Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Polarities and Regions Network Plus

Apply for funding to enhance understanding of polarities and regions in eastern Europe and Eurasia, and east and Pacific Asia.

This Network will be funded under UKRI’s ‘Building a Secure and Resilient World’ strategic theme.

The full economic cost of your network can be up to £5,000,000. UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your network should start on 1 April 2024 and run for four years.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

UKRI is introducing new role types for opportunities being run on the new Funding Service from 22 May 2023. For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

The project lead must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding. That organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UKRI.

The project co-leads can be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding, or at UK businesses, public sector, third sector or eligible public sector research establishments (PSREs). Read our guidance on the Inclusion of business, third sector or government body Co-Is on ESRC proposals.

International applicants

Project leads from non-UK organisations are not eligible to apply for funding for this opportunity.

Project co-leads based in non-UK organisations are eligible to be included in applications for this opportunity. Read our guidance on the inclusion of international co-investigators for details of eligible organisations and costs.

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

Scope

A Network Plus is a strategic investment that brings together new or disparate communities from across the research and development system to identify, prioritise and develop emerging research and knowledge exchange challenges. It provides leadership across disciplines and sectors, continues to expand its connections and relationships throughout the duration of its funding, and tailors its activities to the needs in its area.

A Network Plus is expected to establish and maintain appropriate links with relevant activities and research users to achieve its aims of increasing collaborative working across disciplines and sectors, providing visibility and accessibility, and connecting the research and innovation landscape.

The funding for this Network Plus funding opportunity is from the UKRI Strategic Theme on Building a Secure and Resilient World (BSRW) which aims to strengthen social and economic resilience, and enhance national security across virtual and physical environments, by improving awareness of risks and threats, preparedness, informed decision making and response. It will work towards change being understood as a force for good.

The contemporary world appears to be characterised by increasing geopolitical instability and contestation. Better understanding of other political regimes, economic imperatives, power bases, social practices and cultural norms can help find new ways to cooperate to achieve genuinely collective security and sustainable and inclusive economic prosperity.

Under the auspices of ESRC’s ‘Security, risk and resilience’ strategic priority, published in our Delivery Plan we invite applications to develop a Network Plus on Polarities and Regions: eastern Europe and Eurasia, and east and Pacific Asia. In light of the importance and influence of Russia and China to and in contemporary global affairs, this Network Plus will investigate individual powers; their national priorities, capacities, politics, and social and cultural dynamics; their relations with each other and with states in their regional neighbourhoods; and the implications for wider geopolitical stability, security and prosperity.

The most salient dimensions of UK and global security, risk and resilience on which the Network Plus will focus are for applicants to propose. They might include some of the following:

  • emerging technologies
  • economic links and dependences
  • social movements and human rights
  • the climate crisis, energy and net zero goals
  • soft power and influence activities
  • cybersecurity
  • regulation and legal systems
  • engagement with multilateral institutions and other modes of international political influence.

The Network Plus will need to build flexibility into its design, given the evolving nature of both the international environment and the needs of key stakeholders, including the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and other government departments, as well as industry bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), media and multilateral institutions.

Drawing together a diverse network of researchers and relevant stakeholders, the Network will:

  • improve understanding of individual powers, their national priorities, capacities, politics, and social and cultural dynamics; their relations with each other and with states in their regional neighbourhoods; and the implications for wider geopolitical stability, security and prosperity
  • facilitate new opportunities for managing risks and increasing resilience in international conflict and security
  • inform evidence-based decision making through timely, high impact, and independent research that meets the needs of policymakers and practitioners in the global arena

The Polarities and Regions Network Plus will undertake the following activities:

  • engage and network with stakeholders in academia, industry, government and the third sector, in the UK and internationally, connecting and coordinating across a diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds
  • assess and determine what the UK needs in terms of research, research infrastructure and skills to develop capability in language-based area studies and other disciplines that cover these regions, with emphasis on training and support for early career researchers
  • provide thought leadership and a clear vision for developing a robust evidence base on key issues of security, risk and resilience with regard to these powers and their geopolitical relationships
  • develop and run open opportunities for small projects or activities that contribute to the achievement of the Network’s objectives
  • pay attention to risk mitigation with regard to research conducted in and on authoritarian states, particularly where in-country fieldwork is involved, in relation to both researcher safety and potential impacts on future research careers

The Network Plus will bring together expertise from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, both within and beyond the social sciences, with expertise across a range of relevant thematic areas, as well as from beyond the UK. The Network Plus should also include representation from relevant non-academic users of research within policy and practitioner stakeholder communities.

