Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UK census 2021/2 data opportunity: invite-only full stage

Invite-only opportunity, offering funding for tools, services and activities that enable researchers to find, use and analyse data from the 2021 and 2022 UK censuses for social science-led research.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £500,000. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

This opportunity uses a two-stage approach. We are now at stage two: invited full proposals. See ‘How to apply’ for details.

Funding is available until March 2026.

Who can apply

This is an invite-only funding opportunity. For previously published information about eligibility, see the listing of the outline stage opportunity (PDF, 248KB).

What we're looking for

How this opportunity specification has changed since outline stage

This specification is broadly unchanged since the one published at outline stage. It is your responsibility to read this full opportunity specification thoroughly, and ensure your proposal comprehensively addresses it.

Key changes since outline stage include:

  • removal of the words ‘high-level’ from the requirement to provide a timetable
  • outlined ESRC’s expectations regarding data management
  • added the role ‘project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))’ to the permissible roles
  • addition of new application questions, for example on vision, ethics, partners and costs
  • substantial additions to what is required under the ‘Approach’ question. This includes requiring more assurance about project dependencies, and more information from projects which may endure beyond March 2026
  • increases to application section word counts
  • updates to the ‘How we will assess your application’, to reflect the Full stage assessment process


The aim of the opportunity is to enable the use of UK census 2021/2 data for excellent social science-led research.

Within the constraints of time and budget, the opportunity pursues the following outcomes:

  • services are in place to support researchers who wish to use UK census 2021/2 data for social science-led research
  • tools and research-ready datasets that enable research with census data have been created
  • researchers are more aware of the wide variety of census data that will become available and understand how to access and maximise their use of it
  • researchers are more aware of the services and support (including training) that is available

This funding opportunity relates to census data produced by the 2021 censuses in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland; and by the 2022 census in Scotland. This data includes:

  • aggregate and individual-level census data
  • census data linked to other sources of data (including government administrative data)
  • census data linked longitudinally, including through the existing census longitudinal studies

We encourage projects that take a UK-wide approach. However, projects that do not cover all UK nations or regions are within scope: this should be justified in your application.

What we will fund

ESRC could fund activities such as:

  • new data services
  • user support services
  • methodological research to solve challenges in processing census data for research purposes
  • research-ready data products, including linked datasets
  • software and other tools to support the creation or use of census data infrastructure
  • training and networking related to the use of census data infrastructure, including coordination of, or signposting to, existing training opportunities
  • development of guidance on how to use census data for research
  • communications and engagement to facilitate data use, particularly across the UK censuses collectively (including pre-2021 records)

What we will not fund

Duplication of existing and planned delivery

We will not fund proposals that duplicate current or planned service delivery by other agencies or UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investments.

The statistical agencies that run the UK censuses are custodians of their data. They provide support and advice to users and communicate actively with wider audiences. They also operate data processing activities and services that enable census data to be used for research. It is essential that current or planned activity by the agencies is not duplicated by proposals funded under this opportunity.

We encourage direct engagement with the agencies by applicants to identify potential duplication.

Information about data from each of the UK censuses and contact details for specific advice can be found on the following websites:

We are a long-standing funder of support services for census data. Our current investments with significant relevance to census data include:

Our existing census-related investments are funded through other means. The purpose of this funding opportunity is not to replace such funding.

Other exclusions

Analysis of census data will not be funded unless this work is solely focused on finding practical solutions to challenges in processing census data so that it can be used for research.

Projects without a primary focus on the data gathered in the UK through the 2021 or 2022 censuses will not be funded.

When grants should start

You should note the funding opportunity timetable. Projects cannot begin until after a grant offer has been made.

We recognise that census data releases are still under active development by the UK statistical agencies, especially in Scotland.

