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Engineering Biology in Cambridge


Following on the attached pre-notification about the ESRC Centres call, this is to announce that the internal selection process for the scheme has now opened. Although the funder has not published the full details for the call yet, it is anticipated that no major changes will be introduced this year – as a result, the University’s internal selection process will be driven by the scheme’s previous rounds (e.g., please see call announcement for 2020). The deadline for the internal selection process has been brought forward following feedback from the community – this is to allow more time to the successful applicants to prepare strong applications for submission to ESRC.

The ESRC Centres scheme has always been the funder’s flagship funding opportunity. ESRC Centres are world-leading centres of excellence that carry out interdisciplinary, cutting-edge, and impactful research in the social sciences and beyond that drives forward innovations in theory, methods, and techniques.

Key points about the scheme:

  • Funding available: between £5M and £10M for up to five years.
  • The proposed programme must have a clear vision focused on real world problems. ESRC centres should have significant economic and societal impact, demonstrating that the centre is responding to specified challenges. Impact is a major consideration throughout the scoping of a proposal, and during and beyond the lifetime of a centre – and it is vital that the economic and social impact of all projects funded by ESRC is maximised.
  • ESRC Centres are seen as an integral part of the ESRC’s long term strategy for extending research in excellence and impact and successful proposals must add value to the current portfolio of ESRC Centres. ESRC envisage Centres as long-term investments which strengthen the social science landscape in the UK.
  • ESRC strongly encourage inter/multidisciplinary work both within and beyond the social sciences, as long as at least 50% of the proposed programme of research is within ESRC remit. If the research question is very important, a Centre focusing on just single discipline might be successful – but in general, Centres should ideally be interdisciplinary and/or multi-institution.
  • The PI for each proposed Centre must:
    • be an experienced researcher with strong track record of managing complex research projects and teams;
    • have a primary research area that falls within the social sciences – please do check ESRC remit pages;
    • be able to allocate an appropriate FTE commitment to leading their proposed Research Centre.
  • The Centre should have a robust management structure. This is in terms of both administrative support and academic leadership. The proposal must make it clear that there is a sufficient infrastructure for all elements of such a large Centre, including: sufficient administration, communication, capacity building beyond the centre, network and dissemination, impact, etc.
  • It is expected that substantial institutional commitment will be required for all applications submitted to the funder. However, this element will not be part of the internal selection and we will work closely with the selected proposals to address this should it be required by the funder.

Assessment criteria

Internal selection process will be driven by the assessment criteria used in previous rounds for the scheme – namely:

  • Originality, innovations, and potential contribution to knowledge
  • Research design and methods
  • Outputs, dissemination, and potential impact on theory, policy, and practice
  • A robust management structure

Thematic priorities

The open competition has no thematic priorities. However, when ESRC fully publishes the call in February 2023, they will also provide details about additional centre competitions in areas relevant to ESRC’s strategic delivery plan. This highlight element of the competition will not be restricted. We will send another communication when those details are made available by ESRC.

University Internal selection:

The University can submit only two applications to the open Centres competition. Therefore, this call will be managed according to the University’s restricted calls policy.

To take part in the internal selection process, please complete the online ESRC Centres submission form at by 01 February 2023 (NB: if asked to log-in, please use your Raven details). For your convenience, the attached document outlines the questions asked in the form.

Please note that the online form cannot be saved and/or returned to for future editing.

Indicative funder deadline: May 2023

If you have any questions, please contact us at