What About Brexit? 2018 and Beyond

“What about Brexit?” Since that memorable day in June 2016, this is a question GrantCraft have been asked frequently when delivering workshops and training on European funding options. Whilst there have been indications since early-on in proceedings that British researchers’ entitlement to continue applying for and receiving H2020 funding would be protected, at least until the official exit date in March 2019, any suggestions about what might happen after this date have been largely speculative. However, the publication of a joint report by the UK Government and the European Commission on 8th December 2017[1] marked a shift towards a more optimistic view of the UK’s relationship with the EU in terms of research funding.

The joint report states:

“following withdrawal from the Union the UK will continue to participate in the Union programmes financed by the MFF 2014-2020 until their closure (excluding participation in financial operations which give rise to a contingent liability for which the UK is not liable as from the date of withdrawal). Entities located in the UK will be entitled to participate in such programmes. Participation in Union programmes will require the UK and UK beneficiaries to respect all relevant Union legal provisions including co-financing. Accordingly, the eligibility to apply to participate in Union programmes and Union funding for UK participants and projects will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the Union for the entire lifetime of such projects.”

A UK Government overview of UK participation in Horizon 2020[2] gave the following assurances about what is envisaged by the joint report:

  • Existing projects will continue to receive an uninterrupted flow of EU funding for the lifetime of the project
  • UK participants will be eligible to bid for H2020 funding for the duration of the programme, including after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU
  • Full UK participation in H2020 consortia projects
  • Full UK participation in H2020 individual grants
  • The underwrite guarantee will cover all funding awarded prior to the UK’s exit from the EU
  • Proposals from or including UK applicants will be treated the same as applications from other member states or Associated Countries for the duration of H2020

In a speech made on 2nd March 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May stated that “The UK is committed to establishing a far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU, facilitating the exchange of ideas and researchers. This would enable the UK to participate in key programmes alongside our EU partners”.
This sentiment is echoed in the UK Government’s collaboration on science and innovation: a future partnership paper. This paper is part of a series setting out the key issues which form part of the Government’s vision for ‘a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union’. It lays out the benefits of the UK retaining its research relationship with the EU and claims that one of the UK’s core objectives in preparing to leave the EU is to seek agreement to continue to collaborate with EU partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.

Following a summary of the importance of EU research funding to the UK and the benefits that have been reaped, the paper concludes that ‘the UK will seek to agree a far-reaching science and innovation agreement with the EU that establishes a framework for future collaborations’.

Whilst there is still a long way to go to secure the future of EU funding for UK researchers and institutions, these indications are optimistic – there is a clear drive to maintain the strong collaborative research relationship between the rest of the EU and the UK.

In the meantime…

All evidence points to the fact that UK researchers should continue applying for H2020 funding – the European Commission and the UK Government have made assurances that there will be no bias against the UK and that any funding awarded prior to the UK’s exit will be underwritten.

For further information, advice or support in preparing your H2020 bids, please Contact Us.

[1] Joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union (2017).

[2] UK participation in Horizon 2020: UK Government overview with Q&A (2018).

Strength in Places Fund

Strength in Places Fund: New Call

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has recently announced the new Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) call through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The SIPF call is a two-stage process aimed at bringing together local research organisations, businesses, and leadership to help areas of lower economic activity benefit from world-class research and innovation.
The SIPF was announced by the UK Government as part of the Industrial Strategy White Paper, published in November 2017. In this report it was recognised that there are large regional disparities in productivity and growth that need to be addressed for there to be prosperous communities across the UK (e.g. see Figure 1). The White Paper highlighted the important role that science, research, innovation and skills provision play in driving productivity and economic growth throughout the regions of the UK.

Strength in Places FundFigure 1: Regional Share of Gross Value-Added across the UK (2015) (Data Source: ONS, Statistical bulletin: Regional gross value added (income approach), UK: 1997 to 2015)

The primary aims of the call are:

  1. To support innovation-led relative regional growth by identifying and supporting areas of R&D strengths that are driving clusters of businesses across a range of sizes that have potential to innovate, or to adopt new technologies; so that those clusters will become nationally and internationally competitive.
  2. To enhance local collaborations involving research and innovation.

The SIPF has been developed to complement but not duplicate the high-level aims of other UKRI and UK national programmes.

Key Points:

  • Consortium to be led by a research organisation or business, but must include both business and academic partners.
  • The needs of the local area can be met by existing research strengths.
  •  It is a two-stage call:

Stage 1 Expression of Interest will lead, if successful, to a £50k grant to develop full stage proposals over (and up to) a 6-month period.

Stage 2 Proposals can bid for between £10m and (exceptionally) £50m for a project spanning 3-5 years.

