Leeds Social Sciences Institute

Seedcorn funding for social sciences/STEM collaborations

The Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) and Research & Innovation Support (RIS) have established a seedcorn funding scheme to support new interdisciplinary research activities. The principal aim of the scheme is to encourage research staff from different disciplines to come together to explore some of the most pressing research challenges facing society.

In this section:


Obtaining seedcorn funding to get a new research idea off the ground can be crucial in developing new research proposals. With more research funders looking to support work that crosses traditional boundaries, RIS and LSSI have allocated £6k to this initiative which is intended to support cross disciplinary research projects which will, at a later stage, lead to externally funded projects which address one of the six RCUK major societal challenges:

The funds can be used to pump prime new research activities such as:

  • Pilot a research study
  • Support the development of collaborative research projects
  • Gather or process information that could be used as evidence for a larger research project


Closing date for receipt of proposals: 6 January 2016
Notification of successful awards by 15 January 2016
Funds transferred and awards commence: January 2016
Project completion date: July 2016
Project report submitted: August 2016

Application Process

  • Applications are invited to this fund by 6 January 2016 using the seedcorn funding for social sciences application form Completed forms should be submitted via email to Sophia Kennedy.
  • Applications must meet the following essential criteria:
    • The award must be held by a University of Leeds academic member of staff (but can be used to fund collaborations with other institutions)
    • The proposed research must be interdisciplinary and relate to at least one of the RCUK themes (see separate tab above for more information on each theme)
    • Collaborative teams must contain applicants from more than one School / Department
    • A maximum of £2k can be awarded per application and all expenditure must be completed by 31 July 2016
  • Applications will be reviewed by a sub-committee of the LSSI Steering Group, chaired by Professor Adam Crawford. Successful applicants will be notified by 15 January 2016

Conditions of the funding

  1. Successful applicants are required to submit a two page summary of research outcomes to LSSI by the end of August 2016. This must be submitted within one month of the project completion date.
  2. Seedcorn funds can be used to fund both direct and indirect costs (this excludes University staff salaries); monies will be transferred to a nominated University of Leeds account, and it is the responsibility of the research team to manage expenditure

Note: please take a look at our recently launched Impact Acceleration Account for the social sciences if your project involves an external non-academic partner and has the potential to deliver economic or societal impacts; funding of up to £15k per project is available via this scheme.

RCUK Cross Council Themes


The Research Councils UK Digital Economy Theme is supporting research to rapidly realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy.

To achieve this we bring together a unique community of researchers (from diverse disciplines including social science, engineering, computer science, the arts and medical research) and users (people, business, government) to study, understand and find solutions to real problems. Since its inception in 2008 the RCUK Digital Economy Theme has invested £138m.

Recent Calls:

  • Digital Personhood – Understanding how citizens could be empowered by utilizing the value of their digital self and Societal Implications and Ethical Issues
  • New Economic Models in the digital economy – research and people-based activities that will develop and strengthen the engagement between the research communities in digital economy, economics and management


The Research Councils UK Energy Programme aims to position the UK to meet its energy and environmental targets and policy goals through world-class research and training. The Energy Programme is investing more than £530 million in research and skills to pioneer a low carbon future. This builds on an investment of £360 million over the past 5 years.

Recent Calls:

  • Energy & International Development: Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions in Developing Countries – Research that explores the social, institutional, financial and technical factors affecting the success and failure of low carbon innovation/deployment/adoption experiences in order to better understand how and why some interventions have succeeded and others have failed.
  • Call for the SUPERGEN Hydrogen and Fuel Cells ‘Hub’ – In addition to the purely technological areas listed above the Hub should include the following non-engineering and physical science areas, including Socio-economics and Policy.

BBSRC (Lead), ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC + other government agencies

The world is facing a potential crisis in terms of food security. The challenge is to produce and supply enough safe and nutritious food in a sustainable way for a growing global population, which is projected to reach 9Bn by 2050, meeting this demand in ways that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, and in the face of global climate change.


The RCUK Global Uncertainties programme is examining the causes of insecurity and how security risks and threats can be predicted, prevented and managed. The programme explores how developments in these areas are affected by environmental change and diminishing natural recourses, food security, demographic change, poverty, inequality and poor governance, new and old conflicts, natural disasters and pandemics, expansion of digital technologies, economic downturn and other important global developments.

