Pathways to impact

Together with our research communities and partners we want to encourage researchers to think about Pathways to Impact. Pathways to Impact offers a chance for researchers to delve deeper into looking at who is likely to benefit from their work, how to engage with them, and how to go about increasing the likelihood of this happening. Whilst RCUK demands excellence as the main factor in deciding upon funding, Pathways to Impact is viewed as an added criterion, amongst others, for research applicants to show the potential value of their work.

A clearly thought through and acceptable pathways to impact is an essential component of a research proposal and a condition of funding.

Applicants are required to use this section of the proposal to identify the potential impact of their work and to outline the steps they can sensibly make now to facilitate the realisation of those impacts.

Identified impacts should clearly align with the case made for the importance of the research but may be much broader.

If a proposal is ranked high enough to be funded but does not have an acceptable Pathways to Impact it will be returned. Applicants will be asked to revise the Pathways to Impact and the proposal will only be funded once that acceptable revision has been received.

Detailed guidance is available on the definition of impact, and how to prepare a pathways to impact document on the RCUK Pathways to Impact site.

Why is impact important to EPSRC?

EPSRC helps contribute to the UK’s competitiveness and welfare through the support of an extensive range of research and postgraduate training, with a portfolio of approximately £3 billion. Our intention now is to encourage researchers to look at how their work could achieve a positive impact and the pathways to bringing this to fruition. This is achieved through the inclusion of the Pathways to Impact section within the application process. ‘Impact’ itself is recognised as follows:

  1. Academically; with regard to presenting an ascertainable contribution in academic progress in understanding methods, theory and application.
  2. Social & Economic; in terms of presenting an ascertainable contribution the research would make to the society and economy whether it be enhancing standard of living, economic performance or the effectiveness of public services.

The diagram below exemplifies the potential variety of impacts that could be achieved through research:

Individual research grants

As part of the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) application you will have the opportunity to detail a brief outline, ‘Impact Summary’, describing who it is that stands to benefit from your research and the potential impact on them. You will then be required, within the Pathways to Impact section itself, to specify in detail how exactly you plan on bringing this to execution. Essentially you should be considering: ‘Who will benefit from this research, how will they benefit and what can be done to ensure they benefit?’ For more information on how to prepare a proposal, including the Pathways to Impact section please visit our How to Prepare a Proposal page. We recognise that you cannot necessarily predict the exact impact of your research. The idea behind Pathways to Impact is for you to consider the range of possible benefits which could arise from your research.

What you must keep in mind is that foremost, the quality of your research is the main factor under consideration.

Tips to bear in mind

When completing your Pathways to Impact section, consider the following:

  • Who could potentially benefit from this research? What are their needs? And how can they be specifically targeted and reached?
  • Make the description regarding how potential beneficiaries will be impacted and involved as clear as possible. The use of performance milestones and analysis is advised.
  • Will it be possible to involve potential recipients of the research? If so, how early can they be involved?
  • Have there been any previous cases of impact generating activities or knowledge exchange that is relevant to this research?
  • Ensure commitment towards accomplishing research impacts is shown throughout.

Try to avoid the following:

  • Being vague, try to be as detailed and specific as possible.
  • Not being project specific. Although we encourage being thorough, make sure that the information is relevant to the project itself.
  • Placing too much onus on track record. Instead, look at will be accomplished as part of this research project.
  • Focusing too narrow. Try to consider the broad range of people that could benefit from the project. Try not to keep activities too dissemination orientated or end motivated. Remember the key focus here is impact.


You can request any eligible project-specific resources but not general activities funded centrally (for example intellectual property costs, technology transfer office costs). Remember to address these in the Justification of resources.