Funding competition Community Research Networks – Expression of interest

Organisations can apply for a share of £500,000 to support proposals to form a Community Research Network in their area. This is an expression of interest competition.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will invest £4.4 million over the next four years in the creation of a series of Community Research Networks across the UK. This will form part of its goal to deliver economic, social, and cultural benefits from research and innovation to all UK citizens.

The funding will help local areas by investing in organisations which can support the sustainable and equitable involvement of communities in research.

Community organisations, charities and local authorities, alongside research organisations, play a crucial role in the production, interpretation and use of research.

This investment will give these organisations the capacity to collaborate effectively, unlocking the potential of community-centred research and research engagement approaches.

This is phase one of a two phase competition:

  • Community Research Networks – Expression of interest (EoI) (this competition)
  • Community Research Networks – Implementation

Funding at this EoI phase will support initial collaborations in building relationships and to develop plans for the implementation phase. Only successful applicants at the EoI phase will be invited to apply for the implementation phase in April 2023.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your collaboration’s total grant funding request must be a fixed award of £25,000.

Who can apply

28/7/2022: Edit made on start date and end date. Added also two eligible organisation on Lead Organisations and Collaborators

This award is provided on a No subsidy basis. This means you must publish or make all project outputs openly available on a non-selective basis. If you decide to commercially exploit project outputs, you can only do so with no selective advantage.

Your collaboration

Your collaboration:

  • should start its activities by 1 December 2022
  • must end its activities by 30 May2023
  • carry out its work in the UK

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a collaboration your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • charitable trust
  • registered charity
  • community interest company
  • cooperative society
  • local authority
  • Community benefit society

  • Non-profit company limited by guarantee

The lead organisation must:

  • collaborate with other eligible UK registered organisations
  • not act in any way to gain selective commercial or economic advantage from the outputs of this project

All organisations who are eligible to receive grant funding must have an accurate and up to date record of financial accounts.

We can only pay funding to a UK business bank account in the same name as the organisation’s details in your application.

Further information will be requested if your application is successful.

Your proposal must include at least two organisations who are interested in forming a network that will serve a specific, locally meaningful geographic location.

Organisations do not all need to be based within that location, or even in the same part of the UK. However, there should be a clear rationale for why you are working together and why the specific location has been chosen.

The organisations do not need to have worked together before and can develop their relationship during this EoI phase.


To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • research organisation
  • charitable trust
  • registered charity
  • community interest company
  • cooperative society
  • local authority
  • Community benefit society

  • Non-profit company limited by guarantee

For this funding competition, research organisation are categorised as:

  • universities, higher education institutions
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs)
  • research council institutes
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • non-profit research and technology organisations (RTOs), including catapults
Applications involving universities must name a relevant, institution-wide strategic or academic lead. Applications that do not do so risk being rejected.

Your collaboration can include eligible organisations that do not receive any of this competition’s funding.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

Eligible organisations can only lead or be included as a collaborator on one application.

Previous applications

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have failed to comply with any UKRI grant terms and conditions.

Eligibility Tree

Please find attached the eligibility tree for this competition.

No subsidy (and non-aid where applicable)

No subsidy

This competition provides funding that is not classed by UKRI as a subsidy. You should still seek independent legal advice on what this means for you, before applying.

Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent BEIS guidance.

‘No subsidy’ status is only granted to organisations which declare that they will not use the funding:

  • in any way which gives them selective economic or commercial advantage
  • in any way which would determine the funding as a subsidy as defined by the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement

It is the responsibility of the lead organisation to make sure all collaborators in the project remain compliant with these requirements.

It is important to note that it is the activity that an organisation is engaged in as part of the project and not its intentions, that define whether any support provided could be considered a subsidy.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


Up to £500,000 has been allocated to fund collaborations in this expression of interest phase of the competition. We expect to fund up to 20 collaborations for an initial period of six months. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

The total grant awarded for each collaboration is fixed at £25,000.

For the Implementation phase competition £3.5 million has been allocated to fund a minimum of 5 networks for up to £200,000 each year for three years.

Research organisations cannot claim costs for the expression of interest phase but can participate as collaborative, non-grant claiming partners.

For this EoI phase, research organisation are:

  • universities, higher education institutions
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs)
  • research council institutes
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • non-profit research and technology organisations (RTOs), including catapults

Within your collaboration, priority for funding should be given to the organisations that would not be able to participate in your proposal’s development without financial assistance.

At this EoI phase you are not required to provide a detailed breakdown of your activity or budget. We will work with successful applicants to create a detailed budget as part of the awarding process.