Recent Calls:

  • RCUK Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellows
  • Centres for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security – Their training should address human, organisational, economic and social science elements as well as the more established technological matters.


Human activities, most notably worldwide fossil-fuel demand and rapid population and economic growth in the developing world, are accelerating environmental change and increasing pressure on ecosystems and services, challenging our social and economic well-being. LWEC is a major interdisciplinary research and policy partnership to tackle environmental change and the societal challenges it poses, and so to provide a firmer basis for people to deal with the unprecedented changes that the world will face over the next century.

Recent Calls:

  • Innovative business models around infrastructure interdependencies – Develop new and enhanced modelling approaches for integrated evaluation and comparison of infrastructure options, including but not limited to economic, social, ecosystem, and aesthetic impacts, “future proofing”, social and societal preferences and interaction and interdependencies.
  • Environmental & Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases


There is an unprecedented demographic change underway in the UK with the proportion of young people declining whilst that of older people is increasing. There are considerable benefits to the UK of having an active and healthy older population with potential economic, social, and health gains associated with healthy ageing and reducing dependency in later life.  The programme provides substantial longer term funding for new interdisciplinary centres targeting themes of healthy ageing and factors over the whole life course that may be major determinants of health and well being in later life.

Recent Calls:

  • Promoting physical activity in older age – research on the relationships between determinants that influence an individual’s likelihood of being physically active or sedentary such as health status and socio-economic, cultural and environmental factors
  • Extending working lives – understand the determinants of working later in life and the relationship between work, health and wellbeing of older workers.

Currently funded projects

Tackling future regional climate change uncertainties

Website_photo_DessaiProfessor Suraje Dessai (Earth and Environment) will lead a team of interdisciplinary researchers in developing regional climate information through a new method of uncertainty quantification that combines expert elicitation with climate observations and simulations.

Information about future regional climate is plagued by uncertainties that make it challenging to manage the risks associated with climate variability and change. This seedcorn funded project will address the problem by combining expert-derived climate narratives with observations and simulations to quantify uncertainty and generate new data and times series. The team’s study region will be Southern India, in particular the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka.

It is anticipated that the study will also enhance societal resilience to climate variability and change in the basin, help maintain riverine environmental flow, and help sustain water dependent economic activity in downstream regions. These are the basis for successful adaptation to a changing climate under conditions of deep uncertainty.

The project links to the RCUK Cross Council themes of Living with Environmental Change, Global Food Security and Global Uncertainties.

Exploring youth transition links from education to labour market

Dr Carly Lightowlers (Law) and Dr Gill Main (Education) will explore the links between youth transitions from education to the labour market, and how different transitional experiences impact on crime and victimisation. They will also look into the mediating role poverty and social exclusion may play in any associations between transitions, crime, and victimisation.

In order to further understand the causes of crime and victimisation, as well as how the risk of engaging with crime and experience of victimisation can be prevented and managed, the team will employ novel latent variable modelling techniques to the existing secondary data collected in the 2012 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey.

The study will scope the existing literature and produce a set of preliminary analyses – comprising basic descriptive and sensitivity analyses – of the Survey.

The project links to the RCUK Cross Council theme of Global Uncertainties.

Evaluating the use of school-based green space

swing-846077_960_720A team of interdisciplinary researchers led by Dr Christopher Hassall (Biology) will study the interactions between urban children and their school grounds to evaluate the use of school-based green space.

Working at 20 schools in Bradford, it will map and measure biodiversity on the school grounds. The team will record pupil movement during playtime on two sunny days with the use of motion-activated cameras placed in prominent places around the school grounds. This data will be supplemented with stills from CCTV footage recorded around the schools at specific times on sunny days when children are using outdoor space.

From these space-use patterns the team will be able to establish whether the children make use of available green space, and what features of it are most used. This information will help to understand how the consequences of ecosystem service loss in cities, particularly within schools where children spend so much of their time, can be mitigated.

The project links to the RCUK Cross Council themes of Living with Environmental Change, and Lifelong Health and Wellbeing.

Tackling social inequalities

The Leeds Inequalities Research Network has received seedcorn funds to help develop its links with external partners.

As part of this work it will hold a series of workshops that will focus on developing interdisciplinary research proposals around inequality issues prioritised by external partners.

