Impact as part of your UKRI/RCUK case for support

The Impact Summary and Pathways to Impact are no longer a compulsory part of grant applications for the seven UK Research Councils

Impact is still of importance to funders and will need to be included in the case for support. Guidance on how to include impact will be provided as part of the call guidance. 

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Impact activities are still eligible for funding and should be included in your justification of resources.

This page contains guidance on how to think about Impact as part of your research proposal.

Introduction

Applicants for grants should consider and describe relevant activities the research team will undertake to help individuals or organisations to use the research finding to make a change or benefit to society, policy or the economy.

This goes beyond the dissemination of your work. You need to consider the change that could come about from non-academics knowing about and using your research.

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What Impact Could Come From your Research?

when you consider impact from your research you should answer these three questions:

  1. Who might benefit from this research?
  2. How would they benefit from this research?
  1. What will be done to ensure that potential beneficiaries have the opportunity to engage with this research?

Think about what you or your group will do to move the research and its outputs towards this benefit or change. 

  • Consider  a set of specific activities to be undertaken as part of the research project
  • Include a realistic timeline for carrying out the activities
  • Add to and complement the other parts of the research proposal
  • consider what these activities may cost 
How to go about it

It is always best to think about your Impact when you start thinking about your research proposal. The earlier in the process you start to think about it, the easier it will be to start talking to relevant stakeholders.

  • For each of your stakeholders, ask yourself "What can I do to encourage this to happen?"
  • Think of the most appropriate activities to engage with or reach the beneficiaries you have identified 

For example, consider:

  • At what stage of the project it needs to happen
  • Whether you will require external support. This could be working with a designer to improve the commercial potential of your research or design promotional material or websites; an artist or games designer to help convey your research to the public or inspire researchers of the future; professional production team to produce films, animations or other educational resources
  • Which other stakeholders need to be involved and how you will identify and engage with them
  • How you will measure success. This could include, setting up an advisory group to shape future activities, using questionnaires, stakeholder surveys, collecting website statistics and impact activity data and/or conducting exit polls at the end of key activities to determine if the needs of user communities have been met
  • What training your team will need to deliver the activity (e.g. communications, web design, marketing, social media, lobbying)

For each activity, identify items for which you can request additional funds.

Example Impact activities

There is no finite list of acceptable impact activities. You should include any activity that you feel will help the groups you have identified. Feel free to be creative in designing your own activities to suit your proposal.

You can find further guidance in the University's impact planning toolkit.

Examples of activities

Engaging stakeholders and beneficiaries (before, during and after the project)

Your impact activities may have started before even submitting the research application. You should mention if you have engaged with a steering group, lay advisory panel such as a patient public involvement group or had public or stakeholder engagement to inform the design of the project.

You should describe how you will continue to engage with these groups during the lifetime of the project and how their input will be used to shape communications, expand interaction with stakeholders and/or research user groups, or to develop engagement activities.

Your activities may be to raise awareness or facilitate uptake of your research. The events you organise should be tailored to your intended audience. 

If you plan to engage a new group of beneficiaries, it is important to consider who influences this group. You may want to engage with professional bodies, societies, practitioners or charities to champion your research with these new groups prior to your event. If you plan to have an exhibit or workshop at a stakeholder events to enhance engagement with your beneficiaries you should be clear when this will happen and how the attendees will be able to feed back.


Working with partners

Working or co-creating with external partners (which can be individuals, groups, communities, organisations, practitioners) provides a strong potential pathway to utilise the knowledge gained in the research project.

Pathways to Impact can be used to describe how you will go about identifying new partners, through attending relevant events, working with your Faculty Knowledge Exchange (KE) or external engagement teams, or through scoping meetings. Remember to include travel costs to visit potential partners.

Where the project is building on an existing partnership, the Pathways to Impact should describe how and when you will engage with your partners. If possible, describe the partner commitment by explaining their engagement with the project and their future plans to use the research.

Your expertise and background may mean you have close links to charities or professional bodies where you may act as an advisor, board member or provide talks to members or family groups. This can be included if you will be using the research project to inform the conversations and information provided.


Influencing policy

Generating impact from your research may involve providing evidence to or engaging policymakers. There may be activities already planned by your faculty that you can take part in or you may write policy briefs for relevant policymakers, all party parliamentary groups (APPGs) or respond to committee inquiries. Parliament has a useful suite of information for researchers on their website. If you know when key meetings or inquiries are coming up describe when and how you will engage with them. If a member of the project team has responsibility for horizon scanning, include details of the type of policies or enquiries they will be looking to identify.


