Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Scoping culture and heritage capital research

Apply for funding to identify future questions for culture and heritage research. The findings of your study will inform the approach of the government’s Culture and Heritage Capital Programme.

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

Your project team must include expertise from different disciplines, including:

  • arts and humanities
  • heritage science
  • at least one economist with published research.

Your project must start in September 2021 and last six months.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £150,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

To apply for this opportunity, you must be currently employed at a UK research organisation that is eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation.

Find out more about your organisation’s eligibility in section two of the AHRC research funding guide.

AHRC eligibility criteria applies to the principal investigator, any co-investigators and research assistants.

Projects must include a principal investigator (lead applicants) but can also include co-investigators, research assistants and other organisations as collaborators.

It is expected that the project team includes expertise from different disciplines appropriate to the scoping study including arts and humanities and heritage science experts.

Due to the focus of the research gaps involving economic techniques and theory, we expect the project team to include at least one economist with a high level of experience and recognised research.

What we're looking for

The AHRC and DCMS would like to invite applications for an interdisciplinary scoping study which will help inform and explore a potential future research initiative in relation to the DCMS Culture and Heritage Capital Programme.

DCMS has an ambition to develop a formal approach to value culture and heritage assets called Culture and Heritage Capital (CHC). The programme’s ultimate aim is to create publicly available statistics and guidance that will allow for improved articulation of the value of the culture and heritage sectors in decision making.

Valuation of benefits and costs plays an important role in deciding how the government should spend taxpayer’s money. The estimates should be used alongside other information, both quantitative and qualitative to create a robust evidence base for decision making.

To achieve this ambition there are gaps in the current evidence base that need to be understood and overcome. The successful project team will build on a set of suggested research areas, potentially adding their own suggestions, to form a comprehensive list of evidence gaps for the Culture and Heritage Capital Programme by engaging with stakeholders and conducting a rapid literature review

The project team will be expected to create a framework to prioritise the research areas into a justified shortlist which can be scoped within the project. This shortlist will need to be submitted to AHRC four weeks after the start date and it will be agreed by the Programme Steering Committee.

Upon completion of the scoping study, the project team will be required to include its findings within a report which will be published on DCMS’s Culture and Heritage Capital portal (GOV.UK).

With the help of this scoping study we want to establish:

  • which questions are already addressed in existing literature and how?
  • where there are knowledge gaps?
  • what questions should be put forward for further research
  • how can these questions be answered in future funds? (including nuanced recommendations on addressing each evidence gap).

The scoping study is expected to address the key areas, providing a comprehensive synthesis of existing knowledge and evidence base, as well as recommendations for future research needs that would be used to inform future activities.

A range of mechanisms should be used including, but not limited to:

  • a review of existing relevant studies, literature and techniques
  • examples of existing methods for measuring value
  • an assessment of different methodologies
  • examples of the current research landscape in these areas and potential for alignment to this for future research calls.

The successful project will be required to produce a final report outlining its findings. The report should describe the methods used to identify, prioritise and display gaps in existing work.

The proposed study must start in September 2021 and complete within six months, by March 2022. We require that applicants propose activity that is wise to, and adaptable in the face of coronavirus-related restrictions and that applicants consider safe and accessible, socially distanced or digital methods.

Suggested research areas

Below is an initial list of suggested evidence gaps.

1. Using heritage science to understand the relationship between degradation and value

Heritage science focuses on using socio-scientific techniques to understand the care and sustainable usage of objects to allow them to enrich people’s lives, both today and in the future.

Heritage science will play an important role within the Culture and Heritage Capital Programme to estimate the condition of physical assets, how this condition changes over time and how the condition affects the flow of benefits the assets produce.

Culture and Heritage assets are subject to degradation, but an intervention may also cause or stop irreversible damage. The latter might rule out later investment opportunities or alternative uses of resources, so it is particularly important to make a full assessment of the costs of any irreversible damage that may arise or be mitigated from a proposal.

The HM Treasury Green Book states that irreversibility is often associated with facilities on which people place:

  • ‘option values’: the value an individual receives from having the option to use the asset in the future
  • ‘existence values’: type of non-use value.

Given the uniqueness or rarity of many culture and heritage assets, the loss or degradation of an asset can be seen as an irreversible risk, because once the object is lost the value is irrecoverable or expensive to reverse.

The Culture and Heritage Capital Programme will bring together the economic methodology and the work of heritage scientists, who are best placed to estimate the impact of conserving assets and therefore rates of degradation and irreversible loss. How can scientific methods be combined with economic valuation techniques?

Possible questions:

  • how can we find the degradation rates for different culture and heritage assets?
  • how do we link the state of the assets to its value?

