In this post, Jenny Loukes, Senior Research Funding Specialist shares insights from recent UKRI events about the replacement of the Je-S research funding application portal with The UKRI Funding Service.
About The Funding Service
The Funding Service (TFS) is a user focused grant service replacing the current Je-S application portal which will allow UKRI to create, assess and manage applications and funding more efficiently. The service will make it easier for applicants to collaborate, submit applications and obtain guidance in a more joined-up way. The change from Je-S to TFS will impact both academics applying for grants and the professional services staff supporting them.
Professional service colleagues may be interested in two UKRI webinar recordings about The Funding Service, available to watch online:
UKRI Simpler and Better Funding: Update for Research Offices 16 November recording (YouTube)
UKRI Simpler and Better Funding: Update for Research Offices 8 December recording (YouTube)
When will The Funding Service be available?
Currently TFS is in the very early pilot stage with limited functionality and will be scaled up gradually. Some calls are running via this new system as pilots while users are being asked for input and feedback.
Currently, projects from pilot schemes will stay in TFS up to the point when funding decisions are made, later in the year this will increase up to award stage in TFS.
It is expected to take around 2 years before the majority of projects will be using the new system end-to-end rather than Je-S, there are no current plans to migrate any closed projects from Je-S, only active awards.
The general aim is to reduce bureaucracy and design functionality around what applicants, research offices and assessors need.
The next calls being piloted via TFS are:
- ESRC Digital Society Network Plus (01/03/22)
- NERC Large Grant to Tackle Big Environmental Science Questions (outline 08/03/22)
A pause in use of TFS for applications is then planned to allow for assessment of the system following the recent application rounds.
System Functionality and Use
The new system will share similarities with other government portals (similarities to the Innovate UK submission portal), limited to one or two actions per page and includes the call guidance for each section. The eventual aim is to have almost all of the application to be input digitally, including figures. Currently there is a requirement for attachments while this functionality is developed. Text boxes have formatting options and copy-paste from Word documents should retain most formatting – but it’s important for applicants to check word count in the system itself.
Co-Applicants and Applicants
While co-applicants in the pilot schemes are notified of their involvement in an application, they will not currently have access. This will change as TFS is further developed.
Applicants must complete an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion profile before they can submit, but this only needs to be done once. No account verification is currently happening, though they understand the need going forward.
All applications will come via Edinburgh Research Office for approval as in Je-S.
Application forms in TFS will not necessarily mirror the format and questions of those used in Je-S, they are trying to simplify, improve and achieve greater consistency between the application criteria and the questions reviewers/assessors are asked. They are likely to try different variations of application format over the pilot schemes.
There are discussions of simplifying the finances and reducing excess costing information not required for assessing applications. At present, for calls being piloted in TFS there is a word template available to download via TFS that needs to be completed and uploaded as part of the application.
UKRI are very keen for user feedback as they develop the new Funding Service. If you are interested in taking part in user research you can find more details on the UKRI website:
UKRI website: Improving how you apply for funding