UKRI Economic & Social Research Council

The UK's main funder of research and training in economic and social sciences

  • Program Type

The UK’s largest organization for funding research on economic and social issues, supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and civil society.

Future of the cities: ESRC Urban Transformations

Since 1950 there has been a huge increase in the percentage of population living within cities across the world, and the trend is only going upwards. Research on cities has traditionally focused on western societies, but South Asian countries including China and India experience rapid urbanisation, and over the next three decades African cities will grow most of all.

ESRC's Urban Transformations network, comprising more than 80 research projects encompassing a wide range of academic disciplines, explores the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly urban world. The network is coordinated by Professor Michael Keith, who outlines the issues and challenges that Urban Transformations has been looking into.

What we offer

We offer:

  • Quality: All ESRC research awards are made in open competition, subject to transparent peer assessment at the outset and evaluation on completion. Rigorous standards are applied to all the training we support. Our research often involves multidisciplinary teams, collaboration with other councils, and frequently takes a long-term view. Our datasets, longitudinal and panel studies are internationally acclaimed resources.
  • Impact: Our research makes a difference: it shapes public policies and makes businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective as well as shaping wider society. Our knowledge exchange schemes are carefully devised to maximise the economic and social impacts of the research that we fund.
  • Independence: Although publicly funded, we emphasise the importance of independent and impartial research. We have no 'in-house' researchers, but distribute funds to academics in universities and other institutes throughout the UK.
  • Our mission

  • promote and support, by any means, high-quality research and related postgraduate training on social and economic issues
  • develop and support the national data infrastructure that underpins high-quality research
  • advance knowledge and provide trained social scientists who meet the needs of users and beneficiaries, thereby contributing to the economic competitiveness of the UK, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and the quality of life
  • communicate clearly and promote public understanding of social science.
  • Research

    We are committed to supporting the very best research, with scientific excellence the primary criterion for funding. All our funding opportunities are highly competitive and only those proposals judged by experts in the field to be of the highest scientific quality are supported.


    We play a key role in promoting and supporting training for the UK social science community throughout their careers. We invest in high-quality research training and development opportunities to produce skilled researchers who are able to tackle the most pressing social and economic challenges and have a broader impact on society.


    Partnerships bring a wealth of opportunities to the social sciences, from the development of researchers skilled in knowledge exchange to creating maximum impact of our research on society’s most complex challenges. Building strategic partnerships with academia, the public and private sectors, and civil society is a key aspect of our work.


    Researchers require access to world-class data and pioneering research methods to deliver high quality research and maximise impact. We take a strategic lead in driving the expansion of the UK's data infrastructure and supporting cutting-edge methodological developments.

    Working internationally

    We are an international leader in the social sciences. We foster international collaboration with a wide range of international partners and, through joint schemes, we enable UK social scientists to collaborate on challenging global issues with the very best international researchers from around the world.

    Public engagement

    We work to raise public awareness of social science and we encourage involvement in research that will translate into benefits for society and individuals.

    Future Phases

    Check out an overview of each competition phase below - complete rules for each phase will be released as the competition progresses.


    Let’s Get Started.

    To apply or join the program, please submit an application.