Grant Call: 2023-2024 Future Flight Challenge Social Science Grant programme
The University of Birmingham, in collaboration with the ESRC and the UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Future Flight Challenge, is offering a programme of nine grants from the 1st April 2023. These grants will deliver social science research priorities relating to the technologies, systems, and infrastructures of the Future Flight Challenge programme.
Research Project Grants
- Number of Research Project Grants available: 7.
- Funds available per Grant: up to £150,000 Full Economic Costing FEC.
- Start date: 1st April 2023.
- Duration: up to 14 months.
- Awards announced: by 5th January 2023.
- Number of Policy Fellowships available: 2.
- Funds available per Fellowship: up to £80,000 Full Economic Costing (FEC).
- Start date: 1st April 2023.
- Duration: 6-12 months.
- Awards announced: by 5th January 2023.
The Policy Fellowships are managed in collaboration with the Future Flight Challenge at UKRI and the Department for Transport (DfT).
For details of the remit and focus of the Research Project Grants and Fellowships, please see the ‘What we are looking for’ section below.
About the Future Flight Challenge
The Future Flight Challenge focuses on the development of the digital and physical infrastructure, regulation and control systems required to use new aircraft practically and safely. It moves far beyond traditional aviation sectors, encompassing a range of zero/low carbon technologies including:
- Drones: capable of carrying up to 2-3 tons for delivery of goods and services, and for data collection.
- Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) vehicles: people carrying electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOLs) air vehicles, colloquially known as ‘flying cars’ or ‘flying taxis’.
- Electric or hydrogen regional aviation utilising conventional or short horizontal take-off and landing.
It is vital that social scientists are engaged from the outset in the development of these technologies. This will ensure a better understanding of how individuals, groups of users/non-users, stakeholders within the innovation ecosystem and wider publics may respond to and ultimately adopt or reject these new technologies and forms of aviation. Such engagement will also help to identify how these technologies may transform our society and economy and the potential implications of such transformation.
For Future Flight technologies to reach their potential in terms of social, environmental and economic benefits, it is therefore important to understand a range of complex interrelated issues including:
- The social desirability of a variety of proposed use cases for UK-based users and non-users alike, as well as identifying socially desirable uses that have not yet been recognized by stakeholders within the innovation ecosystem.
- Trustworthiness and trust in Future flight technologies and infrastructure across publics and those within the innovation ecosystem. For example, safety and security, consumer protection, air space management, intellectual property, competition, labour law, skills development and accreditation, land use and planning.
- The dynamics of innovation eco-system(s) that underpin future flight technologies’ development, and their potential scale up and industrialization, and the implications of these dynamics not only for technological development but also the structure of future transports systems, business models and wider society.
- The business, operational and regulatory models necessary to deliver safe, viable and inclusive future aviation transport systems in the UK.
- The potential for differential impacts, implications or benefits across different locations and communities within the UK
We welcome applicants, from a broad range of research fields, with expertise, interest, or research relevant to the wider social and economic implications of future flight technologies, systems, and infrastructure.
Who Can Apply?
Given the potentially transformative nature of the technologies and the required systems and infrastructure, this grant scheme will be open to those who work across a range of societal issues. As this is an emerging field of research with wide ranging implications, we welcome applicants from a broad range of relevant social or economic research backgrounds, alongside those with experience of research relating to the social study of emergent technologies, public or community engagement, science and technology studies or aviation or transport studies.
Applications are welcome from researchers who are based in UK Higher Education Institutions and independent research institutions that are eligible for UKRI funding. For further guidance on institutional eligibility please see guidance here:
ESRC - Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding
Applications are welcome from all UK-based researchers who are eligible for ESRC funding. For further guidance on eligibility for ESRC calls please see guidance here:
ESRC - Check if you’re eligible for funding
We welcome applications from post-doctoral (or equivalent) researchers at all career stages. It is a stipulation of the grant that you will be employed by the host institution for the duration of the grant contract.
We are committed to a policy of equal opportunities, and encourage applications from women, those with a disability, members of ethnic or religious minority groups, and other groups who are currently under-represented in research and innovation in this field.
