Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: UK future internet NetworkPlus

Apply for funding for a UK future internet NetworkPlus which brings together the research community, policymakers and wider stakeholders to make the UK an active leader in the development of the internet and an intelligent customer of internet technologies in the 2030s and 2040s.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

Awards will start by 1 July 2025 for three years and nine months.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change. The funding opportunity will open in late June 2024. More information will be available on this page then.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

This is a UKRI-wide funding opportunity. UKRI would like to encourage multidisciplinary and multi-institution teams to apply.

This opportunity is being managed by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on behalf of UKRI and EPSRC standard eligibility rules apply. For full details, visit EPSRC’s eligibility page. This does not restrict the home discipline or areas of expertise of the applicants.

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

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.


We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI or any other funder.

Find out more about EPSRC’s resubmissions policy and ESRC’s resubmissions policy.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

The funding opportunity is expected to open in late June 2024. More information will be available on this page when the full opportunity is announced. This is a pre-announcement and the information below is likely to change slightly. You should read the full opportunity page once published.


This opportunity falls under UKRI’s Creating Opportunities, Improving Outcomes strategic theme, which seeks to improve outcomes for people and places across the UK by identifying solutions that promote economic and social prosperity. The opportunity is part of the Future of the Internet initiative, whose vision is to support a future internet that works for all across the UK and globally, is pro-prosperity, secure and resilient, globally governed, scalable and robust, and supports democratic, open societies and the public.

Through this Future of the Internet initiative, UKRI, working with government partners, aims to bring to bear the potential contribution of the academic research community across multiple disciplines, to give the UK a world-class understanding of future internet possibilities based on a realistic understanding of what is within our control, and leading to well-considered options to inform policymakers.

This funding opportunity will fund one NetworkPlus, which will be responsible for creating a visible, collaborative and interdisciplinary UK Future of the Internet research community, providing a ‘front door’ for effective connection across academia, the UK security community, government (local, regional, devolved administration and UK or national), regulators and industry, and across the UK, and enabling effective response to needs and challenges between parties. The NetworkPlus will work with UKRI and other government partners to develop an understanding of the future internet landscape and a strategy for addressing the most relevant and timely research challenges in support of the UK’s desired future relationship with the global future internet. This will help to inform possible future investments in support of the broader aims of the initiative, which are detailed in the Additional Information section. It will also help to inform the UK future internet stakeholder community more broadly.


The UK future internet NetworkPlus will bring together the research community, policymakers and wider stakeholders to make the UK an active leader in the development of the internet and an intelligent customer of internet technologies in the 2030s and 2040s. It must take a strategic and forward-looking approach, in line with UKRI’s mission to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.

We expect the NetworkPlus to address the following objectives:

  • develop a visible, collaborative, inclusive, diverse and interdisciplinary UK Future of the Internet research community, drawing on the wealth of existing expertise and providing effective connection, communication, engagement and knowledge exchange across academia, the UK security community, government, regulators and industry
  • develop a cutting-edge understanding of the challenges and opportunities posed for the UK by evolving internet technologies and their sociotechnical implications and drivers, through consultation, understanding the international context and developing strategic foresight
  • inform UKRI’s research strategy in the area of future internet, through collaborative thought leadership and the development of ideas with stakeholders, with the aim of supporting policymakers to create a positive future for the UK
  • engage with a small number of specific places in the UK as case studies in place-based considerations for the future internet, to the mutual benefit of these places and the academic community, and to draw out learnings that may be transferable to other places

These begin to address the longer-term objectives for the Future of the Internet initiative, which are detailed under Additional Information.

Initial Future of the Internet challenge areas

For the purpose of this initiative, we are taking a broad view of the definition of the future internet, encompassing a connected network of future devices and technologies, its associated applications and services and their intersection and interaction with society.

UKRI and government stakeholders have identified the following initial set of challenge areas for further exploration during the initiative:

  • standards and regulation for the future internet and the UK’s influence on global standards development; principles such as openness and decentralisation, addressing risks of fragmentation, and promoting the resilience of the future internet
  • security in the future internet for people, prosperity, democracy and freedom, for example, mitigation of threats posed by states, terrorism, radicalisation, disinformation, cybercrime and serious and organised crime
  • international, geopolitical and diplomatic aspects relating to the future internet, including national security, governance, law and worldviews, as well as the UK’s relationship with the Global South in the context of the development of the future internet
  • future internet technologies, such as integrated or interoperable wired, wireless and satellite network infrastructure (and networks of networks), decentralised technologies and Internet of Things, software, and protocols
  • people-centred considerations such as future internet access or accessibility, inclusivity, personal control and agency, identity, security, and safety
  • realising a society-driven internet, including values, norms and ethics and public digital literacy
  • productivity and economic value for the UK in the future internet, including the needs of people in different places
  • evolving areas intrinsically connected to the future internet, such as internet-based AI and implications of AI for the internet, quantum internet technologies, net zero for the internet, immersive technologies, human augmentation, skills, intellectual property

For more information on the background of this funding opportunity, go to the Additional information section.


