Step-by-step guide to impact: Part 3 Planning impact through bidding

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If you have ever applied for external funding before, for example through a Research Council, you will no doubt have been asked to consider the impact of your research by means of completing an impact summary and pathways to impact document. This was a previously requirement in order to provide funders with detail on the activities that you planned to undertake to ensure that your research findings reached key beneficiaries.

As from 2020, however, UKRI announced that applicants would no longer be required to provide either a pathways to impact plan or an impact summary. This update reflects the shift in the research and innovation landscape, with a recognition that impact is now a core consideration throughout the grant application process. This means that there is no longer the need for separate impact sections, as impact should be woven throughout any case for support as a matter of course. This also somewhat streamlines the process for applicants.

An Ethics Policy Note was also added to the University’s research ethics processes in 2020, which enables researchers to build into their application the collection of impact evidence after a project is complete. This is primarily to avoid situations where researchers have to reapply for ethics approval to collect additional data to support and evidence their impact.

Guidance on Applications

More detailed guidance on how to embed impact into your grant applications is available on the main UKRI website at:

To give you a flavour of successful impact activities, the UKRI also showcases some of its impact stories at:

Another great resource specifically around impact is the Fast Track Impact website ( run by Professor Mark Reed.

The following resources could help get you started:


Why is impact important?

Imagine that research that has no purpose. Why would you be funded? What would be the point? Impact is an integral part of all funding applications because it is an important way of ensuring accountability for the use of public funds and demonstrating real-world benefit.

Many researchers leave the impact sections of their applications until last because they are unsure where to begin. Many academics are unclear what to include or may not understand what is classed as impact. Others may simply be unsure how to evidence impact.

Once you have a research idea, you should start by thinking about:

1.  What do you hope to achieve with it?

2.  Who is likely to benefit from your research?

3.  How are they likely to benefit?

4.  How are you going to reach this group and ascertain how your research has affected them?

In order to demonstrate how you will maximise the potential impacts of your research, you will still need to think about your pathways to impact, i.e. what activities you will undertake and what steps you intend to take to obtain the necessary evidence to show that impact is taking place.

It is important that you actively engage relevant users of research and stakeholders as soon as possible and continue with relationship-building throughout the life of a project and beyond.

For advice about how to integrate an impact plan into any new research funding applications you may be considering, please speak to Emma Sutton, REF, KEF & Impact Manager, by e-mailing  or go to our Research Funding pages on this site for further information.