What we are looking for?
7x Research Grants:
Theme 1: Innovation by and for social and community need. This research theme will consist of four separate grant opportunities. This research theme will explore how we can best design and implement inclusive future flight systems that integrate diverse groups’ perspectives and address genuine social needs from the outset. Each grant will focus on one aspect of building an inclusive and socially desirable future transport system. Each of these four separate grants are up to £150,000 FEC. Proposals that ethically build in community, public or user/non-user engagement are actively encouraged:
1a) Grant 1: Focus on disability and accessibility
1b) Grant 2: Focus on marginalised groups access and experiences
1c) Grant 3: Focus on digital exclusion from Future Flight transport
1d) Grant 4: Focus on socio-economic exclusion/inclusion
Theme 2: Future Flight Ecosystems and Enterprises. This research theme will consist of one grant up to £150,000 FEC. This research theme will develop a deeper understanding of the future flight innovation ecosystem, the viability of business models for the scale-up and industrialisation of future flight technologies, systems or infrastructure and the potential for industry-public sector engagement and collaboration.
Theme 3: Governance and Trustworthiness. This research theme will consist of one grant up to £150,000 FEC. This research theme will explore and analyse how UK-based governance and public policy tools and processes, for example in relation to strategy, regulation and planning may enable or constrain the operation and potential of Future Flight transport systems. Ensuring that insights from across a range of stakeholder groups can help inform the development of regulatory, legal, policy and planning recommendations and frameworks that will enable pro-social innovation, and assure trustworthiness across the innovation ecosystem necessary to deliver future flight systems.
Theme 4: Spatiality of Future Flight. This research theme will consist of one grant up to £150,000 FEC. This research theme will examine the implications, expectations impacts and benefits of Future Flight technologies across different communities across low to high population densities and different levels of access to transport, goods and services e.g. rural, sub-urban and urban communities.
The funds available for each research grant is up to £150,000 FEC. Projects are expected to start on 1st April 2023 and run for up to 14 months.
Principal Investigators on one grant application may also serve as Co-Investigator on another application. Applications that outline how they will support or enable capacity building with early career researchers are actively encouraged. Applicants for policy fellowships detailed above cannot also apply for the research grants.
All successful applicants and team members will be expected to attend two network development workshops which are due to run between April 2023 and March 2024. Funds for attendance at these events will be administered separately by the team at the University of Birmingham. Please do not include travel to these events in your proposed budget.
2 x Research Policy Fellowships:
These policy fellowships will be run in collaboration with the UKRI Future Flight Challenge and the Department for Transport (DfT). This will allow for these policy fellowships to inform both the Future Flight Challenge and initiatives within DfT including Flightpath to the Future, Future of Flight Industry Group, the Jet Zero strategy, the Department for Business, Energy and Skills (BEIS)/DfT’s Drones Ambition Statement, and industry/government’s Aerospace Growth Partnership.
Theme 1: Research Fellowship: Comparative analysis of Future Flight. The successful policy fellow will be expected to work with the Future Flight Challenge Social Science Research Director, UKRI and DfT to plan and deliver a time-bound project with pre-agreed outputs that undertakes an economic/environmental assessment of investment in future flight vs existing public and private transport. Desirably this will include comparative studies of like for like journeys, taking a systemic approach that accounts not only carbon emissions or financial revenue, public or private investment and consumer demand, but also wider impacts on passengers, jobs, economic output, the local environment and air pollution etc.
Theme 2: Research Fellowship: Integrating Future Flight. The successful policy fellow will be expected to work with the FFC Social Science Research Director, UKRI and DfT to plan and deliver a time-bound project with pre-agreed outputs that seeks to understand how Future Flight technologies might be integrated into a UK wide transport system in a way which also addresses current shortcomings (unequal connectivity between social and spatial groups, lack of integration between transport systems)and develops policy.
