We are looking to support projects that do one or more of the following:
- deliver high-quality engagement activities in the areas supported by STFC
- introduce STFC science and technology to new audiences
- highlight the achievements of STFC science and technology
- demonstrate the value to the UK of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
- work with our public engagement and communication teams.
Spark Awards usually encourage ‘novel approaches’ to engagement and audience.
However, in light of restrictions arising from COVID-19, we are relaxing the requirement for ‘novelty’ in this round. The situation will be kept under review for future rounds.
Programmes must focus on areas within the remit of STFC:
- solar and planetary science
- particle physics
- particle astrophysics
- nuclear physics
- accelerator science.
Spark Awards will not be awarded unless there is a strong and demonstrable link between your proposed activities and STFC science, technology or facilities.
You must explain how your project aligns with the STFC public engagement strategy (PDF, 1.1MB).
Applications that highlight the social, ethical, and economic benefits of research are welcomed.
We are particularly seeking proposals to work with eight to 14-year olds, and their families, in socioeconomically deprived areas, in line with the STFC Wonder initiative.
See ‘How to apply’ for guidance on how to align your project to the target audience of the Wonder initiative.
New digital content and COVID-19 measures
We recognise that there may be ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic that make traditional engagement modes substantially more challenging than they have been for previous Spark Awards funding rounds.
For this round we are therefore:
- actively encouraging applicants to consider the appropriateness of remote and virtual engagement methodologies as a potential focal area for their work
- loosening the previous restriction whereby we would only consider funding digital content (for example, websites, videos) as an intrinsic part of a wider engagement programme.
Projects do not need to be digitally based but those focusing on ‘face to face’ delivery are encouraged to actively consider contingency planning should funded activity delivery not be possible if social distancing measures change.
Applicants should take account of the current status and anticipated trajectory of social distancing at the time of submitting their application. Both STFC and the funding panel will assess these ‘in good faith’ recognising that many aspects of this may be subject to change beyond the applicant’s control.
Any application for digital content needs to include:
- a demonstration of the ‘evidence of need’ for any proposed content, or gaps in current provision of such material
- evidence that the target audience for any content will be involved in the design and production of such content, within the constraints of social distancing
- consideration of if and how the content will be sustained beyond the funded period, including potential funding sources
- information on licensing in order to promote sharing and re-use of the digital content
- acknowledgement of web accessibility rules and regulations.
STFC public engagement awards are often partnerships between the grant holders (who apply for and receive financial support from STFC) and ‘project partners’.
These partnerships are not a requirement of STFC support but will strengthen a case for funding when they are deemed well planned and important for delivery of an impactful programme.
Well-constructed partnerships strengthen proposals by providing:
- complementary skills and knowledge
- additional staff time
- additional cash or ‘in-kind’ support.
If an organisation wishes to receive funds from STFC, it must be a listed applicant on the grant application.
If an organisation will not receive funds from STFC, but will have an integral role in the proposed programme, that organisation is a ‘project partner’.
- create these partnerships with ‘project partners’ before submitting an application for funding
- include details of the partnership in the application.
STFC national laboratories and employees as ‘project partners’
STFC employs hundreds of scientific and technical staff, alongside our own team of public engagement professionals, at our laboratories across the UK.
You are welcome to ask to include STFC as project partners on public engagement applications, if relevant, and subject to the guidance above.
If you consider STFC involvement to be important in making your proposal a success, you must contact STFC staff at least four weeks in advance of the submission deadline.
To discuss the ability of STFC to participate in your proposal, get in touch with the public engagement contacts listed in the ‘Contact details’ section.
STFC reserves the right to choose not to participate in proposals at our own discretion. Please note that applications involving STFC as a project partner are treated no differently to other applications in the peer review and funding decision process.
Up to £15,000 is available to cover the full cost of projects lasting up to 36 months. Funding can be for a variety of things including:
- contributions to salary where the work would not be considered part of normal duties
- travel and subsistence.
For applications from, or for, schools, ‘requests for supply or teacher cover’ and ‘transport costs’ are also eligible.
Spark Awards do not come under the ‘full economic cost’ framework. This means £15,000 is the limit of funding. Any award we make will be the maximum amount payable, and will include any VAT payable.
We have no capital budget for Spark Awards. Items of equipment costing less than £10,000 should be requested under the ‘other costs’ heading. You must show that any requests for equipment are essential for the project.
Contributions to larger programmes
If you are requesting a Spark Award as a contribution to a larger programme, you should make this clear in your proposal. You should also make clear where additional funding for the programme is coming from.
Whenever possible, applicants should have secured this additional funding before seeking a contribution from STFC. If this is not possible, you must provide details of when further funding will be secured.
STFC reserves the right to reject an application that does not have convincing plans for securing all required funding, or to temporarily withhold funding for successful applications until proof of the required additional funding has been secured.
What the scheme will not fund
The following costs are ineligible for support through Spark Awards:
- projects where the target audiences are not primarily within the UK
- fees or honoraria to people already in paid employment to visit or give talks at schools, societies and so on, where such activities would reasonably be undertaken as part of their normal duties
- costs for hardware or equipment over the individual value of £10,000
- infrastructure funding or costs for building construction and maintenance
- projects where it is clear that the whole project would go ahead irrespective of STFC support
- retrospective funding, including those projects with a start date after the closing date but before the funding decisions are announced
- awards will not be funded for the sole purpose of authorship and publication of books and novels
- contingency funds.
For applications from, or for, schools, please note that requests for the following are ineligible:
- programmes of formal education
- school trips to CERN and trips to other laboratories, observatories and science venues, unless they are intrinsic to a wider public engagement project.