AHRC Highlight Connected Communities and Design

Grabbing Dinner in Beijing by Trey Ratcliff CC BY-NC-SA 2.0The AHRC this week announced a new highlight notice for their Research Grants (both standard and early career routes) on Connected Communities and Design. Applications can be up to £1.5M FEC for standard grants and up to £250K for the early career route.

What are they looking for?

They’re looking for projects which intersect across Arts and Humanities, Design and Connected Communities. Projects will be inherently interdisciplinary, and can include expertise and approaches from beyond the arts and humanities disciplines, but they must include design and arts and humanities subjects at their core.

Projects must also engage with communities throughout all stages of the research process, and involve strong collaborative partnerships with organisations outside the Higher Education sector.

Part of the rationale for this highlight notice is to stimulate innovative projects based on design and so participants should think carefully about how their project might contribute to the development of national research capability in design.


The AHRC have put together a package of what they call “stimulus materials” to provide additional context to the call and to encourage potential applicants to think creatively about projects. These include an annotated list of projects previously funded under the Connected Communities theme, several case studies, tips on putting together successful projects, and a page entitled “What sorts of projects can be funded?” which expands on the brief descriptions on the main call page.

What’s the deadline?

The highlight notice will be in effect until 15th January 2014, and applications should be submitted via Je-S in the usual way. Applicants should take note of the need to provide additional information around the fit to the Highlight Notice within the Case for Support. Note also that the standard £1M FEC limit has been raised for this highlight call and in addition projects are able to attach three studentships rather than the usual two, but again it’s important to emphasise the fit to the call highlight.

How will my application be assessed?

The assessment process for highlighted grants is often misunderstood, so it’s worth quoting at length from the AHRC here:

Applications submitted under the highlight notice will be considered in accordance with the standard peer review process and criteria for the AHRC’s Research Grant Scheme. If, following peer review, they pass through the normal sift process they will be moderated by a prioritisation panel. Depending on the number of applications received under the highlight notice, applications will either be assessed by the most relevant subject panel alongside other non-highlight proposals, or by a separate moderating / prioritisation panel which will consider all the applications received under the highlight notice in that grants round.

Although applications submitted under the highlight notice will not be given any additional priority within the peer review process, the AHRC may consider supplementing the budget for grants rounds to support additional highly rated applications under the highlight notice for which there might not be sufficient funds within the existing budget for the scheme. As a result, applications addressing this highlight notice may have an increased chance of funding, but only if they fully meet the excellence criteria for the scheme and high international standards of scholarship, originality, quality and significance as judged through peer review.

As usual, Northumbria staff interested in developing a bid to this call should get in touch with your relevant Research Funding Manager at an early stage.