Areas we invest in

A pink lit corridor with multi-coloured floor projection in the UKRI-supported Compass art installation, British Science Festival 2022

Members of the public interacting with stories from across British research at The Compass: an installation funded by UKRI and commissioned by the British Science Association working with artists, Illuminos, and the social enterprise and event production specialists, Inspirate. Credit: Tom P Morley

We support public engagement as an integral part of UKRI’s research and innovation grants and programmes. Alongside this, we invest in national infrastructure programmes and partnerships to build the skills, capacities and networks that enable long-term, meaningful collaborations. We also pilot innovative approaches to find what works, share lessons and support the growth of effective approaches.

See examples below of our investments:

National programmes

Being Human festival

Being Human is the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. It brings researchers, local community and cultural partners together to create engaging events and projects for all to enjoy. It is run by the School of Advanced Study, University of London on behalf of UKRI. It was co-founded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) which continues to fund it along with the British Academy.

CREST awards and British Science Week

We support the British Science Association’s CREST Awards and British Science Week. CREST inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers. It is a nationally recognised scheme for student-led project work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

British Science Week is the UK’s national awareness campaign for science, run by the British Science Association (BSA). Our funding allows BSA to provide grants for disadvantaged schools and community groups from backgrounds that are underrepresented in science to participate in events and activities.

Community Research Networks

The UKRI Community Research Networks programme aims to put communities at the heart of research. It gives funding to organisations that are interested in supporting local people across the UK to play a more active role in research and innovation.

Festival of Social Science

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science is an annual, UK-wide, free celebration of the social sciences. The festival is an opportunity for anyone to explore topics relating to social science, from health and wellbeing to crime, equality, education and identity.

National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement

We provide support for public engagement with research through initiatives such as the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). The NCCPE helps universities to engage with the public, providing leadership, sharing good practice and a single point of contact for the people working in public engagement across research and innovation.


Sciencewise is a UKRI-funded public dialogue programme that supports government departments and other public bodies to listen to and act on diverse voices to shape policy and priorities. Sciencewise collaborates across the UKRI councils. For example, it supports public dialogues on gene editing in farmed animals in partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

STEM Ambassadors

UKRI funds STEM Learning to manage the STEM Ambassadors network, a national network of 30,000 volunteers working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who act as relatable role models for young people. They offer talks, clubs, mentoring and workplace visits, raising awareness and understanding of STEM careers through their personal experience.

Wonder Initiative

The Wonder Initiative focuses on working with participants from the 40% most socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK, in particular 8 to 14-year-olds and their families and carers. Run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, it gives underrepresented communities an equal voice by listening, understanding, and responding to what people want to know about science and technology.

Young Innovators Awards

The Young Innovators Awards give 18 to 30-year-olds funding from Innovate UK to turn groundbreaking ideas into a reality. In 2023 the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards gave new investment to support the young innovators’ future business plans.


UKRI funds innovative public engagement pilots to find what works, share lessons and support the growth of effective approaches. Recent pilots include:

Adolescence, mental health and the developing mind

The Adolescence, mental health and the developing mind programme, funded by the Medical Research Council, ESRC and AHRC, is to:

  • examine how mental health problems emerge in young people
  • support interventions to promote positive mental health

A young people’s advisory group is ensuring that the research addresses the needs of people most affected by these issues.

Community Knowledge Fund

The Community Knowledge Fund is a pilot programme that gives power directly to communities. It is designed to test, learn and share new approaches to funding community-led knowledge generation and innovation.

Mindsets + Missions for Museums and Science Centres of the Future

We are supporting 12 museums and science centres across the UK to develop new ways to engage underrepresented groups with research and innovation.

Mindsets + Missions is run by the Museums Association in partnership with the Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) and The Liminal Space. See UKRI funds engagement through museums and science centres.

EPSRC public engagement champions

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is supporting four engineering champions and five information and communications technology (ICT) champions to inspire and engage the public and attract people to STEM careers.

The public engagement champions are leading a variety of innovative public engagement activities, with a particular focus on engaging more members of underrepresented groups with research. Activities range from developing podcasts and writing children’s storybooks to engaging with schools and community groups.

Funding for participatory research

Research England has allocated £6 million for universities in England to develop or increase the scale of research conducted in partnership with diverse communities. Participatory research involves the communities and users of research, better recognising their experience, needs and preferences, and supporting communities to implement findings.

Engaged Environmental Science

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is funding exemplar projects that demonstrate excellence in engaged environmental science research.

The projects will carry out environmental science research, in equitable partnerships with the public.

Last updated: 15 March 2024

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