The duration of this award is three years and nine months.

Funding available

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project as calculated at proposal stage can be up to £6.5 million.

UKRI will fund 80% of the FEC. Our contribution may be up to £5.2 million prior to indexation.

Trusted Research and Innovation (TR&I)

UKRI is committed in ensuring that effective international collaboration in research and innovation takes place with integrity and within strong ethical frameworks. Trusted Research and Innovation (TR&I) is a UKRI work programme designed to help protect all those working in our thriving and collaborative international sector by enabling partnerships to be as open as possible, and as secure as necessary. Our TR&I Principles set out UKRI’s expectations of organisations funded by UKRI in relation to due diligence for international collaboration.

As such, applicants for UKRI funding may be asked to demonstrate how their proposed projects will comply with our approach and expectation towards TR&I, identifying potential risks and the relevant controls you will put in place to help proportionately reduce these risks.

See further guidance and information about TR&I, including where you can find additional support.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service so please ensure that your organisation is registered. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system. We will publish full details on how to apply when the funding opportunity opens.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

This funding opportunity will have a two-stage assessment process consisting of an outline stage and a full proposal stage.

Further details of the assessment process and assessment criteria will be published when the funding opportunity opens.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

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.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact quoting ‘Future of the Internet’ in the subject line.

Enquiries can be sent to this email address. However, we will not be able to provide additional information about this funding opportunity in advance of its publication.

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

See further information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your 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

Additional disability and accessibility adjustments

UKRI can offer disability and accessibility support for UKRI applicants and grant holders during the application and assessment process if required.

Webinar for potential applicants

We will hold a webinar on 9 July 2024 1:30pm to 3:00pm UK time. This will provide more information about the funding opportunity and a chance to ask questions. A recording of the webinar will also be made available. Registration is not required.

Watch the webinar


This NetworkPlus will make a significant contribution towards the broader aims of the Future of the Internet initiative. However, further funding is not confirmed, and the aims of the initiative may evolve during the course of the NetworkPlus investment. The following longer-term objectives have been identified for this initiative by UKRI and government stakeholders:

  • convene researchers from disparate disciplines to address the multidisciplinary challenges, and to seize the opportunities, posed by evolving internet technologies and their sociotechnical implications and drivers at a local, national and global level
  • provide national and local policymakers, the UK security community and industry with the research, evidence and expertise needed to inform policy and support UK leadership in the future internet
  • enable policymakers to take account of views across the UK for how the internet should evolve in a way that works across the UK, ensuring that the future internet is for everyone
  • leverage expertise and networks within relevant existing UKRI investments and provide greater coherence across the research and innovation community in the area of future internet

Anticipated outcomes

The following are potential outcomes of the work we are commencing:

  • a visible, collaborative and interdisciplinary UK Future of the Internet research community, providing a ‘front door’ for effective connection across academia, the UK security community, government (local, regional and national), regulators and industry, and across the UK, and enabling effective response to need and challenges between parties
  • world-leading targeted research on critical challenges across emerging internet technologies and the internet’s sociotechnical implications and drivers, drawing on relevant parts of UKRI’s communities, and working with research expertise from the national defence and security community and other government bodies
  • a high-quality evidence base and platform for knowledge exchange between academia and local, regional and national policymakers, supporting policymakers’ access to views and evidence from across the UK
  • a framework to deliver UK thought leadership in internet governance, security, standards development and potential for economic prosperity from the future internet
  • a strengthened future internet skills base in the UK, to support local and national policymakers, the UK national security community, and industry

Anticipated impacts

The potential longer-term impacts of the work we are beginning span research and innovation culture, the UK’s global reach and economic welfare, and society in the UK and worldwide. These impacts could include that:

  • building on the expertise of our world leading research base, the UK is well informed, forward thinking, and on the front foot when engaging internationally on the future of the internet
  • governments (local, regional, and national) have a clear, informed vision for a desired future of the internet
  • policymakers are well-informed and thereby empowered to shape the internet of the future to address place-based disparities and level up digital inequality across UK society and regions. Future place-based disparities and social and economic marginalisation of groups and areas related to the development of the internet are effectively mitigated
  • strong, effective partnership between governments (local, regional and national), regulators, industry and academia, enabling researchers to work on the most critical challenges, and enabling governments and other users to draw on a strong research base to inform policy
  • the UK is a globally respected and influential thought and skills leader participating in the development of a future internet which is a safe, secure, robust and accessible platform for the society of the future across the UK and globally, and supports sustainable economic growth across the UK
  • the UK has new research-informed tools (for example, regulatory, policy) to support the internet as a platform for society, for example supporting increased trustworthiness of internet content, better internet literacy, public trust, and the ability to challenge content

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.

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