Strategic Research Fund

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The Strategic Research Fund (SRF) was developed in response to Priority 10 of the University’s Strategic Plan 2018-2023 (‘To increase the scale and scope of our central research fund to increase our capacity to pump prime and to match fund major research initiatives’) and approved by Council in July 2019.

The SRF was created to increase the University’s capacity to make major transformative investments in researchers and research. Such transformative investments will be designed to help the University to remain globally competitive, to secure and nurture research leadership, to enter new research areas at scale, to address major research challenges that require multi-disciplinary and collaborative responses, or to capitalise on large external opportunities that are an increasingly dominant feature of the research funding landscape.

The SRF is funded from a range of internal sources, including returns to the University centrally from research commercialisation activities (such as licensing income and proceeds from the disposal of the University’s founder shareholdings in its spin-out companies). The amount of funding that the SRF will have available to allocate in any given year will therefore vary (as will the amounts awarded in any year), but the aim is that in steady state it will be in a position to allocate around £10 million a year on average. As the SRF was created to invest at a scale not possible within existing funding streams (such as the John Fell Fund) it expects to make a small number of investments (one to five) in any one year.



To make major transformative investments in researchers and research that:

  • foster a cohort of outstanding research leaders and position the University for global pre-eminence in a significant research area
  • are beyond the means of any single unit, typically span disciplines and existing internal structures, and with a demonstrable case for ensuring ongoing sustainability



Investments will typically demonstrate the following features:

  1. transformative – starting a new, or significantly developing an existing, area of research activity which would position the University to be the global leader in a significant field of research
  2. people-focused – the primary focus will be on investing in researchers: the case for investment must be from the people ‘outwards’, with clear plans to build future leaders and enable succession-planning within the period of investment
  3. sustainable – investments will be non-recurrent and pump-priming (typically no longer than 3 years with the level of SRF investment tapering down over this period), with a credible case for sustaining the activity within academic divisions and units, in terms of financial sustainability, building ongoing research capacity and succession planning
  4. at scale – investments will be directed to effecting or creating a critical mass of researchers and research capability. Investments should not be fundable within the divisions’ normal budgets or by other established internal and external funding mechanisms
  5. strategic – unit, department or divisional co-investment at an appropriate level will be expected in order to evidence strategic commitment
  6. interdisciplinary – inclusive investments will be preferred where transformation will occur beyond a single unit or disciplinary area. Cross-divisional investments will be particularly encouraged.
  7. matching – it is intended that one important use of the SRF will be in acting as an institutional commitment or as matching funding to major and strategic external opportunities



Emphasis will be on investment in people and posts (subject normally to the exclusions around ‘business as usual’ and student costs set out below). The fund will contribute to the package of support around principal investigators (PIs) and research teams (researchers, postdoctoral staff, technicians and support staff) and some elements of new research infrastructure costs with appropriate links to other sources of internal funds within the University, to build an overall package of support.

Equipment matching

Some SRF investment cases may seek some elements of equipment matching where there are major strategic opportunities that fall outside the scope of the large equipment category of the John Fell Fund or external sources. However, the SRF is intended primarily as a people-focused scheme.

Full guidance on eligible costs will be developed and provided to those bids invited by the SRF Board to move beyond EoI stage to full case development.


‘Business as usual' activity

For example, established academic posts already approved in divisional plans (although they may be part of an overall case).


Overhead costs will form part of departmental contributions in kind.

Studentship costs

Departments will be expected to cover studentship costs from with existing sources unless there is an exceptional case made.

Overlap with other funding sources

Research activity that can be funded through other internal or external sources (eg John Fell Fund).



The SRF is overseen, and investment decisions made, by the SRF Board. The SRF Board comprises the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and the heads of the academic divisions. The SRF Board may draw on advice from external academic or other advisors as required. The SRF Board provides reports to Research & Innovation Committee.

The SRF Board oversees a portfolio of potential investment cases at various stages of readiness. This is supplemented by time-critical opportunities (eg providing funding contributions to major externally-funded programmes and initiatives) as they emerge.


How to apply

The SRF Board invites expressions of interest (EOIs) for potential business cases. Please discuss your proposal with your divisional research office before starting your application.

Submission of EOIs is through IRAMS. Make sure you select 'Strategic Research Fund', and follow the instructions. 


All EOIs require the explicit approval of the heads of departments for the PI and co-investigators. They should then be submitted to the relevant division for endorsement. If the project spans divisions a lead division must be identified. The division will bring the EOIs it has prioritised to the SRF Board for discussion.


There are no deadlines for submission of EOIs. Prioritised EOIs will be taken to the next scheduled meeting of the SRF Board (every two months). 

You must contact the relevant divisional office to discuss your proposal in the first instance. Divisions will advise on their process and timescales, and will support the development of EOIs in consultation with the Strategic Research Development Team in Research Services. 

Divisional contacts


The SRF Board may invite the further development of ideas set out in EOIs. Divisions and Research Services will support the development of full investment cases. 

Funded projects




Contact your divisional office in the first instance: