Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UKRI cross research council responsive mode pilot scheme: round 1

Apply for funding for breakthrough interdisciplinary ideas that transcend, combine or significantly span disciplines.

This pilot scheme will support ideas not routinely funded through existing UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) responsive mode schemes.

Awards will be potentially transformative for the participating disciplines or lead to the creation of new disciplines.

Principal investigators must be based at an organisation eligible for UKRI research council funding.

UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost of your project which can be up to £1.2 million for up to 2 years. We expect to make 36 awards.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

  • the eligibility of your organisation
  • the person eligibility criteria, depending on your role on the grant

Organisation eligibility

Research grants are open to organisations normally eligible for funding from the UKRI Research Councils, including:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments

Check if your organisation is eligible for research and innovation funding.

Person eligibility and grant roles

You can apply as an individual or consortium, based in a single institute or across a number of institutions.

You should check to see if you are eligible for funding as an individual under UKRI’s eligibility policy.

You may be involved in any number of applications provided you have the capacity to meet these commitments. You may be the principal investigator on only 1 application to this round of the pilot scheme.

Principal investigator and co-investigator eligibility

The principal investigator is the individual responsible for the intellectual leadership of the project and its overall management. If intellectual leadership is shared, the principal investigator is the individual who will be the main contact for UKRI.

The co-investigator assists the principal investigator in the management and leadership of the project and may deputise or take over the leadership of the project if required. There may be a number of co-investigators supporting the principal investigator.

You must meet all the following essential requirements:

  • usually have at least a postgraduate degree, although we expect most applicants to have a PhD or equivalent
  • be a researcher based in the UK and employed by an eligible research organisation. The exceptions to this are if:
    • your project will involve long periods in another country
    • you are located at an eligible international research organisation (for example, CERN or a Medical Research Council Overseas Unit)
    • you will be moving to the UK to take up an already agreed contract at an eligible organisation (the contract must not be dependent on the outcome of the application) and will remain resident in the UK for the duration of the proposed project.
  • a contract of employment at lecturer level or equivalent that either:
    • extends to beyond the duration of the proposed grant (or, if not employed by the submitting organisation, a formal non-salaried arrangement that extends to beyond the duration of the proposed grant),
    • or an assurance from the submitting organisation that, if the proposal is successful, a pre-existing contract of employment (or pre-existing formal commitment to provide support if not employed at the organisation) at lecturer level or equivalent will be extended beyond the end date of the grant.

Researcher co-investigators are also permitted to apply. For the outline stage, researcher co-investigators should apply in Je-S as co-investigators.

International co-investigator eligibility

This funding opportunity is primarily to support interdisciplinary ideas emerging from the UK research community, but in specific circumstances we will allow international co-investigators.

An international co-investigator is an individual from an established international research organisation that is of comparable standing to a recognised UK research organisation, who would otherwise fit the normal definition for a principal investigator. That is, they would assist the principal investigator in the management and leadership of a project, although they would not be expected (or normally eligible) to take over the lead of the project at any point.

To be an international co-investigator you:

  • would be expected to make a significant intellectual contribution to the design and conduct of the project
  • your inclusion as an international co-investigator will need to be specifically justified in the application
  • you would be expected to be someone providing unique expertise or access to resources not available in the UK

Current co-funding arrangements via international lead agency agreements with individual research councils, including the UKRI Norway agreement, do not apply to this pilot funding opportunity. We will explore supporting international researchers under these agreements in round 2.

Project partners

A project partner is defined as a third-party person or organisation (including international or non-academic collaborations) who provides specific contributions to the team and project.

Project partners should be included in the outline application where known, but additional partners can be added between the outline and full stage application. No letters of support from project partners are required for outline applications.

Organisations that are applicants on the project, including any named applicants’ organisations, cannot also be a project partner. UKRI Head Office Staff acting in their capacity as a UKRI employee are not eligible to be project partners.

Project partners are expected to provide contributions to the delivery of the project, either in cash or in kind, and should not therefore be seeking to claim funds from UKRI. However, where there are specific circumstances where project partners require funding for minor directly incurred costs such as travel and subsistence, this will usually be paid at 80% FEC unless otherwise stated by us. These costs will need to be outlined and fully justified in stage 2 (full application) and will be subject to peer review.

Project subcontractor

A project subcontractor is defined as a third-party individual who is not employed as staff on the grant, who is subcontracted by a participating organisation to deliver a specific piece of work. Subcontractors will be allowed in line with UKRI terms and conditions for research grants, but details are not required for stage 1 (outline applications).

