Mental health, civil rights and workplace tech receive £25 million boost

3 Sep 2019 12:27 PM

Centres driving advances in social research – such as in mental health treatment and prevention, and civil rights and engagement – received a boost yesterday as the government unveiled £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 yesterday 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:

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s Executive Chair yesterday 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, yesterday 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.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The ESRC undertook a review of the way it funds its centres between 2015 and 2017. This review recognised the strategic value of ESRC centres as beacons of research excellence, with high impact nationally and internationally. 
  2. The ESRC Centres competition was launched in 2018/19 with three stages to the competition (outline and full panel and interview).  The ESRC received 89 applications at outline stage, from which 18 were invited to submit full stage applications, and 9 invited to interview. 
  3. These Centres will be funded up to £8 million at 100% full economic cost for five years, with the future option to apply for follow on Centres Transition and Legacy funding for up to a further 10 years. 
  4. Research centre funding is aimed at experienced research leaders who require extended support for research groups, inter-institutional research networks, project-linked programmes, medium-to-large surveys, other infrastructure or methodological developments, or any related larger-scale projects.
  5. Further information on the projects:  
  1. 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
  2. UK Research and Innovation 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 £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.