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List of main funders


The UK has seven research councils. Research Councils UK is a strategic partnership enabling them to work together more effectively to enhance their impact and effectiveness.

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - funds research on a very wide range of subjects, from traditional humanities such as history, English, linguistics, French and other modern languages, philosophy and classics, area and interdisciplinary studies to creative and performing arts such as drama, dance, music, art and design.
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) - funds research in plants, microbes, animals (including humans), tools and technology underpinning biological research. The BBSRC funds research from the level of molecules and cells, to tissues, whole organisms, populations and landscapes. Note: the BBSRC funds genetics and genomics research relevant to understanding normal human function, but does not fund research focused on specific human diseases and disease processes or abnormal conditions.
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) - funds research and training in social and economic issues.
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - funds research and training in engineering and the physical sciences. Current programmes and emphasis: cross-disciplinary interfaces, ICT, materials, mechanical and medical engineering, mathematical sciences, physical sciences, process, environment and sustainability, public engagement, infrastructure and international, digital economy, energy, nano applications, healthcare.
  • Medical Research Council (MRC) - supports research across the biomedical spectrum, from fundamental lab-based science to clinical trials, and in all major disease areas. It gives a high priority to research that is likely to make a real difference to clinical practice and the health of the population.
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - funds research, survey, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental sciences. Funding covers the full range of atmospheric, earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic sciences.
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) - operates large scale science and engineering research facilities, and funds research mainly in astronomy, particle physics, space science and nuclear physics.


Research Council Themes

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

  • Care for the Future affords an opportunity for researchers to generate new understanding of the relationship between the past and the future and how we transmit and question our heritage.
  • Digital Transformations investigates the potential of digital technologies to transform research in the arts and humanities. It addresses crucial topics such as intellectual property, cultural memory and identity, and communication and creativity in the digital age.
  • Science in Culture explores cross-disciplinary dialogues in the relationship between sciences and the arts and humanities.
  • Translating Cultures explores understanding and communication across cultures, looking at the role of translation, in its broadest sense, in the transmission of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives.
  • Connected Communities is a cross-Council programme led by the AHRC working with EPSRC, ESRC, MRC and NERC and a range of external partners. Arts and humanities researchers lead on areas related to creativity, sustainability, historical experiences and the cultural and belief frameworks through which communities self identify and interact.
  • Heritage, Design and Languages have been announced as three priority areas for 2016-2020. Heritage priority themes include: Values and Cultural Heritage, Connecting People with Heritage, Sustainable Cultural Heritage, Innovative Use and Re-Use of Heritage, Intangible, Emerging, Hidden and Contested Heritages, and Changing Heritage Economies.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

  • Mental health
  • Housing
  • Productivity
  • Understanding the macro-economy
  • Ways of being in a digital age

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Medical Research Council (MRC)

  • Natural protection: Resistance to disease and degeneration.
  • Tissue disease and degeneration: Ageing, tissue and dementia; inflammation and disease
  • Mental health and wellbeing: Mental health risk factors; relationship between mental and physical health.
  • Repair and replacement: To translate regenerative medicine knowledge into new treatment strategies.
  • Molecular datasets and disease: To use genetics, imaging and biological indicators to understand predispositions to disease, and target treatments to disease subtypes.
  • Life course perspective: Interdisciplinary population-based research into health/ wellbeing from childhood to older age.
  • Lifestyles affecting health: Developing effective strategies for promoting healthy behaviour.
  • Environment and health: To explore the impact of our environment on health and wellbeing.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

  • Benefiting from natural resources.
  • Building resilience to environmental hazards.
  • Managing environmental change.

Other Funding Body Themes

Nuffield Foundation

  • Children and Families: funds projects to help ensure that social policy and the institutions governing family life in the UK are best adapted to meet the needs of children and families.
  • Early Years Education and Childcare: funds projects in our priority areas of educational attainment and child development outcomes, tackling social disadvantage, parental and family contexts, wider societal impacts, and public policy mechanisms.
  • Economic Advantage and Disadvantage: funds projects on the distribution of all aspects of individual and household economic well-being, their causes and consequences.
  • Education: funds projects in our priority areas of primary education, secondary education transitions, science and mathematics.
  • Finances of Ageing: funds projects related to all aspects of finance, economics, and transfers related to individual and population ageing.
  • Law in Society: funds projects designed to promote access to, and improve understanding of, the civil and family justice systems.
  • Open Door: for projects that improve social well-being, and meet Trustees’ wider interests, but that lie outside the programme areas above.
  • Grants are mainly for research (usually carried out in universities or independent research institutes) but are also made for practical developments or innovation (often in voluntary sector organisations)


