ESRC centres are major ESRC strategic investments, funded at £2.5 - £10 million (100% of full economic costs (fEC)) over five years. ESRC funds these investments, as standard, at 80% fEC.

In addition to taking forward an ambitious research agenda and making significant economic or societal impact, centres 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.

The ESRC review of centres policy

We have recently reviewed and revised our centres policy with the aim of fostering and sustaining a larger number of centres over the longer term. 

Further information about the review and the background and principles behind the revised funding model are detailed in our Centres Policy summary (PDF, 64Kb).

The new funding model introduces two funding tracks:

ESRC centres - offer graduated support to help centres establish a self-sustaining funding model once ESRC funding comes to an end.

ESRC institutes - provide longer-term fully-funded support for a small number of strategically valuable 'ESRC institutes' that have been persistently successful in open centres competitions.    

ESRC centres

A typical funding pathway for a new centre under this new policy would be as follows:

  • Centres competition funding
    The centre is funded for five years following success in an open centres competition.  
  • Transition funding
    Towards the end of its grant the centre successfully applies for ESRC transition funding, which is supplemented by a commitment from their host research organisation. Together this provides the centre with funding worth around 45% of its centres grant for a further three to five years. Find out more about transition funding.
  • Centres branding
    Towards the end of the transition funding the centre applies for a further period of recognition as an ESRC centre to help it leverage funding from other sources and in communicating and engaging with research users.

Further information on each of these phases of ESRC centre funding and support can be found in the Centres Policy summary (PDF, 64Kb).

ESRC institutes

A very small number of centres of strategic importance that have been persistently funded by ESRC over a long period will also be invited to apply for a new ESRC 'research institute' status (PDF, 60Kb) with enduring funding in recognition of their exceptional status.

Centres eligible to apply for institute status will be invited by the ESRC to apply at mid-term (in their third year), in their third round of centres competition funding. Once approved for this status the institute would be funded through a rolling grant model (reviewed every five years).

Global centres of excellence awarded institute status

In April 2018 we recognised global centres of excellence with official ESRC research institute status. The move acknowledges those centres which have demonstrated sustained strategic value to the Council, as well as to the broader social science research landscape, with long-term, five-year funding.

Launching as the first ESRC research institutes will be the Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy (CPP) and the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP).