Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: UKRI policy fellowships 2023

Apply for funding to collaborate on research activity to address pressing national and global challenges.

You will:

  • co-design research with the host organisation to inform policy on a priority policy area
  • help improve the exchange of knowledge between policy and academic institutions

You must:

  • be based at an organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding
  • have a PhD or equivalent experience

For fellowships with a Whitehall or devolved administration host the full economic cost is £170,000. For fellowships with the What Works Network the full economic cost is £210,000.

UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change.

The funding opportunity will open in late-February 2023. More information will be available on this page by then.

UKRI will run webinars for applicants to answer outstanding questions throughout March 2023.

Who can apply

This funding opportunity is open to academics who hold a PhD or equivalent research experience.

As well as relevant subject matter or methodological expertise, experience of working in a policy and knowledge exchange context is beneficial.

Relevant career stage will be specified within each opportunity when the full funding opportunity is published.

What we're looking for

Apply for funding for 18 months to:

  • be embedded in a UK or devolved government host organisation or What Works Network member, affiliate member or associate member
  • collaborate on research activity to address pressing national and global challenges

The UKRI Policy Fellowship scheme offers an exciting opportunity to develop your career and enhance your understanding of applying research in government contexts.

Fellows will be uniquely positioned to:

  • build connections between the policymaking and research communities
  • generate and share new knowledge and insights on effective policy collaboration with the wider research community and with funders of this opportunity including ESRC, ADR UK, AHRC and BBSRC


Each fellowship will last 18 months to cover a 3-month inception phase for set up activity. This will be followed by a 12-month placement with the host organisation and concluding with an impact phase lasting 3 months.

What you’ll be doing

Fellows will co-design projects and activities with their host and produce analysis to inform government decision-making across a range of policy priorities. Please note a full list of host organisations will be added to this announcement before the end of December 2022.

If successful, during the inception stage of the fellowship, you will work with your host to refine the focus and priorities for your placement. Alongside these specific activities, during your placement you will also engage across the host organisation, building effective working relationships and supporting wider knowledge exchange with researchers.

You will also be supported to network and collaborate with fellows in other host departments and What Works Network members, affiliate members or associate members and to connect with relevant research communities. You will have dedicated time within the placement with the host reserved for activities that strengthen engagement between policy and academia, and for engagement with the UKRI’s policy fellow cohort.

Fellows will also be supported for an additional period after the main placement of 3 months to complete agreed knowledge exchange, publication and impact activity.

What current policy fellows say

The current cohort are well embedded within their government functions and are having real impact on important policy areas.

Robin Lovelace, ESRC ADR UK No.10 Data Science Fellowship:

I’ve worked on methods to add value to open origin-destination data for sustainable transport planning.

I have also been sub-seconded into Active Travel England as interim Director of Data and Analysis; which has the potential for large impacts on how people across England get around for everyday journeys in line with the government’s objective for half of all short urban trips to be made by active modes by 2030, that will lead to hundreds of millions of pounds worth of savings each year.

Jens Kandt, ESRC Department for Transport Connectivity Levelling Up Fellowship:

The aim of my fellowship is to identify and process secondary datasets that can help evaluate the social and economic impacts of major transport investments.

Set in the context of the ‘levelling up’ agenda, a key question is under which conditions transport investments contribute to the attenuation or exacerbation of social and geographical disparities.

The analytical focus will be on displacement of people, jobs and businesses that have accompanied transport investments over the last 20 years in the UK.

The project will inform the use of longitudinal micro-level data and spatial analysis in evaluation of transport investments and substantively feed into design of project appraisal as well as evidence-based policy that aims to advance sustainable mobility at national level.


Addressing the challenges and opportunities facing citizens, society and the economy requires an integrated, thriving and inclusive research-policy system that can act as a catalyst for innovation, social and institutional change. Central in this is enabling researchers and policymakers to collaborate and build relationships that are rich, deep and can be sustained.

Opportunities that help people move between research and policy communities to share and develop their knowledge and capabilities are a key mechanism to help develop this collaborative, connected system.

