Research and knowledge exchange

Tips for Applying to Sussex Research Internal Funding Schemes

Applicants are encouraged to read these tips as there are key differences between internal research pump-priming schemes and external funding schemes such as those operated by Research Councils, government departments or charitable funders.

Bear in mind the nature of our schemes

There are key differences between internal research pump-priming schemes and most external schemes, such as those operated by Research Councils, governments or charitable funders. Your chances of success are much greater if you appreciate these differences:

  • Our funds are much more limited.
  • We have a small team launching, supplying information to applicants, helping with costings, managing and evaluating our schemes – 2.75 FTE professional services staff and 0.5 academic lead, to be precise. This team manages hundreds of awards concurrently.
  • We fund research across every discipline, department and school.
  • We rely on internal colleagues to advise us as panel members.
  • We do not draw upon external experts for reviews.
  • Our aim is to assist colleagues in attracting external funding for their research; not to be a substitute for external funding.
Strive for the most economically costed application that you can

We want to support as many colleagues as we can with the limited resources at our disposal. We can do this only if applicants draw upon the minimum internal funding required to achieve their pump-priming objectives before applying externally. Claims for ‘luxury’ expenses, and expenses which could be covered from personal or school research funds are unlikely to be looked upon favourably. Value for money in each bid is essential to our goal of spreading opportunities widely. If you plan to submit a costly budget justify clearly why it is needed. 

Check draft applications with the Sussex Research team

Although we try to anticipate as many issues as we can in the guidelines that we provide for our various schemes, there may be things that we have not considered. If in any doubt please get in touch with Sussex Research at an early stage so that you do not waste time applying for things which are unlikely to be funded. If we are given enough notice we can consider unanticipated issues and inform applicants of our policy towards them before the application deadline.

Remember that bids are not normally considered by experts in the field

We strive to balance a breadth of disciplinary background among panellists with efficiency. If we relied upon experts from every discipline to help us make funding decisions we would not be able to have our panels meet as regularly, and make as many awards each year. There will be representatives from across the Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities assessing bids in most of our schemes, but it is still necessary to pitch internal applications for a non-expert readership. Emphasise the importance of the research in general, and how an internally funded project is likely to lead onto externally funded work, rather than the ways in which your work advances knowledge narrowly within your own specialist field. Keep it succinct.

Consider whether internally funded developmental work is really necessary

The purpose of most of our schemes is to assist you in applying to external funders. Our schemes may not be necessary for your purposes. If your research project is already at a stage where it is likely to be appealing to external funders, go straight to them. Think carefully about what could be achieved by applying to one of our schemes, and whether the results really will make the difference when it comes to applying externally.

Consider what stage your project is at and which, if any, is the right scheme to apply to

Some applicants are looking for resources effectively to begin a new research project. If you want to bring people (internal or external) together to discuss an idea, the Research Opportunities Fund is the most appropriate scheme. It is also most appropriate if you are at the late stages of a research idea and need to work with collaborators on a complex bid, enabling you to put the finishing touches on a platform grant for instance, by bringing people together to draft the external application. To be successful in the Research Development Fund your research needs to be more advanced than a preliminary idea. You need to have the shape of your external bid already clearly in mind, but know that there is a data gap that needs filling. More concrete pilot study, or proof of concept research is required, but you have a good idea of what that research will consist of and, above all, how its results will significantly enhance your chances of obtaining the specified external grant.

Be precise about the external funding source that you are targetting with your internally funded research

Many applicants simply list a set of possible funders, mentioning research councils and charities who tend to fund research broadly in their area. Generally we want to see a more targeted approach where possible. If there is a specific funding call that the pilot study will lend itself to, name it. If not, and if your target is a standard research grant for instance, provide information that will convince a panel that your chances of success with the named funder are relatively good and explain how the RDF award will enhance your chances of the award being made.

Please understand that, because of the constraints mentioned above, we have only limited capacity to follow up on appeals against panel decisions

It is understandable that disappointed applicants may feel that aspects of their applications were not considered in the correct light, were overlooked, misunderstood or not given enough emphasis. We try to be a supportive and collegial unit. We provide all applicants with as much feedback as possible from the comments of our reviewers, and we strive to be honest and transparent in all of our decisions. Panels’ decisions are final.