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INT Research Grants - How to Apply

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.


Isaac Newton Research Grants: application process in detail

These notes apply to applications from:

  • PIs - to be submitted via the Head of Department (three rounds per annum)
  • IRCs - to be channelled via the PVC for Research (one round, in Jan-Feb per annum)

There is no application form as such because the Trustees feel that this may be too prescriptive. However the guidelines below should be followed as far as possible. Trustees require applicants to produce a tailored application, and not merely to send copies of applications that have been made to other bodies.

Those preparing an application should bear in mind that they will need to convince Trustees on the following three points before a grant is approved:

  1. What, in convincing depth, is the project and why is it intellectually important?  What are its longer-term strategic benefits for those applying?       
  2. Can the proposed participants do it justice, and how will they take it forward in practice (stages, planned outputs etc)?
  3. How, precisely, is it being funded?  Exactly which component is the Trust being asked to fund, and exactly why is that support necessary from us rather than other sources?

1.  Main application

This should consist of a maximum of three pages of text. Citations to literature, and any appendices, may be added on a fourth page. Longer applications are likely to be less favourably treated by the Trust. The application should proceed in the following order.

a) Title

Please give a short title to identify the project.

b) Applicant and Department

The applicant will in general be the “Principal Investigator” of the project, who is an established University Officer. Applicants must not request a salary element for themselves; applications must be made on behalf of the person to be supported, by a more senior colleague.

c) Précis

Please supply a  précis of the project in no more than five lines and intelligible to a non-expert, e.g. “To investigate the impact of the burning of aviation fuel on the ozone layer”.

d) Summary of Project

It is difficult to prescribe in general the form that this summary should take, but it should be between two and three pages long (font size 10 or above). Applicants should be aware that the summary will be considered both by the Trustees (so that jargon is discouraged) and by expert referees, who will need a detailed intellectual case. We suggest that the summary should include the following, not necessarily all as separate points:

The academic case (this should normally take up at least two pages)

  • A clear statement of the precise request being made to the Trust, e.g. “We request £42,000 over 3 years in part support of the salary of a Research Associate”. 
  • A clear statement of what the applicant intends to achieve, some comments on the stages and timetable of the project, why it is feasible in the time available, and some indication of the forms that the final output(s) will take.
  • The intellectual significance of the proposal. 
  • An indication of the techniques to be employed (with literature citations in footnotes as appropriate; these can be very useful to expert referees).
  • The names of personnel to be involved where these are already known, with a summary of appropriate information about them, including comments on their relevant expertise. They must be based in Cambridge while the project is being conducted. 

Funding and general

  • Sources of external funding, both those already in place and those yet to be approached, and a specific explanation of the parts of the project for which Trust funding is sought. At least one substantial paragraph is needed on this.  
  • An indication of why the grant is sought from the Newton Trust in circumstances where public money is available for the same purpose.  
  • An indication of future proposals and funding streams to which the project might lead if successful. This is particularly important when making an application for pump-priming support. 
  • Any commercial aspects of the work, including those pertaining to intellectual property rights.  
  • If appropriate, information about ethical approvals obtained or to be sought in relation to the project, including, if necessary Home Office Licence details. 

External funding must normally be truly external to the University and must relate to the specific project applied for. Funding left over from previous separate projects, and past earnings from Cambridge Enterprise or similar channels, do not count as external funding. Departmental funds can only be used as matching funds if the PI cannot access external funding, most commonly because s/he is an early career scholar. 

Departmental matching funding will only be recognised if it is directly for salary components or for essential consumables to be used in the project.  Departmental provision of infrastructure and other overheads may be mentioned in the text but should not be included in the Financial Summary.

In the case of grants made to University Departments, the Trust has agreed that its ownership of Intellectual Property Rights will be vested in the University. In return the University will pay the Trust a share of any income arising from the project on an agreed pro rata basis. Payments made by the University to the investigator and his or her Department under its revenue-sharing scheme will be based on the University’s net share of any income. Any negotiations about IPR will be handled by Cambridge Enterprise.

e) Financial Summary

It is  essential to include this as part of the third side of the application. The Trust requires a tabular summary showing (in pounds sterling) year on year the total costs of the project, plus a breakdown of the sum requested from the Trust and the sum to be supplied from each other funding source (which should be named.) Salary costs should include allowances for pension, National Insurance and inflation, but, so far as the Trust is concerned, no overhead element. The Trust does not normally supply funding for travel or consumables unless these are an essential part of the project and a special case is made for them. 

It is essential to specify here when Year 1 is expected to start. An example of a financial summary is shown below.

The Trust normally expects post-doctoral salaries to be paid on the RA grade, grade 7, between points 39 and 43 depending on experience. If a Department wishes to pay above point 45, then the Trust should not be asked for the full sum.

Year 1 starts 01/01/2011
TOTAL COST OF PROJECT Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Salary of post-doc including Pension, NI and inflation £30,000 £30,500 £31,000 £91,500
Equipment £7,500     £7,500
Consumables £6,500 £7,000 £7,500 £21,000
Totals £44,000 £37,500 £38,500 £120,000
Salary of post-doc including    Pension, NI and inflation £15,000 £15,250 £15,500 £45,750
Totals £15,000 £15,250 £15,500 £45,750
AWARD FROM THE EU Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Salary of post-doc including    Pension, NI and inflation £15,000 £15,250 £15,500 £45,750
Equipment £7,500     £7,500
Consumables £6,500 £7,000 £7,500 £21,000
Totals £29,000 £22,250 £23,000 £74,250

2.  Additional items

Two further elements should then be attached to the application, on extra pages, before the application is sent to the Head of Department/PVC:

a) Citations

If necessary, academic citations used in the body of the research case can be set out as end-notes on a fourth side

b) Curriculum Vitae

The curriculum vitae of each person who will be supported by the grant should be appended to the application. Each c.v. should exceed one side but should not exceed five sides. The Principal Investigator’s c.v. should also be included, unless s/he is to play only a titular part in the project, in which case this should be fully explained in the main proposal. If the researchers are not identified at the time of application, any Newton Trust grant will be made subject to subsequent approval by the Trust of the persons appointed. Except in rare circumstances, the Trust only supports researchers who have already obtained their PhD.

3. Head of Department/PVC's support

Newton Trust grants are made to a specific University Department or equivalent body, and not to individuals directly.  The Trust will not entertain a final application from a PI unless the relevant Head of Department has indicated his or her active support and has explained the value of the application for the Department’s research strategy, or, in the case of an application from an IRC, the support of the PVC for Research (there is no standard form for this) must be obtained.

In the case of an application from a PI, the Head of Department is required to complete a questionnaire to accompany the application (preferably at draft stage).  The questionnaire asks whether the Department is willing to administer the grant and for an outline of the Departmental resources that are available to support the project.  It asks the Head to prioritise the application in relation to other recent applications.  The Trust keeps lists of recent applications from each Department, which are available on request.  The Trust will assume the questionnaire is not confidential and may mention particular items in its feedback to the applicant. If the Head of Department wishes to add any confidential information, s/he should e-mail the Trust separately.

The questionnaire includes a space for the Department to nominate referees.  The Trust requires Departments to nominate two experts who are willing if asked to conduct an independent peer review of the application and the personnel involved.  These independent reviewers should not have been co-authors of papers, co-editors of projects, or co-applicants for grants with any member of the application team during the last five years.  If they are from within the University, they should be from a different Department to that making the application.   Preferably one should be from outside the University. Please do not ask them to write: the Trust will contact all referees and ask them to write confidentially. Please also supply the names of two other referees who can if asked comment fairly on the project and the abilities and expertise of the personnel involved; there is no restriction on their relationship with the applicants. At least one of the four named referees should be from within the University and at least one from outside it. Please give email addresses in all cases. The Trust will normally consult some or all of these referees, and others of its own choosing.

In some cases, Departments will already have independent peer review comments on the project, either because feedback is available from a funding agency or because the Department has conducted its own assessment in order to determine the priority of the application.  If this is the case, please submit these comments as well, on separate sheets.


  1. It is essential that Departments should rank their applications in relation to recent ones and to each other, and provide some comment on their strategic value. 
  2. In the case of research centres within Departments, the Head of Department should take responsibility for this exercise, but should get advice from the officer in the Centre most responsible for setting research strategy. Only in the case of Centres that span Departments or are otherwise independent (such as the Gurdon Institute and CIMR) should the Centre make a return by itself.  The Trustees will not normally support research carried out in externally funded institutes, laboratories etc which are not institutions of the University.
  3. In the case of IRCs spanning several Departments/Schools, the PVC's letter of support must be included in the application; this normally covers the cross-disciplinary strengths of the IRC, the IRC's success in raising funds from outside the University, the importance of the project to the IRC's strategic aims, and the names and addresses of two referees (see notes for guidance above).

4. Submitting the application

Please see the Timetable of forthcoming deadlines

a) Draft application

Applications from PIs must be sent to the Head of Department  in the first instance, by the deadline specified in the timetable.  This is three weeks before the final deadline for applications to the Trust.  The draft application must follow as closely as possible the form of the proposed final application.  The Head of Department should then submit one  electronic copy of this draft application to the Trust, so that the Director can provide comment.  

For IRCs, the applications should first be sent to the PVC for Research according to the timetable and instructions issued by his office.

b) Final application

After the Director has commented on the draft, fifteen hard copies of the final application, Head of Department's questionnaire/PVC's letter, and all appendices and CVs, (preferably printed double-sided), plus one electronic version of each, are required.   

c) Submission details

Electronic copies of the draft and final submissions should be sent to

The format may be Microsoft Word or .pdf, but questionnaires must be returned in Word or .rtf format

Please send paper copies of the final application to:


Isaac Newton Trust

Trinity College

Cambridge CB2 1TQ