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Isaac Newton Trust Research Grants

THIS PAGE WILL BE COMPLETELY REVISED IN APRIL 2017. However, information on these pages will remain valid for applications for up to £60k in support of a research project (or up to £30k for a bridging grant) and the Easter Term round will proceed as usual. But there will be no round for larger Strategic Grants this summer - potential applicants should contact the Director for advice.

Research Grant policy


The Trust's research grant policy has five main aims:

1. to provide initial partner funding for new research projects, institutional projects or equipment, so that the projects can go on to apply for external funding to complete the work, or become self-sustaining in other ways. Some of these projects will be research projects of individual University employees, for which the Trust is willing to give part-support ‘pump-priming’ awards; priority here will be given to early career Principal Investigators (PIs). Other projects will be larger, institutional projects for the promotion of education or research, and can come in many forms (see below for examples). The Trust sometimes gives equipment grants on a partner funding basis with other University institutions, to enable them to apply for external funding for essential items.

2. to provide emergency or bridging funding for salary costs (or occasionally equipment) for outstanding (usually peer-reviewed) projects that have run out of money through no fault of their own. The Trust is also willing to grant underwriting while the results of other applications are awaited.

3. to help unconventional innovative science.  Trustees wish to encourage applications for early-stage funding for genuinely creative and innovative early-stage research projects that are too speculative or unconventional to stand much chance of attracting institutional funding.   This is a new and experimental call and the Trust hopes to work with interested Departments to provide joint funding packages, which will have been properly scrutinised by a Departmental body (separate from the ranking of the Department’s other applications to the Trust).  The Trust anticipates making up to £25,000 available per award, to be supplemented by Departmental or similar matching.  Unlike the Trust’s other grants, applications need not focus on salary support: any relevant expenditure might be requested, such as employing students in vacations or paying for consumables.   Early career researchers are prioritised, but anyone who can make an effective case for seed-corn funding for a particularly innovative project, and who demonstrably lacks the funding to proceed with it themselves, is eligible. 

4. Potential applicants seeking to make an institutional application for the promotion of education or research which could reasonably fall under the heading of a 'Strategic Research Project' should consult the Director in the first instance. For example

    • the Trust is currently funding, or has funded, a number of research centres and equivalents, and is sometimes willing to give larger than usual grants as seedcorn funding or underwriting to these bodies (but only for research costs, not for ‘bricks and mortar’).
    • the Trust has supported the early stages of educational and outreach initiatives by several University bodies, such as the University Library e-books project, the Transkills project and the ‘Naked Scientists’

Guiding Principles

The Trust prides itself on its flexibility and will consider applications that broadly meet any of these criteria. However applicants should bear in mind the following general policy guidelines, though they do not apply equally to each of the categories mentioned above.

    • The Trust is unable to provide long-term or core funding, not least because its own existence is only guaranteed five years ahead at any one time. Grants are almost never given more than three years ahead.
    • The Trust overwhelmingly prefers to pay post-doctoral (or equivalent level) salary costs, and occasionally equipment costs. It does not support conferences, travel or publication costs and prefers not to support consumables unless a particular case is made.
    • The Trust does not see itself as a primary funder. It expects applicants to approach other bodies first wherever possible (except for applications in category 3 above).
    • The Trust never provides all the funding for a project. It prefers to give support which will leverage significant external funding. To the extent that this is absent, it expects Departments and/or other University bodies to provide a financial contribution, in order to demonstrate backing for the individuals or project concerned. (In the case of applications for substantial items of equipment, the Trust generally expects there to be both internal and external matching funding.)
    • The Trust does not augment existing awards from external funding bodies just for the sake of it. Indeed it will generally assume that external funding bodies have correctly assessed what a project needs, unless a strong case is made to the contrary. There must always be a strong intellectual and/or strategic rationale for the particular project for which the Trust’s help is sought.
    • The Trust assumes that the PIs most in need of support will be at an early stage of their career, at least their Cambridge career. It assumes that senior PIs will have access to adequate research funding from elsewhere and will not need to approach the Trust except for specific partner funding or emergency funding applications.
    • In considering applications for emergency or bridging funding, the Trust expects that a strong intellectual and strategic rationale for the project will be presented on behalf of the Department, group or lab. There will normally also be past peer-reviewed funding (and, preferably, feedback from that peer review). The Trust unfortunately does not have the resources to tide over post-doctoral researchers on a routine basis.
    • In pursuit of its objectives to assist early career staff as PIs, the Trust now provides substantial support to the research grant schemes for early career science lecturers run by the Office of the PVC for Research and the relevant Schools, which also supply partner funding. The Trust believes that these schemes are the best way in which it can fulfil this part of its remit, particularly if the researcher has as yet no matching funding.  It is still willing to receive separate applications from early career lecturers which fit one of the other categories above, for example if they already have external matching funding.  Sometimes the Trust can help to provide funding for RAs that gives them enough status in the University for them in turn to act as PIs on external grant applications

Though it should be clear in most cases whether an application fits the above criteria, there are some cases where applicants might wish to consult the Director before applying.

 A list of  recent research grant awards  is provided for guidance.


All applicants should apply by the termly deadline, having read the following:

NB IRCs seeking to apply should do so according to the instructions and timetable issued by the PVC for Research; the criteria should be observed.