All grants should begin at the earliest opportunity. We will apply the following principles:

  • projects focused on England, Northern Ireland and Wales should begin immediately
  • projects focused solely on Scotland may begin later
  • UK-wide projects should begin work relating to England, Northern Ireland and Wales immediately, with activity relating to Scotland beginning later

Any requested variations to the above principles should be clearly justified in proposals.

Where there is uncertainty about the nature and timing of future data releases on which proposals have key dependencies, we will agree with grant holders a proportionate gateway review process to release funds.


We can provide funding until 31 March 2026. All investments should produce outcomes and outputs of public value by the end of their funding. This could include the establishment of prototypes or minimum viable products.

We recognise that some activities may take longer to produce all beneficial outcomes, and that new data services may have the potential to continue delivering value for the research community if they were to operate beyond March 2026.

You should state in your application whether your project will be:

  • fully complete by March 2026 with no ongoing resource requirement
  • capable of continuing to deliver value in the short-term with limited additional time or funding required beyond March 2026 (for example one to two years)
  • capable of delivering value over a longer period (three years or more), if funding were to continue

All applications should set out a timetable and state what will be delivered by the end of our funding.

Outputs and outcomes should be delivered at the earliest opportunity: this may be significantly before the grant end date.

We can make no commitment to provide further funding beyond what is offered by this funding opportunity. However, funded projects capable of delivering value beyond 2026 will be asked to develop plans for future work, which it is possible that we may consider funding.

Funding available

The total funding available from ESRC is £2.4 million.

The full economic cost of your project should be in the range £150,000 to £500,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Investment monitoring

We will set out monitoring and reporting requirements in the terms and conditions of the grant award. Grant holders will be required to produce an updated timeline, deliverables list and risk register at the start of the grant, for regular discussion with us.

The grant holders will be expected to provide us with a short, written update on activities quarterly, with the format to be agreed at the outset of the award. More frequent updates will be expected on important activities, risks and major project changes if they present a risk to the grant meeting its objectives. We will assign an investment manager as a lead contact for each funded investment.

We will establish a stakeholder forum in relation to census data which grant holders should attend. Meetings are likely to be in a virtual format, two to three times per year. It is expected that grant holders will provide a short update to this forum.

Grant holders will be expected to engage with the two Future Data Services strategic fellows (until 2024), and with CeLSIUS, NILS-RSU, SLS-DSU, UK Data Service, ADR UK and Smart Data Research UK to identify opportunities to maximise the use of census data.

Data requirements

We recognise the importance of data quality and provenance. Data generated, acquired or processed by ESRC-funded research must be well-managed by the grant holder. See our research data policy for details and further information on data requirements. The requirements of the research data policy are a condition of ESRC research funding.

Where relevant, details on data management and sharing should be provided in the ‘Data management’ section.

How to apply

Funding opportunity format

The funding opportunity involves two application stages: an open outline stage, followed by invited full applications. We are now at stage two: invited full applications.

Do not apply to this opportunity unless you have been invited to do so.

Development of proposals submitted at outline stage

It is expected that proposals will evolve between outline and full stages. This might include the addition or removal of staff or partners. ESRC places no limits on the revisions that may be made, but proposals should not be radically different in terms of what is proposed. It is acceptable to re-submit material from outline stage unchanged.

UKRI Funding Service

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 UK Research and Innovation (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
  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.


We must receive your application by 7 November 2023 at 4.00pm UK time

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Personal data

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.

Publication of outcomes

ESRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at board and panel outcomes.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.


Word limit: 500

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits
  • the impact it will have on enabling the use of UK census 2021/2 data for excellent social science-led research

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

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

Primary discipline classification

Word count: 5

Question: Enter the primary discipline for this project.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Select the primary area of research from the list of disciplines below and enter into the text field:

  • area studies
  • demography
  • development studies
  • economics
  • education
  • environmental planning
  • history
  • human geography
  • law and legal studies
  • linguistics
  • management and business studies
  • political science and international studies
  • psychology
  • science and technology studies
  • social anthropology
  • social policy
  • social work
  • sociology
  • tools, technologies and methods

This information is used to determine eligibility for ESRC funding and to assist in the selection of appropriate reviewers.