Communications

Communicating your research with the aim of to increasing awareness can be part of your Pathways to Impact.

Your project may benefit from having a website but it will be most effective if it is tailored to the potential audience. This will need to be done in combination with other communication methods. You may need to employ a designer to ensure that the webpage provides the best user experience.

Blogs are an informal ‘diary’ style posts. It can be used to provide updates on the research progress and to pose questions to readers to gain their feedback. You can have this as part of your webpage or post on other blogs to engage with wider audiences.

Twitter is a social media platform where users post 'tweets' of 280 characters. It can be used to engage with a wide demographic around the world. Followers can respond to your tweet or retweet an interesting post which would be then seen by their followers, extending the potential reach of your research. Tweets can also contain links, photos or videos.

Films or animations are a great way to convey the complex background information or project development to a general audience. This can be used as the basis for meaningful conversations around your project. Films should be kept to approximately 2 minutes.

Using different methods to communicate your research, such as infographics, means the communication can be tailored to the audience you're trying to reach. These can be hosted on webpages or used as handouts at events.

You can also communicate your research through the media. This may include articles for publications like the Conversation, radio or television appearances or creating press releases.

If you are working with an external partner or have close ties to a charity, professional body or society then they may send information about your research through their communication channels.


Public engagement

Public engagement can be included in your Pathways to Impact. It can take many forms and reach many audiences, from schoolchildren to associations of enthusiasts, from the general public to specific interest groups. It is important to match your public engagement activity to your research. Make sure you identify the most relevant and appropriate audiences and choose the most effective way to engage with them.

Effective ways to engage the specific groups or the public include:

  • Working with artists or creative professionals to help communicate your research through different methods, such as exhibits, games, plays or storytelling
  • School projects with teachers or pupils to enhance understanding, create teaching materials or inspire and engage young people with the subject
  • Interactive workshops where the public can engage with the research concepts
  • Working with the public as researchers, also known as citizen science

The National Coordinating Council for Public Engagement (NCCPE) have produced some excellent guidance on public engagement activities.

The University runs festivals and events to support researchers to engage with the public. The Public Engagement Team can provide advice on including public engagement activities in your Pathways to Impact.


Building capacity in your team

  • Mention if you have a successful track record in conducting activities or working with partners or groups relevant to the project.
  • For some activities you or your team may need to attend training to develop skills. This may be internal or external, such as media training, attending public engagement masterclasses, storytelling or writing for a lay audience workshops, or collaboration, partnership or commercialisation workshops.
  • Any training mentioned should be designed to engage better with external audiences.
Requesting funding for impact activities

Research Councils are keen to fund reasonable, relevant and appropriate impact activities. You should make sure you ask for additional funding for the activities you outline in your Pathways to Impact. There is no official upper limit (either as a flat figure or as a percentage of the total) to how much you can request for impact activities, as long as you can answer 'yes' to the following questions:

  • Will these activities be carried out during the life of the project?
  • Is the amount requested appropriate for the activity described?
  • Is this activity relevant to the research project and likely to encourage the impacts described?

This is an opportunity for you to request funding for activities that can benefit you, your research team and your research itself. Make it work for you.

If the Research Council decide not to fund one or more of your impact activities, it will have no negative effect on your project's chances of being funded, so you lose nothing by asking. 

However, you should bear in mind that the impact costs form part of the Full Economic Costing (fEC) of the project. Therefore, on projects with a stated upper funding limit, impact activities will have to be incorporated within that limit and you may need to be balanced against other project costs.


Eligible costs

You can request anything that is eligible under fEC, so long as it is specific to that particular project and is justified. General activities that are arranged at the level of the department, school or university (for instance, industry open days) would not be eligible. The quality of the justification and the relevance of the resources will be assessed by peer review. 

