Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Responsible AI UK impact accelerator round one

Apply for funding to support interdisciplinary translational research and knowledge exchange on responsible and trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure that AI technologies are designed, deployed and used responsibly within societies.

This funding opportunity is being run through Responsible AI UK (RAI UK). This UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded programme supports research on the technical, social, legal and ethical challenges surrounding responsible AI. You and your organisation must be eligible for UKRI funding.

Funding is available for between five to 10 grants. Successful projects must begin by 1 November and last up to 18 months.

RAI UK will fund up to £300,000 at 80% full economic cost.

Who can apply

Responsible AI needs an interdisciplinary ecosystem that adopts equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI), trusted research, and responsible research and innovation (RRI) as fundamental principles. We are therefore particularly interested in supporting diverse, multidisciplinary teams that co-create research with industry and the public. Successful applicants will be expected to collaborate with the wider RAI UK programme.

We would encourage researchers from all the disciplines that are supported by UKRI to apply, including but not limited to:

  • applied ethics
  • computer science
  • engineering
  • humanities
  • innovation studies
  • international studies
  • law
  • organisational management
  • philosophy
  • politics
  • psychology
  • sociology


RAI UK is leading this funding opportunity on behalf of UKRI. Standard UKRI eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • public sector research establishments
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations and NHS bodies with research capacity
  • UK businesses, third sector, or government bodies (restrictions apply)

Read the guidance on institutional eligibility

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of the following:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level or above
  • hold a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee
  • hold an UKRI, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages (excluding industry employees)
  • hold fellowships under other schemes (please contact us to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis)

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an UKRI grant.

This funding opportunity is not part of any UKRI repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

This funding opportunity aims to support activities that maximise the impact of responsible AI research on the:

  • economy
  • society
  • culture
  • policy
  • health
  • the environment
  • quality of life

Projects need to build on existing research and look to achieve impact within the lifetime of the project or demonstrate strong potential for impact soon after the project is completed.

Your proposed project could deliver translational research and knowledge exchange (KE). This includes testbeds, datasets, frameworks, processes, or tools, that can help organisations or individuals to adopt and use AI responsibly to meet society’s needs for justice, equity, sustainability, and inclusivity.

RAI UK champions a reflective, inclusive approach to responsible AI development that does not ignore AI’s potential harms but acknowledges, understands and mitigates them for diverse societies.

Successful proposals would seek to maximise the impact of their solutions by proposing the following types of support:

  • early-stage knowledge exchange: supporting proof of concept, proof of value, or prototype development projects with commercial, third sector or policy partners, particular with respect to solving challenges with designing, deploying or using AI technologies responsibly
  • secondments and people exchange: to achieve effective impact of responsible AI knowledge, skills and expertise in a timely manner. Note: a separate funding opportunity will be issued for international partnerships
  • research software engineering support: to allow greater exploitation of research platforms, results and testbeds for responsible AI design, deployment or use by industry, civil society or government
  • six-month residencies: supporting postdoctoral researchers for a six-month residency with an external partner organisation in order to develop KE projects. Please note that proposals with strong potential for knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP) will have priority. While researchers are encouraged to propose activities with any appropriate impact types, we particularly encourage proposals that fit the RAI UK vision:
    • help enable responsible AI to power benefits for everyday life
    • work in collaboration with researchers, industry professionals, policymakers and stakeholders to drive an ecosystem that will be responsive to the needs of society

In particular, we encourage interdisciplinary collaborations and collaborations between researchers and others to:

  • develop methodologies for responsible AI
  • support the development of legal and responsible innovation toolkits that can be used by small and medium sized enterprises and large corporates to help them meet current regulation and anticipate future changes to regulation and standards in AI
  • establish policy engagement activities that enhance conversations involving policymakers, researchers, practitioners, end-users, and the public

In addition to collaborating with the wider programme, it is anticipated that successful applicant teams will also engage with stakeholders and users of the research, who are essential to the design, conduct and impact of application-orientated research.

Note that all proposals submitted will be assessed equally, irrespective of which impact types the proposal aligns with.

We encourage projects to demonstrate clear routes to impact to address both imminent and long-term needs of industry, society and government.

For example, we encourage partnerships with projects or activities already funded by various UKRI programmes or Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) that look to develop or use responsible and trustworthy AI systems at high technology readiness levels or inform policy around their use and deployment strategies.

However, such a partnership is not a requirement to receive funding. Please make it clear where the project looks to build on connections to existing networks and research programmes. RAI UK is keen to understand how this funding is building new connections and developing exiting relationships within the ecosystem, providing additional value within the landscape.

