In April 2020 the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is planning to announce an open competition for Research Centres. The competition will be open to applications of excellent quality in any area of social science within the ESRC remit. The call will also include a highlight notice in the area of demographic change, in particular ‘connecting generations’.

Research Centres are major ESRC strategic investments. In addition to taking forward an ambitious research agenda and making significant economic and/or societal impact, they add value by increasing research infrastructure, building capacity, encouraging interdisciplinary working in social science and beyond, and enabling research collaboration in the UK and internationally.

Research Centre funding is aimed at experienced research leaders who require longer-term or extended support for research groups, inter-institutional research networks, programmes of research, medium to large surveys, other infrastructure or methodological developments, or any related larger-scale projects. Research Centres also have a distinct role in supporting the development of early career researchers and building new research capacity. They are expected to be high-impact investments over the longer term.

The ESRC will be investing up to £45m 100% full economic cost (fEC) over five years through the open element of this Centres Competition, with up to a further £10m 100% fEC for the highlight notice. The competition is for proposals ranging from £2.5 million to £10 million 100% fEC with a term of up to five years. ESRC will meet 80% of the full economic costs on proposals submitted. It is anticipated that ESRC will fund up to five Centres under the open call and a further Centre under the highlight notice. All proposals to this call must be led by a researcher at an eligible UK Research Organisation (RO) and will need to be submitted through the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We anticipate considerable interest in this competition which will be run as a two-stage application process and, as in previous competitions, we will ask ROs to limit the number of applications to support the most competitive bids. We will be looking for evidence of long term institutional commitment, including additional financial resources from the RO to extend the work programme beyond the 100% fEC funding requested.

Highlight notice

Dedicated funds will be available to support a Centre in the area of demographic change, in particular ‘connecting generations’. It is our expectation that the successful Centre will seek to address aims set out under the Changing Populations priority area of the ESRC 2019 Delivery Plan (https://www.ukri.org/files/about/dps/esrc-dp-2019/). Specifically, the Centre will fulfil our commitment to a Connecting Generations programme that expands research on demographic change and its consequences for transfers between generations.

We are currently working to finalise the scope for the highlight notice and this will be made available alongside the full call when it is published.

Provisional timetable

Full guidance on eligibility, closing dates, how to apply to the call and assessment criteria will be published on the ESRC website in April 2020. A provisional timetable is shown below.

  • Call published – April 2020
  • Deadline for submitting outline proposals – June 2020
  • Deadline for submitting full proposals – January 2021
  • Award start date -  October 2021