NCCPE’s Community University Partnership Initiative (CUPI) comes to Birmingham this July

The Community University Partnership Initiative (CUPI) supports community organisations (including community businesses, charities, social enterprises, and voluntary organisations) and university researchers to create trusting and useful research collaborations which benefit all the partners involved.

Relevance to me

The project will support community based organisations and businesses who are seeking to make a difference in their community. This may take many forms such as providing services, running local facilities, connecting people, encouraging and supporting participation in public life, and much more.

CUPI offers community organisations and universities, a chance to meet to explore if and how they could work together. Potential partnerships, emerging from these meetings, can then apply for small grants to help cover the cost of exploring their ideas to develop research projects together. Following this phase, there is a second opportunity for partnerships to apply for funding to take their projects forward, with support from the NCCPE to help identify other sources of potential project funding too.

Positive collaborations between university researchers and community partners are an exciting way to share and develop new knowledge that can benefit society, whilst also helping those involved to develop new insights and skills and make new connections to enhance their work.

How does it work?

The project follows a tried and tested formula (based on the Museum-University Partnership Initiative), and includes:

  • 4 regional networking events hosted by the NCCPE to bring together university researchers and community organisations based in these areas. Individuals from community organisations and universities apply to participate in the event.
  • Each match events hosts a maximum of 20 community business/organisation representatives and 20 researchers/university staff.
  • Each event provides lots of opportunity for delegates to meet one another, share ideas, and consider potential opportunities to work together.
  • At each event small grants of £500 to £1000 are available for ‘thinking time’. Teams of community partners and academics, working together, bid for funding to give them the time and space to finesse their plans and put together follow up funding bids.
  • Up to £7000 in total is available for thinking funding at each event with each new partnership able to request up to £1000.
  • Teams can then bid for a second pot of money (up to 5k) to either develop or deliver their project, with unsuccessful bidders being offered support to find alternative funding routes to support their partnership.
  • NCCPE provides support for all projects teams, offering advice, links to others working in similar areas of work, and signposting opportunities to get support for their project.
  • NCCPE brings project teams together to distil learning from the matching and support process to enhance support for community university partnership work in the future.

Benefits of participating

  • Opportunity for individuals and organisations involved to better understand the potential and experience the benefits of working together
  • Chance to find potential partners to enhance your work and spend time developing project ideas together
  • Opportunity to secure seed funding to help kick start and support mutually beneficial partnership working.

Project outcomes

  • A range of successful research partnerships which makes a difference to the communities involved (through either creating new useful knowledge, or applying existing research effectively)
  • Rich insight and learning on community university partnerships, for the projects, funders and the wider sector to inform their work

Who can get involved?

  • Each CUPI Match event is held in a specific geographical region, to enable partnerships to develop within that region. Therefore we invite participation from academics and individuals from community organisations who identify with that region e.g. through being based there, or working alongside people who live there.
  • Community organisations of any size, including community businesses, charities, voluntary organisations, volunteer led organisations etc. Please note that organisations need to be legally constituted to apply. If you have any questions about your eligibility, please contact
  • University academics or researchers from any discipline, at any stage of their career, who are interested in working in collaborations with those from community organisations including community businesses
  • Please note, funding is only available for partnerships developed at the event, which include a representative from a community organisation or community business and a representative from a university.


We are currently accepting applications for the CUPI match events. It’s important to provide as much information in your application as possible, but don’t worry if you haven’t identified a specific topic, an indication of the areas you may be interested in will provide a starting platform.

Any research idea will be considered, including applying existing research and developing new knowledge. For example partnerships might seek to: assess the value of a community business; support business development; understand community needs; develop evidence based interventions; apply research in practice etc. Seed corn grants of up to £1000 are available to support partnership development.

Please note that applying for a match event does not guarantee your place. We will be back in touch 3 weeks before the event to confirm whether applicants have been successful.

The CUPI approach is based on the successful MUPI programme – which found that a regional focus helped ensure people found relevant people to work with. The 4 pilot match events will be taking place in England, in line with Power to Changes remit, however applications are open to those from across the UK who identify with the geographical area of the match event. Following evaluation of the pilot programme, we will seek funding to enable us to develop more comprehensive coverage across the UK.  

Apply for the Newham, London or Birmingham match event for the opportunity to create a new partnership, access funding and explore getting a research idea off the ground.


The Community University Partnership Initiative is jointly funded by Power to Change, an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community business in England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the AHRC-led Connected Communities Programme and as a part of the follow-up to the Programme’s Creating Living Knowledge Report.

Find out more

To find out more information, please contact