Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Institutional strategic developmental projects in higher education

Apply for funding to develop institutional-level innovations in research and knowledge exchange.

You must be a higher education (HE) provider that is:

  • based in England
  • registered with the Office for Students in the ‘approved (fee cap)’ category
  • carrying out research.

Your project should involve:

  • addressing government and UKRI priorities
  • working with partners.

You can apply for any amount of funding. However, proposals must include contributions from partners. We will not fund research projects.

This funding comes from the Research England Development (RED) Fund.

Who can apply

The Research England terms and conditions state that for a provider to be eligible for grant funding from Research England, it must:

  • be registered with the Office for Students (OfS) in the ‘approved (fee cap)’ category of the OfS’ register (this includes continuing to meet the OfS’ ongoing conditions of registration)
  • be undertaking research and related activities, which include knowledge exchange
  • have research activity with the principal, though not necessarily exclusive, aim of creation of new knowledge which is made freely available to all.

What we're looking for

The RED fund funds a variety of projects and seeks to support institutional-level strategic developmental projects that will implement change that can be sustained into the longer term.

The RED fund seeks to fund proposals that include:

  • HE institutional strategic developments in research and knowledge exchange, with a focus on innovative and novel approaches that can provide insights for the HE sector more generally
  • activities that contribute to government and UKRI policy priorities
  • appropriate collaborations, internally in the HE sector, and with external partners
  • an appropriate balance of risk sharing across funders and beneficiaries
  • projects that have robust evaluation plans and seek to disseminate key learning points to the wider sector
  • clear additionality of the proposed project
  • value for money demonstrated for the project
  • suitably identified project risks with sufficient plans in place to manage them
  • the active support of institutional leadership, as the RED Fund supports projects that are institutional strategic priorities
  • credible plans for continuing the activity beyond the period of funding, or securing the long-term legacy of the investment.

Providers must be able to demonstrate evidence of expertise in relation to the focus of the project for which they are seeking funding. Projects related to research must build on existing excellence, while projects in KE must build on KE expertise.

Projects must be collaborative. The lead provider must determine an appropriate collaboration to deliver substantial public benefit.

Research England will contribute to project costs. Proposals must include contributions from other parties, in line with the nature of the proposed project (the RED Fund does not adopt a formulaic approach for contributions).

Current RED fund priorities

These priorities may be updated in future.

Collaborations in research

Proposals that develop strategic research collaboration between higher education institutions (HEIs). Areas to focus on might be:

  • maximising the economic and social benefits from established research units
  • improving outcomes for postgraduate students, including proposals that examine ways in which to secure postgraduate research opportunities, or work experience, for under-represented groups at that level
  • working with external partners to support a diverse research workforce
  • developing new facilities with external partners, for research and knowledge exchange.

Delivering the Industrial Strategy through knowledge exchange

Novel approaches from disciplines or types of KE that are currently under-utilised in Industrial Strategy developments to-date, but have potential to deliver to unexplored areas of business demand or to draw in a wider range of HEI expertise or KE capacity.

This may include projects to unlock potential of HEIs that do not have critical mass currently to gain a Higher Education Innovation Fund formula allocation, and enhancing impact through social innovation and enterprise.

Projects that build upon policies, priorities or funding of the other eight UKRI councils, the Office for Students, or wider Industrial Strategy developments.

Addressing challenges and opportunities in university commercialisation policy and practice. In due course, we may update or review these priorities in the light of development of UKRI’s commercialisation strategy.

Research culture

Proposals that seek to improve research culture, aligned with the aims of the government’s research and development people and culture strategy. Potential areas of activity include, but are not limited to:

  • improving access to and participation in research, including postgraduate research study, for people from currently underrepresented groups
  • furthering open research practices
  • improving research conduct and reproducibility
  • tackling bullying and harassment
  • improving research leadership skills across all career stages
  • creating routes for collaboration and exchange with businesses, third sector organisations and government
  • securing and supporting the careers of researchers and associated professions
  • diversifying recruitment, reward and recognition approaches at all career stages
  • delivering new approaches to public dialogue and community-led research.