  • The proposal must be aligned to the Strategic Economic Plans for the locality including Local Industries Strategies (to be officially announced March 2019).
  • Bids to be targeted at areas where strong innovation-led projects are aligned to areas of local strength and supply chains that can lead to significant economic impact and growth.
  • Funding is open to any technological areas but must be focussed on a specific area.
    Also see funding FAQs.


  • Call for Expressions of Interest (EOIs): May 2018
  • Closing date for applications: Wednesday 25 July 2018
  •  EOI awards start: Mid October 2018
  • Full stage (invite only) to be submitted April 2019
  • Full awards start June 2019

If you have any questions about the SIPF Fund or would like support with a different  application then please Contact Us.
Information obtained and modified from the NERC SIPF call page.


Theory of change is increasingly referred to in research funding call guidelines; in many cases there is a specific requirement to explicitly incorporate theory of change into research proposals. While this can feel like a new and daunting task, it is something that every well thought through application with a comprehensive pathways to impact plan will be doing anyway, even if theory of change is never explicitly mentioned. Theory of change can become a complex beast – many multiple page documents, articles and papers have been produced which provide very comprehensive definitions, guidelines, recommendations and examples. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of what the theory of change is all about and how it applies to research proposals.

What is Theory of change?

Put simply, theory of change is the process by which the sequence of changes that must occur for an impact to be achieved is mapped. In the context of a research proposal, this pathway of change comprises a number of stages and components which collectively capture every aspect of a research project, including the problem that the research is designed to tackle, the participants, stakeholders and beneficiaries that will contribute, the activities that will be carried out, the outputs, outcomes and finally, the impact that will be achieved. By mapping out these components you demonstrate that you have thought through every step of your project and have a comprehensive plan in place for achieving the impact that you say that you can achieve.

Developing a theory of change

Theory of change should be captured in both a diagram and as a narrative summary that describes the sequence. Obviously, every theory of change diagram is different and there are no hard and fast rules with regards to exactly what a diagram should look like. However, it is important that every stage of the research pathway is mapped. A theory of change should not be produced in isolation – you will need to engage with all partners, stakeholders and beneficiaries to ensure that the pathway to impact that you articulate is robust, comprehensive and realistic. As a guide, think about the following components:

What is the context for the research?

What is the problem that your research is designed to tackle or go some way to address? This forms the baseline upon which your research project will be built and provides the justification for everything that you do. You need to establish what and who this problem affects.

Who are the actors and stakeholders relevant to the research?

Your research project is only one component in a landscape of activities, people and conditions that interact with and impact upon the stated problem. You need to consider this landscape and identify who needs to provide their input into the design and/or implementation of the research. Who will benefit and how will you ensure that the benefits that you enable are the most suitable?

What are the activities that the project team, stakeholders and other relevant individuals/ groups/ organisations will carry out that will initiate the change process?

This is often the easiest part as it involves mapping out what you will do; what are the activities that the project team will carry out or take part in? This component of the theory of change will correspond to your research work plan.

An example theory of change diagram

Figure 1 provides an example of a theory of change diagram for a fictitious research project. Obviously, the example that it uses is a silly one, but it demonstrates the components that are discussed in this article and that you need to think about when planning your own theory of change diagram.


To construct these components of your theory of change, identify what you will produce – what are the deliverables (i.e. outputs) of your research? Next, establish what these outputs will be used for. A simple example to provide some context for this is that an output may be a set of best practice guidelines for the treatment of the common cold. These guidelines can’t produce impact alone, but if they are shared with the relevant policy makers, the outcome would be a new policy document for use by General Practitioners when they encounter a patient with the common cold.


Think about what the impacts of your research project will be over the short- medium- and long-term. Ideally the impacts that your research sets out to achieve should be measurable and you should be able to specify the means by which impact can be measured. To continue the previous example: a long-term impact of the new common cold policy document might be that the health service reduces expenditure on common cold treatments by one third.


When constructing your theory of change, you also need to consider what the challenges are to achieving the proposed impact; for example, these may be technical challenges, procedural challenges, or challenges associated with the engagement of the relevant stakeholders. Every research project is built on a set of assumptions – as researchers we view problems through our own personal lenses and believe that certain activities will naturally lead to particular outcomes. It is important to make these assumptions explicit in your theory of change. The difficulty is that often they are unconscious, and this is why dialogue with stakeholders and beneficiaries is important to developing a broader and more representative perspective of the research process and its implications.

Theory of Change

Click the image to enlarge

For further information on theory of change, or if you would like to talk to us about a grant application or the provision of workshops, please Contact Us.