Contestable Policy Fund

What it is and how to get involved with the bidding process for contestable policy projects.

The Civil Service Reform Plan introduced the Ministerial Contestable Policy Fund to give ministers direct access to external policy advice through a centrally managed match fund. Projects funded through this Fund seek to commission high quality advice from outside the civil service on ministers’ priority policy areas; draw directly on the thinking, evidence and insight of external experts; and achieve a potentially broader and more radical range of options than ministers would receive internally.

About the Fund

Ministers can bid directly for funding to commission specific pieces of policy development from external organisations such as think tanks, academic or voluntary organisations. They must match any funding they receive from the Fund with resources from their department. The Fund will run for 3 years, starting in June 2012, and provide funding of £500,000 per year, subject to financial approvals.

Application process

Ministers submit applications for external policy advice to the Secretariat for the Fund, run by the Open Policy Making team at the Cabinet Office. Ministers can request funding to match the resources committed to the project by their department, up to a value of £50,000. Applications will be submitted for review to the Minister for Government Policy and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Procurement and project management

If an application is successful, the commissioning minister will oversee the procurement process which will be run according to usual departmental processes. The contractor will report directly to the minister on the basis of its work. The civil service will continue to provide policy advice in parallel to this.

How to get involved

All projects will be procured through departmental processes. External organisations can respond to invitations to tender.

Projects funded

The following projects were part funded by the Ministerial Contestability Policy Fund between June 2012 and June 2015.

Year 1

Dept Title Status
CO Accountability in the Civil Service Complete – published
BIS Research into the uses and limitations of metrics and models for performance measurement in decision-making by long-term investors Complete – published
DECC Green deal consent barriers Complete – Invitation to Tender (ITT)
DWP/DH Psychological wellbeing and work Complete – published
DECC Understanding the economic and wider benefits of integrating demand reduction, demand response, and distributed energy Complete – published
DWP Access to Advocacy Complete – Contracts Finder
DWP The Local Community Challenge Complete – Contracts Finder
Defra Maximising revenue sources for English National Park Authorities and AONBs Complete – Defra Research Projects
DCLG/CO Funded public service pension schemes – the scope for reform Complete – published

Year 2

Dept Title Status
DFE Improving the market for online courses Complete – published
DFE Improving maths skills in the vocational sector post 16 Complete – published
DCLG Increasing the supply of suitable housing for older people Complete – Demos announcement
CO Removing blockages to the most talented women succeeding in the Civil Service Complete – published
DfT/CO General aviation Complete – published
BIS Business Focus on Enforcement Ongoing
DWP Assisted Living Products for disabled people Closed

Year 3

Dept Title Status
MoJ Youth Offending Teams review Complete – published
DH Children and adolescent mental health services: service user engagement Complete – published

If you would like further information about the Ministerial Contestable Policy Fund, please contact

Published 19 February 2013
Last updated 22 July 2015 + show all updates
  1. Updated completed project: Youth Offending Teams review

  2. Updated projects list.

  3. Updated with details of projects funded between June 2012 and June 2015.

  4. Information added on the level of funding and the first use of the Contestable Policy Fund.

  5. First published.