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How to fund research software development

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How to fund research software development

Simon Hettrick

Simon Hettrick

Deputy Director

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How to fund research software development

Much research software starts its life thanks to a research grant. But what happens when your code proves useful and you want to extend it or ruggedise it for release to the wider community? Research grants generally can't help because they focus on solving research problems, not improving code. Who should you turn to?

We're putting together a list of funders and funding calls who can help with the costs of improving code. This list is not comprehensive, but we'd like it to be. If you know of other sources for this type of funding, please let us know and we'll add them to the list.

In general, we recommend using the ResearchResearch.com service to identify and then filter the various opportunities for funding.

Specific calls

  • BBSRC TRDF2 (tools and resources development). A competitive call (<20% success rate), which takes place annually. The code must be within a BBSRC area. For more information, see the last call.
  • Digital Science Catalyst grants. Up to £15,000 for scientific software innovation, which can help attract to additional investment. It's an ongoing call as described on the Digital Science website.
  • EPSRC Software for the Future. This is typically for larger flagship codes and is highly competitive (<10% success rate). It runs approximately every two years and the code must be within an EPSRC area. For more information, see the last call.
  • European Commission. Various opportunities in H2020 ICT and​ EINFRATRUCTURES. These typically require a consortium of applicants, so they're not suited to smaller projects.
  • Jisc Research Data Spring. Small grants for projects to improve tooling and processes around research data. Likely to be future calls. Check the Jisc website for details.

Organisations to approach

  • Companies. Various companies have small investment schemes, including Google.
  • Foundations. Various foundations may support software development if it is in line with their aims. Some foundations to review include the Sloan Foundation, the Moore Foundation, Python Software Foundation and the Carnegie Trust
  • Government. The UK government has been running challenge schemes around opening up data e.g. Release of Data Fund and Breakthrough Fund.
  • InnovateUK ICT grants. Varies depending on call, and requires industry leadership or collaboration. Visit the InnovateUK website to check for applicable grants.
  • Local authorities. Some local authorities can provide funding if your software has local public benefit.
  • RCUK responsive mode / researcher-led mode. Generally accept software development on bids but must be research objective focussed. Ongoing calls.
  • Universities. Many universities have innovation funding schemes, particularly if your software has commercial potential. A good place to start is by checking with you research innovation or technology transfer office.



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