If you are planning to bring international collaborators (for example, industry or academic partners), please complete the checklist the RAI UK’s Trusted Research section and complete the checklist for academia (PDF, 114KB) by Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and National Cyber Security Centre.

Note that based on the answers to this checklist, you may need to escalate this within your institution or department for a decision.

A balanced range of projects across non-academic impact types will be funded (political, economic, societal, technological, legal, environmental, health, cultural and other).

Learn about the RAI UK programme.

Funding available

Up to £1.5 million funding is available through the RAI UK programme to support between five to ten grants for up to 18 months (at 80% full economic cost (FEC)).

We expect to fund impact activities requesting funding between £50,000 and £300,000 (at 80% FEC).

Please note that due to the nature of this funding, additional requirements on spending profile, reporting, monitoring and evaluation as well as grant extensions will apply. This will be reflected in the grant additional conditions, and those funded will need to comply with them.

Further details are provided in the additional information section. In particular, please note that any projects funded through this funding opportunity will have a fixed start and end date, and that no slippage to this date will be permitted.

Grants will be funded at 80% of the stated FEC. The remaining 20% must be contributed by the academic or industry partners submitting the proposal.

The grant can support any directly incurred costs, such as research staff time, consumables and travel to the project partners, and also directly allocated costs, such as investigator time or overheads.

Prospective applicants are not required to have existing collaborations or contacts within the RAI UK programme.

Current RAI UK investigators may not lead a project nor be costed on the grant, but they may be named either as co-investigator or project advisor depending on their contribution.

Non-academic collaborators

Project co-leads from outside the UK and from non-academic organisations may be included in your costings, up to 30% of the total FEC. Where justified, the time of these partners can be listed under ‘Exceptions’ and will be funded at 100% FEC. The combined costs for non-UK and non-academic project co-leads must not exceed 30% of the total FEC of the grant application.

We recognise that some partners may be employed by a government-funded organisation. To avoid the double counting of public funds in the costings, no salary costs will be covered for project co-leads from government bodies

Salary costs for new staff to be recruited for the proposed work can be submitted as part of the application. Travel and subsistence costs and overheads will be allowable if appropriately justified.


Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is only available in exceptional, well-justified circumstances. Items of equipment should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading and will need robust justification. Items over £10,000 will be especially scrutinised, and only permitted if its remit for this funding opportunity is clearly justified.

Note that any deviation from the spending profile beyond 5% is not allowed (any underspend will not be refunded, nor any overspend allowed). No-cost extensions cannot be allowed.

How to apply

This funding opportunity has been scoped and delivered by RAI UK, a UKRI funded programme supporting research on the technical, social, legal and ethical challenges surrounding responsible and trustworthy artificial intelligence.

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

Proposals should be prepared using the provided submission template, completing all of the sections, and submitted in a PDF format via the online application portal.

Proposals must contain an explanation of how the proposed work aligns with the objectives of the RAI UK programme and how it fits into the frame of RAI UK. You should be explicit about the need for this funding and the added value your proposed activity brings to a specific area of the programme. All proposals must also demonstrate how they will ascertain adherence to their spending profile.

RAI UK reserves the right not to fund a project if ethical concerns exist or are raised by the reviewers or panels members. Concerns may include overlooked aspects, or issues not appropriately accounted for. You must complete the equality, diversity and inclusion and responsible research and innovation section to identify and demonstrate how challenges will be addressed as part of the research.

An eligible member of the research investigation team will be identified as the main contact. They will submit the bid and be the point of contact with RAI UK for all communication during the bid and post award (if successful). The main contact must register their intent to submit a proposal during the registration period. The registration and submission system will be activated by the stated opening date. Details will be published on the website.

To complete your bid submission, you will need to complete a bid details form in the submission system and upload your proposal document.

Sections of the form include:

  • key project details, bid summary and proposal upload
  • project team
  • financial information
  • alignment to RAI UK

Once you submit your proposal you will receive a confirmation email, including details of your submission.

RAI UK must receive your application by 4:00pm UK time on 7 September 2023.

How we will assess your application

This funding opportunity will be peer reviewed by RAI UK, a UKRI funded programme supporting research on the technical, social, legal and ethical challenges surrounding responsible and trustworthy artificial intelligence.

Assessment process

Proposals that meet the assessment criteria will be considered by a panel of experts in order to select the final successful proposals. While this panel of experts will include members of the core RAI UK team, the panel will also consist of experts outside of RAI UKs consortium.

All criteria detailed in this section will be assessed in determining the final rank ordered list using the panel introducers scale of one to 10. RAI UK will follow UKRI’s principles of peer review to ensure fairness and transparency within the decision making process.

