ARC Accelerate

Validate your venture idea and develop a sustainable business model during our 6-month accelerator with time buyout and up to £62,500 in funding.

We offer financial support, expert-led training and dedicated mentors to help you bring your ideas to market. 

Find out more


  • Learning Outcomes

    Validate your venture idea, gain the skills to turn ideas into real-world ventures, develop a sustainable business model for your venture, be ready to pitch for funding or investment

  • Duration

    6-month programme with time buyout, training sessions are virtual but there are in-person events

  • Eligibility

    Applicants must have a PhD or similar research or innovation experience and be based at an eligible UK research organisation

Programme details

ARC Accelerate, the third stage of the ARC Pathway, is a 6-month accelerator designed to help researchers transform their innovative and ambitious social science, arts and humanities-based ideas into scalable ventures.

Successful applicants will receive up to £62,500 (with circa 80% fEC provided by ESRC, in line with its standard funding rules) to fund commercialisation activities and bring new products, processes, services and experiences to market.

ARC Accelerate offers time buyout and requires applicants to commit to a minimum of 3 days per week for the duration of the 6-month training programme. The time commitment can be shared as a team among eligible participants (see FAQ below). 

During the programme, we will spend a lot of time validating the venture idea with customers, stakeholders and partners, together with around 40h of training sessions, additional 1:1 support, check-ins and coursework.

What is included?

  • Up to £62,500 to fund commercialisation activities (with circa 80% fEC provided by ESRC, in line with its standard funding rules)
  • Additional £3,000 for market validation activities (not part of ESRC award; see FAQ below)
  • A tailored programme of support, led by industry experts, to develop key entrepreneurial skills
  • Specialised, sector-specific training
  • Access to experienced entrepreneurs, investors and networks
  • 1:1 pitch practice and coaching
  • Dedicated mentors to help you validate your idea, develop the business model and support your pitch for further funding or investment
  • Lifelong alumni support and events to network and support the growth of your venture
  • The chance to do all of this in a peer group full of like-minded researchers

Application process

Full application stage

  • Application form submitted via MS Forms
  • One letter of support for every team member with time buyout

Interview stage

  • Interviews consisting of a 5 min pitch using our pitch template, followed by a 15 min Q&A

Timeline for ARC Accelerate 2025 cohort

Applications will close on 22 July 2024, 11:59 PM. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview, which will be held in September and October 2024. Decisions on which proposals are recommended for funding will be announced in late-October 2024.

Only after being recommended for funding will selected applicants need to submit their proposals through the UKRI Funding Service. The ARC Accelerate training will start in February 2025. Learn more in our application webinar.

Full application stage

Application form

The application form is designed to help us understand your venture idea and your project’s level of maturity. We are also trying to find out more about your action plan and what you are looking to gain from the programme.

Please be assured that we are not expecting your answers to be final as the programme is designed to help you refine your ideas. In fact, it is likely that your idea and your plan on how to progress the idea will change during the programme.

Justification of resources

At this stage of the application process, applicants don’t need to reach out to their Finance or Grant Administration teams, as we are only looking for a budget outline to understand planned activities and time commitments. Detailed costings will only be required after the interview stage and for proposals that have been recommended for funding. Selected applicants will receive more guidance on how to complete and submit full costings through the UKRI Funding Service.

For more information on eligible costs, please visit the ESRC funding guide.

Letter of support

Every team member with time buyout needs to submit a letter of support signed by their Head of Division, Head of Department, Line Manager and Technology Transfer Office (or your organisation’s equivalent, e.g., Innovation, Knowledge Exchange, or Enterprise Office).

Letters of support need to be submitted via email to by 22 July 2024, 11:59 PM. The email subject needs to include the lead applicant’s name, the team member’s name (if applicable) and the project/venture title.

Assessment criteria

You can find an overview of the assessment criteria we use here.

During the shortlisting process, we use anonymised submissions to ensure fairness. Please don’t include personally identifiable information, such as your name or research organisation, after Section 1: Applicant profile summary of the application form.

Apply here!

Click on the button below to access the application form.

If you have any questions about the application process, please get in touch via



Eligibility and suitability

Who is eligible to apply?

Applicants must have a PhD or similar research or innovation experience and be based at an eligible UK research organisation.

For further information, please visit the ESRC’s research funding guide and check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

What are we looking for?

  • Ambitious and innovative research ideas from arts, humanities and social science disciplines that can be transformed into ventures to deliver impact at scale
  • Individuals or teams that want to develop their research insights into scalable products, processes, services or experience innovations
  • Please note: this is not a research call, funding must be used for commercialisation activities, not further research









  • What is the value of the Award? Up to £62,500, with circa 80% fEC provided by ESRC, in line with its standard funding rules. The university or other eligible institution will receive the funding on behalf of the applicant and contribute 20% fEC.
  • How many Awards are there? Between 2023-2026, we have a total of 75 awards available and will run at least one ARC Accelerate cohort per year.
  • What is the Award duration? Up to 12 months, which must include participation in the ARC Accelerate training. The Award duration does not change the required time commitment of 3 days per week during the 6-month ARC Accelerate training.
  • Can the time commitment be shared as a team? Yes, the required time commitment can be shared as a team among eligible participants. Please provide a justification and/or outline your reasoning for the split as part of your application.
  • How does the time buyout work for a part-time academic that only works 3 days per week in total? The participant would need to have their time bought out from their contract at their research organisation (RO). If they are on a 3 days per week contract, their time buyout would be from those 3 days. The RO could increase their contract, but that would be between the participant and the RO to agree.
  • Is the £3k market validation budget separate from the SHAPE Catalyst Award? Yes. While the source of the funds is still ESRC, it will be administered by the team delivering the ARC Accelerator. Applicants don’t need to outline how they intend to spend the market validation budget when applying. The £3k budget covers eligible market validation activities at 100% of fEC.
  • For more information, please consult our general FAQ

ARC-specific terminology

Beneficiaries, Users, Customers 

  • Beneficiaries: Anyone whose quality of life is improved by the product or service, whether or not they are aware they are benefitting
  • Users: Anyone who actively ‘uses’ the product or service to achieve some benefit to themselves or another
  • Customers: Anyone who transacts or exchanges value to obtain the product or service

NB: These three groups may overlap.

Market validation

Market validation is the process of validating a venture idea with potential customers, partners and other stakeholders. It is about finding the information needed to launch a venture.

Example questions the process is trying to answer:

  • Does the venture solve a problem? For whom is that a problem?
  • Is it a big enough problem that they would pay for it?
  • What would it need to do and look like in order for them to pay? How much would they pay?

Workshops and Webinars

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