EPSRC Reviews Research Areas and Plans 2017/18 Calls

balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0
balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0
balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has today published a review of its “Balancing Capability” strategy.

This follows “extensive engagement” with the research community and forms the basis of its portfolio over the next five years. It includes a review of the 111 individual research areas which span the entire remit of EPSRC funding as well as a useful plan of forthcoming calls in 2017/18.

Nine research areas have been marked as “reduce“, including Chemical structure, Complexity science, Fuel cell technology and Medical imaging. 12 areas have been marked as “grow“, including Biophysics and soft matter physics, Electrical motors and drives, Materials for energy applications, Robotics and Pervasive and ubiquitous computing. The remaining 90 areas are all “maintain“. For more on what the grow-maintain-reduce distinction means in practice, check out this useful blog post from October 2016 by Professor Tom Rodden, Deputy CEO at EPSRC.

The planned 2017/18 calls include several in the area of ICT: Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security 2.0 (planned for Q4 2017/18), Human-like Computing (Q3 2017/18), and Cross-Disciplinary and Co-Creationary ICT-led Research (Q4 2016/17). There are also a number of planned Healthcare Technologies calls and two Global Challenges Research Fund calls planned in Q4 2016/17 and Q1 2017/18, titles of which are yet to be announced.

The high level framework for EPSRC’s approach has already been set out in its Strategic Plan (2015) and, more recently, its Delivery Plan 2016/17 – 2019/20, which sets out four “prosperity outcomes” which will shape its funding decisions: Productive Nation, Healthy Nation, Resilient Nation, and Connected Nation. After his arrival in post in 2014, EPSRC Chief Executive Professor Philip Nelson was keen to prioritise engagement with the research community on shaping future research priorities, especially following criticism that his predecessor, David Delpy. had made decisions on funding strategy without properly consulting researchers.

Whether and to what extent this five-year plan will be strengthened, altered or made redundant once Sir Mark Walport takes the reins at UKRI (expected to be active from April 2018) is an open question. Nevertheless, in the short term at least this review provides a useful focus for universities and academics who are preparing grant applications to EPSRC or delivering EPSRC-funded research.

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EPSRC Sandpit: New Industrial Systems

A day at BCIT aerospace technology campus by Mike CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A day at BCIT aerospace technology campus by Mike CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A day at BCIT aerospace technology campus by Mike CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

EPSRC is running an Ideas Factory Sandpit on New Industrial Systems in May 2017. The deadline for expressions of interest is 2nd March 2017.

New Industrial Systems Sandpit

What’s the theme?

The sandpit seeks to address the challenge of competitiveness in the future UK economy by focusing on manufacturing technologies and trends. Four research visions have been identified by the Manufacturing the Future theme:

  • Sustainable Industries (e.g. a future where business models take account of resource usage, resilience and security)
  • Digital Manufacturing (e.g. simulation and visualisation of design and manufacturing)
  • 21st Century Products (e.g. smart and multi-functional products)
  • New Industrial Systems, which sits at the intersection of the other three areas

The sandpit aims to build a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges in developing new industrial systems, identify a common language between disciplines, facilitate interactions between researchers and users, and identify and address the key research challenges in this area. It is expected that up to £5M of EPSRC funding will be made available to fund research projects arising from this sandpit.

Who should attend?

EPSRC give the following examples of disciplines which could apply to attend: engineering, design, materials science, physical sciences, mathematics, computer science, economics, social sciences, sustainability, life sciences, energy systems. Attendees need not have worked on the problem before and need not have previously secured EPSRC funding. The emphasis will be on people who are open to explore new ideas and connections with other disciplines.

What will happen at the sandpit?

The Sandpit event itself will take place over five days from 15-19 May 2017 at Stratford Manor, Stratford-upon-Avon. The events will draw on ideas from a broad range of disciplines so attendees should expect to be able to develop relationships with other participants and communicate concepts and ideas in a way that is understandable and engaging to those outside your immediate area.

There is more information in the guidance on how sandpits work, but they are generally very intensive and rewarding experiences which offer an excellent chance of securing funding (as this is restricted to attendees).

How do I apply?

The deadline for expressions of interest to attend the Sandpit is 2nd March 2017. 25-30 participants will be selected and must be available for the full five-day duration. To apply you will need to complete the EoI form on the call page.

Given the high likelihood of securing EPSRC funding as a result of sandpit attendance, these calls are often highly competitive. The assessment will be based on the ability to develop new, adventurous and highly original research; the potential to contribute to research at the interface between disciplines; the ability to work in a team; the ability to explain research to non-experts. You will need to give evidence of your ability to meet these criteria in the EoI.

Please contact your Faculty Research Funding and Policy Manager if you are interested in discussing this further.

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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.

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EPSRC: ICT Theme Early Career Workshops

Data imageThe Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has recently announced two two-day workshops for Early Career Researchers working in the area of Information and Communication Technologies. These are:

Sheffield (16-17 Feb 2017)

Cardiff (6-7 Mar 2017)

The workshops will provide an update to EPSRC and ICT Theme strategies and policies, and guidance on applying for grants. The workshops will be attended by a number of EPSRC staff but also by experienced academics from across the ICT portfolio who will provide guidance and mentoring throughout the two days. The events will include a number of facilitated sessions covering topics such as impact from research, career development and a number of new ICT Theme priorities. They will also include opportunities for networking with other ECR colleagues and the previously mentioned mentors.

