MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Metropolitan University

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The Minister, the Civil Servant and the Vice Chancellor

I am afraid this is not the start of a salacious tale but actually a reflection of some of the meetings I’ve been to recently.  And at each of them, I’ve been left feeling hopeful about European & International funding, whatever the Prime Minister does (or does not) say in her latest Brexit speech (2 March).  And here’s a few reasons why:

  1. European and International Research is valued at the heart of Government. 

When Sam Gyimah, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, took questions at Manchester Met last week, he emphasised the importance of research and the importance of continued participation in Horizon 2020.  He’s working with his EU counter-parts towards continued UK participation, contingent on excellence and value for money, as well as establishing research agreements with countries such as China, the USA and Israel.

  1. Research underpins multiple UK policies

But it’s not just the Minister for Universities who thinks research is important as it features in other national strategies.  Manchester Met’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Knowledge Exchange gave a presentation recently about the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy and how it mapped on Manchester Met in terms of our location, research strength and networks.  Likewise, through the Global Challenges Research Fund, research is being linked to international development.  Research remains important to the UK, its economy and its role in the world.

  1. Work is well underway to ensure continued UK participation in EU-funded Research

At a presentation by a Civil Servant from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, it was clear that the department is carefully preparing for a range of scenarios post-Brexit.  There is quiet hope for continued UK participation in EU research projects up to the end of 2020 and detailed work happening to ensure a smooth transition as the UK leaves the EU.  There’s lobbying for continued participation in the Framework 9 programme when it launches in 2021 – and the UK’s and EU’s politicians seem genuinely aware of the importance of British Universities.

  1. Research is at the heart of what we do as a university. 

At his all-staff presentation, the Vice Chancellor talked of Manchester Met as being involved in knowledge generation, dissemination and translation.  He emphasised how our research informs our teaching and, indeed, all our work as an institution.

And there’s some really interesting international activity happening at the moment, ranging from work on historic site preservation in Myanmar to European research infrastructure development, from improving speech & language therapy in Rwanda to creating tools to help Hydrogen Education in Schools.   All these are funded by different funders and are at different stages in the research process: from early stage conception to translation & dissemination.

When closing the Question & Answer session with the Minister for Higher Education, Manchester Met’s Vice Chancellor ended by saying that it is easy to look back but we should look forward as there are many positive things happening in the sector, including in EU & International research. So keep your eyes on this blog for further updates on research policy and funding opportunities as things will continue to evolve rapidly.



GCRF: 7 Questions & Links about Official Development Assistance through Research

In the Chancellor’s Budget Speech (22 November 2017), he’s confirmed that there’s an additional £2.3bn in the research budget to make sure the UK is a world leader in research & innovation.  As alignment of research to international priorities continues to increase in importance, we thought it might be helpful to set some of the opportunities in context and give a quick reminder of where to find out more information about opportunities.

What is the Global Challenges Research Fund? 

The UK government has committed to deliver a key element of its international aid (Official Development Assistance, ODA) through “cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues affecting developing countries”.  The resulting Global Challenges Research Fund aims to use research & innovation to reduce poverty, address development challenges and build capacity in developing countries.

Why is the government funding GCRF? 

The UK government has committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on International Aid.  Meanwhile, in Autumn 2016 the government committed to spending an extra £2 billion on research and wants to ensure the UK has a University sector which delivers global impact.  At a time when budgets are tightening, one of the ways that government can make both targets is by creating an explicit link between research and international development.  Through careful selection, each £1 invested in the Global Challenges Research Fund can be counted as an additional £1 in the Research AND International Aid budgets.  This funding also helps the government meet some of its other international aspirations: improving & maintaining the UK’s influence and brand as well as helping the UK deliver its commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

What sort of research can be undertaken? 

The UK Research Councils state that: The GCRF aims to support excellent research that directly contributes to the development and welfare of people in developing countries.  These projects need to demonstrate benefits to those countries in receipt of international aid (ODA recipient countries).  This can either be through activities to enhance capability & capacity in the target country and/or research which is aligned to the key challenges faced by that country. GCRF funding is challenge-led, focusing on research which will support Equitable Access to Sustainable Development, Sustainable Economies and Societies, and Human Rights, Good Governance and Social Justice.

