Jul 05

ESRC New Investigator Grants

Funding is available for early career researchers working in the social sciences to support their first major research project.

Fund Information

Funding body:
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Maximum value:
£ 240,000
Application deadline:
None specified

Extended Description

The Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) New Investigator Grants scheme replaces its Future Research Leaders scheme. It aims to support new UK based researchers and academics to develop their careers through gaining experience of managing and leading research projects and teams. Applicants must be the principal investigator on proposed projects and be able to show how an award would have a demonstrable impact on their career progression in becoming an independent researcher.

Eligibility is extended to a wide range of research activities from standard research projects to surveys and other infrastructure projects and methodological developments. Applicants are free to concentrate on any research area as long as it falls within the ESRC’s remit and proposals may draw from the wider sciences provided that the social sciences represent more than 50% of the research focus and effort. Awards are available for a period of up to five years and can be for basic, applied or strategic research. Interdisciplinary proposals are welcomed.

As part of their proposal, applicants should include a programme of training and development activities that will ensure their continued progression towards being an independent researcher. Programmes could incorporate elements such as project management, research methods development, knowledge exchange and user engagement, impact, national and international networking and research development, and should be developed in consultation between the applicant, their mentor and the host organisation. Applicants must also demonstrate how they will identify, address and monitor the training needs of any staff employed on the grant.

This scheme operates alongside the ESRC’s Research Grants scheme and is, similarly, an open call for proposals with no fixed deadline. It is anticipated that ESRC will fund between 30 and 35 grants per year (10 to 12 per GAP round) subject to quality and available funds.

Eligibility Criteria

Applications are invited from high quality, early career researchers of any nationality but who are based at UK HEIs or research organisations approved by the ESRC and eligible for responsive mode schemes (see www.rcuk.ac.uk/funding/eligibilityforrcs/ for more information). Applicants are not required to have a permanent academic post.

Eligible applicants must:

  • Be the principal investigator who submits the proposal.
  • Have a maximum of four years’ academic research experience between submitting their PhD thesis and submitting the New Investigator proposal (or be of equivalent professional standing). Career breaks are excluded from the four-year period and periods of part-time academic employment can be calculated on a pro-rata basis.

Co-investigators are permitted, and encouraged for interdisciplinary proposals or where they would provide specific technical expertise that is essential to the project.

Value Notes

This scheme has an annual budget of £7,500,000. Grants of between £100,000 and £300,000 (100% fEC) are available for the duration of up to five years. ESRC will contribute 80% of full economic costs (fEC).

Match Funding Restrictions

In accordance with RCUK policy, ESRC will fund 80% of full economic costs. The remaining 20% must be contributed by the host organisation.


The following exclusions apply:

  • Current or former principal investigators on ESRC or other Research Council grants (except ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowships and Research Councils UK Fellows) are not eligible to apply for this scheme.
  • Applicants who technically meet the eligibility criteria but hold a professorship are not eligible as there is an expectation that they have already obtained the relevant research and management skills.
  • Associated studentships are not permitted.
  • Costs for mentoring time cannot be claimed as part of these grants; they must be met as part of the host institution’s contribution to the award.

Terms and Conditions

Proposals will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • Originality, potential contribution to knowledge.
  • Research design and methods.
  • Value for money.
  • Outputs, dissemination and impact.

The following terms and conditions apply:

  • Proposals may include provision for a research assistant(s), as long as all requests for additional staff time, to develop staff management skills and assist in the completion of the proposed research project, are fully justified.
  • All applicants are required to have a named mentor based at the research organisation where the grant is to be held. A proposed mentor should be of high academic standing and have a strong interest in the applicant’s field of research, but should not normally be the applicant’s former PhD supervisor.
  • Research visits to one or more internationally leading research organisations – either in the UK or abroad – are encouraged for the purposes of research collaboration, training, and/or access to data or other resources not available at the applicant’s host organisation. However, the majority of the grant holder’s time should be in the UK at their host research organisation.

Application Procedure

There is an open call for research proposals under this scheme; there is no deadline and applications can be submitted at any time.

Applicants must submit applications through the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S). Following peer review, projects will be assessed by the Grants Assessment Panels (GAP), which meet in March, July and November of each year. It is expected that 10 to 12 proposals will be funded at each GAP round.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the ESRC guidance on how to write a good application for a full understanding of what is required, and the various stages of the application process.

ESRC aims to announce the majority of decisions within 26 weeks of receiving the proposal, although this is dependent on receiving sufficient good quality peer review comments within the necessary timescale.

Addresses and contacts

For further information on how to obtain this grant locally, please contact the following:

  1. New Investigator Grant Queries
    Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
    Polaris House
    North Star Avenue
    SN2 1UJ
    Tel: 01793 413000
    Fax: 01793 413001
    Email: esrcpeerreview@esrc.ac.uk

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