Top Tips For Writing A Successful Funding Bid

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If you wish to progress your academic career, it’s vital to publish. That means you’ll almost definitely need to access funding. So how can you write a sparkling bid application that gets you noticed?

There are such a wealth of funding opportunities out there for new and mid-career academics that it can feel quite overwhelming. So what’s the best way to get funding for that research project you’ve set your heart on?

What are funders looking for?

First of all, be prepared to compromise. If it’s your first funding bid, it might be easier to check out what the various funding bodies are looking for research in. Either keep an eye on noticeboards at your college or go direct to the research councils which have millions of pounds available for funding:

Next look for new areas of research or a new angle on a subject already covered. Unless it is a short-term project, you will need to live with your subject matter for some time so don’t pick something you’re only vaguely interested in. It’s vital you really care about whatever you wish to research and this will show on your application.

Populating your bid with buzz words

Research councils and other bodies offering awards are always looking for evidence of application, public engagement of academics in the wider community, diversity, widening access and bringing people into the academic world who’ve had no previous contact with it. The ivory tower, if it ever really existed, is no longer where academics live. Your application must have relevance to the wider world, not just the hallowed corridors of a university!

Form filling

We all hate filling in forms and be warned - funding bids are onerously full of form filling. Before your heart sinks and you decide to give up, find someone at your university who has already succeeded in a funding bid. There will almost definitely be someone who has. Ask them to mentor you in return for some research support on their own pet projects. Research in higher education is all about working with others so the sooner you can demonstrate your willingness to do this, the smoother the process should be.


Some funding bodies will want you to work with partners either to share the cost of the project or to ensure community involvement. So before you even think of writing a funding bid, think about what partners you could work with, maybe even approach them before you bid.

What’s available now

Here is a brief rundown of some of the many funding opportunities for new and mid-career academics. Use this as a jumping off point and see if you can match your own ambitions and pet projects with what the research councils are currently seeking.

Early Career Researchers

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has a variety of funding for training opportunities for early career researchers (ECR). Often these are opportunities that are part of broader AHRC funding opportunities which are regularly posted on the council’s website. Read the guidance document for each specific call, each scheme has FAQs and examples of previously-funded applications.

PhD Funding

Having renewed its commitment to investing in the next generation of arts and humanities researchers, the AHRC has just announced 11 new Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and seven Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) to deliver postgraduate supervision, training and skills development from 2014. The studentship places will be advertised by the DTP and CDT on an annual basis and studentships will be awarded on open competition. If you are a student, you need to contact the DTP directly to find out about their selection process:

International opportunities

Alongside the AHRC the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) supports placement of postgraduate students and ECRs on short-term fellowships at overseas research institutions.

The Unbox Fellowship call is for applications from postdoctoral to senior researchers for a short term researcher fellowships in India. Applications are invited from researchers interested in undertaking a short-term fellowship with hosts in India in the run up to the 2014 UnBox festival. PhD students and ECRs can also apply to international funding agencies.

BBC broadcast opportunities

The New Generation Thinkers scheme gives 60 successful applicants a chance to develop their programme-making ideas with experienced BBC producers at a series of dedicated workshops. Up to ten will become Radio 3’s resident New Generation Thinkers.

They will benefit from the chance to develop their own programmes for Radio 3 and a chance to regularly appear on air. This scheme is open to applications that have not previously had funding from a research council. This is a yearly scheme and an announcement about the timetable of the next call will happen in the next few weeks.

Charities and trusts

There are hundreds of other opportunities for funding research. As well as the research councils check out major charities, especially health ones such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, Parkinson’s UK the Stroke Association and the Wellcome Trust. There are many others - perhaps pick one that’s affected someone in your family or a close friend? For a full list of charities including regional ones see here:

And finally your own university may have a pot of money specifically for funding research.

Good luck!

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