New funding model to replace the Public Engagement Fund

This autumn we’ll be announcing new partnerships that will allocate funding to innovative public engagement projects. To allow us to do so, we’re closing the Public Engagement Fund. 

Two people facing wall full of posters with information about sleep and health, as part of the workshop and installation Night Club.

Credit: The Liminal Space

As part of our new ways of working, we’ve partnered with The Liminal Space to explore sleep and shift work.

The best engagement work around health research empowers people, leads to better research and improves trust in science. This is the basis of our new public engagement strategy. I’ve written about how we can use engagement to help fight health inequalities, for example. 

Funding diverse, innovative projects remains an important way for us to achieve our strategy – but the Public Engagement Fund is no longer a good vehicle for these kind of grants. We need to be sure we are using Wellcome’s resources as efficiently as we can to achieve our mission of improving health.

For these reasons, and following a review by the Institute of Voluntary Action Research, we’re closing the Public Engagement Fund. The deadline for the final round of applications is 9 July 2019.

Why is the Public Engagement Fund no longer working?

  • Under our new strategy we discover, build and invest in ambitious, longer-term public engagement programmes. This is hard to balance with advising on and judging the 1,000+ smaller, individual projects pitched to us every year from around the world.  
  • We believe that the systemic changes we want to help the public engagement sector achieve (like being more evidence-based, human-centred and outcome-focused) need targeted investment and thoughtful partnerships, rather than an open fund.
  • We’re only able to fund 5% of the applications we receive. This isn’t an efficient use of time for our applicants, or for Wellcome.

We’re not reducing our commitment to funding public engagement. We’re changing how we do it.

In the autumn we’ll announce new partners who will be designing and leading funding schemes for the sector. And we’ll also be doing more work with other organisations on ambitious programmes that support our new strategy.

New ways of working

We think Wellcome can have more impact if we work with partners that are better placed than us to understand what excellence and innovation look like in different contexts. 

For example, we want to: 

  • give Wellcome researchers extra funding to work with the public – so we’ve launched three pilots where academic institutions use our money to do just that
  • understand how social enterprises can connect the public with research, but we aren’t experts in the social innovation sector – so we’ve partnered with Big Society Capital to help us back some entrepreneurs and find out what works
  • support public libraries across the UK to explore and deliver public engagement projects involving research in health, culture and society – so we’re partnering with the Carnegie UK Trust and the Wolfson Foundation 
  • and discover what the potential could be for communities when citizens, rather than foundations, get to decide how philanthropic money is used – so we’ve partnered with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity on a place-based research project to do just that. 

We’ll also continue to lead Wellcome’s public engagement efforts. Right now we are: 

Important information for grantholders and future applicants

  • The final deadline to apply to the Public Engagement Fund is 9 July 2019.
  • We expect the final round to be highly competitive, with the funding rate over the last year being 5%.
  • This change will not affect existing grantholders of any public engagement scheme.
  • Existing or former Public Engagement Fund grantholders cannot apply for continuing or bridge funding in this final round. We can only provide supplementary funding in line with Wellcome’s policy.
  • Researchers who hold other Wellcome awards can apply for public engagement funding through Research Enrichment: Public Engagement.

More information