ESRC, in partnership with ADR UK, AHRC and BBSRC and a range of government hosts and What Works Network members, affiliate members or associate members, wishes to fund a cohort of policy fellows. Fellows will provide research and expert advice on the host’s policy priority areas, and support wider knowledge exchange between government and academia.

Each fellowship opportunity will focus on a key policy priority area for the host, aligning with the themes identified in the UKRI strategy:

  • building a green future: helping to improve the health of our environment and deliver net zero, securing prosperity across the whole of the UK. Our whole systems solutions will secure business growth, jobs, skills and increased productivity, ensuring a green future for all, addressing environmental and net-zero challenges in all sectors of the economy
  • securing better health, ageing and wellbeing: advancing people’s health and promoting wellbeing to maintain prosperous, productive and resilient communities throughout the UK and globally, supporting the UK Life Sciences Vision by addressing challenges around ageing, living with multiple conditions, mental health and health inequalities
  • tackling infections: protecting and enhancing health, our food supply and our natural capital by building knowledge and capabilities to detect and disrupt the emergence and spread of human, animal and plant diseases, accelerate new vaccines and therapeutics, and halt the ‘slow motion pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance
  • building a secure and resilient world: strengthening social and economic resilience, and enhancing national security across virtual and physical spaces, by improving awareness of risks and threats, preparedness, decision-making and response, and allowing change to be understood as a force for good
  • creating opportunities, improving outcomes: understanding the causes and effects of place-based disparities and finding empowering new solutions that promote prosperity and improve outcomes for people and communities across the UK
  • data and evaluation: this is an addition to the UKRI themes and reflects ESRC, AHRC, and BBSRC’s interest in supporting exceptional data-driven research, ensuring that decision makers have access to robust social science data and cutting edge evaluation

Objectives and expectations of fellows

Fellows will:

  • scope and lead research-related activity with the host
  • work closely with hosts to ensure alignment of priorities and that analysis is as robust and useful as possible in driving decisions
  • provide advice and peer review to other aspects of the host’s work
  • support capability building within host in your area of expertise
  • strengthen engagement between government and academia through activities such as:
    • connecting with related UKRI research portfolios, acting as a pipeline for knowledge exchange between them and hosts
    • publishing outputs from analysis produced, subject to clearance processes
    • knowledge exchange activities with academic institutions and other analytical and policy teams within government and intermediaries
    • supporting hosts and funders of this opportunity in the evaluation of the fellowship programme and improvement of future schemes

Benefits for fellows

As a successful fellow, your benefits will include:

  • opportunity to undertake cutting edge research, enhance knowledge and potentially access new and novel data
  • opportunity to inform decision-making on the most pressing policy problems of our time
  • a better understanding of government analysis, operations, policymaking, data usage, and priority areas for research
  • ability to build your network of policy and analytical professionals within government and across the What Works Network
  • opportunity to join a cohort of academic researchers across government working to address complex policy questions across and with government
  • potential to influence future policy-academia collaborations
  • opportunity for publication across policy and academia, subject to clearance processes

During your placement you will have line management and support from the host organisation, and throughout your fellowship you will also regularly engage with and receive support from UKRI.

In addition, if you are an early career researcher you will benefit from funded mentorship support from a more senior researcher in your organisation.

Fellowship phases and milestones

Your fellowship award will last 18 months and cover:

  • inception phase for project set up, up to 3 months
  • main placement with host, 12 months
  • knowledge exchange phase, up to 3 months

Inception phase

The inception phase will be used:

  • to co-produce your final fellowship scope with your host
  • for other preliminary activity required to support this such as data access and accreditations
  • for induction into the cohort of policy fellows

Your expected time commitment during this period is up to 0.4 full-time equivalent (FTE). During this period, you will remain based at your home institution but will join in-person or virtual inception meetings with your host and UKRI.

Through close collaboration with your host, you will develop full project or activity proposals for your main placement.

Placement with hosts

All fellows are expected to start the main placement with their host after 3 months inception phase and once the project scope has been agreed. You can undertake this secondment full or part time (0.6 FTE minimum) for 12 months. Further details on time commitments will be included in the opportunity specifications available in February 2023.

