What is the Community Research Network funding call? 

The Community Research Network is a two-phase funding opportunity delivered by UKRI. The programme aims to develop and sustain Community Research Networks designed by community groups and partnerships that exist outside the current research and innovation (R&I) system. The funding builds on research carried out by The Young Foundation, who are supporting the delivery of the Expression of Interest phase.    

What can I apply for – and when?  

Applications for phase one, Expression of Interest (EoI), open 25 July 2022. A total of 20 collaborations will be awarded funding, receiving £25,000 each. Funding at the EoI phase will support initial collaborations to build relationships and develop plans for the implementation phase.   

In phase two, Implementation, a minimum of five networks will be selected, receiving up to £200,000 per year each, for three years.  

What key dates should I be aware of?  

  • Applications for phase one, EoI, open 25 July 2022 
  • Applications for phase one, EoI, close 14 September 2022 
  • Successful applicants for phase one, EoI, announced 17 October 2022  

How do I apply? 

Applications should be made through the Innovation Funding Service of Innovate UK. Potential applicants can access the full details now, and applications must be made by 14 September 2022.

Where do I go for support?

If you need support with the scope or focus of your proposal, the activities you might plan do, or the partners you’re looking to include, you can get support from the Young Foundation via the email, free phone line and 1-2-1 appointments listed at the bottom of these FAQs.

If you need support on how to apply, whether you are eligible to apply, or with how to present your budget and request for funds, or if you want to submit your application in Welsh, please contact Innovate UK support via:

  • emailing support@iuk.ukri.org
  • calling 0300 321 4357. The phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone. They can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use their services. They can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

Who is eligible? 

Collaborations can be made up of a mixture of charitable trusts, registered charities, community interest companies, cooperative societies, local authorities and research organisations. Full eligibility information is available on the Innovation Funding Service 

And how should the partnership by these groups be organised? 

How the partnership is organised should reflect the needs it is coming together to meet, ie is this the best way to bring these actors together to address the needs you have identified? Working out the best ways to work together and the exact structure of your future partnership will be an important aspect of the EoI phase, so this does not need to be decided in advance of the EoI application. 

How can the funding be used? 

Funding must be used to support the collaborative development of bids for the Implementation phase, which is the second phase of this project. This can include:  

  • building collaborations and partnerships  
  • convening discussions  
  • hosting workshops  
  • engaging communities 
  • collaborative bid-writing 
  • desk research 
  • Translation for work with communities for whom English is a second language 
  • other activities that are directly linked to consolidating a Community Research Network 

The fund is particularly looking to support collaborations who would not normally have access to funding for activities exploring the value of knowledge or of producing research in relation to their work. This is because the fund is looking to provide the opportunity for community organisations and collaborations to build capacity in producing knowledge and research in response to their needs. 

Detailed information about eligible costs are available on Innovate UK’s website. 

What is the timeline for using the funding? 

Successful applicants will work closely with UKRI to use the funding during the six-month period after selection. A full budget and forecast is not required to apply, you only need to state the total funding request per partner in your application, which should add up to £25,000. A more detailed breakdown of costs will be requested in January 2023 if your application is successful, once collaborations have begun.  

Aside from funding, what will I get? 

UKRI will support all successful applicants to develop their Implementation phase applications. There will also be opportunities to meet and work with other Community Research Networks in different phases of development. More information about the support package will be made available to successful EoI collaborations.       

Support can also be provided for: 

  • helping organisations find relevant potential partners 
  • helping with budgeting and financial management 
  • helping understand the application form and put in the best possible application to describe your ideas 

If I’m interested in applying for the Implementation phase, do I need to apply to the Expression of Interest phase? 

Yes. Only successful applicants at the EoI phase will be invited to apply for the Implementation phase.  

What happens to networks that don’t gain funding for the Implementation phase? 

UKRI intends to provide non-financial support to all Networks funded in the EoI phase beyond the initial six-month period, regardless of whether they succeed at the Implementation phase.  

How are you defining ‘community’ and ‘place’ in this funding call? 

We understand and respect that community takes lots of different forms for different groups, and we are asking applicants to define and tell us what ‘community’ their collaboration is focusing on. This competition is inviting proposals from partners working on community need in a specific geographic location. Proposals can include partners focused on a single defined geography or location, or partners focused on communities in several different locations who share a common need because of the conditions or characteristics of their locations.  

We know lots of different communities have a need for knowledge and research and one funding opportunity cannot address all of these. This funding call is particularly focused on developing capacity and capability in communities of place, and we ask you define the geographic location or locations you are focusing on in your application. 

Networks which are based online, with no geographic presence; networks focused mainly on research for specific theme or pre-decided research question; or networks focused on community interests which have no connection to needs in one or more geographic locations, will not be considered in this funding opportunity.  

If you are unsure about whether this is the best call for your needs, or if you are interested in developing a community research network focused not on place, but on a specific theme or community of interest – please do contact us via the support channel hi@icstudies.org.uk and we will be happy to discuss this and other opportunities with you. 

Do we need a specific research question for the EoI application? How specific does the knowledge we are looking for need to be? 