By the end of the funding period, the Network Plus should have enabled a step-change in the connectivity and coordination of researchers and stakeholders in this field. It should have:

  • generated new insights on individual powers in these geographic regions through synthesis of evidence and analysis; identification and prioritisation of themes, research gaps and emerging research challenges; conducting some original research in prioritised themes
  • built new capability in language based area studies and in other relevant disciplines, linking existing and establishing new transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary partnerships, bringing together new approaches and developing conceptual, methodological, theoretical and leadership skills
  • enabled a coherent and connected research and evidence landscape focused on dynamics in eastern Europe and Eurasia, and in east and Pacific Asia, across disciplines, stakeholders and sectors, identifying needs through relationship building, co-creation, and sustained engagement
  • informed policy, practice and understanding through recognition of stakeholder needs at all stages of the development of these insights, capabilities and connections

The Network Plus will play an important role in the growing portfolio of investments under ESRC’s ‘Security, risk and resilience’ strategic priority and the UKRI ‘Building a Secure and Resilient World’ theme. The Network Plus will establish and maintain appropriate links with relevant ESRC and UKRI investments to achieve its aims of increasing collaborative working across disciplines, and connecting the research landscape. The successful investment will be expected to engage with UKRI, the UKRI ‘Building a Secure and Resilient World’ Research and Coordination Hub and other investments and activities commissioned under this UKRI strategic theme.

Your team

The Network’s core team will build sustained engagement and collaboration on emerging research and knowledge exchange areas, engage research users and run training and capacity building activities for core staff and those in the wider network and beyond. The Network’s core team should have suitable capability and capacity to undertake activities such as:

  • workshops
  • events
  • communications
  • funding small projects. These could be evidence synthesis, scoping, gap analysis, knowledge exchange, original research, capacity building, skills training, methods development, or other relevant activities
  • producing key outputs
  • secondments
  • horizon scanning

The core team should include people at different career stages, who collectively offer:

  • core social science leadership, with an in-depth understanding of relevant disciplines, policy challenges and evidence needs. Your Network must be social science-led
  • thematic expertise beyond the social sciences and beyond academia, reflecting the communities that will be engaged in the Network
  • an ability to engage and collaborate with diverse stakeholders through a range of activities and outputs
  • an ability to articulate a clear vision for engagement with communities working in this area and new partners from within the appropriate disciplines or elsewhere
  • an ability to deliver complex projects to time, considering the variety of activities and outputs
  • specialist expertise (academic and non-academic) to support the desired outcomes, which may include sector representatives, programme management, project management and finance expertise, a communications function, administrative support and knowledge mobilisation expertise
  • an ability to bring together diverse expertise within projects, conceptually, methodologically and theoretically

The Network Plus will be responsible for the formation of suitable advisory structures. Proposals should include detail of the advisory group, including academic and non-academic members, that will support the research and oversee the development of the key activities. ESRC reserves the right to attend and observe advisory group meetings. Grant holders will also be asked to provide regular and ad hoc project progress reports to ESRC or other governance groups as needed.

Duration

The duration of this award is 48 months.

Projects must start on 1 April 2024.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £5,000,000. UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

What we will fund

Flexible funding for small projects or activities

As part of running the Network Plus you will be expected to use part of the grant funding to develop and run opportunities for small projects and other activities that contribute to the achievement of the Network’s objectives. These opportunities are an important way of bringing individuals and organisations into the Network and growing connections. Activities can take place at any point during the grant but their timing should be considered and justified. There could be several funding opportunity ‘tranches’ within the lifespan of the Network Plus.

