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The Strategic Priorities Fund

The Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) is being led by UKRI to:

  • drive an increase in high quality multi and interdisciplinary research and innovation
  • ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities
  • and ensure the system responds to strategic priorities and opportunities.

SPF builds on Paul Nurse’s vision of a ‘common fund’, to support high quality multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research programmes, which could have otherwise been missed through traditional funding channels.

How does the fund work?

All of UKRI’s councils along with six BEIS-funded bodies (Government Office for Science (GO-Science), Met Office, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), National Physical Laboratory (NPL), UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), and UK Space Agency (UKSA) were eligible to develop proposals for programmes of research in any area which would address one or more of the objectives listed above. They sought input from across the research community and, when appropriate, advice from government departments to ensure alignment with government priorities.

Research programmes were selected through a competitive process and required to meet at least one of the three SPF objectives. An assessment panel was established and convened twice to consider the programme proposals in two separate waves.

Many of the programmes have involved collaborations with a variety of government departments to incorporate a rich landscape of research interest, with the intention that research results will enhance policy development.

Funding has been awarded in two waves across the research spectrum.

How can I get involved?

The SPF Wave 1 and Wave 2 process is closed for applications from the organisations listed above.  Once an individual programme is live, it will announce calls to address the research questions posed and encourage applications from across the research base. Please see below details and get in touch direct with the UKRI Research Council or BEIS body listed as the lead if you would like to understand more about funding opportunities under a specific SPF programme. See here for details of live Strategic Priorities Fund calls.

SPF Wave 1

Wave 1 SPF programmes that have been announced have been packaged into themes, however, as interdisciplinary work is a lynchpin feature of SPF, we encourage researchers to explore all the opportunities detailed to determine for themselves the relevance of their research interests to each programme.


SPF Wave 1 Programme


Clean Air: Analysis & Solutions: Developing solutions to air pollution to help policymakers and businesses protect health and work towards a cleaner economy.

UK Climate Resilience: Harnessing multidisciplinary expertise to deliver robust climate risk and solutions research, which ensures the UK is resilient to climate variability and change, and powerfully positioned to exploit the opportunities of adaptation and green growth.

Constructing a Digital Environment: Applying the latest technologies to environmental data from sensor networks across the UK to deliver information in unprecedented detail.

Landscape Decisions:  Developing a new understanding to help individuals, communities and country make the best choices regarding land use in the UK.

Biology and biomedicine

Physics of Life:  The research areas that will be supported are those that bring together the tools and capabilities of the physics community to tackle key questions in biological and biomedical sciences.

EMBL-EBI investment:  Improving understanding of how genetics affect the health of humans, plants and animals.

UK Animal & Plant Health:  Research to counter diseases that threaten crop production, forestry, commercial and amenity horticulture, woodlands and wider biodiversity with severe economic, environmental and social impacts. 

Human Cell Atlas:  Supporting the UK’s role as a key partner in the ambitious global Human Cell Atlas initiative.


Living with Machines:  Data scientists, historians, computational linguists, geographers, and archivists will collaborate to better understand the social and cultural impact of the mechanisation of work - a move that changed our world and the way that we live forever. 

AI and Data Science for Engineering, Health, and Government:  Aimed at supporting a range of objectives covering four high-priority areas, with the aim to transform engineering & urban planning, health, physical & life sciences and criminal justice.

Ensuring the Security of Digital Technologies at the Periphery: This programme aims to ensure that Internet of Things systems are safe and secure, particularly as more critical applications emerge meaning there is increased vulnerability to broader, more sophisticated cyber-threats.


SPF Wave 2

Over the coming months information on SPF Wave 2 programmes selected for funding will be added to these web pages. The following SPF Wave 2 programmes have been announced:

  • Policy and Evidence Centre for Modern Slavery and Human Rights: A Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) to provide independent, impartial and authoritative insight and analysis of practical utility to Government, Parliament, business, NGOs, and international organisations. The project will be delivered via funding researchers to staff a Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) which will issue open research calls and commissioning. 
  • Nucleic Acid Therapy Accelerator: ‘NATA’:  brand new therapies and technologies directly targeting genetic mutations could be rolled out to treat diseases
  • The Advanced Pain Discovery Platform : deepening our understanding of pain, this will reveal new treatment approaches and address a wide spectrum of chronic and debilitating conditions including arthritis.
  • UK Centre of Evidence Implementation in Adult Social Care : using high quality research, this project will lead to improvements in the delivery of social care across the UK; implementing innovations with the potential to allow more people to receive care from the comfort of their own home
  • Tackling Multimorbidity at scale: this research into multimorbidity – when someone is suffering two or more long-term health conditions – will propel forward drug development, allow for earlier diagnosis and reduce progression to more severe illness and disability
  • Greenhouse Gas Removal Demonstrators: This programme will assess sustainable routes for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Clean Air: Addressing the Challenge of the Indoor/Outdoor Continuum: The programme aims to equip the UK to proactively tackle new air quality challenges related to changing emissions and exposure patterns, in order to protect human health and support clean growth. 
  • A food systems approach for healthy people and a healthy planet: Research supported through this programme will provide knowledge and evidence to enable coherent policymaking, help tackle obesity and diet-related chronic disease, protect the environment, and ensure future food security.
  • National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research Programme: This programme will drive forward new research to support opportunities to increase sustainability, improve resource efficiency and reduce waste across materials, products and services within sectors such as food, transport, textiles and electronics. The programme is a partnership between AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, Innovate UK, NERC, BEIS and DEFRA.
  • Sustainable Management of Marine Resources: This programme will ensure that the UK realises sustainable societal and economic benefits through better management of the UK’s marine resources.
  • Space Weather, Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk: Space Weather (SW) can be defined as solar eruptions that can disrupt modern technologies and damage human health. There are still major gaps in SW risk assessment and our ability to forecast, which leaves the UK vulnerable. Our goal is to provide a strategic UK approach to Space Weather, transitioning research into operations, according to user needs.   

Eligibility to Apply to SPF Programmes’ Research Calls

Calls under these programmes will be open to eligible individuals in organisations that are normally eligible to apply for research grants from UKRI’s research councils.

Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs) are now also eligible to apply to SPF programmes. If PSREs wishing to apply have not previously applied for UKRI funding and are not currently designated IRO status they will be required to complete an eligibility form to ensure they have the required research capacity, systems and controls in place to manage the research and grant funding. See https://www.ukri.org/funding/how-to-apply/eligibility/ for further information.