2. Discount rate and asset lives

Discount rates are used to account for time preference, a proven human trait that generally people prefer to receive goods and services now rather than later. To overcome this when modelling projections of benefits, discounting is used to compare costs and benefits occurring over different periods of time converting costs and benefits.

Currently Green Book guidance suggests a social discount rate of 3.5% for the first 30 years, 3% for years 30 to 75 and 2.5% from year 75 to year 125. ONS commissioned a review of discount rates for their Natural Capital Accounts which supported the use of Green Book guidance up to 100 years for renewable energy.

DCMS will conduct similar research into the most appropriate rates and asset lives for culture and heritage assets.


  • are the components of the social discount rate, suggested by HM Treasury Green Book, applicable to culture?
  • are there relevant studies that have assessed the appropriateness of the social discount rates to other sectors?
  • what are the alternatives to the Green Book guidance on Social Discount Rates?
  • should DCMS follow HM Treasury Green Book advice or use an alternative? What should this be?
  • do the services provided by historic assets increase over time as they become older and rarer? How do we account for this in our framework?

3. Time and culture and heritage capital

The relationship between the passage of time and heritage assets is not as straightforward as it is with other goods. Although time affects the conditions of heritage assets and the services they deliver, the value of heritage assets can also increase with time. People value more culture and heritage assets as they become older.

To better inform investment decisions we need to understand how these opposing forces come into play.

Possible questions:

  • how is the value of culture and heritage assets transformed with time?
  • do new cultural services appear?
  • what happens with the value of the new and old cultural services?
  • what is the opportunity cost of allowing culture and heritage assets to deteriorate?
  • which effect dominates with age, the reduction of value due to deterioration or the increase in value as cultural services are transformed?

4. The flow of services provided by culture and heritage capital and the benefits they produce

The Culture and Heritage Capital Framework sets out the stocks and flows approach whereby stocks of culture and heritage capital provide flows of services that create benefits to society. To calculate the stock value of an asset, we must understand the different flows of services that it provides.

Possible questions:

  • what are the different types of services provided by culture and heritage capital?
  • how can we identify if an asset is providing particular services?
  • which characteristics of an asset are likely to influence its ability to provide goods and services?
  • is the framework robust or should we be using a different approach to natural capital?
  • are there any lessons learnt from their application of this approach?
  • how can we capture co-benefits and benefits that go beyond an individual’s value?
  • are there any other types of value the framework is missing?
  • which benefits are realised from input of other capitals and which are derived directly from the stock of capital?

5. Drawing the line between natural capital and culture and heritage capital

The relationship between natural capital and culture and heritage capital is not well defined. Some would argue that natural assets are the result of historical decisions about the natural environment and that they are part and parcel of our heritage. Others would argue that culture and heritage capital are human-made creations that require human creativity, being different from natural capital.

To add more complexity, many UK environments share a mixture of natural capital assets and culture and heritage assets and some culture and heritage assets provide natural services and some natural assets provide cultural services.

These realities create the complicated issue of overlap between the natural capital account and the culture and heritage capital account. It is important that a distinction between the two accounts is made in order to avoid the double-counting of assets. It is also relevant to understand the merits of creating a culture and heritage capital account.

We need to develop a better understanding to ascertain the most pragmatic method for achieving this separation, with the limitations of valuation methods used to value natural and cultural service flows at the forefront of this thinking.

Possible questions:

  • an investigation into the best way to separate the natural capital account and the culture and heritage capital account
  • a view on the inclusion of some natural assets in the culture and heritage capital account and vice versa, as part of the method to separate the accounts
  • an exploration of the natural capital account perspective on the issue of overlap between the two accounts.

6. Understanding the relationship value between culture and heritage assets that constitute an interdependent unity

There are many culture and heritage assets that, added up, constitute a unity. For instance, this is the case of historic high streets that contain:

  • cathedrals
  • historic libraries
  • civic buildings.

Valuing these assets creates particular challenges. Further research is required to understand if the valuation can be done in a holistic manner or if it requires the valuation of each unique culture and heritage asset. This would also enhance our understanding of benefit transfer studies and the extent we can use them.

Possible questions:

  • is their overall value of a culture and heritage asset equal to the aggregation of the value of the culture and heritage asset that contains?
  • is the overall value of a culture and heritage asset higher than the aggregation of the value of the culture and heritage asset that it contains?
  • could the overall value of a culture and heritage asset be smaller than the aggregation of the value of the culture and heritage asset that it contains?

7. Applying non-use values

Non-use values are often overlooked in decision making, despite research showing they make up a substantial part of the value of culture and heritage assets.

Non-use values include:

  • bequest value (when someone is concerned about the next and future generations having the option to make use of the good)
  • altruistic value (when the individual is concerned that the good in question should be available to others in the current generation)
  • existence value (the value that individuals place on the knowledge that a resource continues to exist, whether or not they use that resource themselves).

