Mental health, civil rights and workplace tech receive £25 million boost
  • £25m will strengthen social science research with major implications for improving social and economic outcomes across people’s lifetimes
  • The areas funded include mental health, civil rights, skills development and the digital workplace, and social care
  • UK research centres from London to Sussex and Leeds to Cardiff – including two new centres - awarded cash boost as part of coveted competition

Centres driving advances in social research – such as in mental health treatment and prevention, and civil rights and engagement-  will receive a boost today as the government unveils £25 million for social science research.

Four major social science research centres across the UK have secured a slice of the funding as part of a highly competitive competition run by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), open to all areas of social science. Led by Universities across the UK, the centres benefiting from the cash injection will propel forward our understanding of and response to a range of social and economic issues - exploring how population and technology changes are impacting modern economy and society.

This investment is the latest move by the government to inject funding into crucial research, as part of its ambition for research and development investment to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027. As with other ESRC investment in centres, the scale and longevity of these centres is expected to enable significant social and economic impact.

Science and Innovation Minister Jo Johnson said:

 “The rapid pace of advances in technology and population growth are dramatically changing the world we all inhabit.

 “These centres will play a vital role in building our shared understanding of the impact these shifts are having on society and the world of work. These projects each have the potential to strengthen the social fabric of our country, while keeping the UK at the forefront of global social science.”

The Government is investing in two new centres, and reinvesting in two existing ones – all with expected major implications for policy makers, businesses, charities and families in improving outcomes across a range of areas. Successful projects include:

  • Centre for Society and Mental Health, hosted by King’s College London: this new centre will deepen our understanding of how social, economic and cultural changes are affecting our mental health. Findings are expected to have major implications for treatment and prevention of mental health disorders which cost the UK economy around £105 billion annually in healthcare and non-medical costs and unemployment, lost productivity and social welfare.
  • Digital Futures at Work, hosted by the University of Sussex Business School and Leeds University Business School: this new centre will explore how new digital technologies are profoundly reshaping the world of work and is expected to produce new evidence for policy makers, businesses, and unions on effective adoption of digital technology, the future of skills requirements and productivity.
  • The Research Centre on Micro-Social Change, hosted by University of Essex: this established and highly regarded ESRC centre will explore demographic changes and is expected to provide important new evidence to inform policy makers, parents, as well as education, health and social care providers and employers, on how they can support better outcomes for young people over their lifetime, and respond to an aging society.
  • The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) Civil Society Centre, hosted by Cardiff University: this established and highly regarded ESRC centre is expected to produce research with major implications for national and international policy makers and civil society organisations. It will enable evidence-based policy making to support the development of a strong, healthy civil society and increase marginalised citizens' awareness of their rights so they can secure and access public services.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s Executive Chair said:

"We are delighted to announce the funding for these four centres, which demonstrate the breadth of social science excellence in the UK. It is heartening to see the existing ESRC centres WISERD and MiSoC continue to build on an impressive body of work and to see the creation of two new centres with fresh social science perspective on Mental Health and Society, and Digital Futures at Work, both of which are issues of major public and policy interest.”   

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said:

“These four centres represent significant investments across the social science research landscape, focusing on key issues such as the impact of digital technologies on the world of work and the effects of socio-economic changes on mental health. They will play an important role in maintaining the UK’s international standing at the cutting edge of social science research.”