The Network can use its flexible funding pot to undertake activities such as:

  • workshops
  • events
  • funding small projects. These could be evidence synthesis, scoping, gap analysis, knowledge exchange, original research, capacity building, skills training, methods development, or other relevant activities
  • producing key outputs
  • secondments
  • horizon scanning

You should budget for at least 40% of the full economic cost of the grant to be assigned to the flexible fund. The flexible fund should be used to support innovative projects and activities undertaken by researchers outside of the Network’s core team. The Network’s core team members should not be supported by the flexible fund. UKRI will fund 80% of the flexible fund’s full economic cost. Flexible fund costs should be included in applications as ‘Other Directly Incurred’.

You must define and justify your objectives for the flexible fund and outline how it will be operationalised, governed, and, where appropriate, distributed through a competitive process. Before expenditure commences, ESRC requires the submission of an outline of how the funds will be utilised, for approval. You should ensure that funds genuinely enable new work, instead of going towards existing activities, while giving due consideration to ensuring diversity and capacity-building.

ESRC should be consulted throughout the award to ensure good practice is followed in the assessment and allocation of flexible funds. The Network’s core team should make it clear that activities funded through the flexible fund are expected to engage with the wider programme of activity and to report their progress and outcomes to the core team.

What we will not fund

Associated studentships are not eligible for inclusion.

Capacity building

We will look for evidence of a strong commitment to supporting the development of researchers at all stages of their career and capacity-building. We expect this to include a strong career development programme, shaped to suit the stage of the researchers’ career and providing increased opportunities for professional development. This should include, but not be limited to, the early career stage. We encourage you to consider how you can support the career development of all members of the core network team.

Increasing capacity contributes to the quality and impact of the research. Examples of building capacity include:

  • support and mentoring
  • management and leadership training

Proposals should include the outline of a career development programme (including research, leadership and management skills) shaped to the career stage of each member of the core network team. Career development outside of the core team is intended to be supported via the flexible fund, with activities weighted to early and mid-career researchers.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

Impact, innovation and interdisciplinarity

We expect applicants to consider the potential scientific, societal and economic impacts of their research. Outputs, dissemination and impact are key criteria for the assessment process. We also encourage applications that demonstrate innovation and interdisciplinarity (research combining approaches from more than one discipline).

Post-award, within the first three months, the successful applicants will work with the funders to develop a monitoring and evaluation plan that will form the basis of ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reporting arrangements, to learn from what works, track the impact of the investment and ensure value for money.

International collaboration

UKRI is committed in ensuring that effective international collaboration in research and innovation takes place with integrity and within strong ethical frameworks.

Trusted research and innovation (TR&I) is a UKRI work programme designed to help protect all those working in our thriving and collaborative international sector by enabling partnerships to be as open as possible, and as secure as necessary.

Our TR&I principles set out UKRI’s expectations of organisations funded by UKRI in relation to due diligence for international collaboration.

Find out more about TR&I, including guidance on where you can find additional support.

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.

Demand management

Research Organisations can only act as the lead organisation (meaning the organisation where the project lead is based) on one submission to this opportunity.

Project leads on applications to this funding opportunity cannot also be project leads on applications to the following funding opportunities:

  • ESRC Policy Talent Accelerator Network Plus
  • Resilient UK coastal communities and seas Network Plus
  • Dementia Network Plus
  • Behavioural Science for Security and Defence Network Plus
  • Modelling UK supply chains as complex systems for resilience

How to apply

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service

We are running the funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply for this opportunity on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

If you do not already have an account with the UKRI Funding Service, you will be able to create one by selecting the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page. Creating an account is a 2-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.

If you are a member of an organisation with a research office that we do not have contact details for, we will contact them to enable administrator access. This provides:

  • oversight of every UKRI Funding Service application opened on behalf of your organisation
  • the ability to review and submit applications

Research offices that have not already received an invitation to open an account should email support@funding-service.ukri.org

Submitting your application

Applications should be prepared and submitted by the lead research organisation but should be co-created with input from all investigators, and project partners, and should represent the proposed work of the entire consortia.

To apply:

  1. Select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. This will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. This is a 2-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers.
  4. Once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

As citations can be integral to a case for support, you should balance their inclusion and the benefit they provide against the inclusion of other parts of your answer to each question. Bear in mind that citations, associated reference lists or bibliographies, or both, contribute to, and are included in, the word count of the relevant section.

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 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:

  1. Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this page.
  2. Confirm you are the project lead.
  3. 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 support@funding-service.ukri.org
  4. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to them, or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the ‘How to apply’ section on this Funding finder page.
  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.

Deadline

ESRC must receive your application by 12 October 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Processing personal data

ESRC, 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.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research. UKRI will publish the outcomes of this funding Opportunity on its website.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

In plain English, provide a summary that can be sent to potential reviewers to determine if your proposal is within their field of expertise.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so please ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community
Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context
  • the challenge the project addresses and how it will be applied to this
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits

Word count: 550

Core team

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

  • Project lead (PL)
  • Project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • Project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))
  • Specialist
  • Grant manager
  • Professional enabling staff
  • Research and innovation associate
  • Technician
  • Visiting researcher
  • You should only list 1 individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI Roles in funding applications.

Section: Vision and approach

Question: What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work and how will you deliver it?

We will ask you to submit a single seven-page PDF attachment covering the ‘Vision’ and ‘Approach’ sections of the application and enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box below. The document must have single line spacing, margins of at least 2 cm and be typed using Arial 11pt, or another ‘sans serif’ font with an equivalent size to Arial 11pt.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

For the vision, explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment

Within the Vision we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be

For the Approach, explain how you have designed your work so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the Approach we also expect you to:

  • ensure you have addressed all the requirements described in the ‘What we are looking for’ information for this opportunity
  • provide a detailed and comprehensive visual representation of the project plan including milestones and timelines

Section: Flexible fund

Question: how will you use and manage the Network’s flexible fund?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you will use and manage the flexible fund so that it:

  • supports the Network’s objectives
  • distributes funding appropriately across a diverse range of activities
  • where appropriate, distributes funding through clear, transparent competitive processes
  • builds capacity in key fields and career stages
  • ensures appropriate processes for monitoring, reporting and governance of funded activities

Word count: 1000

Section: Data management and sharing

Question: how will you manage and share data collected or acquired through the proposed research?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a data management plan which should clearly detail how you will comply with ESRC’s published Data Sharing Policy, which includes detailed guidance notes.

Word count: 1000

Section: Your Organisation’s Support

Question: provide details of support from your research organisation.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a Statement of Support from your research organisation detailing why the proposed work is needed. This should include details of any matched funding that will be provided to support the activity and any additional support that might add value to the work.

Assessors will be looking for a strong statement of commitment from your research organisation.

ESRC recognises that in some instances, this information may be provided by the Research Office, the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) or equivalent, or a combination of both.

You must also include the following details:

  • a significant person’s name and their position, from the TTO or Research Office, or both
  • office address or web link

Word count: 500

Section: Project partners: contributions

Question: provide details about any project partners’ contributions using the template provided.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you do have project partners, download and complete the project partner contributions template (DOCX, 52KB) then copy and paste the table within it into the text box below.

Ensure you have obtained prior agreement from project partners that, should you be offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the template.

Word count: 1000

Section: Project Partners: letters (or emails) of support

Question: upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the table in the previous ‘contributions’ section.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you have named project partners in the previous ‘contributions’ section, enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box below.

Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project
  • please refer to the ESRC guide for more guidance

Please do not provide letters of support from host and project co-leads research organisations.

Unless specifically requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

Upload details are provided within the service on the actual application.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Section: Applicant and team capability to deliver

Question: why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you, and if relevant your team (investigators, researchers, other (technical) staff for example research software engineers, data scientists and so on, and partners), have and how this will help to deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed below. You should use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

Additions: Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

You should complete this as a narrative and you should avoid CV type format.

