Recently, I blogged about the need to have broad horizons and to look widely for your funding opportunities, including at government departments. This blog included a link to one Government department and their recently published research priorities.
In fact, the Office for Science has carried out an exercise asking all departments to report their research priorities. Several departments have completed their Areas of Research Interest (ARI) exercise and prepared reports, which are now available on the Gov.uk information pages.
What should an ARU researcher do with these ARI documents?
First, understand their purpose. As ever, the best way to appeal to potential funders is to get as much insight into what the funder sees as important. These documents are designed to focus the activities of each department, and clarify what is truly important to each body. They are designed to be widely read and widely shared, particularly among universities and businesses, giving as wide a pool as possible of potential partners.
Second, read as many as possible. Be aware that although your work may usually sit neatly inside one minister's portfolio, you may find some relevance to several, and you'll increase your appeal as a researcher hugely if you are doing such strategically important work. For example, research into the ageing population could be of use to the Department of Health, but also to the Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Transport, and the Ministry of Defence. Most of the documents include contact details, allowing you to make remit enquiries and potentially form personal links with civil servants working within certain departments of interest.
Third, and most difficult, watch and wait. Although areas are defined as important, there may not actually be funding on the table right now. Once you've made contact and confirmed an interest in your work, my best suggestion is to come up with one or two project plans with your collaborators, eg one for a £10,000 project, one for a £100,000 project and one for a £500,000 project. You'll then be in an excellent position if an opportunity is launched, and you'll be able to be one of the first to respond.
What do Government Department funding calls look like?
Departments have a few options for funding research within their remit. They could run a call on their own as any funding body or charity would. More usually, one or more departments will club together with one or more Research Councils (who provide the know-how and infrastructure needed for large calls) to offer larger sums of money to several research teams. Another common mechanism is the Tender, where a department requires a very specific piece of commissioned work and awards a contract to the 'best' bidder (judged in various ways).
How can I find Government funding calls?,
The same ways as you would find other calls:
- check the funder's website directly
- search Research Professional
- through collaborative/related funding opportunities
- word of mouth.