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ESRC announces £27 million to boost research impact at universities across the UK

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is announcing £27 million of funding for Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs) at research organisations across the UK. Over the next four years this second round of ESRC IAAs will help social scientists collaborate with businesses, policymakers and civil society, creating new opportunities for research to make a positive contribution to society and the economy. 

  • Investment enables research organisations to develop flexible, creative and tailored approaches to increase the social and economic impact of science
  • Second wave of scheme builds on previous success to fund innovative and sustainable approaches to knowledge exchange at 26 research organisations across the UK

IAAs are block awards made to research organisations to speed up the impact of research. Research organisations can make decisions about how to invest their IAA funding based on their individual needs and strategies, responding flexibly and creatively to opportunities for social scientists and potential research users to collaborate and share knowledge. ESRC IAAs create opportunities for the social sciences to work with other disciplines and proactively engage across their institution to build networks and leverage funding vital for sustainability of knowledge exchange and impact. 

Building on a first round of ESRC IAAs, these 26 new awards continue to focus on building capacity, skills and culture around knowledge exchange within research organisations, as well as strengthening engagement opportunities with research users, including at an early stage and in innovative ways. IAAs are also intended to enable organisations to focus on longer term sustainability of knowledge exchange and impact support, and to help improve plans for supporting impact included within new research projects.

Following a competitive, peer-reviewed process open to invited research organisations that receive substantial levels of research investment from the ESRC, 26 research organisations from across the UK have been awarded IAA funding, which will commence from 1 April 2019. This includes six research organisations that have not previously held ESRC IAA funds. 

Professor Jennifer Rubin, Executive Chair of ESRC said: “This next generation of IAA funding will enable research organisations to build the capacity, capability and opportunity for social scientists to play their part in ensuring the UK’s world-leading research is brought to bear on the pressing social and economic challenges and opportunities we face.”

The research organisations awarded round two IAA funding are: 

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of CambridgeCardiff University
  • Durham University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Essex
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Glasgow
  • Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • King's College London
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Manchester
  • National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • Queen's University Belfast
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Surrey
  • University of Sussex
  • University of Warwick
  • University of York

Notes for editors

  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. For more information visit UKRI.
  • The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.
  • UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
  • Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.
  • A total of 25 research organisations have been awarded full round two IAA funding of between £800,000 and £1.3 million total over four years. Newcastle University was successful in securing ESRC IAA Transition Funding. The opportunity to apply for Transition Funding has been made available to research organisations which held a round one ESRC IAA but were not eligible for or did not secure full round two funding. 
  • Lancaster University, University of Leeds, University of Leicester, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Surrey have not previously held ESRC IAA funding. In 2015 the Leeds Social Sciences Institute did launch a University of Leeds-funded Impact Acceleration Account which was developed in association with the ESRC. 
  • In March 2017, ESRC performed a high level strategic review of the first round of IAAs to inform commissioning for the second round. The review found that the IAAs had ‘supported new and existing partnerships, funded engagement activities that were previously difficult to resource, and built capacity across a full range of social science disciplines and users’. Round one IAAs are due to complete at end of March 2019.


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