Research for the Benefit of SMEs – Project Workshop 17th September

Your research could meet the needs of SMEs

Research for the Benefit of SMEs is a European funding programme with a budget of €250M which supports research and technological development to meet the needs of SMEs across Europe. This is done by subcontracting research and development activities to RTD performers (e.g. universities).

It is a “bottom up” opportunity, which means that any research discipline is eligible for funding as long as it meets an SME need and provides an economic benefit for the companies involved. Projects typically involve between 5-10 partners across Europe, with at least 3 SMEs and 2 RTD performers. They usually have a duration of 1-2 years and have a budget of between €500K-€1.5M each. The deadline for the current round is November 15th 2012.

Sounds good. How do I find out more?

Research and Business Services have organised a project workshop on Research for SMEs on Monday 17th September between 10am and 2.30pm. It will take place in the auditorium on the ground floor of MEA House. To book a place please contact Emma Lindsay.

At this workshop Steve Bradley (the UK’s national contact point for Research for SMEs) and Stuart Jackson (from Enterprise Europe Network) will discuss the opportunities available, how to find partners and outline what you need to do to secure funding. Attendance is strongly encouraged to find out about the call and to take advantage of the support available to you. Further information is available in the workshop invitation [.docx].

What support is available to help me find partners and develop the bid?

Northumbria is making available funding and a support team to help you put together a proposal targeting this scheme. This includes:

  • Funding for a PhD or postdoc to co-write the application with your input
  • Buy-out of academic staff time to supervise proposal development
  • An external consultant to provide detailed bid guidance and mentoring throughout the bid development process
  • A joint RBS/Faculty team to coordinate partner searches, manage proposal development, internal approval, electronic submission
  • Travel funding (if necessary) for a partner meeting in Europe

This support will be available to help develop 3-4 proposals for the scheme with good potential. For this call it is available for proposals involving staff from the Faculty of Engineering and Environment. Find out more by coming along to the workshop.


Starting and Advanced Investigators: ERC information and bid writing events

UKRO has issued a reminder about three remaining information and bid writing events for ERC Starting and Advanced Investigator grants:

  • University College London (UCL), Wednesday 5th September 2012
  • University of Glasgow, Wednesday 12th September 2012
  • Natural History Museum (NHM), London, Tuesday 16th October 2012 (Advanced Grants only)

The deadline for the Starting Grants is 17th October while the Advanced Grants call closes on 22nd November. If you’re planning on submitting a bid to either of these schemes you’re strongly encouraged to attend one of these sessions if you haven’t already. You can book online via the UKRO NCP portal:

Each session will provide participants with an overview of the ERC Starting Grants orAdvanced Grants schemes. Participants should gain a deeper understanding of the proposal format and the key issues they are required to address in planning, writing and costing an ERC Grant proposal. There will also be an opportunity to ask some questions. Attendance will be free of charge, thanks to the support from the organisations hosting the events.


AHRC: European Proposal Support Fund

If you’re a researcher in the arts and humanities interested in putting together funding for an FP7 proposal you can now access funding from the AHRC to cover travel, subsistence and meeting costs related to bid development:

AHRC: European Proposal Support Fund

Funding for up to £10,000 (non-FEC) is available to help with costs solely relating to development of applications – it’s not intended to support small research projects or scoping studies. The primary target is bids to the FP7 Socio-Economic Sciences and Humanities Work Programme and one of the funding criteria is the fit of your proposed project to the work programme priorities. If you want to use it to apply to an EC funding scheme outside of the SSH strand of FP7 you’ll need to talk to the AHRC before submitting your proposal to this fund.

Marie Curie and ERC funding actions are ineligible for this call, which reflects the fact that the focus here is on building up multi-partner proposals with collaborators across several member states.

The deadline is 21st August 2012. Contact us for support if you’re interested in submitting an application.


ARTEMIS 2012 Call: Embedded Systems

The ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking, a European public-private partnership for research funding in embedded systems, has just released its 2012 call for funding. The deadline for full proposals is 6th September 2012.

You can read a summary of the call on the ARTEMIS 2012 call page. Full details can be found on the EU Participant Portal call page – you should read Work Programme Part A if you’re interested in the sub-programmes (areas of research around real-world applications of embedded systems) and Part B if you’re interested in the innovation pilot projects (technology development for user and business needs in the area of embedded systems).