Creating opportunities to consolidate existing, or develop new opportunities, for international collaborations

The Industrial Strategy highlighted the development of the International Research and Innovation Strategy and the UKRI Fund for International Collaboration. In the context of this wider landscape we are inviting activity from institutions in England that look to address the following areas:

  • proposals for major strategic international research partnerships enhancing the impact of research in England
  • improving practice in leadership, governance and management focused on international opportunities
  • innovative approaches to international collaboration in KE, focused on KE activities that could be scaled up or of wider relevance to the HE sector.


We will not fund:

  • a research project or programme (given other resources for research)
  • general capacity building
  • continuation of existing activities, it needs to be a genuinely novel development
  • activity outside our remit

How to apply

Successful proposals generally emerge after extensive discussions with us, and our templates must be used for all formal submissions.

Register your interest and discuss ideas

The first step in considering making a proposal to the fund is to test the project idea with a representative of Research England.

Email to log your interest and receive feedback.

You can either:

  • send a short summary of a proposed project idea on one or two sides of A4
  • ask for a discussion about your early ideas, before sending a summary.

We will aim to respond within two weeks. We will advise on general fit with the fund policies and priorities, and the likely chances of success.

Formal proposal development

If your project is a fit, we will work with you to develop a formal proposal through an interactive process. A proposal can take many months to develop and it’s possible your potential project will later be considered out of scope.

Formal proposals must be worked up according to the RED Fund guidance (PDF, 170KB).

Interested bidders should keep Research England informed of key developments so that we can provide advice as required and take account of any critical timing and external funding factors in our process.

On occasion we may also announce calls for proposals in response to specific policy priorities.

How we will assess your application

Assessment criteria

In line with the guidance document, when assessing proposals we will consider:

  • what issue is being addressed and what evidence is available to demonstrate its significance?
  • how does the issue fit with Research England’s priorities for the fund?
  • what alternatives have been considered other than the RED Fund to address the issue?
  • why can the issue not be tackled by the provider alone?
  • what would happen if Research England did not provide funding and what evidence is available to demonstrate this?
  • what evidence is available to demonstrate and quantify the benefits of the project to the public, to universities and colleges, and potentially to students?
  • are there clear objectives, and is it clear how the project’s success will be measured?
  • are the activities appropriate to the issues and objectives identified?
  • does the project have clear milestones and are the timescales realistic?
  • are the costs appropriate and does the investment represent value for money for Research England, taking into account the outputs and outcomes identified?
  • is there a suitable strategic and financial commitment from the participating provider(s) and any other key partners / beneficiaries?
  • is there evidence of a robust risk assessment and are there suitable plans for project and risk management?
  • the approach to evaluate long term impact of the project.
  • subsidy control issues

Assessment process

Once a proposal has gone through the iterative process as described previously, bidders will be invited to develop and submit a full business case. We will provide feedback on the business case to enable the bidders to refine in line with requirements of the fund.

For bids under £500,000 the Research England Executive Chair approves or declines on the basis of advice from the Research England Executive Group.

For bids of £501,000 to £5 million, the RED Fund panel is required to make recommendations to the Research England Executive Chair for funding.

For those above £5 million, the Research England Council will make recommendations to the executive chair based on advice from the RED Fund panel.

Following the RED Fund panel, executive group and Research England Council meetings, we will generally inform bidders straight away on the outcome of their project, including any additional information required.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity



  • 22 February 2024
    Guidance document updated in the 'How to apply' and 'Additional info' sections. Amendment of text from 'state aid issues' to 'subsidy control issues' in the 'How we will assess your application' section.
  • 18 December 2023
    Guidance document, Bidding template, Trusted Research and Innovation Annex updated. Panel dates amended.

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