Project partner and subcontractor entitlement to project outputs and intellectual property

Entitlement to the outputs of a project or intellectual property will be determined between the parties involved, however any access to project outputs or intellectual property must be in line with any relevant Subsidy Control regulation. Under UKRI terms and conditions for research grants you must ensure at all times that the grant funding awarded to you is compliant with the Subsidy Control Act 2022. Any entitlements will need to be set out in a formal collaboration agreement if a grant is awarded, as per FEC Grant condition RGC 12.1.

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

Cross research council responsive mode pilot scheme

This is a new pilot scheme designed to support interdisciplinary ideas emerging from the research community outside current disciplinary boundaries. We will support projects that transcend, combine or significantly span disciplines, involving different knowledge and methodological spheres. The new scheme will power innovative conceptual thinking and research, and novel methodological approaches, to ensure UKRI supports a rich and diverse array of blue skies and applied research.

We know how important existing responsive mode council schemes have been in supporting research and innovation with transformative outcomes for knowledge, economy and society. This scheme will help do the same for research that does not fit the remit of current research councils’ responsive mode schemes, helping ensure there is space for the convergence and divergence of new ideas across all fields of research.

We are piloting this scheme over two rounds of funding, allowing us to assess demand, and test and refine our processes.

Interdisciplinary research

For the purposes of this scheme, we are using the following definition of interdisciplinary from the REF 2021 Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel final report: “Interdisciplinary research is understood to achieve outcomes (including new approaches) that could not be achieved within the framework of a single discipline. Interdisciplinary research features significant interaction between two or more disciplines and / or moves beyond established disciplinary foundations in applying or integrating research approaches from other disciplines”

Scheme objectives

This funding is to support interdisciplinary research, including to:

  • unlock new research, new approaches or new methods that would not emerge from established disciplinary thinking
  • demonstrate reciprocal research benefits through the integration of distinct disciplinary perspectives and spheres of knowledge
  • support breakthrough or disruptive ideas and collaborations
  • incentivise new and unexpected types of interdisciplinary research not routinely funded through existing UKRI responsive mode schemes
  • encourage speculative, early stage and high potential interdisciplinary research proposals, embracing new concepts, techniques, or technologies

We are seeking:

  • high quality, and creative ideas that transcend, combine or significantly span research council remits
  • new, unexpected and novel projects that have the potential to lead to breakthrough ideas and collaborations
  • research that can only be addressed through interdisciplinary collaboration
  • projects combining disciplines to create new approaches to a research question, new methodologies or new ways of working
  • reciprocity across the disciplines, with the disciplines involved being changed or transformed by working together
  • projects that catalyse new interdisciplinary research through co-creation and design
  • ideas with no clear ‘lead’ UKRI research council for responsive mode funding including applications that significantly span two or more research council remits

We are not seeking:

  • applications where there is a clear alternative research council responsive mode scheme including interdisciplinary research that fits within a single research council remit
  • projects where the programme of work appears siloed and where interdisciplinary research outcomes are limited, for example, where work packages are discrete and discipline specific rather than integrating disciplinary knowledge
  • projects where there is an imbalance of the intellectual content and some disciplines appear ‘bolted’ on

Existing UKRI funding mechanisms for interdisciplinary research

The existing research council responsive mode schemes remain open for a wide range of interdisciplinary research applications, both within council boundaries and across council boundaries through the Cross-Council Remit Agreement. Further information about these existing schemes and research councils’ remits can be found here.

You should carefully consider the degree to which your proposal meets the criteria set out for this new scheme, or whether it could be accommodated through existing council led responsive mode funding opportunities and submitted to a ‘lead council’ through the Cross-Council Remit Agreement. Interdisciplinary research applications that fall within a single research council boundary are ineligible for this scheme.

A small proportion of applications might be suitable for both this funding opportunity and existing responsive mode schemes via the Cross-Council Remit Agreement. You must determine which scheme to make your submission to, duplicate applications are not permitted. Only invited resubmissions will be allowed in future rounds.

Funding available

UKRI will invest a total of £65m funding across two rounds of the cross research council responsive mode interdisciplinary scheme. We anticipate making around 36 awards in this first round and ask that research organisations are mindful of this number. We expect research organisations to ensure applications from their institution fit the scheme’s objectives. We encourage research organisations to prioritise diverse and distinctive ideas that tread new ground, and to help support a diversity of applicants to the scheme.

The full economic cost of your project can be between £200,000 to £1.2 million. UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost. A resources summary is not required for stage 1 (outline applications).

