Horizon 2020 so far: news from the UKRO conference

Last week I attended the UKRO annual conference in Bristol. This was a great opportunity to get out of the office and immerse myself in the wonderful world of European funding, particularly Horizon 2020. It was well attended by a huge range of UK universities and a good mix of European Commission speakers. logo

Here are some quick facts I’ve gleaned that may be of interest to potential and current Horizon 2020 applicants.

  • Discussions have begun between the EC and member states on setting the strategic direction and work programmes for 2016-17. This is an opportunity for UK universities to feed in views to UKRO who speak regularly to BIS as the representatives of UK interests. UK is also well represented on the H2020 advisory groups. Lots of people, including member states and the EC, feel that something more than lip service needs to be paid to mainstreaming social sciences and humanities but no one is clear what this should look like! (Any ideas?)
  • H2020 will shortly include a new pilot activity: “fast track to innovation” for small industry-driven consortia, a bit like the UK Longitude Prize. The competition will be launched in autumn or early 2015. This can (and should) include academic involvement.
  • It was said again that MSCA fellowships lay the ground for applicants to successfully apply for ERC grants. It was pointed out that Advanced Grant applicants do not have to be mid-late career, the ERC has funded (a few) people in their 20s. It depends on the field. Also, no PhD is needed for Advanced Grants.
  • ERC Starting Grants call 2014: 20-25% of of the 3272 applications are resubmissions. For Starting and Consolidator Grants next year, the EC is considering extending the eligibility window for time post-PhD as well as reducing the minimum time commitment for Consolidator grantees to 40% from 50%. The EC expects to fund 330 grants under each call (Starting and Consolidator) in 2015. 20% fewer people applied for Consolidator Grants this year, numbers stayed the same for Starting Grants.
  • H2020 so far: 156 calls published, 59 have closed. More than 16000 proposals submitted, more than €4bn funding requested.
  • FP7 success rate was 1 in 5 over the whole programme. The first indications for H2020 suggest 1 in 9 is more likely. Health and energy areas are particularly over-subscribed.
  • There will be no negotiation phase before a contract signed and there is now an 8 month limit time to grant: 5 months evaluation, 3 months grant preparation. If budgets are overinflated, they will be scored low and not be funded- no negotiation. Although during grant preparation stage there will be an opportunity to take into account reviewers comments which may change the budget or proposed activities slightly. This will essentially be a voluntary process of about 3 weeks maximum.
  • MSCA ITNS expect to continue with around a 10% success rate as the number of proposals submitted to the 2014 call (1164) remains stable. ITNs can include non-academics partners. The EC wants to see innovative training programmes and are particularly keen on entrepreneurship, commercialisation, innovation skills, IPR etc. These must each be defined in individual career development plans. To date, the UK has done very well in ITNs – up to 80% of ITNs have at least one UK beneficiary. 28% have UK coordinators. The next call will be published on 2 Sept 2014. (There will be a batch of calls published then with Dec/Jan closing dates).

I have more information if you have any questions and all the presentatoins from the conference are available to UKRO subscribers here


EOI’s from NU Staff for AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards invited

Handshake 52-365 by Julia Taylor CC BY-NC-ND 2.0The AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme that will be closing on 9th July. These awards encourage and develop collaboration between HEI’s and non-HEI organisations and businesses through joint supervision of a PhD student working on a project beneficial to both parties. The award funding covers full fees and stipend for the student. AHRC would also normally expect some form of contribution to come from the project partner on top of the desk-space and staff time that would normally be allocated.

 For this year’s scheme there are highlight notices around ‘Design’ and ‘Connected Communities’. We would normally be allowed to submit only one application, but if spread across the highlight notice areas we could submit up to 3 or 4. CDA’s normally feature only a single studentship, but we can add more if this can be strongly justified and of benefit to the non-HEI partner. Further details below:



Anyone working in an Arts and Humanities related discipline or topic interested in applying is asked to submit a short Expression of Interest to myself via email by 9th June. This should contain details of their proposed non-HEI partner, which highlight notice it will go under, (standard, design or connected communities) and a few lines on the nature of the collaboration and benefits to the partner organisation.


