Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Nucleus Awards 2024 Stage 1

Apply for funding to engage the public with STFC supported science, technology or facilities

You must work for an organisation that:

  • is based in the UK
  • has audited accounts

Proposals must include a subject matter expert in an STFC-funded area.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £125,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost (FEC).

Your project should be a maximum of 36 months in duration.

Who can apply

Host institution

Organisations that apply must be based in the UK.

STFC can only fund organisations that have audited accounts. If this does not describe your organisation, you must work in partnership with an organisation that can receive the funding on your behalf.

Applicant eligibility

Almost anyone can apply for a Nucleus award, including:

  • grant funded researchers
  • STFC scientists, technicians and engineers
  • facility users
  • schools
  • museums
  • science communicators
  • universities
  • colleges
  • community interest companies
  • libraries

The principal applicant must be eligible to apply on behalf of the organisation that would hold the award.

Every application must include a subject matter expert (SME) in an STFC-funded area of science or technology. While these SMEs often play an active role in delivering the engagement activities, this is not mandatory. They may act as an adviser on the scientific content.

If applicants have any questions about applicant eligibility, please contact the public engagement team: and we will advise on how you may proceed.

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.

What we're looking for


STFC Nucleus grant holders undertake high quality programmes of public engagement that inspire and involve target audiences with stories of STFC science, technology and facilities. Grant holders may also use Nucleus awards to create and sustain public engagement networks that develop communities of practice.

Engagement programmes

Proposed engagement programmes must either:

  • clearly focus on the remit of the STFC science programme
  • clearly and demonstrably align to the science and technology work of STFC’s national and international laboratories and facilities

STFC’s remits are:

  • astronomy
  • solar and planetary science
  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • cosmology
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator science

Nucleus awards will not be awarded unless there is a strong and demonstrable link between the proposed activities and STFC science and technology.

Network and capacity building programmes

Nucleus awards may also be used for activities that are dedicated to developing community networks or capacity building in public engagement. This may be the sole purpose of a Nucleus award, or an application may combine engagement activities and networking into a coherent package.

Nucleus awards and STFC’s Wonder Initiative

The Wonder Initiative is about giving under-served communities an equal voice by listening, understanding, and responding to what people want to know about science and technology. Wonder marks a long-term commitment by STFC public engagement to move our focus towards audience driven public engagement with under-served communities in the most socio-economically deprived areas of the UK. Financial support through Nucleus awards is an important part of the Wonder Initiative.

The target audience for Wonder is defined according to indices of multiple deprivation. Specifically, STFC is interested in supporting audience driven engagement that works with audiences, particularly those eight to 14 years old and their families and carers, from the 40% most socio-economically deprived areas of the UK.

STFC defines the 40% most socio-economically deprived areas of the UK as those areas listed in the bottom two quintiles of the indices of multiple deprivation for the respective part of the UK.

Applicants are explicitly invited to submit Nucleus awards that work with the Wonder target audience.

We encourage applications that propose engagement with audiences considered to have low ‘science capital’.

Applicants may choose which audiences to engage with and the methods of engagement. These must be outlined in the proposal.

Nucleus awards will not be awarded for the sole purpose of authorship and publication of books and novels, though proposals in which the production of a book is an output of a wider programme will be considered.

Linking to the STFC public engagement strategy

You should use your proposal to clearly explain how your Nucleus award will further the aims of the STFC public engagement strategy.

Applications that highlight the social, ethical, and economic benefits of research are welcomed.

Applicants are encouraged to propose novel or innovative approaches towards engagement as part of their Nucleus award, as long as these are demonstrably well planned and have clearly defined audiences.

STFC focuses heavily on evaluation and you must provide a clear evaluation plan showing details of how the outputs, outcomes and impacts of the Nucleus award will be captured and evaluated.