There is currently no agreed approach to apply non-use value in practice.

Possible questions:

  • a review of the techniques used to find non use values
  • suggested methods for how non-use value should be applied to different types and sizes of culture and heritage assets
  • exploration of the data needed for an organisation to be able to estimate a non use value in practice.

8. Valuing the benefits of digital assets

With access to physical culture and heritage assets reduced through COVID-19 restrictions, the development and use of digital assets has grown considerably.

This shift to digital services has not yet been reflected in the non-market valuation literature, either in the academic or the more responsive grey literature fields. The ways in which people interact with digital assets is very different to physical assets and therefore may require different valuation methodology.

Valuation is made even more challenging by the variety in online platforms and the various ways cultural and heritage institutions have enabled people to engage with culture and heritage online.

Possible questions:

  • outline of the types of cultural digital assets and how people engage with them, including willingness to pay
  • an assessment of potential methodologies that could be used to capture the benefits of digital assets
  • does the value of digital assets degrade, and if so, how fast?
  • is the perceived value of digital assets affected by its copyright status?

9. Developing more innovative ways of capturing value using technology and data

As the use of technology becomes commonplace across culture and heritage attractions the use of ‘big data’ provided via these technologies can be used to gain insight into how people interact with culture and heritage.

Digital footprints from mobile applications can be used to understand how long people spend at an attraction and what they do while they are there. This data could be used to value people’s preferences for attractions, especially for festivals and events where survey based valuation is more difficult.

Technology could also be used to enhance the contingent valuation methods which have become commonplace in the field. Virtual reality technology could potentially allow for a more immersive experience for survey respondents to better understand how an intervention would change an asset. For example, what will a museum look like after an expansion.

Possible questions:

  • what relevant technology are organisations using?
  • how could technology and data be used to create alternative methods for valuation or improve current methods?

10. Welfare weighting

As recommended by HM Treasury Green Book, welfare weighting permits using distributional weights to adjust for diminishing marginal utility of income.

Without the use of welfare weighting there is potential that assets with higher income users will receive a higher estimated willingness to pay value. This could cause distorted decision making if it is not accounted for.

Further research is needed to identify circumstances where welfare weighting is needed and how it should be implemented.

Possible questions:

  • is this concept used in other studies or guidance?
  • how can a need for welfare weighting be identified, that is, where the user group’s socio-economic background is not representative of the population?
  • how could welfare weighting be applied to values estimated during future research or retrospectively?

11. Applying values from one site to another

A commonly used technique to estimate the value of the benefits provided by a cultural asset is to transfer values found for a site with similar characteristics to the asset you are interested in.

To do this one must ensure that the site they are transferring the values from is similar enough to the site of interest to ensure the values are accurate.

Further research is needed to ensure this transfer of value is accurate, potentially using econometric techniques or machine learning.

Possible question:

  • how can benefit transfer be made more accurate?

What we will fund

We will provide funding for: 

  • principal investigators time (salary and associated overhead costs)
  • co-investigators time (salary and associated overhead costs)
  • research assistant (salary and associated overhead costs)
  • a small amount of costs relating to collaborating organisations where expertise or knowledge is required (any organisation can be named as a ‘collaborating organisation’ but their contribution to the project must be fully explained within the application and all costs must be justified)
  • travel and subsistence costs.

What we will not fund

Where we will fund a small amount towards the cost of collaborating organisations participating in the project, applicants can also include ‘project partners’.

A project partner is an organisation who is offering an ‘in-kind’ contribution towards the project, therefore no costs should be claimed for this.  Examples of in-kind contributions could be access to:

  • data
  • material
  • information
  • expertise.

How to apply

You can apply for this opportunity from 29 June 2021 until the deadline, 16:00 on Tuesday 10 August 2021.

How to apply using the form

You will need to answer the following questions when you apply:

  • principal investigator (lead applicant) details
  • project title (max 20 words)
  • project summary (max 200 words)
  • objectives (max 200 words)
  • details of interdisciplinary research team (co-investigators and research assistants)
  • details of any project partners and collaborating organisations.
  • amount requested, up to £150 thousand (we will fund 80% full economic cost).

You are also required to attach a number of documents.

You should attach all your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

Summary of resources table

A template table is provided on the form.

Case for support

Methodology, scope or range of study, what information will be gathered, who will they approach.

Justification of resources

CVs and publications

A summary curriculum vitae should be attached as separate documents for each principal investigator and any co-investigators, named postdoctoral researchers.

These should be no more than two sides of A4. CVs should include basic information about education, employment history, and academic responsibilities.

Summary lists of publications and research outputs should be attached as separate documents for each principal investigator and any co-investigators or named postdoctoral researchers. These should cover major publications and outputs in the last five years and should be no more than one side of A4 paper.