The Network is led by a collaborative steering group, which is headed by Dr Ghazala Mir (Medicine and Health) and Sue Kilminster (Medicine and Health), aims to provide a focal point for raising awareness of the collective work on reducing inequalities being undertaken at the University of Leeds, and to support people from a wide range of backgrounds to develop and use research evidence that promotes a fairer society.

Its work will complement and build on the University’s existing inequalities research centres and groups, of which there are at least 20. This includes but is not limited to social exclusion, health and wellbeing, and environmental justice.

The Network will achieve this by enabling information exchange to help members identify common interests and priorities. It will also identify major challenges identified by external stakeholders that cross-disciplinary research could play a role in addressing.

The Network links to the RCUK Cross Council themes of Lifelong Health and Wellbeing, Global Uncertainties and to the Connected Communities programme.

Developing and promoting migration research

The Migration Research Network will run a seminar series throughout 2015-16 that will raise its profile and help members to network and grow collaborations for joint working and funding applications in the future.

The Network, which was launched in the summer of 2015, will also use seedcorn funding to develop its website so that members can share research interests and relevant news stories.

Building on inter-disciplinary expertise and interest in migration across the University, the Network will develop and promote research around migration, and will deepen links with external organisations by acting as a contact point and source of expertise, and through the development of bottom-up collaborative engagement.

Its aims include but are not limited to developing research around migration with an agenda focused on social change and social inclusion; providing a contact point and source of expertise for policy makers, practitioners, migrant support groups and community organisations with an interest in migration-related issues; and promoting migration research through the development of working papers, policy briefings, data summaries, case studies and other means.

The Network links to the RCUK Cross Council theme of Global Uncertainties.

Previously funded projects


Collaborating on new social science dataset techniques

Andrew Evans (Geography) brought together key Leeds researchers in a residential workshop that aimed to develop a technique to integrate Dynamic Data Assimilation (DDA) into Spatial Interaction Models (SIMs), commonly used across the social sciences.

DDA techniques dynamically adjust computer models as new data becomes available. Their chief use is to improve weather/climate models through continuous data integration but their potential is considerable, both for calibrating social science models for improved verisimilitude and for testing the likelihood of the social theory on which they are founded.

SIMs predict flows between locations and are widely used in business and public service planning. They do not, however, dynamically react to services being introduced to tell people the effect on related businesses, nor do they well represent modern businesses and mobile services.

This new work aimed to fill this gap, move SIM into the ‘Big Data’ era, and provide a solid foundation for integrating DDA across social science modelling.

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross Council theme of Digital Economy.

Read more about the project.

Developing a web-based group decision support system

b7bd82ec5e[1]Dr Richard Hodgett (LUBS) led of team of inter-disciplinary researchers that identified the industrial requirement and potential barriers for developing a web-based group decision support system for the chemical-using industries.

Decision support systems are typically used in face-to-face settings, which allow dominant group members to create unwarranted bias. If the opinion of silent group members was heard it could challenge the direction of the decision-making process and prevent decisions that are costly to the business.

To develop a web-based group decision support system that fits the needs of industry, the team organised a workshop to discuss the decision-making processes of key industrial contacts. It also explored the implications of making multi-site decisions with a web-based group decision support system.

The team believed that this work could significantly reduce the need for business travel which, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, was the sector that had the lowest reduction in carbon emissions in the UK during 2014.

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross Council theme of Energy.

Read more about the project.

Technology and product convergence in health innovation

Professor Krsto Pandza (LUBS) used the seedcorn funding to explore the phenomenon of industrial, technology and product convergence in the health sector.

The emerging innovation ecosystems in health include universities as significant providers of advanced technologies. It is therefore important to understand if architecture of academic research capabilities mirrors the emerging patterns and taxonomies of technological and product convergence.

To that end, the project aimed to develop an extensive database that enables mapping technology convergence and academic expertise necessary for developing new product categories in medical devices. The collaborative team also developed taxonomy of converging medical products and an accompanying map of scientific expertise.

The work intensified collaboration between the University’s Centre for Technology Innovation and Engagements (LUBS) and Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre (School of Mechanical Engineering).

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross Council theme of Lifelong Health and Wellbeing, and Digital Economy.

Read more about the project.

Exploring approaches to urban water infrastructure development

Leeds Waterworks Project ImageDr James Stark (Philosophy, Religion and History of Science) organised a one-day workshop at Leeds Industrial Museum that explored the relationship between historical and contemporary approaches to urban water infrastructure development.