Areas of Interest

The sub-programmes are (see Work Programme Part A for a full explanation of what is expected in each area):

Methods and processes for safety-relevant embedded systems
Embedded Systems for Healthcare and Wellbeing
Embedded systems in Smart environments
Embedded Systems for manufacturing and process automation
Computing platforms for embedded systems
Embedded Systems for Security and Critical Infrastructures Protection
Embedded Systems supporting sustainable urban life
Human-centred design of embedded systems

The innovation pilot programme priorities are (see Work Programme Part B for a full explanation):

Critical Systems Engineering Factories
Innovative Integrated Care Cycles
Seamless communication and interoperability – Smart environments: the Neural System for society
Production and Energy Systems Automation
Computing platforms for embedded systems
“Intelligent-Built” environment and urban infrastructure for sustainable and “friendly” cities

Eligibility Issues

To apply you’ll need at least three organisations from three participating member states (see the eligibility criteria for more on this). For the UK, universities can be involved but you’ll also need a UK-based industrial partner, because the UK element of the call is coordinated by the Technology Strategy Board.

In terms of costs, universities can claim up to 80% FEC, but note that the total consortium funding can only be up to 50% of total project costs – so industrial partners and SMEs would have to claim proportionately less to balance the budget. In addition, UK academics can only apply if they have previously held an EPSRC grant and the ARTEMIS application is a continuation of this research.

Please get in touch for support and advice if you’re interested in developing a project for this call.

What’s an embedded system?

Embedded systems are technologies which are part of everyday artefacts and systems: “from children’s toys and mobile phones to space probes and from transportation vehicles to healthcare systems.” Embedded systems play a key role in the “internet of things” which describes the potential virtual network of connections between real-life objects using, for example, radio frequency ID tags.

One frequently cited example of the benefits of embedded systems within an internet of things is the internet-enabled fridge. If a refrigerator was able to monitor its contents, then it could know when you are running short on milk and notify you to pick some up on your way home – or even automatically place an order with your local supermarket and have it delivered. It’s not just fridges and food, though, embedded systems could potentially revolutionise our way of life, reducing waste and improving a wide range of systems that humans interact with on a daily basis.


Ambient Assisted Living: ICT to enhance quality of life for older people

Ambient Assisted Living Europe (AAL) has recently announced its fifth call for proposals with a closing date of 31st May 2012:

AAL Call 5

This time they’re looking for innovative ICT solutions which enable or sustain older adults to continue managing their daily activities in the home. This includes ordinary activities which most of us take for granted, such as getting dressed, preparing hot meals and doing the shopping. When you need a fast transaction online shopping services. Visit for more details.

The call for proposal text contains some sobering statistics: some 19 million people are involved in informal care for older people across Europe and 80% of all care in Europe is given by unpaid family members. If these trends  continue there will simply not be enough people in future to provide the care required.

In this context, the need to develop innovative technology-based solutions to enable older people to self-manage their life at home is urgent. The projects funded by this call should also support informal carers.

This is an industry-focused call and should have significant SME and business involvement (50% or more), but universities are eligible to apply as part of a consortium. The consortium must include at least 3 partners from 3 eligible countries and the project can last between 1-3 years. Time-to-market for the technology after the project is expected to be between 2 and 3 years.

UK involvement is coordinated by the Technology Strategy Board and they will be contributing €1.2M to the overall AAL budget. This will be used to fund industry involvement at up to 50% funding. EPSRC are contributing an additional €1.2M to fund EPSRC-eligible HEIs at a standard 80% FEC.

The guidance requires that the majority of work carried out by universities on this project should fall within the remit of the Engineering Portfolio at EPSRC, which includes Engineering Design.

Any Northumbria University staff interested in this call who wish to discuss a proposal further should get in touch with Research and Business Services.


Cultural Encounters: AHRC Infoday

Last week the AHRC held a series of UK-based information days for the recently released HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) Cultural Encounters call. These infodays gave potential UK applicants a chance to find out more background information to the call, and hear from the coordinator of a project which was successful in the last HERA round.

