Last week I traveled down to Leeds to take part in the RCUK Energy ProgrammeRegional 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.
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:
Early Career Fellowships
All Energy Proposals
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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, 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.
In preparation for the Horizon 2020Call 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.