Costs can cover

Directly incurred costs:

  • staff payroll
  • travel and subsistence
  • access to facilities and resources
  • other costs including consumables and equipment costing less than £10,000

Directly allocated costs:

  • principal investigator and co-investigator salaries
  • estates costs and shared resources

Indirect costs:

  • such as research organisation administration

If you need to use a research council facility the following will apply:

  • costs will be funded at 80% FEC
  • you will need to check you are eligible to access the facility
  • you should discuss your research proposal with the facility or service you want to use before submitting your outline funding application
  • you should make sure that you are aware of the access procedures, resource availability and timelines at an early stage in developing your proposal. You may need to apply directly to the facility or service as well as including it in your funding application
  • you will need to provide a technical assessment (which may be in the form of a quote) and confirmation that you can use the facility or service only at the full stage application
  • extension to grants will not be given due to unavailability of facilities intrinsic to the project, for example ship or air time. You should make sure that the facility will be able to provide access or services during the period of your grant. Under UKRI terms and conditions you grant needs to start within six months from the date of the award letter

This is an opportunity for research projects; applications focused on capital requests for research infrastructures are not eligible.

Individual items of equipment above £10,000 can be included if both of the following apply:

  1. the equipment is essential to the proposed research
  2. no appropriate alternative provision can be accessed

UKRI will fund up to 50% of the cost of equipment above £10,000. Additional justification of the requirement for individual items of equipment above £10,000 is only required at the full application stage.

Costs that cannot be included:

  • fees or stipends associated with Masters and PhD studentships
  • estate and indirect costs for international co-investigators.

Costs for international co-investigators

For international co-investigator costs, UKRI will award funding to the UK lead organisation; this organisation will then be responsible for distributing funds to the international research organisation. Justified costs will be funded at 100%.  Estate and indirect costs are not eligible. The total costs claimed for international co-investigators contribution to a project must not exceed 30% of the overall cost of the project, calculated at 100% full economic cost.

These costs can cover:

  • directly incurred costs, such as travel and subsistence
  • research assistants (for example salary costs)
  • salary costs, only where these costs are fully justified and it can be demonstrated that the funding of salaries by grants is the standard practice of the international research organisation, and these costs cannot be covered through other sources

Start date and duration

Your project can last up to two years. The earliest start date for your project can be 1 July 2024. A period of up to six months from the date of the award letter to the commencement of grant activity is permitted.

Conditions of the award

Awards will be made under standard UKRI terms and conditions for research grants to the UK lead organisation, which will be responsible for the management of the award.

How to apply

Attend a webinar

The launch of the pilot scheme was supported by two webinars for prospective applicants and professional research support staff that presented an overview of the scheme, followed by an opportunity to ask questions.

Webinar 1: 13 June 2023 at 1:00pm to 2:30pm UK time.

Webinar 2: 22 June 2023 at 10:30am to midday UK time.

Watch webinar recording on YouTube

Webinar slides and answers to questions asked at both webinars can be found in the ‘Additional info’ section, under ‘Supporting documents’.

Registration for the webinars included a short survey for prospective applicants.

Additional questions included:

  • what is your idea? (300 words)
  • what is your career stage?
  • do you have collaborators already engaged?
  • when do you think your idea would be ready to submit?:
    • within the next six months
    • in 6-12 months
    • in 12-18 months
    • longer than 18 months?

This information was collected to understand the level of interest in the scheme, the range of ideas and the type of applicants we might expect. Answers to the survey will not be used in any assessment process and its completion is not a requirement to submit an outline application. Information submitted as part of the survey will only be used for internal analysis purposes. Aggregated data from submissions may be used as part of the scheme evaluation to provide baseline data.

Part of the survey also provided you with an opportunity to submit questions about the scheme to help us tailor the content of the webinar. We are not able to provide feedback on eligibility or fit to scheme (including remit) of your idea at this stage.

Application stages

This first round of the pilot scheme comprises two stages:

  • submission of an outline application (Je-S)
  • invited submission of a full application (the Funding Service)

Full applications will not be accepted from any applicant who has not been invited to make a full application following the outline stage of this funding opportunity.

Stage one: outline application

An outline application must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

This is a UKRI cross research council responsive mode scheme which, for technical reasons, will be hosted by MRC on Je-S.

You will not be able to submit your application until the opportunity opens in Je-S on 8 June 2023.