The word count for this section is 1500 words, 1000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Word count: 1500

Section: Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Question: what are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how you will manage them.

If you are collecting or using data you should identify:

  • any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical considerations and, in particular, strategies taken to not preclude further reuse of data
  • formal information standards with which study will be compliant

Word count: 1000

Section: Research involving human participation

Question: will the project involve the use of human subjects or their personal information?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If you are proposing research that requires the involvement of human subjects, provide the name of any required approving body and whether approval is already in place. Then, justify the number and the diversity of the participants involved, as well as any procedures.

Provide details of any areas of substantial or moderate severity of impact.

Word count: 700

Section: References

Question: list the references you’ve use to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Ensure your application is a self-contained description. You can provide hyperlinks to relevant publications or online resources. However, assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application. You must not include links to web resources in order to extend your application. If linking to web resources, to ensure the information’s integrity is maintained include, where possible, persistent identifiers such as digital object identifiers.

Word count: 250

Section: Facilities

Question: does your proposed research require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter N/A into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If you will need to use a facility, you should follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Where prior agreement is required, ensure you obtain their agreement that, should you be offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project.

In the text box below, for each requested facility you should provide:

  • the name of facility, copied and pasted from this list
  • the proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicted on that list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

Do not put the facility contact details in your response.

Word count: 100

Section: Resources and cost justification

Question: what will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Use the resources and cost summary table to enter the full costs. Include high-level costs only, not a breakdown of individual items. Use the Justification textbox to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

This section should not simply be a list of the resources requested, as this will already be given in the detailed ‘costs’ table. Costings should be justified on the basis of full economic costs (FEC) of the project, not just on the costs expected from UKRI. For some items we do not expect you to justify the monetary value, rather the type of resource, such as amount of time or type of staff requested.

Where you do not provide adequate justification for a resource, we may deduct it from any funding awarded.

You should identify:

  • support for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement, knowledge exchange or to support responsible innovation
  • support for access to facilities, infrastructure or procurement of equipment
  • support for preserving, long-term storage, or sharing of data
  • support from your organisation or partner organisations and how that enhances value for money

Word count: 1000

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite academic and user experts to review your application independently, against the specified criteria for this opportunity.

Response to peer review

If a proposal meets the standard ESRC minimum quality threshold, the project lead is given the opportunity to respond to the peer reviewers’ comments.

Panel

We will invite experts to join an assessment panel which will collectively review your application against the criteria and rank it alongside other applications before making a funding recommendation.

ESRC reserves the right to use the recommendations to create a balanced portfolio across the research grants.

ESRC reserves the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

The funders will make the final funding decision.

Find out more about ESRC’s assessment process.

Timescale

We aim to complete the assessment process in February 2024.

Feedback

You will receive anonymised versions of peer reviews on your application. If your application was discussed by a panel, we will give feedback on the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

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

Find out about the UKRI Principles of Assessment and Decision Making.

Assessment criteria

Section: Vision

Have the applicants demonstrated how the work they are proposing:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • will impact world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment

Section: Approach

Have the applicants demonstrated that they have designed their approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve their objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how their, and if applicable their team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the proposed work

Custom section: Flexible Fund

Have the applicants provided evidence of how they will use and manage the network’s flexible fund so that it:

  • supports the network’s objectives
  • distributes funding appropriately across a diverse range of activities
  • where appropriate, distributes funding through clear, transparent competitive processes
  • builds capacity in key fields and career stages
  • ensures appropriate processes for monitoring, reporting and governance of funded activities

Section: Applicant and team capability to deliver

Have the applicants provided evidence of how they, and if relevant their team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and their approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

Section: Resources and cost justification

Have the applicants demonstrated how the resources they anticipate needing for their proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Section: Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Have the applicants identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how they will be managed.