Examples of eligible costs

  • Secondments/people exchange (either to other disciplines or user organisations)
  • Training, e.g. for Research Assistants in impact-related areas, project management, web design, comms, networking
  • Employment of specialist staff (for instance consultants, business analysts, designers, communications specialists, video makers, web designers) with a clear justification and description of what they will do on the project. This includes existing University of Sheffield staff who are knowledge exchange experts and other relevant categories of staff
  • Project-specific marketing assessments and early stage commercialisation exploration
  • Workshops, seminars, networking and engagement events, e.g. with other disciplines, industry, policy makers, the public or third sector
  • Production of non-academic materials such as posters, videos, websites, leaflets, toolkits. (NB This does not include the costs of publishing a paper in either an academic journal or open access.)
  • Project-specific publicity
  • Public engagement activities

Ineligible costs

  • Patent costs and other Intellectual Property (IP) costs: These costs are not eligible because universities receive funding to support their commercialisation efforts through the dual support system. Intellectual Property Rights tends to be covered by someone's contract of employment, and Research Councils delegate both the responsibility and the benefits to the individual and their employer. This also applies to licensing agreements and establishment of spin-outs.
  • Researcher career development costs: These costs are not eligible because sustainability of human resources, which includes support for career development, are included in the full economic costing of research. However, where the application of the development activities is specific to the project additional costs may be sought. The applicant must clearly articulate the specific contribution from these activities to the pathways to economic and societal impacts.

Eligible public engagement activities

Societal impact is one of the key areas covered under the impact umbrella, so it is legitimate for researchers to request resources to undertake public engagement activities. We wouldn't expect every research grant to contain a large scale public engagement project but they could include, for example:

  • Training in public engagement or communications
  • Communicating the research to the public
  • Consulting and working with a particular user group

In addition to communicating their research findings to the public, researchers should also consider two-way engagement and interaction with the public. For example, working with a particular user group where there might be a tangible relevant output; and for areas with potential societal or ethical impact, ascertaining current public attitudes and hopes/concerns for the area.

Public engagement can take place at any point - before your research begins to help shape your research question, during the research grant as part of the research process or at the end of the grant to feedback on the findings and potentially influence the future research portfolio. Types of public engagement activities may include science festivals, debates, discussion and consultation with public audiences appropriate to your research project.

Indicative costs for impact activities

Public engagement: For detailed costs for public engagement activities contact the Public Engagement Team.

Example activity Resources Approximate costs
  • Exhibition (at local museum or galley)
  • Participation in an existing event (e.g. Festival of the Mind)
  • Workshops with relevant interest groups
  • Public facing website
  • Interactive media/games
  • School visit or educational resources
  • Attendance at stakeholder conference
Artist £200-500/day
Travel costs £10-200/person
Staff time Your team staff costs
Project manager Approximately £300/day
Materials (posters, leaflet etc)

Poster design & print: £150 each

Brouchure design & print: £1500-3500/10,000

Flyer print: £500/500

Catering £2-7.50/person
Venue costs

Internal - contact room bookings

External: £60-600/day depending on requirements.

Website hosting £350-1000 depending on requirements
Website development £3000-5000
App development £1000-10,000
Film production £1000/minute
Advertising £90-4000
Evaluation £50-500
Conference fees As required
Travel As required

Commercial or economic impact activities:  For detailed costs or further advice please contact your faculty gateway or departmental business development manager.

Example Activity Resources Approximate cost
  • Industry Vvsits
  • Attendance at trade events
  • Workshops with potential partners
  • Creating case studies with partners
  • Promotional films
  • Customer focused website
  • Creation of a prototype
  • Secondments
Travel & subsistence £20-200/person
External knowledge transfer advisors Contact specialist for rates
Conference fees As required
Venue & catering As for public engagement activities
Advertising material & promotion £90-4000
Professional time £300/case study
Film production £1000/minute
Website development costs £3000-5000
Design professionals  to help with prototype & promotion £500-1000/day for design professionals
Travel & subsistence £20-200/day
Staff costs Staff cost for duration of secondment

Stakeholder input and networking: For detailed costs please contact your faculty gateway or departmental business manager.

Example activity Resources Approx. Cost
  • Advisory board/steering group
  • User/consumer/patient groups
  • Scoping workshops
  • Networking events
  • Lobbying
Venue

Internal - contact room bookings

External £60-600/day dependant on requirements.

Catering £3-15/person
Travel £20-200/person

Posters/leaflets

Poster design & print: £150 each

Brouchure design & print: £1500-3500/10,000

Flyer print: £500/500

Marketing £90-4000

Staff development: Non-academic training (media, communications, web design, marketing, social media)

Example Activity
Resource Approx. Cost
  • Training
  • Secondment

Course fees

Contact provider

Travel & subsistance

£20-200/day

Who to contact

There are a number of staff within the University who can help incorporate Impact into your Case for Support.