Core questions


Word limit: 500

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

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, or generate 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

In this section you should explain how the project will contribute to the achievement of the opportunity aim and at least one of the outcomes (stated above).


Word limit: 2,500

What are your plans to manage the proposed project?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

We expect you to show how your approach includes:

  • a credible management plan including strategic and operational matters (proportionate to the scale and complexity of the activity)
  • details of governance (proportionate to the scale and complexity of the activity); will an external advisory group be needed?
  • a feasible project plan including a work plan, milestones and deliverables
  • identification of risks and appropriate mitigation
  • training and development of staff

Within this section you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • files must be smaller than 8MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Proposals for projects that could endure beyond 2026 should outline, (1) how the project would be sustainable beyond the end of its ESRC grant without further funding from ESRC, (2) opportunities for continued ESRC funding and the benefit this would have, (3) projected ongoing running costs in either case.

Within this section we also expect you to discuss the main dependencies which could, for example, include requiring the statistical agencies to supply data. Proposals should, as far as possible, give assurance that these dependencies can be successfully negotiated. This should include providing a letter of support (see the ‘Project partners’ section, below).

Within the Approach section we also expect you to:

  • state what will be delivered by the end of ESRC’s funding
  • justify the requested grant start date
  • outline the main stakeholder and beneficiary groups, and how these relationships will be created and managed
  • where relevant, outline how you will support and facilitate effective integration and collaboration, between your project and other data services

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word limit: 1,500

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
  • a thorough understanding of the census data landscape, and (where relevant) of related issues such as privacy or statistical disclosure control

The word count for this section is 1,500 words: 1,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help 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. 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

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).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 500

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

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations

All proposals should comply with the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics which includes guidance for applicants and links to related web resources.

You should address any legal or ethical considerations relating to your use of data here.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 750

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Justify the application’s more costly resources, in particular:

  • project staff
  • significant travel for field work or collaboration (but not regular travel between collaborating organisations or to conferences)
  • any equipment that will cost more than £10,000
  • any consumables beyond typical requirements, or that are required in exceptional quantities
  • all facilities and infrastructure costs
  • all resources that have been costed as ‘exceptions’

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you 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

Project Partners

Word limit: 1,000

Provide details of any project partners’ contributions, and letters or emails of support from each named partner.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Download and complete the Project partner contributions template (DOCX, 52KB) then copy and paste only the table into the text box.

Upload the letters and or emails of support in this section. 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

Save letters or emails of support from each partner in a single PDF no bigger than 8MB. Unless specially requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

For the file name, use the unique UKRI Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Project partner letters’.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply. If you do not have any project partners, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Ensure you have prior agreement from project partners so that, if you are offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the contributions template.

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

Do not provide letters of support from host and project co-leads’ research organisations.

Data management

Word limit: 500

How will you manage and share data collected, acquired or processed through the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, you should provide a data management plan to:

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.


Word limit: 1,000

List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Include all references in this section, not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application.

If linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible.

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will convene an independent panel of experts. Panel members will be assigned a selection of proposals to assess and introduce to the panel meeting. The panel will make a funding recommendation to ESRC.

Decisions at this stage may reflect our need to fund a balanced portfolio of investments, for instance one which includes all parts of the UK.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment areas

Panel members will use the criteria for the following questions, set out in the ‘How to apply’ section:

  • Vision
  • Approach
  • Applicant and team capability to deliver
  • Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)
  • Resources and cost justification
  • Project Partners
  • Data management
  • References

Principles of assessment

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

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

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


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 core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the UKRI Funding Service helpdesk on

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your UKRI Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual 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, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 176KB)
Previous outline stage (PDF, 248KB)


  • 15 September 2023
    Word limit for references changed from 500 to 1,000 in 'How to apply' section.

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