All prospective attendees will need to complete a short EoI form to register interest in attending. This includes a short biography of career aspirations, primary area of research, why the workshop is of interest, and how you will disseminate information to colleagues at your institution. Each of these sections is a maximum of 100 words. You will need to complete the EoI by 24th November 2016 in order to be considered for a place at the workshops. EPSRC is looking for a balance between research organisations, areas, expertise and career stage, although they are primarily targeting this at “early career” researchers, which is usually up to 10 years post-doctorate, and typically those who have not yet been PI on a grant.

EPSRC will notify successful applicants in the w/c 12th December. The Research Council will cover costs of accommodation, but it will be up to participants to cover their own travel and subsistence costs.

Please get in touch with your Faculty RFPM if you’d like to discuss.

 

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EPSRC Future Photonics Hub Innovation Fund 2016

A light symphony by Kevin Dooley CC BY
A light symphony by Kevin Dooley CC BY

EPSRC has recently announced a call for research projects which add value to and support the objectives of the Future Photonics Hub: http://www.zeplerinstitute.ac.uk/events/innovationfund

Up to £250K is available which may be split among several proposals or awarded to a single proposal. Funding is based on usual EPSRC rules of 80% FEC. Proposal is via a two page application emails to contact@photonicshubuk.org.

The priority areas for the hub are:

  • High-performance silica optical fibres
  • Light generation and delivery
  • Silicon Photonics
  • Large-scale manufacture of metamaterials and 2D materials

Please contact your Faculty Research Funding and Policy Manager if you are interested in applying.

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EPSRC New Opportunities in Signal Processing: 2-day Workshop

256-color-dithering-with-irfanview-cc0EPSRC has recently announced a two-day workshop on new opportunities in signal processing. The idea is to open up research in signal processing into new areas and to gain insights from new disciplines. The list of topics they are looking it is very broad and covers many of the disciplines in Northumbria’s Faculty of Engineering and Environment:

  • Communications signal processing in particular in relation to the Internet of Things, 5G and beyond
  • Mathematics and statistics
  • Data science (including formation and enhancement, representation and modelling, and, understanding from data)
  • Machine learning
  • Image processing and computer vision
  • Visualisation and immersive technologies
  • Psychoacoustic and visual perception
  • audio (music, speech, environmental)

They are also looking for participants connected to application domains:

  • Healthcare (biostatistics, processing of medical data, data from sensors)
  • Earth sciences and remote sensing
  • Econometrics
  • Robotics and autonomous systems

Those interested in attending need to apply on the web form which asks how your research area fits with the theme of the workshop, and how it might be applied. EPSRC will provide funding for accommodation and subsistence, but not travel to attend the workshop, which will need to be covered from internal research funding (either PI’s personal research accounts or via UoA lead funding).

It is likely that attendance will be beneficial in terms of building academic networks and helping to shape the direction of funding policy in this area in future through EPSRC. Please contact your Faculty Research Funding and Policy Manager if you require assistance with the application form, or if you have any questions about the scheme.

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Innovate UK: Robotics and Autonomous Systems Call

Shadow Hand Bulb by Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias CC BY-SA 3.0
Shadow Hand Bulb by Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias CC BY-SA 3.0

Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council are joining forces to fund industrially relevant research on robotics and autonomous systems.

The call is open now and the deadline for applications is 26th October 2016 (but be aware that as with most Innovate UK calls, you need to register a week beforehand, by the 19th October).

Robots that are independent of human control can learn, adapt and take decisions. These could revolutionise our economy and society over the next 20 years. Disruptive technologies related to robotics and autonomous systems include mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, advanced robotics, and automated and autonomous vehicles.

We are particularly interested in projects that address one or more of the following:

  • system and system-of-systems engineering
  • system verification, validation and certification
  • design and manufacturing of robotic systems
  • multi-sensor system integration, data fusion and perception
  • control systems for remotely controlled or unmanned system operation
  • cognitive systems for autonomous system behaviour
  • human–robot interaction
  • robot–robot interaction
  • dependability, longevity and safety
  • actuation and locomotion
  • navigation, task and motion planning
  • software systems, architectures and tools

There are two funding streams:

  • Stream 1 is for projects of up to £100k and must be SME-led thought they can be collaborative with other businesses and research organisations (e.g. universities).
  • Stream 2 is for projects of £100k + and can be led by a larger business or SME. At least one SME must be involved in the consortium and research organisations can also take part.

In both streams the maximum contribution for research participants is 30% of the overall costs. If there is more than one research organisation participating this must be split between them. There are varying levels of contribution depending on the type of project (earlier stage technical feasibility or closer to market experimental development) and the size of business. Research organisations get the standard 80% of FEC as per normal Innovate UK/RCUK rules. Further details are in the competition guidance. There’s also a briefing webinar on 27th July which interested applicants should register to attend (only 20 tickets remaining at the time of posting!).

Northumbria staff: please get in touch if you are interested in applying.

 

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