U21 Researcher Resilience Fund

In 2020, U21 launched a Researcher Resilience Fund to support the development of the network’s PhD and early career researchers. This fund was designed to develop researchers' capability and capacity to work digitally or virtually in order to adapt to life as a researcher post-COVID-19.   

This call is currently closed. 

In 2021, U21 offered the Researcher Resilience Sustainability Fund (RRSF). Learn More.

How the Researcher Resilience Fund works

U21 offered awards of US$5000 (with a total of US$100,000 available) to enable researchers in the U21 network to collaborate and build their digital capacity with the aim of developing global perspectives on problem-solving, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary working practices. Building resilience enabled U21 researchers to anticipate and adapt to imminent social, economic and environmental change, allowing them to plan for a more sustainable future without forfeiting the integrity of their research.   

Who is eligible to apply?

Researchers will work together to find innovative ways of transforming their existing skills in order to adapt to working in a virtual (alternative) domain. Doctoral candidates and early career researchers are eligible*. Partnerships of researchers from two or more U21 member universities, across at least 2 countries, can apply for this fund. It is expected that these examples will be shared within the U21 network as examples of best practice.  

The U21 Researcher Resilience Fund will make awards of up to $5000 per project that enhance researchers’ capability and capacity to work digitally or virtually within the U21 network. Funding may be used for skills development and training, and technology set-up costs. It is possible that the funding could contribute towards: 

  • Digital training workshops 
  • Subscriptions for online platforms for network-building  
  • Costs associated with developing a subject-specific support network for COVID-19  

Note that the funding cannot be used to pay for fractional staff salaries or cover overheads/research office administration fees. Please check that all partners on your application are based at one of the institutions before you apply. 

Preference will be given to proposals which   

  • Create examples of good research practice that can be easily shared and replicated by other researchers across the network.   
  • Address current researcher needs shared by other U21 universities.    
  • Demonstrate impact and a legacy beyond the initial proposal. 
  • Produce shareable outcomes in a relatively short period of time (e.g. 6 - 9 months).    

*Doctoral candidates include all those in a U21 institution who are undertaking a PhD or a named doctorate, including a professional doctorate. At the time of the award all doctoral candidates named in the application must be active in a doctoral programme. Early career researchers are considered those who are at the beginning of their career, i.e. within 8 years of their PhD being awarded.  

Download this webpage as a document


Proposals must meet the following criteria:   

  • Demonstrate collaboration between U21 member universities, with a partnership comprising 2 or more U21 members from at least 2 countries. 
  • Demonstrate an innovative approach to research practice.    
  • Deliver tangible outputs within twelve months (maximum) of receipt of funds. 
  • Outputs must be accessible to all university members of U21 and will be shared via the U21 website or internal U21 e-learning platform, Totara.   



What outputs will be considered?

The funding is for developing researcher resilience (as opposed to research). Although your project may involve 'proper' research (which is accepted), the focus is on outputs that demonstrate how you can develop your own resilience alongside your project partners.

The fund is designed to work across disciplines and so we expect outputs to be varied to reflect this. Your output may be something as simple as a webinar or case study but the key consideration is that it can be shared and adapted among the wider U21 researcher community. The aim is that they can learn from you and your experience, or even replicate your project in their own institution. Accessibility is also an important factor; both digital and cultural. 

Can a researcher submit more than one application?  

Yes. However, in any funding call, it is a principle of U21 to include as many eligible partners as possible.  

Can the fund be used to make general research administration costs within an institution?  

No. This is a small-scale fund for developing researchers to respond to current challenges, by creating shareable and usable resources. No portion of the fund should be diverted into research grant administration or institutional infrastructure costs.  

Can the funds be used to cover employment?  

The funds may be used to cover employment costs, if additional staff are required to deliver the proposed outcomes. However, it should be noted that the review panel will be looking for evidence of capacity building in the context of developing researchers’ digital skills so this resourcing should be directed to creating new, meaningful resources and outputs. We will expect to see a rationale that spending on staff time is the best way of delivering these outcomes for your application. 

When will the funding decision be made?  

This fund has been designed for short-term projects in response to current challenges facing universities. As such, we will review applications and communicate the decision as soon as possible. We will aim to do so within four weeks of the 22 June deadline, however this will depend on the number of applications received.  

We understand your proposed timescales will be affected by the speed at which project funding can be distributed, and we will be flexible in our approach to this when reviewing your application.  

How do you access your funding?  

The application’s lead coordinator’s institution will administer the funding. Please ensure that your application is approved by your Graduate School or Head of Department and that you include the contact details of your finance department. If you are successful in your application, you will be told when the funds will be available. 

Do all those involved in the application have to be doctoral candidates or early career researchers, or just the lead applicant?

All those involved in the project (not just the lead applicant) have to be either doctoral candidates or early career researchers from a U21 member university. 

Is there a maximum number of members who can be involved in the application?

We have not set a maximum number, but we suggest thinking carefully about the value that extra partnerships would add, especially when the project needs to be delivered within 12 months.