Inspiring Science Fund (Closed)

The Inspiring Science Fund supports science centres across the UK. It's a capital fund that helps centres rethink what they do and what they offer to the public.

The scheme is co-funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome.

Scheme at a glance 

This scheme is now closed

Funding amount:
£150,000 to £3 million
Funding duration:
All projects must be completed by March 2021

Who can apply

The Inspiring Science Fund is open to existing not-for-profit and charitable science centres in the UK. We’re looking for projects that will become examples of best practice in the science centre sector.

You should be able to demonstrate:

  • a compelling vision of how you will develop your centre’s spaces, facilities or infrastructure
  • a strategic activities plan
  • how your project will improve your organisation's long-term financial sustainability and resilience.

To be eligible, your science centre should:

  • have been in existence for at least one year
  • attract a minimum of 30,000 public visitors a year
  • have a proven and viable business model.

Your centre does not need to be a member of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres.

You must be able to provide at least 30 per cent of the total cost of your project in match funding.

Spaces, facilities and infrastructure

At least 70 per cent of the funding that UKRI and Wellcome provide must be spent on capital investment. Some examples include:

  • exhibition spaces that encourage curiosity, exploration and appetite for STEM learning
  • education and learning spaces, such as laboratories or classrooms
  • related facilities and infrastructure that will improve the visitor experience and/or increase access.

Capital investment projects should explore best practice in spatial and exhibition design, and lead to inspiring and thought-provoking learning spaces.

These spaces must be open to audiences for at least eight years.

Strategic activities within your organisation

Up to 30 per cent of the funding that UKRI and Wellcome provide should be used to:

  • create informal learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for children, young people, families and other members of the public
  • make changes within your organisation to improve how you operate, eg making sure your team has the relevant skills and experience
  • sustain, expand, extend and diversify the centre's audience base, with an increased focus on underrepresented and underserved audiences.

Examples of ways to connect with these audiences include:

  • programmes linked to the capital project
  • outreach activities
  • training and development for staff and volunteers. 

In your proposal, you must show that you want to understand more about underrepresented and underserved audiences in your area, and explain how you will connect with them.

Who can't apply

  • UK national museums and museums sponsored by central government.
  • Projects eligible for capital funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Arts Council for Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Creative Scotland.
  • Capital projects dedicated to engaging the public with historic collections.

You can’t apply for an Inspiring Science Fund and a Public Engagement Fund for the same project at the same time. Please contact us to discuss which award is most relevant to your project. 

The total budget for this round of the Inspiring Science Fund is £16.4 million. 

We expect to support projects of different sizes around the UK. The level of funding we provide is flexible, ranging from £150,000 to £3m. We’ll only be able to support a small number of £3m projects.

If there are not enough successful applications in this round of funding, we may decide to run a further round.

March 2021 is the deadline for your project’s completion.

Support can include: 

  • You can ask for salary costs for staff, full or part time, who will work on your project. You can only ask for these if there is no other form of funding available.

    Salary costs can cover:

    • admin support staff
    • project managers
    • consultants
    • key management/creative staff
    • seconded staff salaries for the development and delivery of your project.
  • specific equipment or materials for educational and informal learning spaces
  • initiatives that increase accessibility, such as staff professional development, volunteer training and access improvements
  • You can ask for ICT costs if they're part of the main project. These shouldn't be more than 50% of the total project cost. We won't pay for ongoing ICT costs such as maintenance or licences.

  • building works such as related facilities, infrastructure and services, including change of layout or use
  • money towards the cost of evaluating your project
  • funding for the wider dissemination of your project, including conferences and seminars
  • professional and legal fees if they're directly associated with your project
  • contingency
  • VAT that you can't recover from HMRC if you're registered for VAT.

What we don’t offer

We don’t provide funding for:

  • overheads
  • commercial projects, such as buying land or buildings for rent
  • capital assets you plan to sell or dispose of
  • increased costs for projects where construction is already underway
  • increased running costs from undertaking these projects
  • general appeals or endowments.


This scheme has now closed to new applicants. See our Public Engagement Fund.

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

Funding partners

  • UK Research and Innovation logo