Aston Research Impact Fund

The Research Impact Fund is designed to support engagement and impact activities which will help you to:

  • Generate, enhance and accelerate the impact of your research, including supporting engagement and knowledge exchange activities likely to lead to impact 
  • Evidence the impact of your research, including through evaluation activities  

The aim of this fund is to ensure that the ‘real world’ impact potential of Aston’s research is fully optimised, and that our research impact is robustly evidenced.

Who can apply?

Proposals may be submitted by any eligible academic or research member of staff, at any career stage, who has produced or is carrying out the research in question.  This includes postdoctoral and contract researchers. However, it excludes teaching-only staff, and PhD and other postgraduate or undergraduate students.

What we're looking for

All proposals must demonstrate how the planned engagement and impact activities link to existing or ongoing research produced by staff at Aston University. This could be research produced some time ago or worked on over a number of years, or the proposed activities may be designed to enhance the impact of an existing research project. 

We are looking for proposals which are carefully considered, and well-designed and planned. They should be as specific as possible without including unnecessary detail, and they should contain a feasible and credible plan for generating, enhancing and/or evidencing research impact. With the exception of proposals involving early-stage engagement with external stakeholders, we will expect to see a credible plan for collating robust evidence of any impact which results from your activity. If you are currently in the early stages of developing an impact plan, you may prefer to delay applying for the fund until you have had time to further work up your idea. 

We especially welcome proposals which match fund external research awards or bids, or which complement other internal funds, such as the Aston Proof of Concept Fund, or College funding. Where concurrent bids are made to both the Research Impact Fund and another internal fund, we would ask that the proposals complement rather than duplicate each other. RKE also manages the Proof of Concept Fund and where we discover that overlapping (rather than complementary) proposals have been submitted at approximately the same time, we reserve the right to ensure the proposal is considered only for the Fund to which we believe it is best suited. 

Aston University is committed to playing its part in the delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are not prioritising proposals that are relevant to any of the SDGs, but we do ask that applicants consider which, if any, of the 17 specific SDGs their Impact Fund proposal would help achieve. 

Activities and resources which are eligible for funding

This list is not exhaustive: 

  • Travel and accommodation which is integral to the impact activities and aims described in the proposal  
  • The creation of a website archive or digital resource, designed to bring Aston research to a wider non-academic audience in an accessible way 
  • The design and implementation of impact evaluation to include data collation and analysis e.g. an audience or participant survey, or focus group to measure the impact of a training workshop or resource, an online archive or resource, an exhibition, or a community workshop
  • A short-term secondment to an external organisation which could enhance the impact of the research in question 
  • The design of educational resources, ideally in collaboration with a suitable external partner
  • The design and delivery of educational workshops in one or more schools 
  • The design and delivery of training workshops to practitioners 
  • Formation of a partnership with an external partner (e.g. think tank) which will deliver demonstrable impact benefits outside academia 
  • The design of training resources, ideally in collaboration with a suitable external partner 
  • Buy-out of teaching time, where the applicant(s) can demonstrate that the resulting time freed up will be spent on the impact activities described in the proposal (applicable for Open Calls only, not the Rapid Response Fund). Please discuss the feasibility of teaching buy-out with your Head of School (or equivalent) before submitting an application. When applying for teaching buy-out, please be clear in your application specifically what you are applying for, e.g. the number of teaching hours to be covered, at what level and over what period. Your Head of School (or equivalent) must confirm their support for your proposal as part of the application.
  • Reimbursement of out-of-hours childcare, nursing and social care costs where the activity in question necessitates incurring such costs. (Please note: Payment toward childcare, nursing or social care costs is deemed a taxable benefit and therefore would need to be processed through payroll as a taxable payment).
Activities and resources which are ineligible for funding

The Research Impact Fund will not accept proposals submitted by or on behalf of postgraduate or undergraduate students. In addition, it will not fund the following activities:

