UKRI success rates fall as grant applications ramp up

Overall funding decisions more than double to almost 40,000 thanks to Covid-related grants

July 28, 2021
Meausring tape success
Source: iStock

The chances of securing funding from the UK’s main public research funder have fallen after a surge in the number of applications during the pandemic, new data show.

According to the latest figures from UK Research and Innovation, the success rate across all its competitive funding programmes was 21 per cent in 2020-21, down from 24 per cent the year before.

The drop in success rate for UKRI’s main research and innovation grants was even sharper, falling from 25 per cent in 2019-20 to 21 per cent in the year to April 2021.

Behind the figures is a rise in the number of grant applications being made to the body: in 2020-21 there were almost 19,500 competitive funding decisions made for research and innovation grants, up 26 per cent from the year before. However, successful applications rose by only 8 per cent, from 3,829 to 4,144.

UKRI also published separate figures for its Covid-19 research response, which had additional applications of more than 17,000, with almost 4,000 winning funding, a success rate of about one-fifth.

Fellowship funding meanwhile had similar totals to the year before – with an increase in applications of a few hundred – but the success rate was the same at 22 per cent.

In total, thanks to the Covid-related funding, almost 40,000 separate grant decisions were made by UKRI in 2020-21, more than double those made in 2019-20, with about 8,000 winning applications.

This represented £3.7 billion in funding, a 30 per cent increase on 2019-20. However, outside of the pandemic response the increase was not as high: the value of non-Covid research grants and fellowships was £3.1 billion, a rise of 11 per cent.

UKRI said that more than 300 universities, learned societies or other academic bodies were supported with funding in 2020-21, an increase of about 50 on the year before.

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