We require applicants to report on the outcomes of their Nucleus award in line with the STFC public engagement evaluation framework, which describes our approach towards effective engagement. We suggest that you should familiarise yourself with the framework and consider how it could be used to evaluate your engagement programme from its inception. You are reminded that evaluation costs can be included within the overall budget.


The duration of this award is expected to be between 24 and 36 months.

Funding available

The Public Engagement Nucleus award scheme falls under the full economic costs framework. Therefore, all costs that contribute to the full economic cost of the proposal should be included under the cost headings as shown in the costs we fund section of the STFC guidance for applicants web page. As the Nucleus award scheme has no capital budget, applicants cannot request funds under the equipment heading.

STFC will fund a maximum of £100,000 for each proposal. For those ROs that are subject to TRAC, this will be 80% of the overall costs (i.e a maximum of £125,000 at FEC). For non-TRAC ROs, please add all your costs under the Exceptions fund heading.
Other than the restrictions outlined below, there are no set restrictions on the type of costs that may be applied for. For example, contributions to salaries, cost of materials, and travel and subsistence are eligible.

What we will not fund

The following costs are ineligible for support through Nucleus awards:

  • projects where the target audiences are not primarily within the UK
  • fees or honoraria to people already in paid employment to visit or give talks at schools, societies and so on where such activities would reasonably be undertaken as part of their normal duties
  • costs for hardware or equipment over the individual value of £10,000
  • infrastructure funding or costs for building construction and maintenance
  • projects where it is clear that the project would go ahead irrespective of STFC support
  • retrospective funding, including those projects with a start date after the closing date but before the funding decisions are announced
  • contingency funds

For applicants from or for schools, note the following ineligible costs:

  • programmes of formal education
  • school trips to CERN and trips to other laboratories, observatories and science venues unless they are intrinsic to a wider public engagement project

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 the 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

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a 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
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  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.

If this is the first time that your organisation has applied to UKRI, or you are unsure whether it is, then you will need to contact the Funding Service helpdesk who will require your organisation name, city and country. Please note that you should allow 10 working days for this to be actioned.
If your organisation has applied previously via Je-S but not on the Funding Service then you will also need to contact the Funding Service helpdesk. This will ensure that it is added to the list of research organisations (ROs) for selection when setting up an applicant account. You should allow at least five working days for this to be actioned.


STFC must receive your application by 23 November 2023 at 4.00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the close of the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow this guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

STFC 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.

Publication of outcomes

If your application is successful, we may publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.


Word limit: 150

In plain English, provide a summary we can provide to the panel.

We may make this summary publicly available on external facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers.

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • context
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

Resources and costs

What are the expected costs of the proposed work? Provide the approximate total values in GBP (£) for the expected:

  • directly incurred
  • directly allocated
  • indirect costs
  • exceptions

View the guidance on the costs you can apply for in the funding opportunity details and the STFC guidance for applicants.

Fit to opportunity

Word limit: 750

How does your proposal fit the aims of this funding opportunity and contribute to the aims of the STFC Public Engagement Framework?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

  • a short overview of the proposed work, including a brief outline of planned network and capacity building
  • the rationale for the work, showing how activities will contribute to the aims of the STFC public engagement strategy
  • an outline of target audiences and how they will be reached through the activities proposed
  • an outline of your evaluation approach including demonstration of learning from previous activity where applicable
  • how wider audiences could benefit through activities such as sharing good practice or sharing learning

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word limit: 400

Why are you the right applicant or team to deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Describe how the applicant or team:

  • has the requisite balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work.
  • has considered how they will collaborate and deliver different aspects of the proposed work

If applicable, describe how any project partners will:

  • be involved in the project
  • what aspects of the project they will support
  • what they will be providing including in kind and monetary contributions

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 200

What are the high level resources required to deliver the project?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a high level justification of resources that allows the panel to make an informed judgement on whether the resources requested:

  • are appropriate
  • will be targeted to meeting the public engagement aims of the funding opportunity

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.