No, you do not need to develop a specific research question for the EoI phase. Think of this opportunity as funding to explore creating infrastructure and a platform to do future research, not just a single project or topic. The knowledge needs of any community or location(s) may change over time and so the focus should not be to look at any one research question or theme.  

The focus of this funding is to build capacity among organisations to create and use knowledge that supports their work in one or more geographic locations. The focus in this stage is on building collaborative relationships to produce research that responds to community need.  

The funding is particularly there to support those organisations who would not normally be able to access research funding, and to enable communities who are disadvantaged from research and knowledge about them and their needs to produce research.  

There is no restrictive definition about what types of knowledge or forms of research you could focus on if you build a network proposal, but you should describe how you would use the EoI funding to explore what knowledge the network might need.

What if we want to develop a community research network or explore community research about a theme, or to serve a community of interest that isn’t place focused?

This is not the most suitable funding for you if you want to explore communities producing knowledge around a particular theme. The Community Research Networks call is to fund organisations to partner to build their capacity to do research on lots of different issues affecting communities in one or more places or locations. It is about place-focused communities and the knowledge they need.

If you want to explore a theme or a community of interest, we would instead encourage you to wait to apply for the Community Knowledge Fund, which would be a more suitable funding opportunity for proposals focused on researching specific themes with communities.

The Community Knowledge Fund is coming soon and will open in September 2022. It is not currently open for applications.

The Community Knowledge Fund is a new UKRI-funded opportunity, supporting community groups and organisations to play a stronger role in the research and innovation system.

Up to 34 grants will be awarded to test innovative approaches to knowledge production in UK communities.

  • Grants of £10,000 to £100,000
  • For grassroots groups and organisations
  • Open for expressions of interest in September 2022

For updates, please send your name, organisation and contact details to communityknowledgefund@youngfoundation.org.

If we are already a community research network, can we use the funding to expand our network across out region? 

All activity in the EoI phase should be dedicated to developing a proposal to establish a Community Research Network.  

If your network is already dedicated to enabling the sustainable and equitable engagement of communities in research, then this may involve an expansion of your existing network’s activities, partners or area of focus (locations in which you operate).  

Will applications be at a disadvantage if we don’t have an academic partner at the EoI stage? 

No, there is no requirement to partner with an academic or research organisation at the EoI phase and this will not form part of the assessment process. Your application will not be judged on whether it has an academic or research organisation involved. 

If multiple community groups want to partner with one university on different projects, how can this be handled? 

This call will not support individual projects or collaborations with a specific group of academics or area of research. The funding is designed to allow multiple organisations to come together to build capacity for research based on community need in one or more geographic locations. 

There is no requirement for universities or other research institutions to be involved at the EoI stage. Where universities are involved, this should be coordinated and/or led through their civic, public engagement or other relevant institution-wide strategic lead. Whether or not a university is part of a proposal as a partner will not form part of the assessment process and will not be an advantage or disadvantage during the assessment process.    

We understand that many universities and research organisations will want to support community research networks, and can bring a lot to collaborative research networks. There will be an opportunity for university partners to join bids and collaborations ahead of the Implementation phase, even if they have not been involved at EoI phase.  

Universities should not conduct internal sifts or demand management processes for the EoI phase; we advise universities to either:  

  • join an application with all interested partners and use the EoI phase to collectively establish the final make-up of the network, or  
  • support the development of bids by external partners without formal involvement in any one proposal and decide on appropriate involvement during the EoI phase. 

Can we share this funding call with our wider contacts? Is it OK to circulate it and encourage others we know to apply? 

Yes. Please share this opportunity widely across your networks. We are keen to make sure a diverse selection of potential applicants hear about it. Please direct your contacts to our help channels if they have any questions. 

Are international actors able to apply? 

Only organisations registered in the UK can apply. Organisations based in overseas territories and crown dependencies are not eligible to apply or to be listed as partners.  

Is the money shared between the partner organisations or only to be used by the lead applicant? 

Grant funding can be allocated across as many partners as is required. Priority for funding should be given to the organisations that would otherwise be unable to take part in the development of a research network or who would otherwise not normally gain access to research funding. 

How can we decide who should be the lead applicant, among a broad range of different partners? 

There are no rules or guidelines for which organisation, out of many partners, needs to be the lead. This will be best decided among each prospective network, collaboratively deciding who is best placed to lead. 

Will this funding opportunity be repeated next year? 

This is a one-off investment that is unlikely to be repeated, but we plan to continue to make investments that enable communities to play a more active role in the research and innovation system.  

What training will be in place for panel members to ensure that they appreciate the type of funding call this is? 

All assessors will be recruited for their expertise and experience in areas relevant to this funding call and we have developed a bespoke assessment process to deal with its unique aspects. 

If you have any additional questions, please get in touch   

  • Email: hi@icstudies.org.uk Please mention the Community Research Network fund in the subject line. 
  • Phone: 0800 211 8214 (toll free, Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 5pm) 
  • Online drop-in clinic: We’ll be offering support to applicants through a free online drop-in clinic, where you’ll be able to discuss your application, and seek clarification and advice. To book a 30-minute video call, use this booking page. 
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