RCUK Energy Programme Regional Meeting – Notes and Observations

Hybrid system by Nenad Kajić
Hybrid system by Nenad Kajić CC BY-SA
Hybrid System by Nenad Kajić CC BY-SA

Last week I traveled down to Leeds to take part in the RCUK Energy Programme Regional Meeting. Although this was billed as a Research Councils UK event, EPSRC were definitely running the show, with an hour of the morning session dedicated to a presentation by Kathryn Magnay, Energy Theme Lead at EPSRC and most of the afternoon devoted to breakout sessions on different topics by various EPSRC Portfolio and Programme Managers.

The Energy Programme is a cross-Council collaborative effort to “position the UK to meet its energy and environmental targets and policy goals through high quality research and postgraduate training.” Alongside EPSRC, which leads the theme, BBSRC, STFC, NERC and ESRC are also involved in co-funding some programmes, as well as Innovate UK and BEIS.

Apart from EPSRC input, there were nine short presentations from Northern universities, including Leeds, Sheffield, York, Newcastle, Durham, and Northumbria. These gave a brief snapshot of energy-related research activity at the respective institutions and suggested that there is a diverse and thriving programme of research in this area.

Key messages:

  • The Energy theme will shift from predominantly managed calls to responsive mode funding. The EPSRC’s Council has a target of 60% Energy theme funding to be driven by the research community via responsive mode grant applications by the end of the delivery plan. However, there are no plans to establish separate panels for Energy themed applications. Normally they will be considered by Engineering panels (or Physical Sciences/Materials where this is the main focus). At the moment, the Energy applications will be ranked in the same ordered list as other types of proposals, but if there is sufficient demand then EPSRC will consider setting up a separate list for Energy themed bids.
  • EPSRC staff gave an overview of the three main responsive mode grant schemes: Standard Grants, Fellowship Grants, and First Grants: Standard grants are often collaborative and in the region of £500k – £1.2M, although smaller and larger values are possible; Fellowships support the development of future research leaders; First Grants are small short grants designed to kickstart your research career as an independent academic.
  • There was a summary of success rates for various schemes compared with all proposals submitted to the Energy theme:
    Establish Fellowships 60%
    Early Career Fellowships 22%
    Postdoctoral Fellowships 21%
    Standard Grants 37%
    First Grants 29%
    All Energy Proposals 35%
  • A session dedicated to Fellowships emphasized the focus is on the candidate and their potential for future leadership, and that the Fellowship should enable you to achieve your personal research vision, your “niche”, and that you should have the ambition to build a team around you and also engage with the public/media. There is up to 12 months allowed in a Fellowship for a secondment to another academic institution or industry. EPSRC would like to see more Fellowship applications in the Energy theme.
  • Equality and diversity is a major priority for this theme following the revelation that only 11% of PIs funded through the Energy theme are female. To help achieve this, there will be a “Diversity Challenge Call” of up to £5M for projects which demonstrate a step-change in the community towards E&D. A call for outline proposals will open in July 2017 and EPSRC will be looking for institutional-level bids.
  • The EPSRC’s recently completed Balancing Capability exercise was pitched as a chance to “create space for new activities”. With regards to the “grow, reduce, maintain” labels, participants were encouraged to read the underpinning description which is unique for each of the 111 research areas and reveals the strategy for each area. Of the energy-related areas, it was noted that “Storage” and “Materials for Energy Applications” are both labelled “Grow”, while “Fuel Cells” is “Reduce”.
  • There are likely to be more Energy-related opportunities available through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, for which priority areas are currently being finalised. Three relevant challenge areas are “New energy technologies”, “Integrated and Sustainable Cities” and “Robotics and Artificial Intelligence”, which has a focus on battery research.

EPSRC: Feasibility Study in Energy Research

Solar Panel 2 by Mike Baker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Solar Panel 2 by Mike Baker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council have just announced a new scheme open to UK academic staff to submit feasibility studies underpinning science and engineering energy research.

Feasibility Studies in Energy Research

Proposers should examine a topic within EPSRC’s Energy remit, review past and current activity, and identify key research challenges that need to be addressed. The proposed research must be novel, innovative, have the potential to lead to high impact outcomes and strengthen the UK’s position in within the international energy community.

Up to £3M is available for the call and each proposal can be a maximum of £200k. There is a strong steer in the call document that any potential project should be aligned with UK energy strategy as reflected by national level groups and organisations such as Supergen Hubs, End Use Energy Demand Centres, UK Energy Research Centre, Energy Technologies Institute and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  Submissions must also demonstrate collaborations with established energy groups/organisations (academia, industry, non-governmental organisations, Government etc.) who are willing to support the research proposal and provide a potential route for exploitation.

This call operates a pre-proposal EoI stage, deadline 8th December 2016, and the EoI form is available on the EPSRC website. The full proposal deadline is 5th January 2017, but proposals which have not submitted an EoI will be office rejected.

Please get in touch with your Faculty RFPM at an early stage if you’d like to discuss a bid to this call.