Outline applications must be made on a single Je-S form with one organisation identified as the lead. This research organisation would be responsible for the management of the award, if successful.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All principal investigators and co-investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any principal investigators and co-investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one as soon as possible and at least 7 working days before the opportunity deadline. This is to allow for the account activation and verification by the research organisation. This includes international co-investigators, who must have an active Je-S account and it is the lead UK based research organisation’s responsibility to ensure that this is the case.

We expect the full team of principal investigators and co-investigators to be established as part of the outline application and involved in the co-creation of the project.  There may be exceptional circumstances where team members may need to change between outline and full stage, for example, a change in circumstances for a team member meaning they are no longer able to be part of the project. Further guidance will be given for full stage applications on addressing these changes.  If you are not yet certain about your team, we suggest waiting until the second round of the pilot scheme.

When applying:

  • Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  • Select ‘call search’.
  • To find the opportunity, search for: ‘UKRI cross research council responsive mode scheme round 1 outline stage July 23’

This will populate:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: Outline Proposal
  • scheme: Standard Outline
  • call name: UKRI cross research council responsive mode scheme round 1 outline stage July 23

The outline application requires a:

  • Je-S proposal form
  • case for support attachment

Je-S proposal form

The Je-S proposal form includes the following fields:

  • project details: submitting organisation, project title, and proposed start date and duration (mandatory)
  • investigators: the roles, names, and organisations of the principal investigators and co-investigators ) (mandatory)
  • summary: a summary of the vision and approach to your project and how it fits with the scheme objectives (mandatory, up to 4000 characters)
  • project partners: list any known or potential project partners at this stage (optional)
  • classifications: research council relevance and a minimum of 5 keywords (mandatory)


  • Case for support:

For stage 1 outline applications, the only attachment in Je-S that should be provided is a case for support. This should focus on your vision and approach to your proposed research, providing evidence that it meets the scheme objectives (see “what we’re looking for”). The case for support will be assessed using the outline assessment criteria (see ‘how we will assess your application’). The case for support should be no more than two sides of A4 and address the following questions:

  1. What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work? Use this question to describe your project vision, aims and objectives.
  2. How does your project align to the scheme objectives? Use this question to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of your project.

See the assessment criteria for further guidance on answering these questions. As guidance, we would expect to see half of your case for support focused on each question.

We are not expecting extensive references for outline proposals. Any references included must be within the page limit. At a minimum, font size 11 in Arial or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size must be used with a minimum of single line and standard character spacing. Page margins should be no less than 2 cm.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

Sensitive information

If you need to flag any significant issues or provide any sensitive information to UKRI head office staff confidentially (such as conflicts of interest that are not apparent from your application), there is an option to provide this information in an additional attachment (cover letter type). This attachment will not be shared with college members assessing your proposal, so it should not be used to describe your proposed research and should only be used if necessary.

Project costs and justification of resources are not required at the outline stage. No other attachment types (for example CVs, letters of support) will be accepted.


UKRI must receive your outline application by 20 July 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your application to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

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

Stage two: full application

After assessment by the Interdisciplinary Assessment College successful outline applications will be invited to submit a full application. Invitations to proceed to stage two of the assessment process will be announced in late November 2023.

The full application stage will be run on our new funding platform, the Funding Service. The Funding Service has a digital question and answer format with sections addressing application questions. The main sections and core questions that will be asked at full application stage will include:

Vision and approach (building on the information from stage one):

  • what are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?
  • how does your proposed work fit the scheme objectives?
  • how are you going to deliver your proposed work?

Applicant and team capability to deliver:

  • why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

The format for this section will follow the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI).

Resources and cost justification:

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

Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI):

  • what are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work?

Full guidance on requirements and how to submit your application through The Funding Service will be provided to applicants at invitation.

How we will assess your application

Assessment criteria

Stage one: outline application

The Interdisciplinary Assessment College will assess proposals based on the following assessment criteria:

1. What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

  • does the proposed work have the potential to advance current understanding and generate new knowledge, thinking, concepts, techniques, methods or technologies or discoveries through interdisciplinary collaborations and disruptive ideas?
  • is the proposed work timely given current trends, context and needs?
  • is there a high potential for delivering ground-breaking and transformative outcomes that could only be achieved through interdisciplinary research?

2. How does your project align to the scheme objectives?

Does the proposed work:

  • clearly demonstrate that the research involves disciplines from more than 1 research council and explores new types of, and approaches to, interdisciplinary research not routinely funded through existing UKRI responsive mode schemes
  • include a project team with the expertise in the disciplines required for the delivery of the project?
  • demonstrate the potential for reciprocal research benefits through the integration of distinct disciplinary perspectives and spheres of knowledge?
  • demonstrate how potential challenges will be addressed in conducting interdisciplinary research and outline how these will be overcome?
  • show co-creation and design involving all disciplines required for successful delivery of the project?

