guide to completing the application form.

Full applications

If your expression of interest is successful, you will be required to apply using the Je-S system for us to administer the funding.

You must include a gender equality statement.

You can also find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

How we will assess your application

We will assess your outline proposal using the following criteria:

  • fit to funding opportunity
  • scientific merit
  • research expertise and partnerships
  • feasibility of proposed activities or methods
  • extent to which the proposal includes appropriate plans for significant research outputs and outcomes
  • value for money.

Your application will be considered through an accelerated peer-review process.

Once you have submitted your application, we will aim to complete the review process and provide you with a decision within six weeks.

If we consider your expression of interest to be eligible, you will be invited to submit a full Je-S system application in order to receive funding.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Funding opportunity information


Data information


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info


There will be an applicant webinar taking place on Wednesday 25 May 2022 at 14:00 to 15:30.

NISRA and ADR UK will talk about the data, application process and research priorities, and will answer questions from attendees.

Register for the webinar

Supporting documents

BDR brief application form (DOCX, 149KB)

BDR guide to completing the Je-S application form (DOCX, 149KB)

BDR variable lists for researchers (XLSX, 104KB)

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