  • Travel to or from any country currently on the UK government’s red list for England (or any similar list of countries, should the government’s current system change)
  • Travel relating to activities which could be carried out equally effectively online  
  • Support for networking or relationship-building activities which involve primarily academic partners
  • Activities connected with developing the proof of concept for an invention, model or other innovation (please contact Luke Southan for further information regarding Proof of Concept funding)
  • Activities which are likely to result primarily in academic (rather than non-academic) impact
Funding streams: Open Calls and Rapid Response Call

There are two funding streams available:

Two Open Calls are planned in the academic year 2021-22. They will enable researchers to execute a pre-planned project, designed to generate, enhance, accelerate and/or evidence research impact over a number of months.  The ongoing Rapid Response Call facilitates researchers to respond quickly to valuable, emerging opportunities that enhance the impact of their research. Applications may be submitted at any time. Before preparing an application, get in touch ( to check the current year’s funding allocation is not yet exhausted.

Rapid Response (2021/22)

This Fund has been developed to enable us to respond to requests for funds in a timely way, so that applicants can take advantage of impact opportunities as they arise. This call is open from Monday, 1 November 2021 until 5pm on Monday, 20 June 2022 for applications of up to a maximum of £2,000. (Note: this Fund could close sooner if its total allocation has been awarded, although we will try to ensure the available funds are spread across the academic year. Thus, researchers who apply later in the year should not be unduly disadvantaged compared to those who applied earlier in the year.)

Rapid Response Fund applications will normally be assessed for funding by the Research Impact Team within ten working days of submission. Priority will be given to any applicants who have not been awarded any funding through the Research Impact Fund’s Open Calls in 2021-22. Please note that the Rapid Response Fund cannot be used to fund teaching buy-out.  

All funds must be spent by 31 July 2022, and cannot be carried over into academic year 2022/23.

Open Calls 1 and 2 (2021/22)
Each of these calls are for applications up to a maximum of £7,500. Applicants who are awarded funds in Open Call 1 will not normally be eligible to apply for funding in Open Call 2. Applications will be assessed by the Aston Impact Steering Group. The total budget for Open Call 2 in 2021/22 is approximately £60,000.

Open Call 2 is open to applications until 5pm on Monday, 28 February 2022.

Applying to the Research Impact Fund (2021/2022)

Your application must be completed using the Word application forms at the following links (ensure that you are logged in with your Aston IT credentials):

Please complete the relevant application for the call to which you are applying. Your application must be endorsed by the academic impact lead of your College before it is submitted.

  • BSS – Dr Ed Turner, Director of Impact
  • EPS – Professor Kate Sugden, Deputy Dean
  • HLS – Professor Anna Hine, Associate Dean Knowledge Exchange and Impact

Where teaching buy-out is sought, your Head of School (or equivalent) must also endorse the application and confirm that the teaching buy-out proposal is both acceptable to the School/Department and feasible. Please allow sufficient time to obtain these endorsements.

Once you start developing a proposal, please keep an eye on our Impact Funds FAQs section where we’ll be posting advice designed to address your most popular questions. We strongly encourage you to seek the advice of Aston’s Research Impact Team before you put together your application. You can contact us at: 

Please note:

  • All funds must be spent by 31 July 2022 
  • This guidance may be updated after the deadline for Open Call 1 has passed and before Open Call 2 is launched
  • We reserve the right to take into consideration the need to ensure a variety of different disciplines and areas of research receive support through the Impact Fund
  • Funding deadlines:
    • Rapid Response (2021/22) - 5pm on Monday, 20 June 2022 (subject to the availability of funds)
    • Open Call 1 (2021/22) - 5pm on Monday, 6th December 2021
    • Open Call 2 (2021/22) - 5pm on Monday, 28 February 2022


To help applicants, we’ll be adding the answers to any frequently asked questions we receive about the Impact Fund – so do keep checking this section!

Can I apply for the Fund if I am employed at Aston and also a PhD student at Aston?

PhD students who are employed by Aston or employed by a project based at Aston to carry out their PhD research are ineligible to apply to the Research Impact Fund.