Leading a team of inter-disciplinary academics and industry stakeholders, the project examined how an appreciation of historical context can inform decision-making in future infrastructure projects.

The workshop was based around as-yet-unexplored archival material drawn from the Leeds Waterworks, and participants examined selected sections of the archive together, sharing their respective areas of expertise.

The project pioneered new methods of inter-disciplinarity in a field where the potential of historically-informed policy-making has yet to be fully realised. By bringing methodological approaches from social science history, and engineering, it laid the groundwork for future collaborative projects examining how an interdisciplinary approach can inform policy in a range of areas, especially water, sewerage, energy and transport.

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross Council themes of Energy, Global Uncertainties, and Living with Environmental Change.

Read more about the project.


Perceptions and behaviours related to leisure activities

Dr Kishore Budha (School of Design) and Professor Alison McKay (Engineering) used seedcorn funding to support a further £9,000 research grant from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust entitled ‘Ageing, leisure and design: Barriers and opportunities’.

The initial pilot study found that elderly shoppers find it difficult getting around Leeds and factors such as lack of public toilets and seating deter older people from venturing into the city centre.

The project used both qualitive and quantitive methods to assess how ‘elderly’ (over 60) residents negotiate retail spaces in Leeds, with a view to understanding the impact that this has on wellbeing. The research brought together specialists from diverse research areas across the University including branding and marketing, mechanical and electronic engineering and psychology.

It aimed to collect primary data on the perceptions and behaviours related to two leisure activities, exploring the city and shopping, with the specific objective of uncovering barriers to mobility and participation for older adults. Data was generated by using unobtrusive physical movement monitoring devices, along with the interviewing and observation of two groups of individuals using the two domains.

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross council theme of Lifelong Health and wellbeing.

Read more about the project.

Public perceptions of climate change

csm_Wandi.Bruine-de-Bruin270x300_9b24c96149[1]Professor Wandi Bruine de Bruin (LUBS) researched public perceptions of climate change and extreme weather.

The study aimed to identify what types of weather drive the climate change concerns of UK residents, and their perceived need for climate change adaptation, given that the country’s summers tend to remain relatively cool. Previous research of this nature has tended to only focus on the US and the links between public concerns about climate change and perceptions of changes in hot weather.

The interdisciplinary study projected that climate change would increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross Council theme of Living with Environmental Change.

Read more about the project.

Community infrastructure governance

Dr Katy Roelich (Environment) and Dr Katy Wright (SSP) led an interdisciplinary project that investigated the technical, social and environmental implications of a more active role for communities in infrastructure governance.

The project sought to explore links between infrastructure renewal and community ownership, and the potential of communities to take a more active role in managing infrastructure assets.

The team of researchers from the University of Leeds used Byker Estate, a 1,800 home social housing development in Newcastle, as a focus for its study. Negotiations are underway on the development to manage a staged transfer of an upgraded district heating system from the social housing arm of Newcastle City Council to Byker Community Trust.

The project was linked to the RCUK Cross Council themes of Energy and Living with Environmental Change.

Read more about the project.


Eco-innovation and the Porter hypothesis

csm_Effie_Kesidou.270x300_3071b8f89e[1]Dr Effie Kesidou (LUBS) organised a workshop on ‘Eco-innovation and the Porter hypothesis’.

The Porter hypothesis was developed in the early 1990s by Harvard Business School economist and strategy professor Michael Porter, who argued that environmental regulations can stimulate, rather than stifle, environmental innovations which increase energy efficiency and/or generate eco-technologies.

Attracting international experts, the workshop aimed to generate a network to discuss new ideas and approaches on how the UK can meet its energy and environmental targets.

Urban agro-ecology, urban metabolism and food security

Chiara Tornaghi (Geography) and Dr Andy Ross (Energy Research Institute) led a team that defined the research agenda and methodology for a participatory research project on urban agro-ecology, urban metabolism and food security.

The team included researchers, local government officers and third sector organisations. This allowed them to link scientific understanding with knowledge of planning regulation, innovative urban agricultural policies and community engagement, and the ability to analyse public understanding.

As part of the project the team organised a one-day long workshop, held at Armley Mills Industrial Museum, that focused on co-designing outreach and engaging activities with local communities, as well as identifying the specific training needs of the non-academic partners.

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