Types of external funding

Research grant

A research grant describes a contribution to the costs of a stated research project.  Research projects are led by a Principal Investigator (PI) with any additional academic staff as Co-Investigators (Co-Is) and Research Associates where appropriate (RAs).

Research grants are typically awarded by one of the UK Research Councils, the European Commission, charities such as Wellcome or Leverhulme, industry or government organisations.

Assessment of a research grant application tends to focus on the research idea, with additional consideration of the research team involved.

Research grants can vary in size from a few hundred pounds to large complex projects totalling millions and involving very large international research teams.


A fellowship is an award providing a contribution to the support of a named individual (the fellow). It covers the cost of the time dedicated by the fellow to their personal research programme and may or may not include additional costs such as equipment and costs for other staff.

A fellowship assessment focusses more than a research grant on the quality of the individual themselves and how they in particular are best placed to undertake the research in question.  Typically a fellowship allows the fellow to claim much more staff time for themselves to do the research – sometimes as much as 100% of their salary over several years.  In contrast, research grant funders typically expect to pay for only a small portion of the salary of the PI and their team with the rest of the salary being met by the institution.

Fellowships can be targeted to researchers at particular career stages, such as Early Career (a specific number of years post PhD) or mid-career.  Fellowships targeted to the most experienced academic staff can sometimes offer funding for an extended programme of research projects lasting several years.

Travel grant

A travel grant is awarded wholly to pay for travel expenses for a specific purpose or to a named individual to use for travel as they see fit.  They are typically much smaller grants than research grants or fellowships and do not pay for other costs such as staff salary or equipment.


Network grants are awarded to facilitate bringing different academics and research users together to form new interdisciplinary research communities and topics. 

They can be offered to support forums for the discussion and exchange of ideas on a specified thematic area, issue or problem, or to facilitate interactions between researchers and stakeholders through, for example, a short-term series of workshops, seminars, networking activities or other events.

Many funders require interdisciplinary and/or multi-national teams or consortia to work together as a requirement of funding.  Network grants are often therefore an important first step in developing a research team to apply for a large-scale research grant.

Follow-on funding

Follow-on funding is designed to support the translation of fundamental research – typically funded by a research grant or fellowship – into practical application, including commercialisation. The aim is to help researchers maximise the societal and economic benefits of their research.

Funds can often support innovative and creative engagements with new audiences and user communities which stimulate pathways to impact; for example, for knowledge exchange, public engagement, active dissemination and commercialisation activities that arise unforeseeably during the lifespan of or following an earlier project. Follow on funding does not typically support supplementary funding for continuation of research activities.

European Funding

European funding describes that awarded by the European Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 programme or by the European Research Council.

Horizon 2020 is a vast EU Research and Innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020).

The University of Leeds has a dedicated team to support applications for and management of European funding.

International funding

International funding describes that which is available specifically for projects including researchers from around the world or to encourage academics to develop sustainable, international partnerships.  International funding can also focus on particular global challenge areas or specific countries or regions.

Postgraduate Research

Postgraduate research grants are designed to provide funding for postgraduate researchers – PhD students – in the form of individual scholarships directly to the student or to institutions in the form of larger scale, coordinated projects providing for the recruitment of many postgraduate researchers over the life of the project. Such awards typically provide for maintenance grants for the student and the payment of the applicable tuition fee to the host institution.  Some awards may include an allowance for other costs such as travel expenses or equipment for PhD students to undertake their projects.


Equipment awards provide funding primarily for the purchase and maintenance of specific hardware and software items necessary to conduct research.  In some cases equipment funding can also provide an allowance for other costs such as staff time to manage facilities.

Equipment purchases are usually permitted on standard research grants and fellowships; however, equipment-specific calls can often allow academics and institutions to apply for much larger scale items and complex facilities costing millions of pounds that would otherwise be unattainable.  For this reason they are sometimes referred to as strategic equipment calls; pieces of equipment acquired with this type of funding often support the work of many different departments as well as organisations external to the University.