UK simplifies application process for new research funds

Streamlined applications for grants will be trialled on two UK Research and Innovation schemes

February 11, 2020
10 Downing Street

A more simplified process to apply for UK research funding has been announced as part of a Downing Street-led push to cut research bureaucracy.

In the latest initiative designed to reduce unnecessary paperwork for scientists, UK Research and Innovation will trial streamlined application processes for researchers on two programmes – a £10 million New Horizons fund for projects in maths and physical science and a £10 million Pushing the Frontiers fund that supports environmental scientists.

The move, announced on 11 February, follows last month’s decision by UKRI to begin “a major review of research bureaucracy and methods”, which has already led it to remove “unnecessary” sections of grant applications requiring researchers to predict the impact of their work.

The efficiency drive is widely viewed as a sign of the influence of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s top adviser, who was urged to cut research bureaucracy at a round-table meeting with scientists held in Downing Street last August.

Announcing the latest UKRI changes, Chris Skidmore, the universities and science minister, said the government was “getting on with the job of freeing up our scientists to do what they do best”.

“This government is committed to increasing research funding to record levels,” said Mr Skidmore, who added that the sector “must revolutionise the way our research system works to make the UK the best place in the world for science and innovation”.

As part of the research bureaucracy review, the government will consult with world-leading scientists, researchers and academics.

Paul Gemmill, chief operating officer of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, who is leading this work across UKRI, said it would “look for evidence of potential improvements to our processes, then act on this evidence to deliver change”.

In addition, the government has asked UKRI to pilot a relaxation of eligibility requirements for the new doctoral studentships to be funded from the Advanced Maths programme announced on 27 January.

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