EPSRC Council Open Forum: Researchers Wanted!

Committee Rooms by National Assembly for Wales CC BY 2.0EPSRC has today re-opened registration for their Council Open Forum until 20th September.

This is a chance for members of the academic and business communities to:

  • hear from EPSRC Council members;
  • question them about EPSRC’s plans and policies; and
  • debate the issues important to both them and Council

Council members will also be running poster sessions on EPSRC’s Strategic Goals and the science and engineering sponsored, and will hold surgeries with attendees for less formal discussion. This is a great opportunity for any academic who has an interest in EPSRC funding to find out more about their priorities and how the Council works.

EPSRC is particularly keen to engage with active researchers, including early career researchers, and research users. The forum itself will take place on 15th October.


ESRC Launches Pilot “Urgency” Grants

exclamation mark by Leo Reynolds CC BY-NC-SA 2.0ESRC has just launched a small pilot of a new mechanism for Urgency Grants which will fund research into “rare, unforeseen or unfolding events” where the data “can only be collected there and then”. Examples of events which would count as “urgent” include the August 2011 riots in England and the discovery of the last surviving speaker of a language with rare characteristics.

Up to £200K (100% FEC) will be available via this route for projects up to 2 years in duration. Applicants will need to comply with usual ESRC eligibility criteria, the difference will be in the way the proposal is submitted and (obviously) timescales for assessment and approval.

Outline proposals of up to 2 sides of A4 will need to be submitted within four weeks of the event beginning. The outline should describe basic details about the project, including investigators involved, proposed start date and duration and justification for the urgency in relation to the ESRC’s remit. The full list is below:

  • Organisations and investigators involved
  • Proposed start date and duration
  • Scientific grounding and lead ESRC discipline of the project
  • Urgent opportunity including its origin and timing
  • Justification for urgency (relating to social science)
  • Objectives and methods of the proposed research
  • Estimated funding required not exceeding £200,000 (100 per cent fEC)
  • Potential project partners or co-funding and other funders approached to support the work

Following acceptance of an outline proposal, applicants will have a further four weeks to submit a full proposal via Je-S. Reviewing and moderation will be completed in one month of the full proposal being submitted. Research must then begin within a month of the offer acceptance being returned via Je-S.

This is clearly a much faster turnaround time than a standard grant proposal and could mean that funded research commences within a few months of the event taking place. However, there are clearly other issues to consider including preparing internal processes for recruitment of postdoctoral staff, for example. In addition, although there is no formal budget allocated to the Urgency Grants scheme, ESRC has indicated that it doesn’t expect to award more than three grants per year via this mechanism,


NEMODE: Digital Economy Small Grants Available

Living on credit cards by Images of Money CC BY 2.0Those who were interested in yesterday’s post about a recent EPSRC call for New Economic Models for the Digital Economy may be interested in the open call for NEMODE 3K small grants [PDF].

NEMODE is one of four RCUK-funded networks within the Digital Economy theme: “NEMODE’s research domain is multi-disciplinary; it includes for example, considerations of the latest technological developments through computer science, operations research and data analytics, marketing, social anthropology, behavioural psychology and operations management.”

Part of its remit is to fund small research grants and placements activity. To this end they have an open (i.e. no deadline) call for small scale research projects of no more than 3 months duration and £3K FEC. NEMODE has identified a number of sub-themes which it is interested in funding through this call, including:

  • The concept of value in the digital economy
  • Intellectual property issues in the digital economy
  • Privacy, consent, security and trust in the digital economy
  • Virtual property
  • Crowd funding

The expected outputs of a 3 month grant would be, for example, a case study with associated literature review or a technical report, as appropriate to the topic selected. Applications are a maximum of 2 pages, written to two simple headings given in the guidance notes [PDF].

Although there are no formal deadlines, there are a number of review dates throughout the year when applications will be considered. These are: 1st Feb, 1st June, 1st Sept, 1st Dec.