The AHRC has already published the presentations from the event on their website. I attended the session in London last week and my rough notes are available on Google Docs. These should be read in conjunction with the already published call guidance notes [PDF], National Eligibility Requirements [PDF] and FAQs [PDF].

Some edited highlights follow:

  1. Projects must be genuinely collaborative: This is not about creating a consortium where the individual partners carry out discrete research projects and then come together at the end to ask each other what they have learned. The partners must form a genuinely collaborative research team which integrates insights and approaches from all of the institutions involved throughout the project. This point goes for any non-academic partners which are involved in the consortium, too – these should not simply be “tacked on” to tick a knowledge exchange box, but should be integral to the research objectives.
  2. European “added value” is critical: You need to make a coherent and compelling case for why this project needs pan-European funding. Ask yourself why this work couldn’t be funded just by the AHRC, for example. The input of European partners must be integral to the research. Some subject areas can have a national focus, so think about how your research can bring together insights from different research cultures and contexts.
  3. European researchers, not research: The European focus applies to the researchers involved and not necessarily the research: i.e. you don’t have to focus on topics relevant to Europe, what’s important is that you address the Cultural Encounters theme with a research team based in institutions in HERA countries.
  4. Interdisciplinarity: This is not a requirement, but is strongly encouraged. This should not just be about combining insights from different disciplines, but more ambitiously reaching genuinely new insights which seem to shift disciplinary boundaries. Note the research can include non-humanities disciplines as long as it has a clear humanities focus.
  5. Consider PhDs carefully: You can recruit PhDs to your project, but you should carefully consider requesting PhD funding. The work you undertake cannot be dependent on PhD students – they must be able to stand alone, for example if their research takes them in a different direction. The level of work should be appropriate too: this is not a chance to get a cut-price postdoc! Moreover, having a PhD on the project means that your project must be 3 years in length, whereas you get extra flexibility if you don’t have a PhD. On the other hand, PhDs can bring a unique dimension to the project – in CinBA, for example, the PhD students used social media and blogging to help the research reach new audiences.
  6. Focus areas are suggestions: The list of focus areas in the call document is a suggestion of areas you may consider addressing – it is not a requirement. Your research may cut across several of these, or address an entirely different aspect. As long as your project fits within the overarching theme of cultural encounters it will be eligible for funding.
  7. Think carefully about resources available: €1M doesn’t actually go very far when spread across a three year project and split among 3+ institutions research teams. In many UK institutions employing 1 postdoctoral researcher full time for three years plus FEC overheads will eat up nearly a third of that total. Think about whether you need to employ a postdoc for the full duration of the project; could you use their time more effectively by bringing them in six months into the project, for example?

Get in touch with us if you’re a Northumbria member of staff interested in the call and are thinking of putting together an expression of interest.


FP7 People: Fellowships Results Published!

UKRO reports that the preliminary results for the Framework Programme 7 People Programme Individual Fellowships have been published by the Commission. The full lists for all three types of fellowships (incoming, outgoing and intra-european) are available on the FP7 Participant Portal, under Additional documents for each call:

FP7 People: 2011 Individual Fellowships Preliminary Results

The preliminary results assign one of five categories to each submitted project. Category A proposals are on the main funding list and prospective fellows will already have been contacted by the Commission to begin negotiations. Category B proposals are on the reserve list and applicants need to wait until the first round of negotiations with category A projects has concluded to know whether there is sufficient budget for them to go ahead. This can happen for example when a category A applicant withdraws. Categories C, D and E have been rejected for various reasons, either because of funding constraints or where the proposal was below the quality threshold or not evaluated. You’ll need to know the proposal acronym or proposal number in order to check where your project appears on the list.

Individual fellowships from the People Programme – also called Marie Curie Actions – enable researchers based in Europe to spend 1 – 2 years carrying out a research project in another EU member state (intra-european fellowships), or outside of Europe (outgoing fellowships). The international incoming fellowships fund researchers based outside of Europe to come into a European research institution. The fellowships are attractive both because they offer a relatively high reimbursement for fellows and because they are “bottom up” in the sense that the applicant and host institution jointly decide the topic and plan the research programme.

Northumbria University staff should contact Teresa Kirby, European Strategy Manager to find out more about Individual Fellowships and for assistance with any proposals.