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Research Strategy Office


The Vice-Chancellor's Research Impact and Engagement Awards


The Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Research Impact and Engagement were established in 2016. They recognise outstanding achievement, innovation and creativity in devising and implementing ambitious engagement and impact plans which have the potential to create significant economic, social and cultural impact from, and engagement with, research.

Find out more about our 2022 winners and how important winning the award was for them.

Scope of the awards

We recognise that excellence in research impact and engagement spans a wide range of activity and involves many relevant parties. Applicants are encouraged to include the full breadth of their impact and engagement activity in their submission.

We encourage applications which demonstrate impactful long-term collaborations and/or original and inventive approaches that have secured the participation of new communities and partners.

For the purpose of the Awards, ‘impact’ is understood as:

‘An effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy  or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.’

For the purpose of the award, we have adapted the National Coordinating Centre’s definition of public engagement to explicitly focus on public engagement with research.

‘Public Engagement with Research describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.’

The key principles of impact and public engagement with research are that it:

  • Must be underpinned by contemporary research
  • Must involve elements of genuine interaction, e.g. through dialogue, participation, collaboration, co-production
  • Must engage people and/or organisations from beyond academia

We welcome applications which involve external relevant parties, organisations, and /or individuals anywhere across the world

This is includes but is not limited to partnerships, consultation, collaboration, co-production and involvement with:

  • communities, charities and NGO’s
  • policy makers and government
  • business and industry
  • arts, heritage and cultural and community organisations
  • public services including the wider education sector and schools, NHS, social care, local government, government agencies, and other public bodies

Applications could involve:

  • commercialisation through spin outs and licensing
  • participatory research with communities and relevant parties and citizen science activity
  • development and delivery of festivals, exhibitions and performances
  • policy change
  • communication of research to external audiences through a variety of media
  • major impacts on curricula and teaching pedagogy which extend significantly beyond the University of Cambridge

Impact on research or the advancement of academic knowledge within the higher education sector (whether in the UK or internationally) is excluded.

Award categories and eligibility

Early career researcher

Open to PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, or research fellows. Applicants must show significant achievements in research impact and engagement with the potential to become future champions in these areas. Candidates must be based at the University of Cambridge University at the point of submission and must evidence a strong link to research conducted at the University.

We use the UKRI definition of ECR:

  • within eight years of their PhD award or equivalent professional training
  • within six years of their first academic appointment (the first full or part time paid employment contract that lists research or teaching as the primary function)

These periods exclude any career break, for example due to:

  • family care
  • health reasons
  • COVID-19 such as home schooling or increased teaching load.

Established academic

Open to academic staff who have demonstrated excellence in impact and engagement as an integral part of their research career. A strong link to research conducted at the University of Cambridge must be evidenced.

This category includes awards for both individual academics and for research teams including professional and technical staff.

Professional services staff

This award recognises the commitment and excellence of University professional services staff in facilitating and supporting researchers and academics in research impact and engagement activities. Staff with Public Engagement and Impact in their job description are eligible to apply. 

Collaboration award

This team award recognises collaborative partnerships between University researchers and external relevant parties engaged in impact and engagement activity. Applications must be submitted jointly and teams can include members at all career stages. A strong link to research conducted at the University of Cambridge must be evidenced. 

College researchers and College professional staff are eligible to apply for all of these awards.

Application and award process

IMPORTANT: Before you start completing the application, the online application form does not have a ‘save and return later’ option so has to be filled in in one session We therefore recommend looking at the pdf document so that you can prepare your answers and supporting documents in advance.

  • Applications must be submitted on the appropriate online form
  • Applications can be made in multiple categories
  • Applicants from previous years are welcome to apply again with further developed projects. Previous award winners may apply again but with new projects. They will not be judged again on the same project.
  • Applications will be judged by an interdisciplinary panel including internal and external professional staff, collaborators and researchers.
  • Please submit images of yourself, your team and of the project. These will be used for the ceremony and any linked case studies so please ensure you have permission to use the images and for the University to share them.
  • There may be opportunities to present your project at the 2024 Cambridge Festival in March.
  • If specific details about your project cannot be share or should be kept confidential, please let us know on the application form and through email to

For any questions please contact the public engagement team: