This call is now invitation only. The following is for information only.

The Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) call is a comprehensive and concerted research initiative to boost research on transformations to sustainability, and catalyse new kinds of solutions to environmental and social challenges.

Climate change, environmental degradation and resource pressures have created unprecedented situations for societies worldwide. In particular, Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) are likely to be disproportionately affected by this. Attempts to tackle the challenges associated with sustainability through conventional knowledge and capacity building have had some positive impacts, but are ultimately not fully adequate.

Consequently, there is growing attention to the need for more fundamental transformations in the way societies interact with each other and with the natural environment as the basis for sustainability. Societal transformations refer to profound and enduring systemic changes that typically involve social, cultural, technological, political, economic, and environmental processes.

T2S will be implemented as a Belmont Forum Collaborative Research Action (CRA) in cooperation with the NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funding Agencies Cooperation in Europe) network and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).

The programme is supported by funding agencies from Belgium, Brazil, Chinese Taipei, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA, and has secured additional top-up funding from the European Commission. The ISSC is participating with dedicated funding for low- and lower-middle-income countries. Researchers from low- and middle-income countries are also eligible as co-investigators on projects funded by the ESRC, who  will be representing the UK in this partnership.


The programme is structured around three themes:

  1. Governance and institutional dimensions of transformations to sustainability
  2. Economy and finance of transformations to sustainability
  3. Wellbeing, quality of life, identity, and social and cultural values in relation to transformations to sustainability.

Proposals must address one or more of the three call themes, and must involve at least three national research teams, eligible to the funding of three different T2S funders (see call for proposals document for details). In order to be eligible for ESRC funding, in addition to the UK team the project team should involve at least one other national research team eligible for funds provided by the European Commission (see Appendix 1 of the call for proposals). The total funding requested from the T2S partners must not exceed €1,500,000 across all participating countries.


Call documents

Please read all of the call documents when preparing your application. These documents are available on the NORFACE website.

We have also produced some FAQS (PDF, 156Kb)  to help UK applicants with their proposals.

How to apply

Proposals to the T2S research programme will be processed in two stages. The first stage, the outline stage has now closed. Only those who have successfully passed the assessment stage and shortlisted process will be able continue to the second stage.

Full proposals

Following an assessment and shortlisting process, the ‘Main Applicants’ (principal investigators) of successful outline proposals will then be invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals are invited with a deadline of 17:00 (EST) / 21:00 (GMT) on 26 September 2017.

UK requirements

In addition to the core call requirements, UK-led research teams must also adhere to the UK-specific requirements. UK-led research teams can apply for up to €500,000 per project. The team must be led by a principal investigator based at an eligible research organisation in the UK. The ESRC will fund the UK costs at a rate of 80% of the full Economic Cost (fEC), unless otherwise stated, as per standard ESRC policy.


The ESRC’s contribution to this call is being funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). As such, applicants must clearly demonstrate how the ESRC-funded components of the project meet ODA requirements through the ‘Summary of the Project’ and ‘Project Description’ sections of their Full Proposal. An ODA compliance statement is also required to accompany the Full Proposal.

The definition of ODA eligible research provided by the OECD makes clear that the primary purpose must be to promote the economic growth or welfare of developing countries (see Converged DAC Statistical Reporting Directives).

All ESRC-funded components of T2S proposals must make a clear case for how they comply with ODA guidelines. When applying to this call it is important applicants take time to consider whether or not their proposal is ODA compliant. In order to be considered eligible for funding, all ESRC-funded components of proposals must demonstrate that their main objective is the promotion of the economic development and welfare of countries on the DAC list.

In particular ESRC would like to emphasise the following points:  

  • The ODA compliance decision relates to any ESRC-funded components of the research and not to the entire T2S proposal. Therefore proposals where a UK team would conduct a UK-case study with the intention to producing substantial impacts within the UK, whilst colleagues outside of the UK conducted case studies relating to DAC list countries would not be eligible.  
  • To be ODA compliant the principal motivation of the UK component must be to directly benefit a country or countries on the DAC list, and the key/principal beneficiaries of the research should be located in a DAC list country or countries.
  • It is fine for research to take place outside of a DAC list country or for components to include a comparative element as long as the principal motivation is to benefit a DAC list country or countries. (It is also fine for research projects to have secondary impacts outside of eligible countries).
  • To be compliant a component must address development challenges in an eligible country or countries and be likely to contribute directly to their economic development and/or welfare.  Impacts should be targeted at specific DAC list countries and should not depend on the trickle down of a global public good.     

Each proposal must also include a mandatory attachment which explicitly demonstrates how it meets key ODA requirements. The ‘ODA Compliance Statement’ for T2S proposals with UK Principal Investigators or Co-Investigators must answer the following four questions in order:


  1. Which country / countries on the DAC list will directly benefit from the ESRC-funded components of this proposal?
  2. How are the ESRC-funded components of your proposal directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of these countries?
  3. How do you expect that the outcome of your proposed ESRC-funded activities will promote the economic development and welfare of a country or countries on the DAC list?
  4. What research and knowledge exchange activities will the UK investigators be delivering within the overall project?  Please summarise the UK team’s involvement in the various work packages and outline which elements of the research they will lead and/or contribute to.  

Applicants should ensure they have considered existing advice on ODA requirements. Any queries about ODA eligibility should be raised with ESRC by emailing:

The ESRC reserves the right to reject applications that do not meet the ODA criteria, both during the outline and full proposal application stages. The final assessment of ODA compliance may include input from the commissioning panel as well as external sources of ODA expertise. We expect applicants to refer closely to ODA guidance as part of preparing the ESRC-funded components of the proposal.


Academic co-investigators from established international research organisations (outside of the participating country partners) can be included in the research teams, subject to meeting the requirements outlined in ESRC’s guidance on inclusion of international co-investigators.

Business, third sector or government body co-investigators based in the UK can also be included in UK-led projects under this call, in accordance with ESRC policy.

Further information on requirements and restrictions for co-investigators can be found in the UK annex of the call for proposals document.

Standard ESRC research funding terms and conditions apply to this call.