How to apply

Who should apply?

Applications to the Archives Testbed Fund can come from all parts of the archive sector including local authority, university, charity, and business archives, as long as the following eligibility criteria can be met:

  • The organisation must hold and manage an archive collection
  • The organisation must make their collections accessible to people outside their organisation
  • The organisation must have access to professional archive expertise
  • The organisation must have the potential to be an Accredited Archive Service, if they are not already accredited
  • The parent organisation must submit a letter of support for the project and grant application
  • The organisation must provide 10% of the required funding in cash or in-kind support
  • This fund can only make awards to organisations based in England. Archive services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not currently eligible for the Collaborate and Innovate programme.

Why should you apply?

The Archives Testbed Fund supports innovation and the development and testing of ideas that could lead to change for the individual archive and/or the sector more widely.

We would like to encourage archives to formulate ideas based on their own skills and experience. Any of the following could be funded through the Archives Testbed Fund:

  • Archives may have identified a problem in some aspect of their service that they have an idea about how to solve
  • Archives may want to investigate a different method for a common process to see if it would be more efficient
  • Archives may have discovered a potential new service that needs further exploration to determine if it can be realistically delivered

We encourage archives to be creative and imaginative to identify an idea they wish to develop. The idea could be simple or radical – but it should have the potential to bring about positive change in the archive organisation and beyond.

We have produced an inspiration guide for the Archives Testbed Fund (PDF, 0.24MB) which archives may find helpful when identifying or streamlining their ideas. Please note that in round 6 you can apply for up to £10,000 rather than the usual £5,000.

The only limitations of the fund are that we are unable to fund projects to undertake cataloguing or carry out a scoping assessment, as these are already funded by the Archives Revealed programme. We will also not fund activities which are considered to be the core work of the archive service, or prospect analysis work as part of a fundraising strategy.

Themed rounds

For some rounds of the Archives Testbed fund we adopt a themed approach. This helps us to direct support to the archive sector in areas where specific needs have been identified. Any project, whether it fits within the theme or not, is welcome to apply. Themes are in place to encourage thinking around the ideas presented. Themes have been selected to ensure that applications will be able to demonstrate clear innovation and impact on the archive service and wider sector, and therefore all applications in the round will be assessed using the same criteria. No additional weighting will be given to projects that align with the theme.

Find out more about themed rounds

Please feel free to contact us at candi@nationalarchives.gov.uk to discuss your Archive Testbed idea, whether it comes under either of the above themes, or is something entirely different.

How to apply

To submit an Archives Testbed Fund application please:

If you have any questions that aren’t answered by the FAQs or application guidance, please contact us at candi@nationalarchives.gov.uk.