Funding decisions will be made based on the rank ordered lists as well as the nature of the projects. To ensure a balanced portfolio of activities, we will aim to fund at least one project against each one of the impact types:

  • political
  • economic
  • societal
  • technological
  • legal
  • environmental
  • health
  • cultural

Assessment criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on their innovation, relevance to stakeholders, applicant team and alignment with the RAI UK programme given the type of project applied for. Impact projects can be categorised as follows:

  • early-stage knowledge exchange
  • secondments and people exchange
  • research software engineering support
  • postdoctoral residencies

All submitted impact proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria.

Quality of the proposed activity (primary)

This includes:

  • potential impact of the proposed activity for transformation outside academia with at least one core Research Excellence Framework impact type (political, economic, societal, technological, legal, environmental, health and cultural)
  • location of the proposed impact (UK, regional, and global)
  • adequate consideration of core issues for responsible and trustworthy AI
  • suitability of proposed methodology
  • realistic and achievable objectives and workplan, evidence of risk mitigation
  • relevance of the project to identified stakeholders and sectors, clear consideration of impact pathways

Relevance to stakeholders (secondary major)

This includes:

  • evidence of at least one named non-academic project partner
  • evidence of project co-creation with partners at an adequate level of engagement with key stakeholders or relevant partners
  • evidence of adequate partner support (in-kind or cash contributions)

Applicant team (secondary major)

This includes:

  • expertise and capabilities within the applicant team to deliver the project
  • multi and interdisciplinarity adequate for the proposed activity
  • suitability of the plans to include a diverse range of investigators from different backgrounds and career stages, particularly inclusion of suitable early career researchers is encouraged
  • potential to grow the career and networks of individuals involved

Fit to the RAI UK research programme (secondary major)

This includes:

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and responsible research and innovation (secondary major)

This includes:

  • plans to embed responsible innovation practices in the project
  • adequate consideration of EDI in terms of the research or knowledge exchange

Resourcing (secondary)

This includes:

  • adequate and fully justified resourcing
  • risks to resourcing fully identified and mitigated, including appropriate plans to manage finances during the lifetime of the activity
  • consideration of risks of delays in completing the project within the timeline specified, taking into account, for example, delays in getting ethics approval, or hiring key personnel

Awards are conditional upon acceptance of the non-negotiable terms and conditions, which will be set out in the award letter.

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.

Any general queries regarding the submission of proposals should be directed to the RAI UK operations team:

Our working hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm UK time, excluding
bank holidays and other holidays.

For any other funding opportunity specific information:

Additional info

The RAI UK programme of which this funding opportunity is a part is a £31 million strategic investment by the UK government in the area of responsible and trustworthy AI. RAI UK acts as a focal point for a broad range of initiatives to work across the community to co-create with all stakeholders an ecosystem to meet society’s needs for justice, equity, sustainability, and inclusivity. The RAI UK adopts a strong human-centred approach aligned with the UK AI strategy, to provide platforms for technological futures that promote inclusive and positive outcomes. The RAI UK moves beyond “making technology responsible and trustworthy” by ensuring the benefits and risks of AI can be recognised and governed by all those whose lives and livelihoods are affected by it.

RAI UK works to ensure society deploys and uses AI in a responsible way. Our approach is to equip the AI community with a toolkit that includes technological innovations, case studies, guidelines, policies and frameworks for all key sectors of the economy.

To achieve this, RAI UK works in collaboration with researchers, industry professionals, policymakers and stakeholders to drive an ecosystem that will be responsive to the needs of society. It is led by a team of experienced, well-connected leaders from all four nations of the UK, with complementary backgrounds, committed to an inclusive approach to the management of the programme.

This ecosystem consists of mechanisms to:

  • co-create research with industry and the public
  • establish contextual understandings of responsible and trustworthy AI for users, customers, and developers
  • develop pathways to scale the use of human-centred AI across society, industry and commerce

Grant additional conditions (GACs)

Please note that due to the nature of this funding stream, there will be specific spending requirements, monitoring and evaluation.

Projects will also be expected to commit to adhere to open-source, open-data and open-innovation guidelines.

Awards will be confirmed upon acceptance of the non-negotiable terms and conditions, which will be set out in the award letter.

The project team of all funded projects will be required to engage fully with the programme, including:

  • participating in RAI UK activities and events
  • attending partner meetings as required during the lifetime of the project
  • reporting including on commencing, mid-project, and at the end of the project

In addition, within one month of the end of the project, a final report will be submitted to the RAI UK Executive Management Team highlighting the project outcomes and impact.

Supporting documents

Submission template (DOCX, 63KB)

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