Which countries are eligible? 

The funding is target at the countries which are in receipt of Official Development Assistance (ODA), as defined by the OECD, and there’s a handy map on the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) website.

 How much money? 

The UK government has committed £1.5bn by 2020-21.  In 2016-17 there is £112m in the budget but by the final year this will have increased to £492m.

Who are the big funders? 

GCRF funds are being distributed via:

There are also parallel funding streams for funding Research in Development. The Newton Fund brings together UK funding agencies with their counterparts in countries in receipt of ODA.  Through a set of partnership agreements, the Newton Fund supports activities including developing links, research and translation of research, which align to the priorities of the partner country in question. Money will also be invested in combatting disease and drug-resistant infection through the Ross Fund and the Fleming Fund.

What do we need to consider in order to be ready to bid?  

In order to be ready to bid for funds, there are four key questions which should be asked:

  • Is the project addressing economic development and welfare in the country in question?
  • What evidence is there of the need for this project from national and international strategies?
  • Are the countries involved on the DAC List of ODA Recipients?
  • Do you have existing links in the country, with delivery partners and/or academics?

Where can we find out more? 

  •  GCRF calls managed through the UK Research Councils are listed on the RCUK’s specific page and the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) also maintains a wider list of funding opportunities here.
  • You can also find opportunities using Research Professional (Ed – all Manchester Met academics have access to Research Professional. If you have any issues accessing please let us know (
  • The Blog! We regularly share key opportunities.

Manchester Met’s International Research Development Managers (Margaret Eastcott & Christopher Grinbergs) in conjunction with colleagues in Research & Knowledge Exchange are available to discuss opportunities and provide more information.

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Erasmus+: 2018 Deadlines Announced

The first deadlines for Erasmus+ calls in 2018 have been announced. There have been a few changes to the detail of the schemes and also an increase in the budget so do get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.  The UK remains eligible for the and the UK Government has agreed that any award will be underwritten by the UK treasury if it extends beyond March 2019. Below are the key schemes and deadlines and Christopher Grinbergs ( is available to discuss the scheme and help develop projects.

KA1 – Mobility of individuals in the field of education and training for Mobility for staff & students between HEIs in Erasmus+ countries of up to 12 months.  NB Contact – Natalie Cunningham (International Office) for internal deadlines and procedures. 

KA2 – Capacity building in the field of higher education these are multilateral partnerships between HEIs and other agencies to improve quality, management, governance, innovation and modernisation of HE, particularly in the partner country. Each country and region has specific priorities.  Funds: €500k to €1m over 2-3 years.  Deadline: 8 February 2018

Jean Monnet actions fund work in European Union studies through Modules, Chairs, Centres of Excellence, Associations, Networks & Projects.  Deadline: 22 February 2018

KA2 – Knowledge Alliances fund innovation between HE, business & the broader socio-economic environment (e.g. joint curricula, educational activities with companies) and projects which develop entrepreneurial mind-set & skills.  Maximum Funds: 2 years: €700k, 3 years: €1m.  Deadline: 28 February 2018

KA2 – Strategic partnerships in the field of education and training fund EITHER outputs to share existing or new products or innovative ideas OR the development or reinforcement of networks to share ideas, practices and methods.  Maximum funds: €450,000 over 36 months. Deadline: For Higher Education Projects: 21 March 2018.  For Youth Projects the first deadline is 1 February.

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Brexit Update: Facts & Unknowns about RKE

It’s now 15 months since the UK’s referendum on EU membership and 6 months since the formal process of leaving started.  And here in RKE we’ve been keeping an eye on what this means for Research and Project funding at Manchester Met – including after the Prime Minister’s recent speech in Florence.  Indeed, some of us have been accused of being a bit of a geek about these things.  But amongst all the hot air and political manoeuvres, there are a few things we know for certain and a few things we know we don’t know (to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld):

FACT: MMU and UK Higher Education generally continue to work collaboratively with Europe

Since the referendum MMU has submitted 61 bids to EU funding schemes with over 300 European organisations.  Our academics and colleagues find working with international partners exciting, rewarding and at the heart of much good research.  MMU’s success rate has seen no change since the referendum and we’ve had some exciting successes over the last few months.

