Types of Funding

Types of Funding

Types of Funding

 Funding is available for a wide range of activities: from very specific funder-defined projects to grants to support academics delivering papers at conferences; from fellowships aimed at developing and enhancing the skills of an early career researcher to grants to fund the completion of a particular project.

The following pages will look at these different types of funding opportunity:

Early Career Researcher Grants

A wide range of opportunities are available for researchers at the beginning of their academic career. It is a stated aim of the Research Councils in particular to develop and enhance the research capacity of UK universities by supporting early career researchers to take the next step on the academic/research ladder. In most instances, an early career researcher (ECRs) will have recently been awarded (or be about to be awarded) a PhD and/or will be under the age of 35. Most schemes, however, also allow individuals without a PhD but with commensurate experience to apply. They also allow older individuals who may have taken a career break for one reason or another to apply.


Most of the Research Councils and the major charities offer some kind of fellowship scheme to postdoctoral candidates. These schemes provide a salaried period of anything from 1 to 5 years for an academic to concentrate on research activity and to develop their skills. They are often aimed at academics in the early stages of their postdoctoral career who have demonstrated clear potential as a researcher and are intended to develop and enhance this potential. There are, however, also a number of more senior fellowships aimed at those with a proven track-record in research to enable them to sustain the quality of their research and to develop their skills further.

The fellowships are normally focused not on a specific project but on a programme of work to be outlined in the application. This programme may include specific training in advanced research techniques but may also be focused on enhancing the academic's publication record. The fellowships normally allow the holder to engage in small amounts of teaching and supervision, particularly those fellowships aimed at early career academics.

It is normally up to the applicant to identify an institution at which the fellowship is to be held, although the institution must obviously agree to the terms of the fellowship and offer the necessary support. Where the fellowship is aimed at those in a pemanent academic post it is normally the expectation that the fellowship will be held at the same academic institution at which they hold the post.

Early career fellowships normally require that the fellow has a nominated mentor at the institution.

Project Grants (Managed)

Some funders offer project grants under themed called, where the theme can be broad or narrow. This is particularly true of the UK Research Councils. Other funders offer grants for a specific project, where the remit is carefully specified. This is often true of Government Departments and some charities who have a very specific objective in commissioning the research.

Project Grants (Responsive)

A significant percentage of funding provided by the Research Councils and by the major UK Charities is aimed at funding research projects in the responsive mode; that is grants for projects conceived by the applicant(s). For many academics this is the type of grant which will be of most use because it allows you to develop your own project .

Funders offer grants varying in size from a few thousand pounds (often referred to as Small Grants) to several million and funding can be for durations of a few months to five years or more. Generally speaking funding is likely to be available for a research project of any size and duration (within reason).

Research Networking

A number of funders provide funding to establish research networks or clusters that encourage collaboration across universities, between countries and between the university and commercial/industrial sectors. There is a particular focus on establishing conferences and seminars as the focus for these networks but also on establishing the exchange of researchers and of skills and knowledge through training networks. The European Commission is particularly active in this area.