Inspiring Science Fund

The Inspiring Science Fund supports science centres across the UK. It's a capital fund that helps centres rethink what they do and what they offer to the public.

The scheme is co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Wellcome.

Scheme at a glance

Proposal stage:

Production and project delivery, Developing practice and building networks, Developing your organisation

Where your activity will take place:

UK

Level of funding:

£150,000 to £3 million

Duration of funding:

All projects must be completed by March 2021

Who can apply

The Inspiring Science Fund is open to existing not-for-profit and charitable science centres in the UK. We’re looking for projects that will become examples of best practice in the science centre sector.

You should be able to demonstrate:

  • a compelling vision of how you will develop your centre’s spaces, facilities or infrastructure
  • a strategic activities plan
  • how your project will improve your organisation's long-term financial sustainability and resilience.

To be eligible, your science centre should:

  • have been in existence for at least one year
  • attract a minimum of 30,000 public visitors a year
  • have a proven and viable business model.

Your centre does not need to be a member of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres.

You must be able to provide at least 30 per cent of the total cost of your project in match funding.

Spaces, facilities and infrastructure

At least 70 per cent of the funding that BEIS and Wellcome provide must be spent on capital investment. Some examples include:

  • exhibition spaces that encourage curiosity, exploration and appetite for STEM learning
  • education and learning spaces, such as laboratories or classrooms
  • related facilities and infrastructure that will improve the visitor experience and/or increase access.

Capital investment projects should explore best practice in spatial and exhibition design, and lead to inspiring and thought-provoking learning spaces.

These spaces must be open to audiences for at least eight years.

Strategic activities within your organisation

Up to 30 per cent of the funding that BEIS and Wellcome provide should be used to:

  • create informal learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for children, young people, families and other members of the public
  • make changes within your organisation to improve how you operate, eg making sure your team has the relevant skills and experience
  • sustain, expand, extend and diversify the centre's audience base, with an increased focus on underrepresented and underserved audiences.

Examples of ways to connect with these audiences include:

  • programmes linked to the capital project
  • outreach activities
  • training and development for staff and volunteers. 

In your proposal, you must show that you want to understand more about underrepresented and underserved audiences in your area, and explain how you will connect with them.
 

Who can't apply

  • UK national museums and museums sponsored by central government.
  • Projects eligible for capital funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Arts Council for Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Creative Scotland.
  • Capital projects dedicated to engaging the public with historic collections.

You can’t apply for an Inspiring Science Fund and a Public Engagement Fund for the same project at the same time. Please contact us to discuss which award is most relevant to your project. 

The total budget for this round of the Inspiring Science Fund is £16.4 million. 

We expect to support projects of different sizes around the UK. The level of funding we provide is flexible, ranging from £150,000 to £3m. We’ll only be able to support a small number of £3m projects.

If there are not enough successful applications in this round of funding, we may decide to run a further round.

March 2021 is the deadline for your project’s completion.

Support can include: 

  • You can ask for salary costs for staff, full or part time, who will work on your project. You can only ask for these if there is no other form of funding available.

    Salary costs can cover:

    • admin support staff
    • project managers
    • consultants
    • key management/creative staff
    • seconded staff salaries for the development and delivery of your project.
  • specific equipment or materials for educational and informal learning spaces
  • initiatives that increase accessibility, such as staff professional development, volunteer training and access improvements
  • You can ask for ICT costs if they're part of the main project. These shouldn't be more than 50% of the total project cost. We won't pay for ongoing ICT costs such as maintenance or licences.

  • building works such as related facilities, infrastructure and services, including change of layout or use
  • money towards the cost of evaluating your project
  • funding for the wider dissemination of your project, including conferences and seminars
  • professional and legal fees if they're directly associated with your project
  • contingency
  • VAT that you can't recover from HMRC if you're registered for VAT.