We’re in contact with colleagues at other UK institutions who are saying the same thing.  We’re also working with Universities UK International (UUKi), the UK Research Office in Brussels (UKRO), the British Council and anyone else who will listen to make sure the sector’s voice is heard during the negotiations through reports such as UUKi’s priorities post-exit and the #weareinternational twitter campaign.

AND FACT: We think Government’s listening – and want us to keep working globally, including with the EU

The Prime Minister included research in her recent speech in Florence as well as her earlier Lancaster House speech as a key issue for the negotiations.  And last month the UK government issued a Future Partnership Paper on Science & Innovation Collaboration emphasising research as part of any future relationship with the EU.  Higher Education is on the Brexit agenda and seen as part of the “offer” the UK is making for its future relationship with the EU.

The UK government is also emphasising its global research links: it recently announced new international fellowships with the Rutherford Fund.  The money for its Global Research Challenges is ramping up and look at the recent posts on this blog for international (largely non-EU) research funding from the British Academy, AHRC, ESRC, Newton Fund, HERA etc.  Elsewhere, the British Council’s 2017-20 Corporate Plan emphasises global mobility – and there’s talk of a worldwide scheme to replicate elements of Erasmus+ beyond the EU.  The funding landscape will look different but indications are that it will (continue to) be globally focussed.

FACT: The UK’s relationship with the EU will change on 29 March 2019

It’s worth restating this one, though: Because the UK has formally announced that the country is leaving the EU, then the nature of its relationship with the union will change.  There are various models out there – at the moment we don’t know which one we will end up with and it’s beyond the wisdom of this blog to make any predictions.  But, also, it’s worth remembering that NO-ONE knows – a lot of the so-called facts the media report are actually political posturing and people trying to sound wise.

In her Florence speech, the Prime Minister emphasised a desire for a transition deal lasting to the end of the current EU budget (2021) so changes are likely to be minimal at first.  And if the UK is committed to fulfilling its financial commitments for two years post-Brexit, then it is more likely we will remain part of research funding schemes until that date, too.

BUT FACT: Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ are up for review anyway

The European Commission has been reviewing both Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ ahead of revised research and mobility programmes expected by 1 January 2021.  Manchester Met has contributed to these and we’re hearing that these schemes will look to make further links between EU Higher Education and institutions outside the union to help tackle global issues and priorities.  That said, we’re not expecting massive changes to the funding but given the timing of the reviews, it’s hard to believe the UK’s future involvement with the scheme is not also being discussed.

SO FACT: There is no reason to stop bidding

The UK remains eligible for European funding.  The UK Treasury has issued a note to say that they will underwrite successful projects, even if they continue beyond our exit from the EU.  It’s not quite clear on when this underwrite covers until but we’re confident it covers projects for AT LEAST the next year.

UNKNOWN: What access we will have to EU funds beyond 2019

This is all tied in with the nature of both the “exit” deal and the “future relationship” deal – despite the above, the campaigning that the University sector is undertaking and reports in the media, we don’t know what the future EU funding landscape will look like.

It’s also worth remembering that just as the UK is working out what its relationship is with the EU will be like post 2019, the EU is discussing what its future as 27 nation states will be like without one of its biggest contributors of finance (and headaches!).  The EU could look very different in a few year’s tie and not just because the UK has left.

UNKNOWN: When we will know more

The first phase of the talks are covering the UK’s financial liabilities, the Irish border and rights of EU/UK nationals, and are due to run until at least October.  Negotiations MIGHT then turn to the future relationship; trade and the Customs Union will probably take precedence but we know that Research & Science are also seen as important.  Therefore, there may not be much news until spring 2019 and nothing certain until late 2019 when a deal (whether transitional or final, it’s unclear) will be put to national Parliaments.

FINAL FACT: MMU’s European Funding and Research Development Managers are on hand We’re here to provide advice and support across a range of funders.  We’ll update this blog if and when we know more.