Assessment process

Interdisciplinary Assessment College

Applications will be assessed by the Interdisciplinary Assessment College.

The Interdisciplinary Assessment College and the chairs will have expertise in interdisciplinary working and will be trained specifically for this funding opportunity.

Stage one: outline application

The purpose of stage one is to identify and prioritise high potential ideas to progress to the full stage. Your proposal will be assessed against the scheme objectives outlined in the “What we’re looking for” section, using the assessment criteria above. A more detailed assessment of your proposal will be undertaken at the full stage.

Initial remit checks will be carried out by UKRI staff from across the research councils to ensure that the proposed research is interdisciplinary, significantly spanning or transcending the current remit boundaries between research councils. UKRI may reject applications at this stage if they do not meet this objective of the scheme.

Eligibility checks will only be done at full application stage. Applicants should ensure that they adhere to the UKRI eligibility guidelines.

Your application will be assigned to three college members for assessment, based on their appropriate expertise and experience in the interdisciplinary research areas, concepts, approaches, techniques, or technologies proposed. We will primarily use the summary and keywords provided in the Je-S proposal form to assign college members. Your application may be assessed by a general expert in interdisciplinary research. Please ensure that your application is accessible to non technical experts.

We will invite a maximum of 300 outline applications to submit full applications to manage success rates. £32.5m is available for round one; we expect to make around 36 awards.

This stage may also be used to manage the diversity of applications taken through to stage 2 based on the balance of the portfolio. This process will be overseen by the Interdisciplinary Assessment College chairs, who will approve the final recommendation of applications progressing to stage 2.

Due to the high volume of applications expected for the first round of this pilot scheme, we will not be able to provide written panel feedback to individual applications in stage one. If your outline application is rejected, you will receive your application’s score. We will also provide applicants with an overview of common themes regarding successful and unsuccessful applications at this stage.

Stage two: full application

Invited full applications will initially be assessed by three members of the Interdisciplinary Assessment College. Applications will be scored using the full application assessment criteria. Applicants will be sent initial feedback and the principal investigators will be invited to provide a response. The full applications and responses to feedback will then be reviewed by themed assessment panels, with these panel themes being responsive to the proposals submitted in the round. Scores and funding recommendations from each panel will be moderated and finalised by a panel of the college chairs.

UKRI will ensure that a mixed portfolio of applications is supported from the breadth of submissions to the pilot.

Following peer review, highly meritorious proposals will be distinguished from those not suitable for funding. The very highest quality applications will be selected for funding. Where applications are scored highly but where the panels struggle to differentiate between their quality, a randomised allocation process will be used to select successful applications.

The use of a partial randomised process has been shown to help counteract potential bias, both against underrepresented groups, but also against high risk or high reward ideas. Adopting this approach will ensure peer review is at the heart of decision making, while recognising the challenge in tensioning the diverse range of ideas expected to be submitted to the scheme.

Panel feedback will be provided to applicants when outcomes are announced.

Evaluation of scheme

This is a pilot scheme and we will be evaluating the process to support UKRI in developing programmes for interdisciplinary research. You may be contacted for feedback as part of this evaluation process.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

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.

Ask about this funding opportunity

UKRI Interdisciplinary Responsive Mode Team


Get help with applying through Je-S, including eligibility enquiries



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times.

Additional info


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.

Panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal. 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.

Responsible research and innovation

We want to foster a research and innovation system where diverse and dynamic people and ideas can thrive. This research resource hub will help us achieve this, by bringing together policies, standards and guidance to support researchers, innovators and organisations.

Information with the latest guidance and useful information on how to deliver excellent research and innovation, and nurture an inclusive research and innovation environment can be found on the UKRI good research resource hub.

Supporting documents

Cross research council responsive mode pilot scheme round 1: assessment process overview (PDF, 70KB)

Cross research council responsive mode pilot scheme round 1: webinar slides (PDF, 1.9MB)

Cross research council responsive mode pilot scheme round 1: questions and answers from webinars (PDF, 443KB)


  • 30 June 2023
    The webinar events have now passed. A link to the recording of the presentation from 13 June can be found in the 'How to apply' section. A copy of the webinar slides presented and answers to questions asked at both webinars can be found in the 'Additional info' section, under 'Supporting documents'.

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