Our approach to grant-making

In assessing applications for funding, we use the following established criteria to prioritise work of outstanding scholarship:

  • Originality—the research achieves more than the incremental development of a single discipline
  • Importance—the work will enable further research or enquiry
  • Significance—the proposed research has relevance outside a single field, and is able to excite those working in other disciplines
  • Merit—the quality of the research design and methodology, and the suitability of the researchers and institution for the realisation of the proposed research objectives.

A second set of criteria reflect the particular values of the Leverhulme Trust, and express the Trust Board’s aspiration that our funding maintains a distinctive role within the current research funding landscape. We particularly welcome applications that:

  • Reflect an individual’s personal vision, aspiration, or intellectual curiosity
  • Take appropriate risks in setting and pursuing research objectives
  • Enable a refreshing departure from established patterns of working – either for the individual, or for the discipline
  • Transcend disciplinary boundaries.

Supplementary criteria may apply to specific award schemes—please refer to the detailed guidance on the relevant scheme pages of the Leverhulme Trust website before beginning an application.

Further guidance

The above criteria imply that there are categories of proposal which should be seen as less suited for submission to the Trust. These would include bids to support the ‘continuing activity’ of established research groups or teams, and proposals from established groups working on subjects, areas and themes where the Research Councils have a significant interest. The Trust is keen to avoid assuming the role of ‘funder of last resort’; that is, of routinely providing support for proposals which have been fully matched to the requirement of another funding agency, but have failed to win support on the grounds of either lack of quality or insufficient available funds (‘unfunded alphas’).

‘Eligibility for Research Council funding’ does not of itself preclude an application to the Trust. The quality of the proposal and likely resulting scholarship should always be considered paramount. However, the Trust wishes to maintain a distinctive role for its own limited funds alongside the support from other funders. If a proposal is well suited to the style and priorities of the Research Councils then a convincing reason for seeking Trust support in particular should always be evident.

Many of the Trust’s schemes allow for, indeed encourage, the study of research problems that cross established disciplinary boundaries. This is an intended consequence of applying the key criteria mentioned. It does not therefore follow that ‘lack of cross-disciplinarity’ of itself precludes an application to the Trust. Here, as elsewhere in our approach to grant-making, the originality and quality of the intended study are paramount. However, the Trust does not work within a disciplinary framework, and we particularly welcome proposals that are not bound by conventional disciplinary understandings.

The vision of the Trust's founder

Our approach to grant-making reflects the vision and values of the Trust's founder, William Hesketh Lever.