Aston University has been awarded its first Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The IAA, totalling £1.25m, runs from April 2023 – March 2028 and will be invested in helping our social science researchers to maximise the economic and social impact potential of their research. In particular, we will use the Award to:

  • To nurture and realise greater ambition in the translation of our social science research into impact
  • To diversify our impact and innovation further, building support for our social science researchers to try out new pathways to impact, including commercialisation
  • To optimise the impact and innovation potential of our growing body of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research which draws on the social sciences

A wide range of activities can be supported through the different funding streams and examples are provided below, along with the different types of awards which can be made:

Award TypeWho's it aimed at?What's its purpose?
Impact Escalator Fund  
Impact Escalator: Research Centres £65K max (1-2 annually)Social science research institutes and centres, including relevant multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary centresAccelerate their impact and innovation, diversify pathways to impact, and develop new partnerships resulting in impact
Impact Escalator: Individual awards £20K max (1-2 annually)Individuals and research teams carrying out social science researchAs above
Impact Escalator Secondments £20K max (1-2 annually)Social science researchersDeveloping understanding of external research users' needs, and sowing seeds for future collaboration
Social Science Innovation Awards  
Social Science Innovation Incubator Awards: Team (1 annually)Social science research team or group (max 3 members)To develop business ideas based on social science research
Social Science Innovation Incubator Awards: Individual (1 annually)Social science researchersAs above
Social Science Innovation Awards £25K max (1-2 annually)Social science researchersAccelerating the impact of applied social science research which has already demonstrated promising potential
ESRC Festival of Social Science £2K max (5-8 annually)Social science researchers - individuals, teams and centresAn opportunity to engage with the public and other non-academic audiences in ways which will inspire them
Upcoming calls and deadlines

Impact Escalator Awards: Secondments - this is an open call, and you can apply at any time.

Impact Escalator Awards (Research Centres and Individual Awards) - launch date: Early July 2024 and deadline: Early October 2024 (exact dates to follow).

Who can participate?

If you’re an Aston researcher, you don’t need to have previously received an ESRC award in order to be eligible to apply for funding from our ESRC IAA or to participate in activities funded by it. Your research should fall within the ESRC’s disciplinary remit which is a broad one, and interdisciplinary proposals are welcomed. Find more details about the areas of research supported by the ESRC.

Our Awards are open to all academic, research and teaching staff who undertake relevant research, while our events are open to both staff and PhD students who carry out or support research within the ESRC’s remit.

Please note: All those receiving ESRC IAA funds will be required to participate in our reporting and impact tracking process for the ESRC, both during the period of their award and after it has concluded. Applicants must be willing to commit to this process if they apply for any awards from the IAA.

Our ESRC IAA supports a range of activities which include capacity-building and stakeholder engagement events, secondments, and individual and team projects. Find out more about our IAA events and funding programmes below.

Events schedule

We'll be adding events soon - so please watch this space!

Impact Escalator Awards: Research Centres (up to £65k each) CURRENTLY CLOSED

The Impact Escalator (Research Centre) Awards are designed for research centres and institutes which wish to accelerate, expand and/or diversify the impact and impact potential of their research. We intend to run at least three calls for these awards over the five-year lifetime of our institutional ESRC IAA award (2023-28). The deadline for the first call is 9th October 2023 and applications can be submitted at any time up to that date. In order to help ensure that these awards build on and result in meaningful engagement with external partners, applicants will be required to include a promise of match-funding or a contribution in kind from an external partner or partners which is worth at least 25% of the total cost of the proposed programme of work. A letter of support will be required to verify the promised match-funding or contribution in kind.

If you’re interested in applying for an award under this programme, please download our guidance notes for applicants and a copy of our application form.

We strongly advise that you contact the Research Impact Team at least a month before the applications deadline. Please email RKE-Impact and mark your email ‘ESRC IAA enquiry’. Please also ensure that you get any staff/labour costs properly costed by contacting Roshan Dandiker in Research Finance. You should also factor in the time required to obtain the necessary endorsements and letter of support, as detailed in the guidance notes. 

Impact Escalator Awards: Individual (up to £20k each) CURRENTLY CLOSED

The Impact Escalator (Individual) Awards are designed for individuals and research teams who wish to accelerate, expand and/or diversify the impact and impact potential of their research. We intend to run at least three calls for these awards over the five-year lifetime of our institutional ESRC IAA award (2023-28). The deadline for the first call is 9th October 2023 and applications can be submitted at any time up to that date.  

If you’re interested in applying for an award under this programme, please download our guidance notes for applicants and a copy of our application form.
 
We strongly advise that you contact the Research Impact Team at least a month before the applications deadline. Please email RKE-Impact and mark your email ‘ESRC IAA enquiry’. Please also ensure that you get any staff/labour costs properly costed by contacting Roshan Dandiker in Research Finance. You should also factor in the time required to obtain the necessary endorsements and letter of support, as detailed in the guidance notes. 

