Horizons Connect Fund

The Horizons Connect Fund is an early-stage partnership development fund for transdisciplinary challenge-led research.

About the Connect Fund

The Horizons Institute has recently developed its strategy for partnership working to foster the development of early-stage, explorative collaborations. We envisage that these collaborations will be principally, but not exclusively, with third sector focused organisations.

The strategy supports interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, defined as follows:

  • “Interdisciplinary research is understood to achieve outcomes (including new approaches) that could not be achieved within the framework of a single discipline. Interdisciplinary research features significant interaction between two or more disciplines and/or moves beyond established disciplinary foundations in applying or integrating research approaches from other disciplines.” (REF 2021 Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel final report)
  • Transdisciplinary research includes stakeholders, including non-academic, in participatory research development that moves beyond their disciplines to transform global challenges.

Grant remit

The Connect Fund offers awards of up to £4,000 to research-focused colleagues to facilitate the exploration and development of partnerships that have the potential to develop bold, equitable and needs-based research. In doing so we recognise:

  • The value that structured early-stage conversations bring to support the sustainable development of successful partnerships.
  • The need to identify shared ways of working, priorities and agendas, and to understand early-on in the partnership where those priorities, agendas or approaches may be conflicting.
  • That in the context of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects, additional time is required to establish shared language and understanding in the co-development of ideas.

At this stage, the fund is open to third-sector focused partnerships only and is being advertised internally (though external co-leads are required). We expect to fund between four and seven projects.

Applications do not need to demonstrate alignment with a specific funding call but should show why the partnership could be beneficial to addressing challenges identified by the partner organisation.

Whilst we do not anticipate all explorative partnerships will continue beyond the funding, we do expect that learning from the process should positively influence both parties involved in terms of how they develop equitable and transdisciplinary partnerships in the future.

This first-round of the Connect Fund will also act as a pilot to help us understand what support is needed to develop successful transdisciplinary partnerships.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

As per the Horizons Institute’s Inclusion strategy, applicants must ensure that principles of EDI are embedded in their application. We are particularly interested in partnerships:

  • with organisations working on issues that affect the most minoritised in society
  • that actively seek out minoritized and smaller, grassroots networks, recognising the additional support these groups may need to navigate academic collaboration
  • with organisations that themselves have diverse and inclusive leadership models.

The Horizons Institute supports the University’s Equality and Inclusion Framework and encourages applications from groups currently under-represented in Academic and Professional Service and Support Staff roles at Leeds. These include Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic, and disabled candidates.

Horizons Institute involvement and evaluation

A Horizons Research Manager will be matched with each successful partnership group to provide guidance, identify opportunities, and support plans for future development. Grantees will need to complete the Horizons Evaluation Survey and attend two short meetings, one at the start and end of their engagement. We may also invite you to take part in other related activities as projects progress.

Application information

Who can apply?

For the purposes of fund management, applications must be led by a University of Leeds academic colleague, employed on an ongoing academic contract for the duration of the project. The application must be co-developed with at least one co-lead from another faculty/service and another from the partner organisation(s).

The scheme is designed to include research-focused colleagues at all career stages. PGRs and research support staff can be included as co-leads. To support their development, all project proposals involving PGRs should consider their professional development needs, which can include personal development costs of up to £300 within the overall budget.

We are particularly interested to hear from colleagues who have not engaged with third-sector partnership working before, and for whom this opportunity would provide a space for development.

What sort of partners are eligible?

Partner organisations may be of any size, though your application should demonstrate the capacity they have to develop a potential partnership. They may be based locally, nationally or internationally. Horizons uses the NCVO’s six common features to define what qualifies as a third sector organisation.

What defines an ‘early-stage’ partnership?

This scheme is open to those wishing to explore new partnerships with organisations they have not formally worked with before. Although ideas about what the group will work on may not yet be fully formed, an outline of potential shared areas of research interest should be provided.

If your partnership is more developed than this, you might like to consider one of the other partnership-focused schemes currently available at the University.

Funding requirements

You can apply for up to £4,000 for activities taking place between 1 December 2023 and 1 December 2024 of 3 to 12 months in total.

Funding may be used for any of the following:

  • travel and subsistence costs for meetings (see our policy on sustainable travel – Appendix B of our inclusion strategy)
  • digital engagement costs (e.g., data) for partners to participate online where required
  • development and delivery of workshops (e.g., room booking, external facilitator fees)
  • training and development opportunities
  • fees for partner organisation members to partake in activities
  • running pilot projects necessary to explore a potential idea
  • postgraduate research placements.

Funding cannot be used for:

  • University staff time and recruitment
  • estates and facilities
  • conference fees
  • buying equipment or software.

If your idea for expenditure lies outside of these areas, please get in touch.

All projects will be allocated an additional inclusivity grant (10% of total project cost) to support participation where barriers exist (you don’t need to specify how you’ll spend this at application).

How to apply

Please download an application form (MS Word)

Application deadline: 5pm, Monday 30 October 2023

Notification of outcomes: by 17 November 2023

You are welcome to submit an application in an alternative format, for example MP3 or MP4, if preferred. Please upload it to OneDrive or Google Drive and email a link to the Horizons Institute team at horizons@leeds.ac.uk.

If you have a disability, impairment or long-term health condition that may affect your ability to take part in the application process, email our Institute Manager, Lauren Wray, via l.wray@leeds.ac.uk so we can make reasonable adjustments. Information provided will not inform the assessment process.

Please allow sufficient time for your Head of School to approve your application before submission.

How applications will be assessed

Applications will be assessed by two Horizons Institute team members and a member of our International Advisory Board.

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • the potential of the partnership to create an opportunity to develop bold, equitable and needs-based research
  • the demonstration of the formation of an equitable partnership with value for all partners
  • the consideration of EDI principles within the application as outlined in the EDI section of this page
  • the opportunity to develop capacity for research partnerships in both organisations.

We will also consider the breadth of disciplinary, and partner spread across this round of projects, to ensure we support a range of activities and challenge areas.

For questions/enquiries please email the Horizons Institute Team at horizons@leeds.ac.uk

About the Horizons Institute

The Horizons Institute is an interdisciplinary research institute established to provide a platform for bold, early-stage, challenge-led research ideas and partnerships to emerge through programmes and activities that seek to broker novel collaborations, enhance interdisciplinary skills, and elevate interdisciplinary research – at Leeds and around the world.