Desirably applicants should evidence some familiarity with existing transport data and analysis as well as government transport appraisal guidance and economic appraisal (the treasury green book):
Department for Transport - Transport analysis guidance
HM Treasury and Government Finance Function - The Green Book: appraisal and evaluation in central government
The funds available for each fellowship is up to £80,000 FEC. Policy fellowships are expected to start on 1st April 2023 and run for between 6-12 months.
Applicants can only apply for one fellowship. Applicants for policy fellowships cannot also apply for the research grants detailed above.
All successful applicants will be expected to attend two network development workshops which are due to run between April 2023 and March 2024. Funds for attendance at these events will be administered separately by the team at the University of Birmingham. Please do not include travel to these events in your proposed budget.
About the Future Flight Challenge
Future Flight technologies have the potential to transform how we connect people, transport goods, and deliver services. They also have the potential to transform our day-to-day lives, not only changing the way we travel, but also how we live, how we work, our consumer habits, our healthcare or public service provision, and our urban/rural environments. The future of aviation is at a pivotal point, with novel and innovative developments taking place in many different technological fields. The Future Flight Challenge has established the vision for the future aviation system in 2030 and provided a roadmap that will position the UK as a global leader in advanced aviation solutions.
In turn, Future Flight encompasses a complex range of social, economic, and environmental issues that cut across a diverse range of sectors, stakeholders and disciplinary research foci. The Future Flight Challenge has outlined a Social Science Considerations and Research forward strategy identifying emerging pressing social research needs and is now through this call for grant applications seeking to establish a blueprint for future UK economic and social science research that will build capacity and provide world leading thought leadership in this emergent field of study.
About the call
The research themes and foci outlined in this call have been developed as part of a consultation completed between July 2021 – July 2022. This included activities that allowed for engagement with industry stakeholders and Future Flight Challenge award holders, a public dialogue run in partnership with Sciencewise and delivered by Ipsos (please see FFC Mini Public Dialogue report for further details), and a series of co-creation workshops with researchers including those from across the economic and social sciences. These activities drew on an initial findings of an ESRC working group that ran in 2020, (please see FFC Social Science Considerations and Research forward strategy for further details).
How we will assess your application
Outline assessment: Applications will be reviewed based on eligibility to the grant call (please see section above). Feedback will not be provided on applications that are deemed ineligible by ESRC and UKRI criteria.
Panel Assessment: All applications that are eligible by ESRC and UKRI criteria will be assessed by a peer review panel of research, industry, public sector and/or regulatory experts.
Outcomes: Successful applicants will be notified by the 5th January 2023.
Criteria for assessment
Fit to the Challenge and Call:
We will assess whether the proposal(s):
- Can evidence how it responds to the selected grant theme and the wider future flight challenge
- Can demonstrate how it will contribute to wider research field development
- Can demonstrate how the proposed project will contribute towards capacity building in this field for early career researchers (research grants)
We will assess whether proposals:
- Can demonstrate how the work proposed is, relevant, ethical and appropriate, and answers important questions that benefit the public
- Demonstrates potential to deliver impact and long-term public benefit with a clear mechanism for how this might be achieved
We will consider the extent to which the proposal supports collaboration by bringing together relevant stakeholders for each research theme. This could include among others:
- Policy makers
- Community groups or bodies
- Regulatory bodies
- Trade bodies or groups
Delivery and management
We will assess whether the:
- Methods and resources are appropriate for the objectives proposed
- Risks to delivery and mitigation plans are clearly identified
- The budget and plans to monitor milestones and deliverables are feasible and appropriate for the scale of activity proposed
Please apply using the following forms and following the guidance provided:
Deadline for Applications is 11:59pm GMT 16th November 2022. Applications submitted after this time will not be accepted.
Applications should be submitted to: email@example.com
2023-2024 Future Flight Challenge Social Science Grant programme - FAQs (Docx)
UKRI - Future flight vision and roadmap report
Future Flight Challenge - Mini Public Dialogue report (PDF)
DfT runs a public attitudes tracker which measures attitudes and behaviour around various future of flight technologies. The the latest data can be found here:
DfT - Transport and transport technology: public attitudes tracker