What we don’t offer

We don’t provide funding for:

  • overheads
  • commercial projects, such as buying land or buildings for rent
  • capital assets you plan to sell or dispose of
  • increased costs for projects where construction is already underway
  • increased running costs from undertaking these projects
  • general appeals or endowments.

You must submit your application through the Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker (WTGT).

Start your application

Stages of application

  1. Contact the Wellcome Trust

    Please contact Anna Ramsay (a.ramsay@wellcome.ac.uk) before the preliminary deadline to discuss the scope of your proposal and whether you should attend one of our workshops.

  2. Attend a workshop

    We recommend that you attend our two free workshops in London or Glasgow before you apply. To book a place at a workshop, email Michelle Honey at m.honey@wellcome.ac.uk.

    Each workshop will include:

    • a presentation by the expert leading the workshop
    • a breakout session
    • a Q&A session
    • a presentation by Graphic Science on how to write a ‘theory of change’ plan on the workshop topic and use it in your application.

    The workshops start at 10.30 and finish at 16.30. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. If you’re from outside London or Glasgow, we’ll pay your travel costs. 

    Workshop 1: Design for Learning

    • Wednesday 6 September, Wellcome Trust (London)

    or

    • Wednesday 13 September, The Studio (Glasgow)

    Led by Liza Fior, these workshops will explore the role of spatial design in creating an innovative platform for learning. They will also look at cost-effective ways of revitalising the visitor experience.

    Liza Fior is a founding partner of Muf Architecture and Art, the practice that designed Wonderlab at The Science Museum. She is an Osher Fellow of The Exploratorium and was involved in the national initiative Reimagining the Children's Museum for the 21st Century, working with the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

    Workshop 2: Diversity and Inclusion

    • Thursday 7 September, Wellcome Trust (London)

    or

    • Thursday 14 September, The Studio (Glasgow)

    Can science centres lead the way in how we think about and represent diversity across the sector? Led by Lenna Cumberbatch, these workshops will discuss the complexities of diversity in creating experiences that are accessible and valuable to all.

    Lenna Cumberbatch is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Previously she was diversity manager at The Royal Society. She has over 15 years’ experience of working as an equalities practitioner.

  3. Submit your preliminary application

    You must submit your preliminary application through the Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker.

    See a  Sample preliminary application form for the Inspiring Science Fund [PDF 326KB].

    Your preliminary application should outline how the project meets the eligibility criteria, along with:

    1. your project vision
    2. the background to the project
    3. your aims, objectives, outputs and outcomes
    4. your audience(s)
    5. partnerships
    6. costs
    7. risks.

    We'll assess your preliminary application and, if you’re shortlisted, ask you to submit a full application.

    Before submitting your full application, we’ll offer you two mentoring sessions: one with Lenna Cumberbatch and the other with Liza Fior.

  4. Submit your full application

    See a sample application form for the Inspiring Science Fund [PDF 1.2MB].

  5. Peer review

    The scale and complexity of your project will determine the number of independent reviews. We'll invite you to respond to reviewers' comments.

  6. Interview

    The Inspiring Science Fund Committee will interview candidates at the Wellcome offices in London. The committee is made up of staff from Wellcome and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, as well as external advisers.

Dates

We consider applications once a year. You must submit your application by 17:00 (GMT/BST) on the deadline day. We don’t accept late applications.

2017 round

  • Applications open

    9 August 2017

  • Preliminary applications deadline

    19 October 2017, 17:00 BST

  • Invited full applications deadline

    28 February 2018, 17:00 GMT

  • Interviews

    12 and 13 June 2018

Funding partners

Definitions

Production and project delivery
Developing practice and building networks
Developing your organisation
UK

Key dates

We consider applications once a year.

2017 round

  • Applications open

    9 August 2017

  • Preliminary applications deadline

    19 October 2017, 17:00 BST

  • Invited full applications deadline

    28 February 2018, 17:00 GMT

  • Interviews

    12 and 13 June 2018

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

If you have a question about the scope and content of your proposal, contact Anna Ramsay:

Projects we've funded