We will invite experts to use the evidence provided by you to assess the quality of your application and rank it alongside other applications after which the panel will make a recommendation for progression to Stage 2 of the funding opportunity.


We aim to complete the assessment process within 2 months of receiving your application.


If your application was discussed by a panel, we will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Assessment areas

The assessment areas we will use are:

  • Fit to funding opportunity
  • Applicant and team capability
  • Resources requested for the proposed work

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.

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UKRI Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

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. For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Telephone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find out more information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the Funding Service helpdesk on

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your UKRI Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual 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, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info


Scheme conditions and features

STFC Public Engagement Nucleus awards are governed by UKRI grant conditions, unless otherwise stated. Applications are accepted and awards are made on the understanding that research organisations and Nucleus grant holders agree to observe the terms and conditions and the scheme requirements set out in this document and any amendments issued.

Movement between institutions

You must take up the award at the host institution identified in the application. STFC will not allow a Public Engagement Nucleus grant holder to change their host institution prior to taking up an award.

Consideration will be given to requests during the course of an award to relocate the grant to a different institution for scientific or domestic reasons. The agreement of the institutions concerned will be required before seeking approval from STFC.

Reporting and liaison with STFC

Public Engagement Nucleus grant holders will be required to provide reports of activities to the STFC public engagement team when requested. STFC reserves the right to request periodic information or to visit the Public Engagement Nucleus grant holder. Nucleus grant holders will be expected to meet with the STFC public engagement grants mentor a minimum of twice a year.

The Nucleus grant holder may also be asked to attend meetings to exchange information and ideas with others undertaking STFC public engagement activities.
The Public Engagement Nucleus grant holder must make all reasonable efforts, if so invited, to respond to requests for information or to attend events or activities organised by the research council concerning the research undertaken. Such events may be held after a grant has finished.

Public Engagement Nucleus grant holders will be expected to attend an annual meeting of all STFC Public Engagement grant holders. This may be a face to face event, a virtual meeting or a hybrid event.

Public Engagement Nucleus grant holders are expected to regularly update the record of their grant using the research council reporting tool, Researchfish, in line with the STFC public engagement evaluation framework. Comprehensive Researchfish returns are an essential part of STFC public engagement funding policy development.

There are additional questions for STFC public engagement grant holders. This enables STFC to easily extract data regarding the impact of the work of our Nucleus grant holders whenever required, and serves as a database of impacts (outputs, outcomes and reach) for grant holder’s own reference.

To assist with their Researchfish return, Public Engagement Nucleus grant holders are also required, throughout their award, to collect data relevant to their activities in the STFC public engagement metrics spreadsheet and send it to the public engagement team once a year. The metrics spreadsheet will be sent to the applicants at the commencement of an award.

Public Engagement Nucleus grant holders will be required to provide reports of activities to the STFC public engagement team when requested. STFC reserves the right to request periodic information or to visit the Public Engagement Nucleus grant holder. Nucleus grant holders will be expected to meet with the STFC Public Engagement grants mentor a minimum of twice a year.

The Nucleus grant holder may also be asked to attend meetings to exchange information and ideas with others undertaking STFC public engagement activities. The Public Engagement Nucleus grant holder must make all reasonable efforts, if so invited, to respond to requests for information or to attend events or activities organised by the research council concerning the research undertaken. Such events may be held after a grant has finished.

Publication, resources and acknowledgement of support

Publications and other forms of media communication, including media appearances, press releases and conferences, must acknowledge the support received from STFC, quoting the grant reference number if appropriate.

Resources produced as a result of any grants should acknowledge STFC (as part of UK Research and Innovation) as the funding source, using the standard format agreed by funders and publishers and detailed in the additional information accompanying this grant.

In order to ensure appropriate coordination and opportunities to increase the impact of engagement, external media activity produced as a result of this award must be signed off by the STFC media team before the activity takes place, or is published. This includes press releases, online videos and media briefings.

