• How Do Research Grants Work?

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How Do Research Grants Work?

Oct 01 2022

From trialling new cancer therapies to developing pest-resistant crops, scientific research has an important role to play in the modern world. Most laboratories rely on research grants to set up the facility, purchase equipment and instruments, stock up on supplies and pay staff salaries.

So, how exactly do scientific research grants work? Read on as we cover everything you need to know about these all-important cash injections.

The role of UKRI

In Britain, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) offers financial support to a wide range of applicants, including scientific facilities and research laboratories. This includes grants for teams working on specific projects, as well as funding for individual researchers. Every year, UKRI invests a huge £2.8 billion in research projects, ranging from chemistry, physics and engineering to astronomy and social sciences.

When it comes to allocating funds, UKRI takes a highly strategic approach. Decisions are made in line with the organisation’s goals to develop an “outstanding research and innovation system in the UK” while balancing investments across different fields and sectors.

“We have set out in our five-year strategy how we will align incentives and investments to support the very best ideas, talented people and teams, and places across the UK, to build a positive research and innovation culture that delivers impact,” says Professor Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive at UKRI.


Charities exist for the greater good and are an important source of funding for research facilities. In the UK, members of the Association of Medical Research Charities offer funding to laboratories working to improve public health. Medical research charities receive a huge amount of support in the UK. This means there are big opportunities for medical research labs to secure charity-funded grants.   

Government departments

The British government also offers generous funding to research laboratories. Grants are usually specific to certain departments. For example, agriculture-based laboratories can apply for grants from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Similarly, medical research labs should apply for grants issued by the Department of Health (DH).

National Academies

National Academies are prestigious, non-profit groups that exist to support academic research and innovation. In the UK, the Royal Society offers grants in all shapes and sizes. This includes small grants to fund individual travel to scientific conferences, right through to multimillion pound grants to modernise laboratories, purchase expensive equipment and invest in next-generation technologies like smart sensors. The Academy of Medical Sciences is another major source of funding and offers grants to health researchers and biomedical scientists.

Want to know more about how to set up a research lab and secure funding? Don’t miss our comprehensive guide, ‘How to Start a Research Lab - All Bases Covered’.

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