Accelerate-C2D3 Funding Call for Novel Applications of AI for Research and Innovation 2024

20 May 2024

The Accelerate Programme in collaboration with the Cambridge Centre for Data Driven Discovery (C2D3) is offering small grants for University of Cambridge researchers pursuing innovative applications of AI, in research or real-world contexts. Funding can support a variety of activities, including research, events, workshops, teaching, software development, or software development, with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration.

Successfully deploying AI to tackle real-world challenges requires effective interdisciplinary collaboration. Developing these collaborations requires time and resources to bring together potential research partners, investigate the different ways of framing a challenge, and co-design potential solutions. Scaling successful interventions might require new ways of convening, innovations in training, or novel software tools. Often this work falls outside the scope of routine funding calls.

Accelerate Science’s funding programme will help fill this gap, offering small grants that can be deployed flexibly to start or scale interdisciplinary collaborations in the use of AI for research and innovation. This call is open to researchers from across disciplines at the University of Cambridge wanting to use AI to accelerate their research, and who would benefit from a small amount of funding to kick-start their work or catalyse new collaborations. Applications are invited via the form at this link by 17:00 on Wednesday 18 September 2024. For further details, check out the FAQs below, or email

This is the third annual call with 11 projects funded in 2023 and 9 projects funded by the first call in 2022. Successful projects have included convening a network of researchers working in applying AI in the early detection of cancer, a project using machine learning and natural language processing to predict the outcome of court litigation and research exploring how AI can be used in natural history collections to support viral surveillance.

We will be holding a funding Q and A event on Wednesday 5 June from 15:00 – 16:00 where we will answer your questions about the funding call and there will be an opportunity to talk to our Machine Learning Engineers about the technical aspects of your project. The session will take place in person in West 1 at the West Hub with no need to register in advance.

Apply here


Why have you launched this call?

The Accelerate Programme’s mission is to drive a step-change in research and innovation at Cambridge through the application of data science in AI. As part of that work, we are keen to support the use of AI to help progress the excellent research happening across the University. Interdisciplinary collaborations are vital to this mission, and the Cambridge Centre for Data-Driven Discovery brings together researchers and expertise from across the University with the aim of enhancing interdisciplinary research. Working together through this call we seek to support projects to start or scale interdisciplinary collaborations to deploy AI to tackle research and real-world challenges.

Who can apply?

Applications are open to any PhD students or members of staff at the University of Cambridge, working in any discipline, including natural, physical, social, medical, and computer sciences, arts, humanities, and engineering. PhD students are eligible to apply to the Accelerate-C2D3 funding call and need to ensure they have the approval of their PI and home department before submitting their application. Under the University guidelines, a named PI will be required to set up the funds in your home department, please ensure they are named in your application. Any queries about eligibility can be sent to

What kind of projects will be funded?

Proposals should be able to demonstrate a contribution to advancing the use of data science and AI for research or innovation. We’re interested in projects that have real-world application; this might include, for example, the use of AI to accelerate discovery in a specific research area, or the deployment of AI to tackle real-world challenges. We particularly encourage multidisciplinary proposals. Funding is suitable for projects or activities that can start immediately or in a short timescale and as such we expect to fund projects of no longer than 9-12 months in duration.

What funding can I apply for?

The intention of this call is to support projects across disciplines. We intend to support a number of successful applications, and will offer funding of up to £25,000. Applications for events and workshops will be capped at £15,000.

The amount of funding awarded will depend on the quality of the application and the number of applications received. We would encourage applications that cost less than the maximum set out above. If your idea costs more to deliver, it is likely better to get in touch before applying, so we can informally advise on feasibility: we have a limited budget and large funding requests will limit our ability to support other projects.

Applicants should work with their Department’s grants/finance team to prepare the budget details for their application to ensure projects are fully costed and are in line with University and Departmental policies. Successful projects may be asked to submit a draft X5 before funding can be confirmed.

What can funds be used for?

