ESRC Retail Sector Initiative 2013

This call is now closed and the page is for reviewer information only.

ESRC is pleased to launch a £2.5 million initiative for collaborative projects to undertake research and knowledge exchange activities that will maximise the impact of social and economic research on the retail sector. We will also be working with the Technology Strategy Board to engage with the 4000 businesses in its community, and to deliver a programme of retail-themed Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.


The UK retail sector is an important part of the economy and has a profound impact on the whole of our society. Valued at over £300 billion, it is equivalent to 20 per cent of UK GDP, accounts for one in 12 companies and employs one in nine working people. The sector now faces a number of economic, social and environmental challenges, not least the global economic slowdown, the changing nature of the UK high street and the impact technological innovations.

The ESRC Retail Sector Initiative is an important step for the ESRC in building collaborative activities with the private sector, and is part of our commitment to encourage research that directly affects business. We have already funded a Retail Knowledge Navigator Team who have successfully identified opportunities to further connect researchers to stakeholders in the retail sector and a Retail Data Knowledge Navigator Team which continue to explore ways for retailers and academics to collaborate to make better use of data infrastructures.

Retail is an exciting sector for ESRC engagement; the importance of the UK retail sector to society and the economy means that research on and with the sector plays into all three of our strategic priorities. Retail is one of the few sectors with a presence in every neighbourhood; neighbourhoods are underpinned by retail as a provider of employment and skills development and the local town centre is often a focal point for community activity. Understanding the behaviours of individual people, communities and organisations is key to understanding the challenges now facing the retail sector. As the UK recovers from recession, and attention turns to how sustainable growth can be built at local, regional and national levels, the importance of research into the position of retail and how the sector might meet the challenges and opportunities of the future becomes ever more important.


Applicants to the ESRC Retail Sector Initiative can apply for the following:

Applicants should consider which aspect of the initiative is most appropriate for their proposed activities. Applicants can apply for funding from all aspects of the initiative, if this is considered appropriate to support a portfolio of distinct activities. However, applicants applying for both KTP and ESRC Retail Knowledge Exchange Opportunity funding should ensure their proposals can stand alone and are not dependent on both applications being successful.

The table below shows the key features of the Retail Knowledge Exchange Opportunities and the Retail Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Feature Knowledge Exchange Opportunities Knowledge Transfer Partnership
Project costs Up to £200,000 Typically around £60,000 per year
Required partnership funding At least 50 per cent of project costs, in kind or cash contributions For an SME, typically around 33 per cent project costs, cash contributions
Duration Up to 12 months Up to 36 months
Call commitment £2 million £500,000
Eligible partners Private sector, public sector and civil society organisations Private sector organisations working with a university or an RTO
Overview Supports a flexible package of knowledge exchange activities to promote the application of social science KTP offers businesses the opportunity to work in partnership with an academic institution to obtain knowledge and expertise to which they currently have no access, to address their business challenges and embed sustainable innovation. The knowledge sought is embedded into the company through a project or projects undertaken by a recently qualified person (known as the KTP Associate) recruited specifically to work on that project

Retail Sector Initiative Partner Database

We are keen to help broker links between retail stakeholders interested in the Retail Sector Initiative. The Retail Sector Initiative Partner Database (PDF, 155KB) aims to help stakeholders find appropriate partners by providing details of research interests and contact details so participants foster direct links. Academics and private, public and civil society organisations interested in finding suitable partners can register their interests on the Partner Database by emailing their name, organisation, email details, web link, a brief overview (maximum 100 words) of their research specialism/interest and finally details those they wish to link with. Emails should be entitled Retail Sector Partner Database details and sent to 

Further information

On 28 February 2013, we held a launch event for the Retail Sector initiative.

Speakers' presentations can be downloaded below:

For further information on the initiative please contact: