Building a research network

Please note: the application period for our Challenge Theme Networks Development Programme 2024 to 2025 has now closed. 

Do you want to turn your idea for an interdisciplinary research network into a reality in a supportive environment? You could receive substantial funding (no less than £30,000) to build a research network which will be co-led by academics from across different disciplines in the University of Leeds.  

The Horizons Institute provides a shared platform for responding to global challenges. We do this through connecting interdisciplinary research with communities, non-government agencies (NGOs) and charities, local authorities, policymakers, businesses, and the public.  

Through our Challenge Theme Networks, we aim to respond to societal, scientific, or technological challenges of global significance by supporting University of Leeds researchers to establish proactive interdisciplinary networks that:  

  • Bring researchers together from across the University to collaborate in the development of ideas
  • Share understanding, knowledge, and data
  • Build and strengthen capacity in interdisciplinary skills and leadership
  • Strengthen research impact by increasing its influence in local, national, and global policy development
  • Communicate the depth and breadth of research to local, national, and global audiences.  

Support for new networks

Interdisciplinary research networks will receive support from the Horizons Institute team including a dedicated Research Manager and the Challenge Network Coordinator for 18 months beginning in October 2024.

This will include support to: 

  • design, deliver and evaluate research activities including interdisciplinary events 
  • promote your network activities through communications and engagement
  • develop a road map for beyond the funded period.

Networks will also receive no less than £30,000 in funding to establish and build your interdisciplinary research network. 0.1FTE buyout is also offered to each co-lead.  

Application process  

We have now closed for applications for the Challenge Theme Network Development Programme 2024-5. 

If you have already submitted your application, a cross-sector panel will review applications and select a shortlist of nine ideas to take forward to the second stage of the selection process which is a collaborative lab. You will be notified of the outcome on Thursday 21 March.  

Collaborative labs

You must be able to attend at least one collaborative lab. Collaborative labs are designed for you to:  

  • meet other people interested in your idea
  • refine your idea
  • build the leadership and membership of your network.

The Horizons Institute will publish a summary of the nine ideas on our website and invite academics, technicians and professional service colleagues from across the university to participate in the collaborative labs which are of interest to them. 

Dates for Collaborative Labs: 

  • Monday, 29 April 10am – 3pm  
  • Tuesday, 7 May 10am – 3pm  
  • Thursday, 16 May 10am – 3pm   

Please note we are providing three dates and made all efforts to avoid school holiday dates. 

Following the collaborative labs, co-leads will be invited to present the idea for their network, in person, to a cross-sector panel in w/c 17 June 2024 (exact date tbc), after which successful networks will be chosen.   

The new networks will launch in the Autumn of 2024. 

How to apply  

We welcome applications from individuals or groups. Using a method that feels most comfortable to you, please express your interest to us by 8 March. You might decide to submit a narrative application (no more than two pages), a short video (no more than three minutes), a one-page diagram, or theory of change.  

Please include the following in your expression of interest:   

  • Your name and a bit about yourself/yourselves, including discipline(s), research interests and experience
  • Your interdisciplinary research network idea and why it is important, innovative, and timely
  • Who you are particularly interested in collaborating with (such as colleagues in different faculties, different universities, and external partners), and how they might shape and refine your idea.  

We are looking for proposals which have: 

  • An important, innovative and timely idea for a challenge theme network
  • Evidence of quality and ambition
  • Evidence of a willingness to develop interdisciplinary approaches
  • Suggestions for how to integrate the network across disciplines and departments
  • Ideas for who you would like to work with, including external partners
  • Considered equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Ideas must be emailed to the Horizons team at by 12pm (midday) Friday 8 March 2024. 

The Horizons Institute is committed to making research culture equitable and inclusive. We encourage colleagues from historically underrepresented groups to apply and expect all applicants to consider the diversity of their teams, and the equity and inclusivity with which they conduct their activities.  

We recognize that short closing dates and compressed activities create additional pressures. We want to change the culture of applying for funding. We can work with you to develop your idea and your application. If you do not reach the final stage of the process, there may be opportunity to explore your idea with us through alternative formats. 

For more information, please email Rosemary Sannaee, Challenge Network Coordinator at