Grant holders are responsible for giving STFC sufficient notice in advance of activities such that STFC can advise on content or build the activities of grant holders into our own communications and engagement programmes.

It is the responsibility of the research organisation, and all engaged in the research, to make every reasonable effort to ensure that the intellectual assets obtained in the course of the research, whether protected by intellectual property rights or not, are used to the benefit of society and the economy.

Outcomes and resources should be disseminated or made available to both research and more widespread audiences, for example to inform potential users and beneficiaries of the research.

Unless stated otherwise, the ownership of all intellectual assets, including intellectual property, and responsibility for their application, rests with the organisation that generates them.

STFC may, in individual cases, reserve the right to retain ownership of intellectual assets, including intellectual property (or assign it to a third party under an exploitation agreement) and to arrange for it to be exploited for the national benefit and that of the research organisation involved. This right, if exercised, will be clearly set out in an additional grant condition.

There should be suitable recognition and reward to researchers who undertake activities that deliver benefit through the application of research outcomes. The research organisation must ensure that all those associated with the research are aware of, and accept these arrangements.


It is a condition of every grant that STFC accepts no liability for the manner in which the work in connection with the grant is undertaken, and the research organisation and Nucleus grant holder will be responsible in all respects for the work and the consequences of it.

Termination of awards

A grant may be terminated, or its conditions varied, at any time at the absolute discretion of STFC.

Should the Nucleus grant holder leave their institution for another research organisation or an alternative type of employment, they must notify the public engagement team immediately. If it is not possible to transfer the grant then STFC will terminate payments from the day immediately after the Nucleus grant holder leaves the host institution.

Failure to submit reports will result in termination of the award unless there are mitigating reasons.

Our expectations of our Nucleus grant holders

Grant holders will:

  • deliver high quality public engagement activities during the lifetime of the award
  • raise the profile and standards of public engagement within their host organisation or professional community, including sharing best practice and developing new talent
  • champion STFC science and technology, including the impact of science and technology on society
  • regularly interact with STFC’s public engagement and communication teams, including participation in STFC networks, events and advisory structures when requested

Terms of reference

Aims of the Public Engagement Nucleus Awards panel

The panel’s aims are:

  • to assess and make recommendations to the STFC executive for the awards in public engagement
  • to take account, as appropriate, of any strategic advice provided by STFC
  • to take account, as appropriate, of the recommendations of external reviewers and the conclusion of specialist peer review panels
  • to provide clear concise feedback to applicants
  • to advise the science board and executive as required on all issues relating to research grants including monitoring the level of funding allocated to grants per round
  • to liaise with other bodies as necessary
  • to carry out other tasks associated with peer review that the executive might require

The peer review conclusions may be convened by the executive to include consolidated grants, contiguous groups of research requests, or research requests which are judged (on the basis of cost or propriety) with regard to the terms of reference for the panel.

Guidelines for managing conflicts of interest in the peer review process

STFC, as a publicly funded organisation, is accountable to government and the public for its actions and for the way it conducts its business which must be undertaken in a way that is transparent and guards against conflicts of interest influencing the outcome of decisions. Further information for managing conflicts as an STFC panel member can be found in our guidance for reviewers.

Equality of opportunity

STFC is fully committed to ensuring that all applicants receive equal treatment throughout the peer review process and will provide the necessary training and support to panel members and peer reviewers.

STFC will keep our inclusion and diversity policies under review to ensure that its policies and practices reflect best practice and enable full compliance under the Equality Act 2010.


STFC will distribute peer review papers via secure means and all information must be considered as confidential, the contents should not be disclosed. The confidential nature is intended to ensure that the contents of the proposals and reviews are not made known more widely than is necessary for proper consideration by the peer review panels. Names of reviewers are not disclosed to applicants and neither are those of the lead introducer for the proposals.

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.

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