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Independent Research Organisations

Over the last decade, the AHRC’s support for the IROs has led to a wide range of benefits: for the organisations themselves, including in-house researchers; the university-based researchers who work with them and crucially for the general public and the UK as a whole”
Professor Andrew Thompson, Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council

All UK higher education institutions (HEIs) are eligible to receive funds for research, postgraduate training, and associated activities. The higher education funding councils for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland determine whether an organisation meets the criteria to be a higher education institute.

Back in 2006/2007 independent research organisations (IROs) became eligible for funding if they possessed an existing in-house capacity to carry out research that materially extends and enhances the national research base and are able to demonstrate an independent capability to undertake and lead research programmes.

They also had to satisfy other criteria related to their financial and legal status: these are set out in full in the Research Councils' joint statement on eligibility, which can be viewed on the RCUK website: Joint statement on eligibility

During the last decade the AHRC has worked closely with the IRO community and a full list of all of the IROs recognised by the Research Councils can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website: Current list of eligible IROs

Once granted, eligibility will continue unless the IRO has received no funding during the first five years of recognition. In this situation, the Research Councils may review the organisation's eligibility. A change in status of an IRO may require re-consideration of its eligibility.

Available funding

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Research Grants

The Research Grants Schemes are intended to support well-defined research projects enabling individual researchers to collaborate with, and bring benefits to, other individuals and organisations through the conduct of research. This scheme is not intended to support individual scholarship.

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Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement

This scheme aims to encourage and facilitate a range of interactions and creative engagements between arts and humanities research and user communities including business and commercial, third sector and heritage sector, public policy, voluntary and community groups and the general public.

IRO's can access all of the AHRC's available funding. A full list of our current opportunities can be found here

A new report (PDF, 6.3MB) captures the scope and range of AHRC funded research in the last ten years and looks to the future of the research funding in IROs and their important role in nurturing the next generation of talent and maximising the potential of digital technology for visitor experiences in museums and galleries.

For further information about our IRO’s please contact Karen Buchanan, Strategy and Development Manager at the AHRC,

Examples of research by Independent Research Organisations