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.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

Include ‘Polarities and Regions Network Plus’ in the subject line

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

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

Sensitive information

If you, or a key team member, need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the Funding Service helpdesk on support@funding-service.ukri.org

You must include in the subject line: Polarities and Regions Network Plus, sensitive info, Funding Service application number.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • applicant 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, see UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Background

Building a secure and resilient world strategic theme

The UKRI strategy for 2022 to 2027: transforming tomorrow together, outlines five strategic themes that look to harness the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to address major national and global challenges.

‘Building a secure and resilient world’ is one of the themes under the auspices of which UKRI will catalyse, convene and conduct research and innovation, through taking a systemic approach that is human-centred, aimed at strengthening societal and economic resilience.

The theme aims to enhance national security across virtual and physical environments, by improving awareness of risks and threats, preparedness, informed decision making and response, and allowing change to be understood as a force for good.

The funding for this Network Plus funding opportunity is from the UKRI Strategic Theme on Building a Secure and Resilient World (BSRW)

BSRW directly tackles core methodologies for supporting a better and more robust approach to managing crisis from business to government to communities. A core focus of the theme is on supporting systems thinking and decision making to reduce risk and strengthen our security and resilience, and showing how this should support, and be implemented by, communities at every level, from local to international.

We have identified five interrelated sub-themes, through which UKRI will deliver a range of activities tailored to enable resilience to different risks in different systems that:

  • is built on the strengths of our current economy and society
  • helps reduce vulnerability
  • prepares for robust and rapid responses and enhances recovery
  • encourages approaches which bring positive transformation

The five sub-themes are:

  • global order in a time of change: enable UK to take one of the leading positions in shaping an international order that is secure, resilient and just
  • technologies for resilience, security and defence: advance capacity of state defence and security, society and economy to reduce vulnerabilities, to respond to and recover from shocks through innovation and technological advancement
  • resilient and secure supply chains: increase the resilience of supply chains (food, critical materials, manufacturing, complex systems) to a wide variety to potentially interacting shocks
  • behavioural and cultural resilience: reduce the impact of shocks on individuals and communities through adaptation and embracing change, deployment of resources for personal resilience that is fair and just
  • strengthening resilience in natural and built environment: mitigate impact of natural and anthropogenic hazards and risks on wider societal processes and operations in rural and urban contexts being responsive to particular requirements of place

This opportunity speaks directly to global order in a time of change’, enabling the UK to take one of the leading positions in shaping an international order that is secure, resilient and just.

UKRI has invested in several Network Pluses. The following lessons learned should be taken into consideration:

  • a clear, well-defined topic for the network is needed to focus plans and activities. The activity supported by a network needs to be regularly reviewed
  • sufficient administrative and host institution support for the network, including dedicated financial services support, is vital to support activities such as the flexible fund, impact, engagement and communications
  • different scales of funding are appropriate for different research topics or disciplines supported via the flexible fund
  • different assessment processes may be required relative to the value of projects funded via the flexible fund
  • expectation and arrangements for full economic costing of network activities need to be clear across all parties
  • advertising of events needs to be included in the budget
  • long-term plans for the legacy and sustainability of the network need to be considered early on

Webinar for potential applicants

We held a webinar for applicants interested in applying to one of the following UKRI Network Plus funding opportunities:

  • Behavioural Science for Security and Defence Network Plus
  • Resilient UK coastal communities and seas Network Plus
  • Dementia Network Plus
  • Polarities and Regions Network Plus
  • Modelling UK supply chains as complex systems for resilience Network Plus

This provided more information about the Network Plus model and a chance to ask questions. The webinar was held on 20 July at 11:00am UK time.

Watch the webinar recording via Zoom.

Webinar slides (PDF, 2MB)

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 230KB)

Network Plus frequently asked questions document (PDF, 202KB)

Updates

  • 16 August 2023
    Network Plus frequently asked questions document updated
  • 15 August 2023
    'Custom section: Flexible Fund' text added to 'How we will assess your application'
  • 14 August 2023
    Webinar recording and slides and Network Plus frequently asked questions document added in 'Additional info' section.
  • 31 July 2023
    Updated paragraph under 'International collaboration' in the 'What we're looking for' section.
  • 23 June 2023
    Webinar registration details added in 'Additional info' section.

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