What we’ve funded in our latest Public Engagement Fund awards

In March we made another round of awards through our Public Engagement Fund. Alexandra Parsons shares an update on our work to improve the fund and reflects on the last round.

Two people in conversation
A competitive application to the Public Engagement Fund builds the skills and assets of people who create change in society.
Credit: Tan Nguyen Dang Minh (OUCRU) / Wellcome

Alexandra Parsons

Alexandra Parsons

As we said in our previous blog post, we’re currently working with the Institute of Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) to review our Public Engagement Fund. IVAR has been analysing our portfolio of awards and what we’ve learned from the past year. They’ve helped us to better understand the challenges we face running a global open funding scheme that seeks to back the best creative ideas to engage the public with health research.

Grants of up to £250,000

The Public Engagement Fund for grants of between £25,000 and £250,000 receives approximately a quarter of all funding applications to Wellcome. This reflects the breadth of public engagement activity taking place globally.

This incredible volume comes with challenges. We had 172 eligible applications in the last round, which we whittled down to a shortlist of 30 applications. Of these, we awarded only seven grants, making a funding rate of just 4%.

The other applications weren’t successful because they didn't convince us that that they would create meaningful outcomes for the people they involved or because they didn't clearly align with our strategy.

This isn't a good use of our applicants' time or Wellcome’s resources.

If you’re thinking about applying to the next round of the Public Engagement Fund, we’ll shortlist your project only if you can clearly explain how you hope to achieve the type of outcomes we care about.

A competitive application will also build the skills and assets of people who create change in society through different kinds of interventions, be that content creation, co-production, community-building, social entrepreneurship or impact measurement.

Grants over £250,000

We also receive a lot of interest in our Public Engagement Fund for large awards of between £250,000 and £3 million. We opened this stream for high-value projects because we wanted to offer substantial awards for truly innovative work that could bring about major, sustainable change. This might mean ambitious scaling of tested ideas, capital projects or work that can influence a large group of people or participants.

In the past year we’ve received a huge number of expressions of interest, but only a handful of which directly respond to these ambitions. We want to make the most of the skills and resources we have available, to help more people succeed in securing our grants and ensure grantholders make the most of their funding.

As a result, we will now only be accepting expressions of interest for Public Engagement Fund awards of over £250,000 up until 30 April 2019.

We’ll share more about the analysis of our awards and announce more refinements to the fund in the next blog posts.

What we've funded – and why

These are a few of the most recent projects we’ve funded. You will soon be able to read about the other funded projects too.

  • TReND in Africa have identified that absent or inaccurate reporting of health research in the media affects Nigerian people's health and wellbeing. The project team have devised a programme to bring together local health researchers and journalists to encourage accurate scientific reporting and to enhance trust through visible role models in the media.

We liked: the work uses an appropriate mechanism to reach a mass audience to enhance trust in science. TReND in Africa are using a model they have already tested and found effective, and they plan to share the learning from this methodology.

  • Doctor Dracula is a multimedia examination of how we understand blood in medicine and mythology. Classic vampire stories will draw audiences back and forth through time to explore medieval blood-letting, experiments in blood transfusion, rare blood diseases, and the concept of epigenetics – that a drop of blood might hold an individual's entire biological profile.

We liked: the focus on engaging the public with blood science, including taking blood samples and explaining what they show. Four of Swords will be bringing the activities to three locations in South West Britain.

  • Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda's innovation cafés. Biomedical engineering students will use design thinking principles to tackle health challenges affecting people living with disabilities from a community-based rehabilitation centre nearby. Students will discover, ideate, prototype and get feedback from people with disabilities who will participate in the innovation work.

We liked: the way the work puts people living with disabilities at the centre of the research and innovation process, and a model that can be shared with other universities and organisations.

Do you find these updates helpful?

We plan to keep writing short updates after each of our quarterly Public Engagement Fund meetings. We want to help future applicants, so we’d love to hear what you might find useful. Tweet @wellcometrust or leave comments on the Wellcome Facebook page.

Related articles