Impact Escalator Awards: Secondments (up to £20k each) OPEN

These flexible inward and outward secondment awards (up to 6 months’ duration) are designed to
have the following benefits:

  • enable social science researchers to develop their understanding of the needs of external research users
  • enable external research users to raise their awareness of the potential value and application of social science research
  • sow the seeds for potential future collaboration between Aston’s social science researchers and external partners

We are encouraging the University’s social science researchers, where they have approval from their Head of School or Department, to undertake full-time or part-time secondments of up to 6 months in any suitable external organisation (excluding higher education institutions) in any part of the world, subject only to the external partner in question meeting any due diligence requirements.

We are also encouraging staff from any organisations which have existing links with the University or which would like to work with its social scientists to spend a period of up to 6 months (full-time or part-time) on secondment at the University, collaborating with them on the real world application of social science.

If you’re interested in applying for an award under this programme, please download our guidance notes for applicants and a copy of our application form

We strongly advise that you contact either the ESRC IAA Team to discuss your proposal prior to submitting your application. Please email RKE-Impact and mark your email ‘ESRC IAA enquiry’. Please also ensure that you get any staff/labour costs properly costed by contacting Roshan Dandiker in Research Finance. You should also factor in the time required to obtain the necessary endorsements and letter of support, as detailed in the guidance notes. 

Social Science Innovation Incubator Awards: Individual and Team OPEN

Our Innovation Incubator awards will enable Aston’s social science researchers to take the first steps towards unlocking the commercial impact potential of their research.

These awards are designed for both individuals and research teams or groups (maximum 3 members) to develop a business idea or other commercial route to impact which is based on their academic research.

Each award will enable you to buy in the time, project costs and expertise to focus on the development of a research-based business idea, with the expert assistance of an external mentor. Your mentor will provide dedicated support to develop the concept into a viable business or commercialisation plan.

This call is a rolling call which is always open to applications If you are interested in applying for an award under this programme, please download our guidance notes for applicants and our application form.

Social Science Innovation Awards (up to £25k each) CURRENTLY CLOSED

These awards are designed to accelerate the impact of innovative applied social science research which has already demonstrated promising potential through an early stage ‘proof of concept’ trial or scoping exercise, and which is now at the point where an investment could make a real ‘step change’ in terms of impact or impact potential.

We encourage proposals which plan a commercial route to impact, but we also welcome proposals which envisage a non-commercial route to impact. We want to support innovative proposals which build on Aston’s social science research, and where there is already evidence to suggest that the proposed innovation or approach is viable and has real-world impact potential.

The deadline for the first call is 15th January 2024. If you are interested in applying for an award under this programme, please download our guidance notes for applicants and our application form.

ESRC Festival of Social Science (up to £2k per event) OPEN

#ESRCFestival of Social Science 2024 - Our Digital Lives (up to £2k per event)

The ESRC Festival of Social Science is an annual, UK-wide, free celebration of the social sciences.

The festival consists of a series of events run each autumn, delivered by ESRC’s ‘festival partners’ - higher education institutions spread across the UK. Events range from exhibitions, lectures, and panel debates through to performances, guided walks, and workshops.

You can see details of the Aston events that took place as part of the 2023 festival, with a theme of lifelong wellbeing: Aston FoSS 2023 website

National Festival Website: www.festivalofsocialscience.com

2024 Call for Event Proposals

We’re inviting event proposals for Aston’s Festival of Social Science 2024. The University is holding its Festival of Social Science from Saturday 19th October to Saturday 9th November 2024.

The theme of the Festival of Social Science 2024 is ‘our digital lives’. Events on this theme can be on any aspect of the relationship between humans and digital technology, although events on other themes related to economic and social sciences are also very welcome.

If you’d like to submit an event proposal, please take a look at our Guidance for event proposers and the details about training below and then use this proposal form to write your proposal. You may also find it helpful to consult the ESRC’s Festival Leader Pack and Event Leader Job Description.

The deadline for event proposals is 5pm on Wednesday, 12th June 2024. We’ll aim to provide you with a decision on your proposal by Tuesday, 2nd July.

Please submit your proposal to RKE-impact. Before you submit your proposal, please feel free to get in touch with the ESRC IAA Team at that email address if you’d like to discuss it first.

Festival of Social Science Events Training for Event Leaders

ESRC require that all event leaders attend the festival training. Online training sessions will be run in May/June and then again in July.

Event leads can attend the training sessions prior to submitting their proposal, or after, when decisions on funded proposals have been announced. Please sign up to the sessions as preferred, using the link below.

Please sign-up to book onto the training sessions.

There are three topics, each lasting one hour and delivered online as a webinar. The topics are:

  • Session 1: Festival Engagement - 15th May, 12 pm - 1 pm / 9th July, 12 pm - 1 pm
  • Session 2: Practical Planning & Evaluation - 22nd May, 12 pm - 1 pm / 16th July, 12 pm - 1 pm
  • Session 3: Online and Hybrid Engagement (not required to attend if event is in-person) - 3rd June, 12 pm - 1 pm / 23rd July, 12 pm - 1 pm

For full details on the training sessions please take a look at the Training for Event Leaders document.