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Community Research Networks – Expression of interest

Project Size:
Share of £500k

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will invest £4.4million over the next four years in the creation of a series of Community Research Networks across the UK. This will form part of its goal to deliver economic, social, and cultural benefits from research and innovation to all UK citizens.

The funding will help local areas by investing in organisations which can support the sustainable and equitable involvement of communities in research.

Community organisations, charities and local authorities, alongside research organisations, play a crucial role in the production, interpretation and use of research.

This investment will give these organisations the capacity to collaborate effectively, unlocking the potential of community-centred research and research engagement approaches.

This is phase one of a two phase competition:

  • Community Research Networks – Expression of interest (EoI) (this competition)
  • Community Research Networks – Implementation

Funding at this EoI phase will support initial collaborations in building relationships and to develop plans for the implementation phase. Only successful applicants at the EoI phase will be invited to apply for the implementation phase in April 2023.


This award is provided on a No subsidy basis. This means you must publish or make all project outputs openly available on a non-selective basis. If you decide to commercially exploit project outputs, you can only do so with no selective advantage.

Your collaboration:

  • should start its activities by 1 November 2022
  • must end its activities by 30 April 2023
  • carry out its work in the UK

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

To lead a collaboration your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • charitable trust
  • registered charity
  • community interest company
  • cooperative society
  • local authority

The lead organisation must:

  • collaborate with other eligible UK registered organisations
  • not act in any way to gain selective commercial or economic advantage from the outputs of this project

All organisations who are eligible to receive grant funding must have an accurate and up to date record of financial accounts.

We can only pay funding to a UK business bank account in the same name as the organisation’s details in your application.

Further information will be requested if your application is successful.

Your proposal must include at least two organisations who are interested in forming a network that will serve a specific, locally meaningful geographic location.

Organisations do not all need to be based within that location, or even in the same part of the UK. However, there should be a clear rationale for why you are working together and why the specific location has been chosen.

The organisations do not need to have worked together before and can develop their relationship during this EoI phase.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • research organisation
  • charitable trust
  • registered charity
  • community interest company
  • cooperative society
  • local authority

For this funding competition, research organisation are categorised as:

  • universities, higher education institutions
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs)
  • research council institutes
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • non-profit research and technology organisations (RTOs), including catapults

Your collaboration can include eligible organisations that do not receive any of this competition’s funding.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

The aim of this expression of interest (EoI) competition is to support up to 20 initial collaborations with the potential to form a Community Research Network at the implementation phase.

We want to support organisations with the potential to enable equitable and sustainable forms of community participation in research.

Funding for this EoI phase must be used to support the collaborative development of your application for the implementation phase. This can include:

  • building collaborations and partnerships
  • convening discussions
  • hosting workshops
  • engaging communities
  • collaborative bid writing
  • desk research

UKRI will manage a support package for all 20 potential network collaborations chosen at the EoI phase. This will include workshops and events to assist in the development of applications for the implementation phase and encourage networking between collaborations.

The support package will also include some ongoing non-financial support for collaborations beyond the initial EoI six-month period. This is regardless of success with an application at the implementation phase. More information about the support package will be made available to successful EoI collaborations.

Assessment of applications

We want to fund a variety of proposals across different locations, organisation types, existing activity levels and community need. We call this a portfolio approach.

As such, alongside recognising the potential of each case for funding, we will be considering:

  • the diversity of organisations across the whole portfolio; we will be looking to award a mixed portfolio of networks led by community groups, special interest or campaign groups and networks, community interest organisations and local government, alongside others
  • addressing 'cold spots' of research capacity and community strength. We will be looking to balance and plug gaps where there are currently 'cold spots' of community research and research engagement across the UK
  • addressing issues of power: we will be looking to fund a number of potential networks across the portfolio that are led by or support communities who lack power and influence over research

The implementation phase

Potential network collaborations selected at the expression of interest phase will be invited to apply for the implementation phase, which will open in April 2023. Further details about the application timeline and requirements for this phase will be released in due course.

By your application to the implementation phase, you must have identified all appropriate core partners, to have mutual agreement on their roles in the network and how the funding will be distributed.

Implementation phase funding can be used to invest in the capacity and capability of the network partners to deliver across four key goals:

  1. Develop the knowledge, skills and capability required to support research produced with, by and for local communities: Your network can determine and develop relevant skills and capabilities, for example, through training, mentoring, buddy schemes or learn-by-doing approaches. These can be delivered either by network partners or procured and delivered by external suppliers.
  2. Strengthen and sustain the connections between local communities and local research organisations: A key role of your network will be to create and sustain key relationships and to create opportunities for new connections. This can be through networking events, matchmaking and brokerage services, advisory groups, committees or one-on-one meetings.
  3. Invest in, pilot and scale community-engaged research activity: Your network will develop, undertake or commission research projects, priority setting exercises, knowledge exchange initiatives, engagement projects and other activity identified as being important for developing research with, by and for communities.
  4. Collate and share knowledge about their practice with UKRI and other relevant stakeholders: Your network will be expected to collect and share learning about their practice through events, publications, evaluation reports and social and traditional media. The support package will help your network to achieve this goal.

Who should be involved in a network?

We recognise that every place will have a different mix of organisations with the potential to facilitate the involvement of communities in research, each bringing differing levels of existing experience, knowledge and capacity.

The organisations and individuals in your collaboration, as well as the relationships and their roles in the network can change between the EoI and implementation phases. However, your collaboration must involve at least one organisation from the EoI phase and at least one research organisation, in the implementation phase.

We believe that certain areas of knowledge and experience will be crucial to delivering on the long-term goals of the networks.

By the implementation phase, each network should be able to demonstrate it includes, or has the means to develop, knowledge and experience across all the following areas:

  • developing and sustaining equitable partnerships
  • using participatory research methodologies, for example, participatory action research, community-based participatory research, citizen science, public involvement, public dialogue or patient and public involvement.
  • conducting research in the formal, professionalised research and innovation system, broadly defined as organisations that have received research funding from UKRI or its councils
  • understanding and responding to the needs, priorities, strengths and assets of local communities, particularly those that are most likely to lack power and influence
  • working in ways that foreground and promote equality, diversity and inclusion

Specific themes

Your collaboration does not need to focus on a specific research theme or topic area. UKRI funds all types of research and you are encouraged to think in broad terms about the role of communities in producing, shaping, influencing, engaging with and using research.

We expect that themes or focus areas will develop based on a combination of the existing interests and expertise of organisations in the collaboration and the needs and priorities of local communities.

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