  • The Airey Neave Trust - funds research in the field of human freedom (helping to protect and/or enhance personal freedom under the rule of democratic law, either national or international, against the threat and consequences of political violence). It may, specifically, concentrate on a subject relating to terrorism, political violence and torture.
  • Arts Council of England - champions, develops and invests in artistic experiences that enrich people's lives. Applications from universities must benefit the wider community.
  • The British Academy - advances the humanities and social sciences by providing distinct career and research opportunities for outstanding scholars at all levels – including those at an early career stage.
  • The British Council - the British Council's science programme supports scientific collaboration. It funds overseas students to study in the UK and overseas exchange and network programmes for early career researchers.
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) - funds research projects, conferences, seminars, workshops and visiting professors. Supports a wide range of topics, eg the impact of climate change on business, customer value, enterprise governance, narrative reporting, risk management and corporate governance.
  • The Esmee Fairburn Foundation - funds research on the UK's cultural life, education, the natural environment and enabling people who are disadvantaged to participate more fully in society (main fund).
  • The Foyle Foundation - main work relates to learning, arts and health. Its priorities are to make the arts more accessible by developing new audiences, supporting tours, festivals and arts education projects, encouraging new work, and supporting young and emerging artists.
  • The Gatsby Charitable Foundation - the Trustees generally do not make grants in response to unsolicited applications and do not normally make grants to individuals. Currently has two major fields of interest: plant science and neuroscience. But funding is also available for projects in mental health, science and engineering, education, disadvantaged children, local economic renewal, Africa and the arts.
  • Heritage Lottery Fund - gives grants to a wide range of projects involving the local, regional and national heritage of the UK. It distributes a share of the money raised by the National Lottery for Good Causes.
  • Institute of Historical Research - administers a number of fellowships and prizes which aim to help postgraduate, postdoctoral and other historical research.
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation - funds research to provide evidence, solutions and ideas that will help overcome the causes of poverty, disadvantage and social evil.
  • The Leverhulme Trust - makes awards for the support of research and education. It funds research across all subject areas, with an emphasis on individuals and innovation.
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation - funds organisations whose charitable activities help people to realise their potential and have a better quality of life. Funding programmes are: arts; education and learning; and social justice.
  • The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art - supports scholarship in the field of British art and architectural history, and disseminates knowledge through publications, exhibitions and education, offering a variety of fellowships and grants. The Centre's remit does not cover contemporary fine arts, archaeology, the current practice of architecture or the performing arts.
  • The Nuffield Foundation - funds research to advance social well-being with the potential to influence policy or practice. The two main funding categories are: support of research and innovation that will bring about beneficial social change; and support of people in the early stages of their careers in the sciences and the social sciences.
  • Royal Academy of Engineering - runs a programme of awards and schemes to encourage engineering research and facilitate closer contacts between the industrial and academic worlds.
  • The Royal Society - the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth dedicated to promoting excellence in science. It runs a series of schemes that enhance the UK science base and fosters collaboration between UK based and overseas scientists.
  • Sasakawa Peace Foundation - funds research to contribute to the welfare of humankind and the sound development of the international community, and thus to world peace.
  • Sir Halley Stewart Trust - funds projects in religious, social, educational and medical fields. Grants are normally given in the form of a salary.