Funding can be used to cover staff time and overheads, travel and subsistence for staff and volunteers, venue hire and equipment. Further information on eligible costs can be found on our website.

Grant funding cannot be used to pay members of the public for their involvement, for example, for attending a workshop or taking part in a focus group. You must use a subcontractor if you wish to use the funding for this type of incentive.

Advice for organisations wishing to pay members of the public for their involvement in research is available from the NIHR.

Your proposal

The aim of this expression of interest (EoI) competition is to support up to 20 initial collaborations with the potential to form a Community Research Network at the implementation phase.

We want to support organisations with the potential to enable equitable and sustainable forms of community participation in research.

Funding for this EoI phase must be used to support the collaborative development of your application for the implementation phase. This can include:

  • building collaborations and partnerships
  • convening discussions
  • hosting workshops
  • engaging communities
  • collaborative bid writing
  • desk research

UKRI will manage a support package for all 20 potential network collaborations chosen at the EoI phase. This will include workshops and events to assist in the development of applications for the implementation phase and encourage networking between collaborations.

The support package will also include some ongoing non-financial support for collaborations beyond the initial EoI six-month period. This is regardless of success with an application at the implementation phase. More information about the support package will be made available to successful EoI collaborations.

Assessment of applications

We want to fund a variety of proposals across different locations, organisation types, existing activity levels and community need. We call this a portfolio approach.

As such, alongside recognising the potential of each case for funding, we will be considering:

  • the diversity of organisations across the whole portfolio; we will be looking to award a mixed portfolio of networks led by community groups, special interest or campaign groups and networks, community interest organisations and local government, alongside others
  • addressing 'cold spots' of research capacity and community strength. We will be looking to balance and plug gaps where there are currently 'cold spots' of community research and research engagement across the UK
  • addressing issues of power: we will be looking to fund a number of potential networks across the portfolio that are led by or support communities who lack power and influence over research

The implementation phase

Potential network collaborations selected at the expression of interest phase will be invited to apply for the implementation phase, which will open in April 2023. Further details about the application timeline and requirements for this phase will be released in due course.

By your application to the implementation phase, you must have identified all appropriate core partners, to have mutual agreement on their roles in the network and how the funding will be distributed.

Implementation phase funding can be used to invest in the capacity and capability of the network partners to deliver across four key goals:

  1. Develop the knowledge, skills and capability required to support research produced with, by and for local communities: Your network can determine and develop relevant skills and capabilities, for example, through training, mentoring, buddy schemes or learn-by-doing approaches. These can be delivered either by network partners or procured and delivered by external suppliers.
  2. Strengthen and sustain the connections between local communities and local research organisations: A key role of your network will be to create and sustain key relationships and to create opportunities for new connections. This can be through networking events, matchmaking and brokerage services, advisory groups, committees or one-on-one meetings.
  3. Invest in, pilot and scale community-engaged research activity: Your network will develop, undertake or commission research projects, priority setting exercises, knowledge exchange initiatives, engagement projects and other activity identified as being important for developing research with, by and for communities.
  4. Collate and share knowledge about their practice with UKRI and other relevant stakeholders: Your network will be expected to collect and share learning about their practice through events, publications, evaluation reports and social and traditional media. The support package will help your network to achieve this goal.

Who should be involved in a network?

We recognise that every place will have a different mix of organisations with the potential to facilitate the involvement of communities in research, each bringing differing levels of existing experience, knowledge and capacity.

The organisations and individuals in your collaboration, as well as the relationships and their roles in the network can change between the EoI and implementation phases. However, your collaboration must involve at least one organisation from the EoI phase and at least one research organisation, in the implementation phase.

We believe that certain areas of knowledge and experience will be crucial to delivering on the long-term goals of the networks.

By the implementation phase, each network should be able to demonstrate it includes, or has the means to develop, knowledge and experience across all the following areas:

  • developing and sustaining equitable partnerships
  • using participatory research methodologies, for example, participatory action research, community-based participatory research, citizen science, public involvement, public dialogue or patient and public involvement.
  • conducting research in the formal, professionalised research and innovation system, broadly defined as organisations that have received research funding from UKRI or its councils
  • understanding and responding to the needs, priorities, strengths and assets of local communities, particularly those that are most likely to lack power and influence
  • working in ways that foreground and promote equality, diversity and inclusion

Specific themes

Your collaboration does not need to focus on a specific research theme or topic area. UKRI funds all types of research and you are encouraged to think in broad terms about the role of communities in producing, shaping, influencing, engaging with and using research.

We expect that themes or focus areas will develop based on a combination of the existing interests and expertise of organisations in the collaboration and the needs and priorities of local communities.