Horizon 2020 Energy Infodays

European Flag by CoreMedia CC BY 2
European Flag by CoreMedia CC BY 2

If you are interested in applying to any of the recently opened calls relating to Energy Efficiency you should check out the presentations and video recordings from two recent Horizon 2020 Information Days.

On Monday 19th September, there was an infoday on calls in the 2017 Work Programme on Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy. The infoday was structured around 8 sessions relevant to different stakeholders and interests: Industry, ICT, Public Authorities, Consumers and products, Financing, Project Development, Heating and Cooling and Preparing and Excellent Proposal. You can find all of the presentations on the Executive Agency for SMEs website.

On Tuesday 20th September, there was an Energy Research Virtual Information Day on remaining calls for proposals for Competitive Low-Carbon Energy. The presentations covered topics such as: Renewable Energy Technologies, Energy research with social sciences and humanities, All you need to know about evaluation, and some tips on preparing and submitting proposals. You can find all of the presentations on the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency website.


Virtual Information Day on Horizon 2020 Energy Societal Challenge Calls, 20th September

clean fuelA virtual information day will be held on 20th September for potential applicants to the calls for project proposals under the 2016-2017 Horizon 2020 Work programme ‘Secure, clean and efficient energy’. Presentations by European Commission speakers will cover:

  • Relevant Horizon 2020 topics that will open for submission in 2016, in particular the novelties and changes in the updated Work Programme;
  • Submission and evaluation process;
  • Best practices from successful applicants.

The Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy Challenge is based on the following research areas:

  • Reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint
  • Low-cost, low-carbon electricity supply
  • Alternative fuels and mobile energy sources
  • A single, smart European electricity grid
  • New knowledge and technologies
  • Robust decision making and public engagement
  • Market uptake of energy and ICT innovation.

You need to register in advance in order to participate in the info day.


UK-Gulf Institutional Links

The British Council has recently announced funding opportunities for UK-Gulf country (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) institutional links around various research areas, including energy, cybersecurity, water, food and nutrition. Grants range from £50k – £400k for up to two years, starting in Spring 2017. The funding can be used to establish new links or develop existing links between research groups, departments or institutions, with potential for longer term sustainability. The deadline has recently been extended to October 7th.


EU Energy Focus: Horizon 2020 Energy Calls and more in latest bulletin

Solar Panel 2 by Mike Baker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Solar Panel 2 by Mike Baker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

EU Energy Focus, which acts as the UK National Contact Point for Horizon 2020 Energy related calls, has recently published its latest newsletter. This includes information about current and forthcoming Horizon 2020 calls on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen, low carbon energy technology, smart grids, and energy efficiency.

EU Energy Focus provide advice and guidance on all relevant calls in Horizon 2020 to UK participants. They also offer to review draft proposals to ensure they are a good fit for the call remit and to offer suggestions on partners, topics, wording etc.

You can read it below or at this link:


Horizon 2020 Webinar on 21st January 2016: Calls for Low Carbon Energy

In preparation for the Horizon 2020 Call deadline (16th February 2016 ) for some Low Carbon Energy topics, the EU Energy Focus Team and the Knowledge Transfer Network will deliver a seminar on 21st January 2016 from 11am until 12 noon. The webinar will focus on how to address the evaluation criteria effectively and will include examples of evaluator feedback from the previous Call for Proposals.

To register for the webinar and view the list of topics, please click here.



Horizon2020 Webinars on Energy Efficiency

The Knowledge Transfer Netowrk and the EU Energy Focus group will deliver the following webinar series to highlight future opportunities in Horizon2020 Energy:

Webinar 1, 2 October 2015 – Energy Efficiency

Webinar 2, 5 October 2015 – Low Carbon Energy including research on photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, wind, ocean, hydropower, geothermal, biofuel and carbon capture and storage 

Webinar 3, 6 October 2015 – Integrated Energy System and Smart Cities and Communities


Further information and registration at this link.




Presentations available from Energy Work Programme: 2016-17 Information Day

This event took place 14-15 September and the programme included sessions on

  • the Energy Union
  • the updated Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET)
  • the role of the Executive Agencies
  • cross-cutting issues such as international cooperation and social sciences and humanities
  • the InnovFin Energy Demonstration Project (EDP) Facility


The  three main focus areas of this energy challenge event were:


Presentations for the 2016-2017 Horizon 2020 work programme ‘Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy’ are now available here.

Further details from the event are now available here.



UK Energy Research Centre – call for proposals


Reminder: expressions of interest due by 5pm, Friday 10 July

The UK Energy Research Centre invites proposals for its first research fund call. This supports projects focusing on the following two topics: incumbent energy systems and infrastructures; equity and justice in current and future energy systems.

Researchers based in UK higher education institutions, research council institutes and centres, and independent research organisations approved by any of the research councils, may apply. Organisations that are not eligible to receive funding from the research councils may participate as project partners. Collaborative and interdisciplinary proposals are encouraged.

The total budget for this call is £1 million. Projects are expected to start by 1 January 2016 for period of one to three years.

Expressions of interest due by 5pm, 10 July;

Full proposals are invited between 24 July and 4pm, 18 September 2015.

More information available here