UK: Medical and related

  • Action Medical Research - supports a broad spectrum of research with the objective of preventing disease and disability and alleviating physical disability. However, it doesn't support cancer, cardiovascular and HIV/AIDS research. Emphasis is on clinical research or research at the interface between clinical and basic science. From 2009, research should focus on child health to include problems affecting pregnancy, childbirth, babies, children and young adults.
  • Age UK - funds research on a wide range of issues from social policy to biomedical science.
  • Alzheimer's Research UK - supports scientific and medical research to make progress towards a treatment that will cure or prevent Alzheimer's and related diseases.
  • Arthritis Research UK - funds research into arthritis and related musculoskeletal diseases in the UK.
  • Breast Cancer Campaign - funds breast cancer research UK wide.
  • British Heart Foundation - supports pioneering, vital research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and circulation.
  • British Lung Foundation - funds research into understanding, treating and preventing lung disease.
  • Cancer Research UK - dedicated to cancer research and supports researchers through a variety of funding mechanisms including research institutes, clinical centres, programme and project grants.
  • Diabetes UK - funds diabetic research in the UK. Research opportunities exist within the three key areas: care and treatment, cause and prevention, and cure.
  • Heart Research UK - focuses on funding innovative, pioneering research and often supports young researchers on their first steps into heart research. Funding programmes include: Novel and Emerging Technologies Grant; Young Researcher Travel Scholarships; Healthy Heart Grants; Clinical Grants; and Basic Science grants.
  • Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research - dedicated exclusively to funding research into all blood cancers. Supports a wide range of projects from basic laboratory research through to clinical trials in patients.
  • Meningitis Research Foundation - funds research to prevent meningitis and septicaemia, and to improve survival rates and outcomes.
  • Mental Health Foundation - funds innovative research into the care and treatment of mental illness and mental health promotion.
  • National Osteoporosis Society - supports clinical research into osteoporosis.
  • The Stroke Association - supports and promotes research into stroke prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and long-term care. Research Project and Programme Grants are awarded to Doctors, Professors, Research Fellows, Therapists, Psychologists and Nurses at universities and hospitals across the UK.
  • Wellbeing of Women - funds research into three areas: gynaecological cancers; pregnancy and birth, including pre-term birth, miscarriage and fertility; and quality of life issues, including menopause, incontinence and prolapse, sexual health, menstrual disorders and endometriosis.
  • The Wellcome Trust - supports biomedical research and the medical humanities, with the aim of improving human and animal health. The Trust offers a wide variety of funding schemes, including Investigator Awards, fellowships and Strategic Awards, and also supports several major initiatives.


  • Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation - funds UK and Japanese scholars in all areas of the visual and performing arts, the humanities, the social sciences, science and engineering, mathematics, business studies and education.
  • The Earthwatch Institute - supports scholarly research worldwide in the biological, physical, social, and cultural sciences. It particularly supports scientists from developing countries, women in science, and long-term monitoring projects. Earthwatch has four target priority areas: sustainable management of natural resources, climate change, oceans and sustainable cultures.
  • Getty Trust - fellowships for non-residential researchers of all nationalities working in the arts, humanities, or social sciences.
  • The Wenner-Gren Foundation - a private foundation that is dedicated to the advancement of anthropology throughout the world. The Foundation has a variety of grant programmes for anthropological research and scholarship that are open to applicants irrespective of nationality or country of residence.


  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - top budget areas include funding for higher education, science and research (RCUK), adult skills and support for business.
  • Department for Culture, Media & Sport - funds research on the economic contribution and educational benefits of the arts, media, sport and our national heritage.
  • Department for Education - funds a range of research concerned with young people, education and families.
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - funds research concerned with the environment, rural matters, farming and food production. It lets a large number of research projects every year; through competitions, either for individual projects or in the form of multiple project research requirements documents; and in partnership with others, such as through LINK programmes.
  • Department for International Development - long-term research initiatives focused on reducing poverty in developing countries. Research is focused on six areas: growth, sustainable agriculture, climate change, health, governance in challenging environments, future challenges and opportunities.
  • Department for Transport - commissions research to support the delivery of a reliable, safe and secure transport system whilst safeguarding the environment.
  • Department for Work and Pensions - commissions social science research related to the policy agenda to provide the evidence base needed to inform strategy and policy.
  • Food Standards Agency - commissions extensive scientific research and survey work to ensure that advice to the public is based on the best and most up-to-date food science.
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office - has a range of programme funds promoting action on global issues in areas of strategic importance to the UK.
  • Home Office - funds a wide range of research projects in a number of areas including crime, policing, immigration, drugs, terrorism and security.
  • Ministry of Defence - funds research which defends the UK and its interests and strengthens international peace and stability.
  • Ministry of Justice - funds research that informs the evidence base on the overall criminal, civil, family and administrative justice system.
  • National Institute of Health Research - commissions and funds NHS and social care research (applied research). A range of programmes addressing a broad range of health priorities is being funded. Funding is based on the quality and relevance of the research to personal social services and the NHS.


  • National Institute of Health - the primary US federal agency supporting medical research. In general, foreign institutions and international organisations are eligible to apply for research project grants. However, there are a few restrictions for specific schemes.
  • National Science Foundation - offers support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. The Foundation supports cooperative research between universities and industry, US participation in international scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities at every academic level.


The European Union is becoming an increasingly important source of large scale funding. Horizon 2020 is the new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020).

The UK Research Office (UKRO) is the local contact point for information and advice on European Research Council (ERC) funding. You can register for UKRO funding updates to receive the latest ERC calls.


GCRF Each year the Research Councils invest around £3 billion in research covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines from the medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities.

We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK’s global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research.

Newton Funding - The Newton Fund’s aim is to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of collaborating countries.

Find out more

Contact your Research Development Managers for more information on these and other funders.