During this period, you will also be expected to take up opportunities for connection with UKRI and the wider cohort of fellows.

Knowledge exchange phase

After the placement completes, you will return to your home institution, and will be supported for up to 3 months to:

  • maximise knowledge exchange and impact through agreed wider engagement and publication activity
  • share learnings about engaging and influencing policymakers with the wider academic community

Your expected time commitment during this period is up to 0.4 FTE. Your plan for activities for this period will be further defined and agreed with your host and the UKRI.

During this period, you will also be expected to take up opportunities for connection with UKRI and the wider cohort of fellows. After your fellowship award completes, you will join an alumni network to support ongoing opportunities for networking and knowledge exchange.

Outputs and reporting

You will be expected to produce outputs for academic and non-academic audiences based on your work as agreed during the inception phase.

Please note that in some cases published outputs will be subject to clearance by your host, but that all hosts are committed to supporting opportunities for fellows to publish as part of this fellowship.

In addition to standard UKRI reporting requirements, you may also be asked to submit additional information to support wider UKRI strategic objectives and scheme evaluation.

Fellowship requirements

You must:

  • depending on the fellowship, be either a researcher in the economic and social sciences, the arts and humanities or in the biotechnology and biological sciences
  • be based at an institution eligible for UKRI funding
  • hold a PhD or equivalent research experience
  • meet the career stage requirements of the opportunity (policy fellowships with Whitehall or devolved administration are open to early-to-mid career researchers. Policy fellowships with a What Works Network member, affiliate member or associate member host are open to all stages of academic careers). Early career status is not timebound definition
  • be able to work effectively at pace to deliver expected outcomes, including working as part of a team on shared goals
  • have excellent written and verbal communication skills, with the ability to translate complex information into meaningful narrative that is accessible to a non-academic audience
  • meet any additional eligibility criteria for the specific fellowship opportunity you are applying for (further details will be published in February 2023)
  • have subject matter and analytical expertise and skills relevant to the specific fellowship you are applying for (further details will be published in February 2023)

In addition, we welcome applications from individuals who can demonstrate:

  • excellent stakeholder engagement and collaboration skills
  • insight into working in a governmental context
  • the ability to design and lead on knowledge exchange activity between research, policy and funder communities

Outlines of specific fellowship opportunities, including research themes and hosts, will be available when the funding opportunity opens in February 2023. Detailed eligibility and other requirements for each fellowship, including security clearance, will be available at that stage.

Funding available

For policy fellowships with a Whitehall or devolved administration host the full economic cost is £170,000.

For policy fellowships with What Works Network members, affiliate members or associate members the full economic cost is £210,000 (inclusive of additional £40,000 budget for research activity).

These fellowships are available on either a full-time or part-time basis.

UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Fellowship hosts

In total this funding opportunity offers 47 fellowship opportunities across a wide range of government partners and the devolved administrations.

Government hosts include:

  • Cabinet Office
  • Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
    Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Department for Education (DfE)
  • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
  • Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
  • HM Treasury (HMT)
  • Home Office (HO)
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • National Infrastructure Commission (NIC)
  • No10 Data Science Team (10DS)
  • Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)

Devolved administration hosts include:

  • Scottish Government
  • Welsh Government
  • NI Executive

What Works hosts include:

  • Centre for Homelessness Impact
  • College of Policing
  • Education Endowment Foundation
  • Wales Centre for Public Policy
  • Youth Futures Foundation

How to apply

Applications will be made through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

To submit an application, your host organisation must be registered for Je-S, and you must hold a Je-S account.

Full guidance on how to apply will be published on the funding finder in February 2023.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed and shortlisted by a panel of academic and non-academic experts. A shortlist of applicants will be invited to attend an interview with expert panel members and representatives of the host department.

Further details of application requirements and assessment process will be available when the full opportunity is published.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

This opportunity is managed by ESRC’s Public Policy and Engagement team.

Please note we cannot provide additional information about this funding opportunity in advance of the full opportunity being publicised.


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