ACCESS - Advancing Capacity for Climate  and Environment Social Science
ACCESS - Advancing Capacity for Climate  and Environment Social Science
Light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling

Pre-announcement: Flex Fund Round 2

Announcing a future opportunity to apply for funding to the ACCESS Flexible Fund Round 2

Total fund amount £726,000
Maximum amount per application £240,000
Minimum amount per application £200,000


Event Date
Opening date Monday 5 February 2024
Round 2 ACCESS Flex Fund webinar TBC Mid-February 2024
Closing date Friday 26 April 2024, 17:00 BST
Successful projects announced End of July 2024
Grants start From October 2024
Grants end By September 2026 at the latest


We are looking to make 3 awards to projects that contribute to the ACCESS project’s main goal to enhance the visibility, use and impact of climate and environment social science. Projects will be expected to deliver at least TWO of the following outcomes:

  • New ideas or frameworks
  • New methods of translating evidence or insights (e.g. communication tools)
  • New networks
  • Development of new skills or capacities
  • Increased use of social science amongst specific target groups, for example people in diverse sectors (business/industry, civil society, public sector, journalists and media actors) or non-social scientist disciplinary experts (e.g. natural scientists, engineering and physical scientists).

All applications must be clearly guided by the ACCESS Guiding Principles (Knowledge co-production; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; and Sustainability) approach.

Applications to Round 2 MUST have an early career researcher (ECR) in the project team, either playing a Principal Investigator (Project Lead) or Co-Investigator role.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £240,000 and last for up to 2 years.

ACCESS will fund 100% of the full economic cost.

We encourage submissions that have been co-produced between academic leads and non-academic partners. To help develop these new relationships we have set up an online noticeboard where both groups can post ideas and trigger new conversations and partnerships.

This is a pre-announcement, and information may change.

Aim of the Flex Fund

​The aim of the Flex Fund is to test and develop new ways of thinking, new approaches and new networks that will advance the impact of the social sciences to address the transition to a sustainable and biodiverse environment and a net zero society.


ACCESS is a five year project (2022- 2027) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). ACCESS aims to provide leadership on the social science contributions to tackling and solving a range of environmental challenges. ACCESS is based on the idea that social science insights and data are vital to understand and solve environmental challenges (Devine-Wright et al., 2022). Yet the social sciences are not always effectively drawn upon by stakeholders, including policy makers and the media, when understanding those problems, or when designing and implementing solutions. ACCESS aims to tackle this issue by enhancing the visibility, use and impact of interdisciplinary social science in order to solve environmental challenges. All applications to the Flex Fund must contribute to this overall ACCESS objective.

What is the Flex Fund?

The ACCESS Flex Fund is not primarily about supporting new research. Instead, it will support a portfolio of diverse activities such as knowledge transfer, engagement, communication, network building etc. Some illustrative examples (but not restricted to these) include:

  • pilot projects to experiment with new ideas, methods or practices that advance the use of the social sciences to tackle environmental challenges;
  • develop and test new resources to communicate social science to target audiences (e.g. videos, infographics);
  • events to raise the visibility, use and impact of social science across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries (e.g. workshops with non-social science academic experts or representatives from third sector organisations);
  • skills and capacity development to enable cross-boundary collaborations (e.g. training);
  • research involving primary or secondary data analysis (e.g. gauging the contributions of particular disciplines or approaches in informing environmental policy or practice on a given topic).

Across all of these areas, applications must avoid duplication with the ACCESS work programme. Therefore, we encourage all applicants to become familiar with the ACCESS work programme before preparing their bids

Guiding Principles

All applications MUST be clearly guided by the ACCESS Guiding Principles (Knowledge co-production; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; and Sustainability) approach. Awarded projects will be expected to follow the guidance in relation to these as a condition of the award, monitor their implementation, and contribute to the refinement of these Guiding Principles in collaboration with the ACCESS team.

In addition, representatives of successful projects will be expected to engage with the wider ACCESS programme (e.g. events such as the Annual Assembly) and should budget for a team member to attend.

All successful proposals will be obliged to submit an End of Award report that enables reporting by ACCESS in Research Fish.

Call information

This is a pre-announcement for Round 2 of the ACCESS Flex Fund.

You can find out more information about the projects funded under Round 1 here.

Applications to Round 2 MUST have an early career researcher (ECR) in the project team, either playing a Principle Investigator (Project Lead) or Co-Investigator role.

Applications to Round 2 are not limited to applicants or teams who were successful in Round 1. That said, Round 2 can offer an opportunity for Round 1 winners to progress to larger grant funding for project ideas that were funded in Round 1.

This opportunity is due to open on Monday 5 February 2024 and information may change. Full guidance on how to apply will be published on the ACCESS website in February 2024.

What we are looking for

  • We encourage applications from people with a diverse range of backgrounds. ACCESS is committed to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion in climate and environment social science and we recognise that many groups may be under-represented in these areas.
  • We encourage applications that are high-risk, high-reward. Generating useful lessons learnt from innovative approaches that may not work is more important to us than the successful implementation of project plans that reproduce conventional approaches.
  • We encourage applications involving non-academic organisations. The origin and development of proposal ideas suggested by non-academic partners is particularly welcome.
  • We encourage applications that include diverse sectors (business/industry, civil society, public sector), forms of expertise (e.g. natural scientists, engineering and physical scientists) and scales of activity (e.g. national, regional and local).

Applications involving non-academic partners must demonstrate co-production (see ACCESS Guiding Principles). This could include having representatives of those organisations as Co-Investigators on the project team, and the allocation of budget resource to non-academic organisations, while following ESRC eligibility rules. These measures will be viewed as stronger evidence of co-production than letters of support submitted by non-academic partners.

In terms of spatial extent, while applications can have an international dimension, the primary focus of activity should be within the UK (e.g. involving an international partner with relevant expertise in a UK based project; taking an international example and piloting its application in a UK context).

Submission and Assessment

Submission of applications will be a one stage process. No outline stage will be involved.
Following eligibility checks, applications will be blind peer reviewed and scored on the award criteria. Following this, a review panel will make decisions on which applications to award.
We expect to make about 3 awards.

Evaluation criteria

Applications will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  1. Advance the use of social science to address climate and environment challenges
  2. Implementation of the ACCESS Guiding Principles
  3. Impact (i.e. identifiable outputs leading to identifiable outcomes)
  4. Novelty and significance
  5. Approach and methodology
  6. Value for money


ESRC eligibility rules are obligatory in all ACCESS Flex Fund applications. Proposals must be led by an academic based in an institution eligible to receive UKRI funding. For other details regarding eligibility rules, see

Enquiries about this announcement can be sent to However, we will not be able to provide additional information about the opportunity in advance of its publication in February 2024.

Skip to content