Current funding opportunities

Deliver foundations for a transformation in digital footprint data

This new funding opportunity forms part of the first phase of a long-term ESRC programme called DigitalFootprints.

People’s interactions with the world and each other are increasingly digital. These interactions create DFD, including:

  • internet and social media
  • geospatial
  • commercial and transactional
  • sensor
  • image.

They can be harnessed to understand and address key research, business and policy questions about our increasingly digital society. The government’s National Data Strategy highlights significant opportunities for such data to increase the speed, efficiency and scope of research alongside its value for society and the economy.

DFD cannot currently be used to its full potential. Researchers are limited by a number of challenges including:

  • insufficient data access and infrastructure
  • underdeveloped methodology and theoretical development
  • opaque ethical procedures.

ESRC’s vision for DigitalFootprints is to provide the leadership, skills, coordination and data infrastructure to deliver a transformational shift in the access to, and creation and use of DFD. The intent of this programme is to:

  • foster long-term strategic partnerships with data owners
  • provide access to hundreds of diverse new and linked datasets
  • address areas of national and international interest where access to, and creation and use of DFD is critical.

The first phase of DigitalFootprints is comprised of three main components:

  • digital footprint data services delivered by the Consumer Data Research Centre and Urban Big Data Centre
  • this DigitalFootprints Accelerator Scheme
  • an ESRC DigitalFootprints Advisory Team.

The first phase of DigitalFootprints launched in April 2022 and is due to close in September 2024.

Phase one is focused on laying the foundations for much larger investment in DigitalFootprints by:

  • testing frameworks and approaches
  • supporting experimentation and innovation
  • exploring and developing partnerships
  • developing and testing business models
  • developing and testing principles and policies.

Phase two is scheduled to start in 2023 and end in 2029. It is subject to business case approval to release funding from the UK Research and Innovation Infrastructure Fund.


Funding details

This funding will enable researchers to undertake innovative research and proof of concept work to transform how digital footprint data (DFD) is created, accessed and used for the public good.

To apply to this DigitalFootprints Accelerator Scheme you must be based at an organisation eligible for ESRC funding. Individual eligibility criteria applies.

This is the outline proposal stage.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £500,000 for a period of up to 12 months. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

The closing date for applications is 31 August 2023 16:00. Further details can be found on the UKRI website

Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) - Open Call

Did you know that our data collections can be used in SDAI grant proposals?

The Secondary Data Analysis Initiative aims to deliver high-quality high-impact research through through utilising existing data resources created by the ESRC and other agencies in order to address some of the most pressing challenges facing society. Proposals are welcome at any time. Funding is provided for up to 24 months with an overall limit of £300,000 (100% fEC) per grant.

Previously, it was required from applicants to use at least one ESRC-funded data resource and to include a named early career researcher as principal investigator or co-investigator. These restrictions have now been lifted. Following an evidence based review, ESRC decided to open SDAI for applications that seek to exploit secondary data from a range of UK and international data resources including longitudinal studies and other data infrastructures, as long as applicants can provide confirmation that they have access to these sources and data. The use of at least one of ESRC-funded resources and longitudinal studies is still strongly encouraged, but it is no longer a requirement. Also, the ESRC still encourages applications from early career researchers as principal investigators or co-investigators, but this is not a requirement for applying to the call.

Proposals should focus on the generation of non-academic impact through addressing substantive research questions. Methodological and capacity development as part of this work is encouraged but should not be the core focus. The SDAI will therefore support the innovative and creative use of data or methodologies and support capacity-building in the area of secondary data analysis.

The Initiative operates alongside ESRC’s Research Grants open call. Proposals will be considered by a Grants Assessment Panel (GAP) that has been specifically convened to consider SDAI proposals.

Funding will be available for around 12-15 proposals a year, subject to quality. This may increase with the involvement of other organisations.

NOTE: This funding opportunity is paused from 31 October 2022 until mid-2023, when it will reopen on the UKRI Funding Service.

Further details can be found on the UKRI website.