The focus of this programme is interdisciplinary collaboration that advances the application in research and real-world contexts. Within that remit, funding could be used for a variety of different activities, including research, staff time, events, workshops, conferences, teaching, software development, or research spin-up. Please note that applications for events will be capped at £15,000. We particularly encourage bids working across disciplines. Spending plans should be designed in line with the University’s financial policies, for example policies on travel, accommodation, and sustainability. For further information, please see the Finance Division guidance. If you have any questions about formulating your budget, please contact

What support can the Accelerate Programme and C2D3 offer?

As part of developing your proposal, the Accelerate team can offer assistance in sense-checking the technical feasibility of your project. Our AI Clinic will offer informal guidance on technical aspects of the work. If you’d like to access help from the Clinic please email the team on outlining the nature of your query. If you would like support from the clinic, please get in touch with us as early as possible to enable sufficient time for discussion before the funding deadline. The Machine Learning Engineering team will be offering a drop in session as part of the Funding Q and A on Wednesday 5 June.

The Clinic can also help resolve software engineering issues you encounter in your machine learning projects. You can get in touch using the contact information above.

As part of this funding scheme, C2D3 can offer administrative and organisational support for conferences, workshops, or other events. This could include venue arrangements, catering, hosting a webpage, delegate registration, or other operational aspects of event delivery. Depending on the nature of the project, C2D3 may also be able to offer support in the design and delivery of teaching activities.

How will my proposal be evaluated?

Applications will be reviewed by a panel and evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Strength of proposal in helping enhance interdisciplinary collaboration in the use of AI.
  • Contribution of the proposed activity to generating new insights in research or new applications of AI.
  • Potential to generate longer-term impact.

What terms and conditions are associated with this funding?

Standard University finance terms apply. All funded projects are asked to acknowledge the source of funding in project outputs. Funded projects will be asked to provide a short blogpost that describes the question they are interested in, why this matters, and what action is needed to make progress. The Accelerate team can provide a science writer to help produce this, if required. We’ll also ask for a short evaluation explaining how the funding has benefitted your work, to help us assess the impact of this funding. Community-building is central to our work, and we hope that researchers who benefit from this funding will become involved in supporting and growing the Accelerate community!

Over what timescale should research be carried out?

This funding is particularly suited to activities that can be initiated in the near-term, with the aim of scoping, setting-up, or scaling-up interdisciplinary activities. We expect projects of no longer than 9 -12 months in duration and project dates will be confirmed as part of award agreements. All projects funded under this call should be complete by 31 December 2025. Any unspent funds should be returned to the Accelerate Programme.

Key dates:

  • Call opens: Monday 20 May 2024
  • Funding Call Q and A session: Wednesday 5 June 2024, West Hub 15:00 - 16:00
  • Call closes: Wednesday 18 September 2024, 1 BST 17:00
  • Outcome communicated early October 2024
  • Earliest project start date: November 2024
  • All projects to be complete by: 31 December 2025

How can I apply?

To apply, please submit an application form by 17:00 on Wednesday 18 September.

What information is required for the application form?

The application form requests the following details:

Questions 1-3: Primary organiser for the application (please provide the name, role, department, and email address of the primary organiser who will act as point of contact for this application).

Questions 4-5: Partners involved in the proposed project (please provide the following details for collaborators involved in the application: name, role, department or institution, and indicate the current status of the partnership).

Question 6: Short project title

Question 7: Proposed project dates

Question 8: Project summary (briefly summarise the context for your project, the issue you will address, and your proposed intervention).

Question 9: Problem statement (please describe the problem or issue your activity is intended to address and the impact of that problem).

Question 10: Proposed solution (please describe how your proposed intervention will solve the problem set out above).

Question 11: Proposed approach (please describe what your intervention/activity is, how it works, and how you’ll get started).

Question 12: Desired outcomes (please describe what you hope to achieve with this work).

Question 13-14: Funding request (tell us how much funding you are requesting and provide a brief breakdown on headline areas of spend, for example: staffing, event organisation, bought-in services, equipment).

Question 15: Additional support from Accelerate or C2D3 (in this section, please advise whether you anticipate requiring any additional administrative or technical support from Accelerate or C2D3 to deliver your project, and what type of input would be helpful).

Answers to questions 8-15 should have a maximum word count of 300 words. Please note the word limits, in assessing applications we will consider the first 300 words of each response only.

For further questions, please contact