UCL Public Policy


Policy Challenge Awards 2018/19

Applicants are invited to set out a proposal for responding to a policy challenge outlined in this document that have been set by key policy stakeholders. We encourage applicants to think creatively in how they apply their research and skills to respond to these challenges and the types of outputs delivered.  

Department for International Trade

These key policy areas have been identified as policy challenges for Department for International Trade:

  • How do we best define, measure and estimate the volume and value of trade in services, including digital trade, e-commerce and cross-border data flows?
  • What is the impact of non-tariff barriers on trade in goods (including technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures)?
  • How can policy support businesses to internationalise as a means of achieving business growth? Does this vary by characteristic?

Ministry of Justice

These key policy areas have been identified as policy challenges for the Ministry of Justice:

  • How do we best create custodial and community based environments that keep people safe and reduce levels of violence and self-harm? For example: 
    • What approaches are effective in reducing incidents in prison such as assaults, self-harm or drug use? or
    • What are effective ways of stopping illicit items entering custody?
  • What are the key demographic and societal changes most likely to influence future demands on the justice system and how should the justice system respond?
  • What role can technology and the internet play in delivering an effective, proportionate and accessible justice system? For example:
    • What can open data sources such as Twitter and Facebook tell us about the use of and satisfaction with justice services?
    • How should we incorporate the use of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and robotics into how the Government helps people when they have a legal issue?

Camden Council

These key policy areas have been identified as policy challenges for Camden and which if answered would greatly increase the livelihoods of residents and the support Camden can provide as a Council:

  • Technology as part of service delivery – Through big data and new technologies how can we improve awareness and use of the community assets available for residences to tackle social isolation and loneliness? 
  • Social isolation and loneliness – Given the numbers of people in the borough who are experiencing the effects of social isolation, what would we do to increase resident involvement in community initiatives designed to reduce the impacts in a way that is cost effective and practical?
  • Community Champions – Camden Council is interested in exploring opportunities to develop a similar model in Camden. The Community Champions is a peer-to-peer model focusing on building the capacity of residents, local estates and communities to work together to address issues that are important to them, and access and shape services in their local area. They take a collective efficacy approach to challenging issues including mental health, domestic violence, disability, smoking cessation and substance misuse. Grassroots and peer-to-peer services can address entrenched community issues and reach residents that would not necessarily approach the public sector.  The question for this policy challenge would be how would we evaluate the impact of “Community Champions”? 
  • Increasing participation in formal democracy – a key part of our Camden 2025 vision is the emphasis on getting residents more involved in the democratic process. At present residents are able to attend meetings of the council but we typically have a low attendance rate. How do we encourage more participation in formal democracy? What is the evidence base/mechanism?
  • Youth Safety – Camden are involved in a cross-borough initiative looking at disproportionality in the Youth Justice system underpinned by the Lammy Review. Camden has taken the lead to collaborate with youth offending services in other London Borough’s to explore the disproportionate representation of children from some BAME backgrounds in the youth justice system. What are the reasons behind this disproportionality? How would we address this disproportionality in Camden?
How to apply

What proposals should seek to do

The small grants scheme is designed to support research staff, students and academics at UCL to increase their engagement with public policy, improve engagement with external policymakers through research expertise, and/or enhance the public policy impact of their research. We encourage applicants to think creatively about how to achieve greater policy engagement and impact, including about possible outputs from their work.

Proposals should include some degree of collaboration with an external policy professional or organisation. If an external policy partner is not included in the application, it will normally be expected that proposals should identify such a partner and state how the applicant(s) will work with them.

Proposals may be for an entirely new piece of work, or for a project as part of an existing activity. If the latter, the proposal should aim to enhance the policy engagement or impact of existing work beyond what may already have been planned.

Applicants are welcome to discuss ideas with UCL Public Policy staff in advance of making their application. It may also be helpful to consult support available from UCL Enterprise, UCL Public Engagement, and other knowledge exchange and impact supporting units. You can see previously funded small grants on our website.


Funds must be spent by the end of the 2018-19 UCL financial year (31 July 2019), but activities may be part of a larger ongoing project. Funds may only be used to cover direct costs. The funding is not intended to be used for equipment or travel unless there is a clear and specific contribution to policy engagement arising.

Completing the application form

Please be as succinct as possible and focus on directly responding to the questions Please ensure the short description of your proposal is written with a non-specialist, non-university audience in mind Please state how your proposal will meet one or more of the aims of the funding scheme Please be as specific as possible in terms of the planned activities, outputs and outcomes of your proposal, including your stated objectives and how success in meeting these will be evaluated You may also wish to consider how the proposal fits with the UCL 2034 strategy:



Decisions will be made by end of October 2018. The decision of the panel is final.

Reporting and Evaluation

UCL PP asks applicants to commit to a multiple-stage, light-touch, evaluation of the outcomes of their proposal if funded, comprising a mid-project progress report, an end of project outcomes and impact report, and a follow-up outcomes and impact report 12 months after the end of the project. This information will be shared on the UCL PP website and in UCL PP reports, and UCL PP will endeavour to promote events and activities relating to small grants awards throughout the project life.


  • Whether the proposal is likely to meet its stated objectives
  • Whether the proposal is innovative in its proposed mechanisms for enhancing public policy engagement or impact

If your application is successful, the award will be transferred to a Project Task Award (PTA) in your department and your departmental finance manager will be responsible for managing the award. At the point of submission, you will need to provide the details of the finance manager and confirm they are happy to do so.


Policy Challenge Award applications will be initially shortlisted and then asked to make a 5-minute pitch on their proposal to a panel including UCL Public Policy, academics and policy professionals. The panel will consider:

Whether the proposal is likely to enhance individual researchers’ or UCL’s public policy engagement or impact  Whether the proposal is likely to build relationships with policy professionals or build capacity for engagement .

Application Form