The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is committed to improving what we do and how we do it. We want to use evidence, insights, and a more inclusive and transparent approach to support and drive forward the best research. Where Next is one of the ways our communities can help shape and influence our work.
This scheme is not about ideas for individual research projects. We would like to identify the most innovative ideas which have the potential to be shaped into programmes of work and which, as with our pilot scheme, can inform the way we work in a number of different ways.
Where Next is a programme through which we aim to engage with our broad research and innovation community in a quest to find adventurous and exciting ideas that have the potential to be transformational. We are looking for ideas that will capture the imagination of researchers, the public, industry, and government.
From pressing challenges in fundamental research through to addressing issues affecting society and the world in which we live. Through this pipeline we hope to discover compelling ideas that have the potential to develop into thoughtful, cross-cutting research agendas that bridge recognised gaps in our existing knowledge.
Translating discovery to impact requires bold approaches, built on core research. AHRC is looking to venture beyond traditional paradigms to invite input from trusted stakeholders as well as new and unconventional partners. In this way, we aim to ensure that our future priorities are inclusive, innovative and in touch with the interests and priorities of our stakeholder communities.
Where Next is a chance to take part in a visioning exercise to help find the next generation of potential research and innovation priorities. The process is designed to capture and review exciting community-led ideas to inform the development of future research and innovation strategy and this in turn could potentially attract investment or lead to support for community activities.
We are open to all different ideas, whether that be research-led, infrastructure based, public engagement or otherwise.
Key information about the programme:
- the submission process is simple and quick, through a short online form
- submissions can be made at any time during the year and are not restricted to a specific application window
- submissions are open to everyone, you do not need to be eligible for AHRC funding – however, we trust you will have a sense of familiarity with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the principles behind public funding of research
- we are open to hearing great ideas from within our core disciplines, as well as those that span disciplinary boundaries
- there is no direct funding element to allow us to respond more flexibly and responsibly, and for submissions to be viewed non-competitively
Learn more about Where Next
We expect to see some really transformative ideas emerging that demonstrate the vibrancy, imagination and creativity of the arts and humanities research community.
We hosted an event in January 2023 for potential applicants to find out more about:
- the submission process for this scheme
- how we process submissions
- how we will develop ideas
Please watch the webinar recording and read responses to unanswered questions on the day.
Where Next ideas
A successful ‘Where Next?’ idea is not a research proposal. It may highlight a gap in our funding, or it may point us to a new frontier. It may suggest a new bold debate, or an innovative way for us to enable the right people to engage with it.
We expect ideas will vary in scale. Some ideas will require large scale or recurrent multi-year funding, others may result in a single scoped opportunity. Some ideas may shape our policy or ways of working, while yet others may aggregate to help us identify a larger infrastructure requirement.
AHRC welcomes all Where Next ideas that have a strong arts and humanities component. Where Next ideas may (but do not need to) contribute to delivering AHRC and UKRI current strategic ambitions, as set out in AHRC’s delivery plan and UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027, or may help to shape priorities for the future.
Submitting a Where Next idea
Submit a Where Next idea by completing the online form from January 2023. Submissions are accepted year-round, and you will be able to fill this in at any time from January. Please provide a single contact point in the submission.
We do not accept submissions by email. A template of the submission form is provided purely to support easy development of submissions. Submissions received by email will not be considered and will be directed to complete the online form.
Eligibility to submit a Where Next idea
We believe that knowledge thrives in a diverse research ecosystem, an ecosystem where the broadest range of people are invited to contribute, and the boldest, most innovative ideas can come to the fore. We want to learn from those we fund, those we partner with, and the people that we would like to work more with, through regular, open, and constructive dialogue.
Where Next ideas can come from any individual or group, at any career stage and from any interested parties. This includes those who use arts and humanities in their practices, such as business, policymakers, and non-governmental organisations.
