1. What activities are in scope of the competitive Connecting Capability Fund (CCF)?
The CCF is revenue funding only, but capital contributions can be included in bids as leverage.
The CCF is intended to support delivery of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Hence the focus is on partnering with business and delivering economic and commercial benefit. However, activities may include other relevant partners in addition to businesses, for example the NHS or the Environment Agency.
The CCF is part of our overall Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) programme. Activities that are not in the scope of HEIF, for example mainstream support for postgraduate students (studentships or curriculum), cannot be funded through CCF.
The CCF comes from the science and research budget. Hence projects focussed on substantially teaching-related knowledge exchange (such as student enterprise or employer engagement) cannot be supported. Bids including an element of teaching-related knowledge exchange should explain how this furthers the science and research budget’s objectives for research commercialisation.
We do not fund business support – that is, the provision of advice to businesses that is not linked with specifically university-related expertise (staff or students).
All activities that link academic expertise with businesses are in scope. This includes technology transfer (licensing intellectual property and establishing spin- off companies) and all forms of academic partnering with business, such as collaborative research, contract research, consultancy and advice, including those linked with regional economic development or physical equipment and facilities.
Bids and bidding rounds
2. Can higher education institutions (HEIs) bid twice in each round or twice overall?
HEIs are restricted to two bids in total to CCF, not two for each round.
3. Can HEIs lead on more than one bid?
No. HEIs are restricted to leading only one bid (and can participate in one other bid).
4. What if my HEI does not want to lead?
HEIs can participate in up to two bids in total and do not need to lead any.
5. Does it matter which round an HEI bids in?
This is a matter for HEIs to decide in light of when their bid is ready.
6. Does bidding in round one affect round two bids?
If an HEI has participated in two bids in round one of the CCF, that HEI is no longer eligible to be a partner in any bid in round two. Similarly, if an HEI has participated in one bid in round one, then it can only participate in one bid in round two.
This is irrespective of the outcomes of bids in round one. There are three outcomes to bids in round one – funded, rejected or carried over for consideration in round two.
7. What is the process in the second round if an HEI is or has been listed as partner on more than two bids (across both rounds)?
We will check all round two bids once we receive them, for the eligibility of all the HEIs named in the bid as partners to participate. If any HEI has exceeded the two-bid limit across the two rounds, HEFCE will contact that HEI as soon as possible (and prior to any assessment of bids). We will ask the HEI to notify the lead HEIs for the bids they are involved in, and confirm to us and those lead HEIs which bid it wishes to withdraw from. To be eligible for assessment, all bids must be able to meet the criterion of a minimum of three UK HEI partners, even after any withdrawals.
Expressions of interest (EOIs)
8. Does an HEI need to have submitted an expression of interest (EOI) to be able to bid in the second round?
No, submitting an EOI was optional.
9. Can HEIs still submit EOIs?
No, the process of submitting EOIs has now closed.
10. Can HEIs include HEI partners from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in their bid?
Yes – and all UK HEIs count toward the minimum three HEI partners required in a bid. However, HEFCE CCF funding cannot be used to fund knowledge exchange in non-English HEIs.
11. Can bids include HEI partners that might be involved in longer term roll-out of projects or dissemination?
Bids need to be very clear on which HE partners are responsible for delivering the project and which will receive the funding. We will check that these named HEIs are eligible to bid, taking account of the two-bid eligibility rule. Projects can include wider roll-out or dissemination activities across the higher education sector, but it will be important to draw a distinction between these wider activities and the named partners. An option may be describing wider activities in general terms (so not ‘Universities W and X may be involved’, but ‘We aim to roll out the project more widely across HEIs in region Y or with strength in industry sector or technology Z’).
12. Can bids have joint HEI leads?
No – we need a single lead HEI that will be responsible to HEFCE for accountability and administration of funds on behalf of the partnership.
Costing and financial tables to bids
13. What should be the costing basis for CCF bids?
HEFCE does not pay a specific full economic cost (FEC) rate as with Research Council proposals. Institutions should consider the financial sustainability of the activities for which they are requesting funding. When costing, the proposal institutions should follow Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) principles, ensuring that total costs are reasonable. Detailed guidance on TRAC can be found on the HEFCE website: www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/finsustain/trac/.
All bids should set out the costs and the basis upon which they have been calculated. They should then make a case for their proposed mix of contributions, from partner universities, businesses and from CCF, to cover these costs. The contribution to costs of different parties to the project should be proportionate to the benefits that they may receive. We expect the appropriate level and mix of contributions of different parties to differ between projects which may have very different goals.
Bidders should also take account of notes to Annex B to the CCF round 2 bid template.