Project partner letter or letters of support for all named project partners

Each project partner must provide a ‘project partner letter of support’, of no more than two sides of A4 or equivalent on headed paper by email in exceptional circumstances.

The letter should be written when the proposal is being prepared and should be targeted specifically to the project, it must therefore be dated within six months before submission (or resubmission) of the proposal.

The letter of support is intended to provide reassurance to the AHRC and to its reviewers that the appropriate authorisation has been given to the proposed contribution or commitment from the project partner.

To provide assurance that the project partner has authorised the proposed contribution or commitment the letter or email should be signed by the named contact, stating the capacity in which they are providing the sign off.

A well written project partner letter of support will confirm the organisation’s commitment to the proposed project by articulating the benefits of the collaboration, its relevance and potential impact.

The project partner letter should also identify:

  • the value, relevance and possible benefits of the proposed work to the partner,
  • the period of support
  • the full nature of the collaboration or support
  • how the partner will provide added value.

Where relevant to the project, details should be provided of the projected market size, customers and sales and how the organisation will commercialise the technology beyond the project. Project partner contributions, whether in cash or in kind, should be explained in detail in the project partner letter of support.

Letter of support from the lead research organisation

Please also provide a letter of support from the lead research organisation of no more than two sides of A4 or equivalent on headed paper or, in exceptional circumstances, in an email.

The letter of support is intended to provide reassurance to the AHRC and to its reviewers that the appropriate authorisation has been given for the lead research organisation to host the grant and provide all the necessary support. The letter or email should be signed by the named contact, stating the capacity in which they are providing the sign off.

For further details and help in applying, please read the AHRC research funding guide.

How we will assess your application

Before we assess an application, the AHRC will check it for eligibility:

  • of applicants and others included in the project (co-investigators, collaborators and so on)
  • against the aims and scope of the opportunity.

Applications which don’t adhere to these rules will be disqualified and will not progress any further. Incomplete, obscene or fraudulent entries will also be disqualified at this stage.

The AHRC will then share the entirety of the content of the applications, excluding the applicant contact details (email address), with the selection panel via a secure online portal.

The selection panel will represent diverse perspectives and specialisms and will include experts from representatives from AHRC’s Executive Chair and Directors Group, DCMS and other relevant experts from outside of AHRC and DCMS.

The selection panel will then assess all remaining applications against the assessment criteria below and assign an initial grade (1 to 6), where 1 is unsatisfactory and 6 is exceptional.

After considering all proposals, the selection panel will select the highest grading applications that meet our assessment and eligibility criteria.

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, we are not able to provide individual feedback if you are unsuccessful at the application stage.

Brief outline of assessment criteria

1. Projects are logically and realistically planned

Are the plans outlined within the application effective and well-managed? Are the lines of responsibility and accountability clearly articulated? Is the project achievable and measurable, within budget and timeframe?

2. Methodology

Is the methodology fit for purpose? Does the scope of the project cover the range of priority areas to produce a comprehensive study? Does the proposal give a clear sense of information they will draw upon to complete the study, for example, reviews, studies, data?

3. Interdisciplinary team

Does the team outlined within the application have the experience, knowledge and expertise to deliver a comprehensive study? Does the proposal provide a clear indication of who the team will approach to gather evidence and data (organisations, individuals and so on).

4. Value for money

The extent to which the likely outcome of the project will represent value for money, and in particular the relationship between the funds that are sought and the significance and quality of the projected outcomes and proposed study. Are the resources requested are reasonable?

Successful applicants

Successful applicants will be notified by email week of 6 September 2021.

They will need to complete their project details, including a detailed budget on the Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S). This will enable AHRC to set up an award and produce a payment schedule for the grant. Please ensure you are available to do this the week commencing 6 September 2021.

If you will be unavailable at any point during the assessment process, please note this on your application.

Successful applicants will be:

  • expected to regularly update the AHRC and DCMS on their project and initial findings
  • expected to present at the Culture and Heritage Capital Programme advisory group and steering group meetings
  • expected to produce a report with findings and recommendations for future research needs that would be used to inform future activities, further guidance on what to include within the report will be provided at award stage
  • required to submit their project outcomes to Researchfish upon completion.

Contact details

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Additional info

Terms and Conditions

 This guidance, and these terms, constitute the rules of the scheme.

The AHRC reserves the right to alter or amend any of these rules or cancel the opportunity at any time in their absolute discretion.

Your participation and your data

Your offer to participate in this opportunity is subject to continued acceptance of these conditions. By applying to the opportunity, you accept these rules and guidance.

You must supply full details as required and comply with all rules of the opportunity.

You recognise that your application and personal data will be shared with the AHRC and partner organisations for the purpose of administering this opportunity. You should also note that if we identify a need to do so we may contact you at a later date for more information about you.

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