We will be responsible with all ideas that are submitted, and in judging the potential and fit of submissions, we will remain agnostic of who is submitting them.
Processing Where Next idea submissions
Batches of ideas will be considered twice a year in the spring and autumn by members of AHRC’s Senior Management Team with support from AHRC’s advisory structures. We will consider each idea against the following criteria:
- transformative potential
- importance within, across, and beyond the arts and humanities
- potential impact
AHRC’s Senior Management Team will make the final decision on whether to support an idea. For any ideas we choose to support we will work flexibly with you to identify the most effective and responsible way forward.
We will endeavour to provide feedback for decisions made, where possible.
We currently expect the cut off for the first batch of ideas to be midday, 20 February 2023. Ideas submitted after this date are likely to be considered in the autumn 2023 batch.
Informing future strategic activity
Ideas identified as having high transformative potential will be used to inform future strategic activity. For example, Where Next ideas could be:
- directly scoped into new areas of research funding by AHRC or other UKRI councils
- used as evidence of need in a future UKRI spending review submission
- used to shape earlier stage development activities, such as community building
- used to inform new ways of working in AHRC or other UKRI councils
Please note, once a Where Next Idea has been submitted you are giving AHRC permission to develop the idea in any way we see appropriate. We will work closely with you, but this may include further development by AHRC staff and inviting other people to be involved in the development of the idea.
Not every idea can be taken forward and not everything that is taken forward will lead to a large-scale programme of work.
The submission survey will open on 21 January 2023. Prior to this to aid development of submissions you can preview our questions and guidance. Please do not submit the Word version of the form via email as this is for reference only.
Submit your idea using the, AHRC ‘Where Next’ submission form.
Successful pilot scheme ideas
In 2020 we launched the original Where Next pilot scheme, inviting applicants to apply for funding to support interdisciplinary scoping studies which would form part of AHRC’s ideas pipeline.
The projects funded through this pilot, which finished in early 2022, reflected some of the most forward-thinking and innovative research within and between disciplines.
Their findings have been informing our work through helping to frame funding opportunities, contributing to internal analysis and planning, supporting our engagement with government departments and securing further funding through other programmes of work.
Plant humanities: where arts, humanities and plants meet
Led by Professor Felix Driver at Royal Holloway in collaboration with Mark Nesbitt and Caroline Cornish at Kew Gardens, this project scopes the potential of the ‘Plant Humanities’. This is an emerging interdisciplinary field concerned with arts and humanities perspectives on plants and plant-based knowledge, particularly in the context of botanical collections, often in collaboration with the sciences and social sciences.
Towns and the cultural economies of recovery: a new multidisciplinary mapping
Led by Professor Nicky Marsh at the University of Southampton, this project identifies the future research priorities which enhances our understanding of the contributions that culture can make to the economic recovery, renewal and resilience of towns.
Cultural heritage 360
Led by Professors Stephen Taylor, Giles Gasper and Tianna Uchacz at Durham University, this project brings together scientists and social scientists with arts and humanities researchers to identify the future potential and direction of arts and humanities-led interdisciplinary research into cultural heritage and its record.
Sustainable materials in the creative industries
Led by Dr Peter Oakley at the Royal College of Art, this project scopes current and immanent sustainable practice around the sourcing, use, disposal, recycling and reuse of materials, to help understand the creative sector’s ongoing responses.
Performing arts and social violence: innovating research approaches to sexual and gender-based violence in the global south
Led by Professor Susan Fitzmaurice at the University of Sheffield, this project scopes to what extent the performing arts – from theatre and dance to comedy – can be used to understand and address social violence, particularly everyday forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence.
The future of the rights of nature: an interdisciplinary scoping analysis
Led by Professor Jeremie Gilbert at Roehampton University, this project reviews the current application of Earth Law, the movement to grant rights to Nature often grounded in indigenous peoples’ cosmologies and culture, across disciplines.
Last updated: 17 August 2023