More information on UKRI's priorities is available in our strategy document, transforming tomorrow together.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • capital expenditure
  • activity that you are already undertaking in partnership or as a single organisation
  • activity that does not contribute to the development of a proposal for the Community Research Networks – Implementation phase.
  • enterprises which are seeking to gain a selective economic or commercial advantage from the funding

25 July 2022
Competition opens
27 July 2022
Webinar debrief event: Click here
14 September 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
31 October 2022
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you in the collaboration. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Team members must each complete an Equality Diversity and Inclusion survey. The lead applicant must complete their survey to submit the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your collaboration’s title, start date and duration.

2. Application questions

You must answer all questions. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Applicant location

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation, any partners and subcontractors working on your project.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.

Your answer must be no more than 400 words long.

Question 2. Organisation details

You must list the name, legal status and key purpose and functions of the organisations involved in this application.

Your answer must be no more than 400 words long.

Question 3. Proposed focus

Who will your network serve and what are your initial activity ideas?


  • the demographics or characteristics of communities within your area of focus
  • what value might be created through a community research network in your area of focus
  • the activities you will undertake to better understand local need and capacity

Your answer must be no more than 600 words long.

Question 4. Existing activity

What level of activity or capacity for community involvement in research exists in the proposed location?


  • any relevant programmes or projects
  • existing partnerships, initiatives or networks
  • any previous funding received to support this or other skills that are relevant

There is no requirement or expectation for existing levels of activity. We will select applications from across a spectrum of existing activity levels.

Your answer must be no more than 600 words long.

Question 5. Team and resources

Who will be involved and what is their current role in the community?


  • the current role, skills and experience of the individuals involved in the EoI phase, including any subcontractors
  • the current relationships between collaborators and how you expect these to develop during this phase

Your answer must be no more than 1000 words long.

3. Finances

All collaborations will receive a fixed award of £25,000.

At this stage, each organisation should add their intended grant claim as a single entry in the ‘other costs’ category. The figure should be roughly equivalent to their intended claim. We will work with successful applicants to produce a more detailed budget as part of the awarding process.

Collaborations must ensure that their total grant request equals £25,000.

Collaborative partners not claiming grant must complete their organisation details. They must select the option in the finances section to say they are not claiming grant.

Organisations can request up to 50% of their funding to be paid in advance on submission of a cashflow forecast at the award stage. Advance payment will only be agreed where a clear need can be demonstrated.

Background and further information


UKRI’s new strategy describes research and innovation as something that everyone, from primary school pupils to care home residents, has a stake in. It describes how UKRI will:

  • involve a broader range of people and organisations in the design and delivery of research and innovation
  • use our reach to broker and support collaborations that drive forward new disciplines, activities and structures
  • support a diversity of ideas, people, activities, skills, institutions and infrastructures

Over the last two years UKRI has piloted collaborative research projects, developed initiatives with experts in community engagement and commissioned reviews and evaluations. This work highlights that, in order to achieve UKRI’s strategic goals, we need more sustainable and equitable models of involving communities in research.

In October 2021, we commissioned The Young Foundation to investigate the potential for long-term investments to support community involvement in research and innovation. Their work demonstrates the need to move beyond instrumental relationships with communities, and to expand the practice of ‘community engagement’ into forms of support that create capacity, capability and connectivity. Providing a strong foundation for communities and research organisations to work together.

This programme of investment contributes to addressing the weaknesses in current models of community engagement. It targets the development of the capacity, capability and connectivity required for more equitable and sustainable models of community-engaged research.

It also contributes to UKRI’s organisational goal to deliver economic, social, and cultural benefits from research and innovation to all UK citizens, including developing research and innovation strengths across the UK in support of levelling up.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Young Foundation (each an ‘agency’).

Your submitted application and any other information you provide at the application stage can be submitted to each agency on an individual basis for its storage, processing and use. Any relevant information produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to UKRI and the Young Foundation and vice versa.

Innovate UK, UKRI and the Young Foundation are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with their own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK, UKRI and the Young Foundation will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Find a project collaborator

If you would like assistance finding a collaborator, please contact the Young Foundation.

Email or call 0800 211 8214 (toll-free, Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 5:00pm)

We be running a series of regional events and online workshops for potential applicants. More details can be found on the Young Foundation’s website

Contact us

To discuss whether the call is for you how to develop your proposal, please contact the Young Foundation by email or call 0800 211 8214 (toll-free, Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 5:00pm)

If you need more information about how to apply on the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email or call 0300 321 4357.

Our 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.

We 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 our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

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