In addition to the 3K small grants outlined above, NEMODE also has a “call for interest” in digital currency inspired by David Wolman’s BBC piece on the end of cash. They are currently seeking informal expressions of interest via email. See their calls page to find out more.


New Economic Models in the Digital Economy

Bitcoin by Zach Copley CC BY-SAEPSRC has recently released a call for proposals to support cross-disciplinary research on new economic models in the digital economy. EPSRC are specifically targeting business schools and economics researchers, which it says have been under-represented in existing grants:

New Economic Models in the Digital Economy


The digital economy challenges the way organisations work and do business. New technologies have revolutionized the way people relate to one another and are challenging traditional economic models and boundaries, as well as providing potential opportunities to create new ways of doing business: “To realise the economic potential of new technology, high quality research at the interfaces between the digital economy, economics and management sciences will be required and is of strategic importance to the UK.”

How do I apply?

There is £3.5M available in the call, which opened earlier this month and closes on 28th June. This is an invitation for outline proposals, and is not being run through Je-S. Applicants must fill in a short form with basic details of applicants, costs and project title as well as a three-page case for support, and send to EPSRC via email before the deadline. However, it’s worth noting that even outline applications should be properly costed before submission, so please contact RBS at an early stage if you intend to apply.

What are they looking for?

They want to see a mix of “people-based” networking and research activities which “complement the work of the DET Network+ ‘New Economic Models in the Digital Economy’” as well as the previously funded Digital Economy grants. The challenges to be addressed in this call are:

  • The Digital Economy and financial services
  • Collaborative consumption
  • Personal data
  • ‘Incomplete’ products and ‘Platform’ offerings

Further details

There are full details in the online guidance notes [PDF]. Outlines must address one or more of these challenges otherwise they’ll be considered outside the remit of the call. It’s also important to note that proposals must include both people-based and research activities (defined in the call guidance notes), not just one or the other.

EPSRC expect to fund 5 grants, suggesting an indicative value of £500K – £1M per grant. This is borne out by the values of the funded grants from the previous round, the maximum value of which is £1.1M, and the mean value is £822K.

Given the interdisciplinary focus this is likely to involve multiple institutions in a single proposal. Further, given the fact that applications must include both people-based and research activities, this would suggest that a duration of 2-3 years would be expected, although EPSRC do not give any indication of maximum length. Again, this is borne out by reviewing durations of previously funded grants, which are all 2-3 years in length.

Another interesting factor to consider is the inclusion of project partners (i.e. non-academic organisations). Given the topics and direction of the call, it’s likely that inclusion of relevant and active project partners will strengthen a bid, although it’s interesting to note that numbers of partners in existing projects varies from 0-21 in any single project.

It’s always essential to consider track record when deciding which institution and PI will lead a bid. Note that all of the grants funded in the previous round were led by research intensives and often included several other strong research institutions in the consortium. There were only a few grants which were based entirely within a single institution, including Cambridge and Imperial.

In line with the interdisciplinary focus of the theme, various disciplines were represented in grants funded under the previous call, including computer sciences, engineering, mathematics, economics and social sciences. This will be essential for the current call, and again it’s worth noting that EPSRC are targeting economics and business researchers for this call.


EPSRC National Importance Update

Soldier Salutes Union Jack FlagYou may remember back in February I wrote a post outlining the clearer guidance new EPSRC Chairman, Paul Golby, wanted to give on National Importance. There was a clear steer that applicants aren’t expected to predict the future, and that the guidance referring to a 10-50 year timeframe was to be removed.

EPSRC’s Senior Peer Review manager has recently got in touch with me to confirm that they have now removed the wording from their guidance webpages:

Preparing New Proposals to Include National Importance

Although applicants do not need to refer to this timeframe in their proposals, EPSRC remains committed to supporting longer term fundamental and strategic research and the research council is maintaining its requirement to demonstrate Impact and National Importance in proposals. The removal of the 10-50 year wording does not signal a change of emphasis towards short term applied studies.