Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Build a network to enable resilient solutions for future UK systems

Apply for funding to develop a network to enable the resilience of future UK urban systems during a crisis event.

You must:

  • be a UK resident
  • be based at an eligible research organisation
  • have the leadership skills to coordinate a network of interdisciplinary research.

Your project must:

  • be at least 50% within EPSRC’s remit
  • work closely with stakeholder groups.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £2.25 million. ESPRC and DST will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

We will fund your network for three years.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply.

You can apply if you are a resident in the UK and meet at least one of these criteria:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • hold a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee
  • hold an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages
  • hold fellowships under other schemes (please contact EPSRC to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis).

Check if your institution is eligible for research and innovation funding.

The challenges for this opportunity are not limited to engineering and physical sciences, and a diversity of thought and knowledge will be required to overcome them.

EPSRC and DST would like to encourage applicants from a broad range of disciplines, some of whom may not normally engage with or be familiar with the defence sector.

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an EPSRC grant.

View the guidance for applicants.

Submissions to this call will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

A NetworkPlus is a strategic investment which brings together new research communities and identifies, prioritises and develops future research challenges.

This NetworkPlus will support a research agenda that addresses security threats and challenges facing us in the future (around 2050) by mobilising a diverse community. It will do this by bringing together existing researchers working on individual elements of this challenge and forming them into a coordinated and coherent whole.

Additionally, this NetworkPlus will use part of its funding to create new funding opportunities. To build sustained engagement and collaboration, the NetworkPlus will provide leadership across disciplines and sectors and will deliver different activities, such as:

  • workshops
  • events
  • communications
  • funding opportunities for pilot and feasibility projects.

UK prosperity and security depends upon the smooth and sustainable functioning of many interrelated systems. As the world becomes increasingly complex, new thinking is required to ensure we have resilience against threats and challenges in the future beyond the current generation (around 2050).

This NetworkPlus is expected to:

  • build relationships between the UK defence sector, industry, and academic community (particularly those who may not typically engage with the defence sector)
  • build interdisciplinary capability, leverage existing partnerships and establish new ones
  • bring together diverse expertise across the broadest possible range of disciplines, which could include (for example) engineering, information and communications technology, mathematics, healthcare technologies, behavioural sciences and design
  • enable a coordinated and coherent landscape across disciplines and communities, and ensure high impact by working closely with important UK defence stakeholders and groups, including:
    • Defence Science and Technology (DST)
    • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl)
    • the Defence Academic Pathways Steering Group (DAP SG)
    • industry and the wider research community
    • focus on a specified scenario involving a major disaster caused by state-sponsored or terrorist actors, taking place in a densely populated future urban setting around 2050
  • align broadly with the priorities and aims of the Ministry of Defence Science and Technology Strategy 2020.

Your proposal must be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary or both. We welcome proposals from across the range of academic disciplines, providing at least 50% of the programme falls within EPSRC’s remit. We expect the successful grant to play a strategic role in bringing together stakeholders across disciplinary boundaries and all relevant areas.

The research agenda of this NetworkPlus will focus on a predefined scenario. EPSRC has worked with an established group spanning industry and academia, the Defence Academic Pathways Steering Group (DAP SG), to define this opportunity. Co-funding for this opportunity is provided from Defence Science and Technology (DST).

The predefined scenario upon which this NetworkPlus will focus is of a major disaster taking place in a densely populated future urban setting, around 2050. This might be caused by a lone terrorist actor or a sophisticated state-sponsored attack.

Such an event might cause massive disruption to transportation infrastructure, communication networks and emergency services. In this scenario, there are multiple concurrent challenges which would need to be solved simultaneously in an evolving situation, including but not limited to:

  • how to detect and reach casualties when automated and manual transport networks are disrupted, including the need to assess and triage the status of casualties
  • how to share correct and vital information when primary systems are compromised or unavailable
  • how to establish decision-making and organisational structures
  • how to minimise additional effects through reliable, resilient and self-repairing systems
  • how to avoid further casualties and panic
  • any other relevant challenges relating to this disaster scenario.

The principal investigator of the proposal should have a collaborative mindset alongside excellent leadership and management abilities and is expected to collaborate closely with defence government and industry stakeholders.

To build sustained engagement and collaboration, this NetworkPlus will provide leadership across disciplines and sectors, and will deliver different activities which support the aims of the NetworkPlus.

Applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC Framework for Responsible Innovation.

In addition to UKRI principles on trusted research and innovation, we expect applicants to follow guidance and best practice in working to reduce vulnerabilities to UK national infrastructure.

We reserve the right to reject proposals which do not demonstrate appropriate consideration of these matters, and of the sensitive nature of working in this area.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £2.25 million. ESPRC and Defence Science and Technology (DST) will fund 80% of the full economic cost (£1.8 million).

Normal costs associated in running a standard research grant may be applied for. Additionally, as part of running the NetworkPlus you will be expected to use part of the grant funding to develop and run calls for small projects. These will take place over the duration of the grant.

Applicants should decide the amount of grant funding allocated to small projects. This amount should strike a balance between a need to support the key activities of the network and the need to support new activities.

The expectation is that some of these small projects will lead to applications for further support from appropriate funding bodies. In addition to being of high quality, all funded activities should aim for high impact and involve stakeholders to have a good chance of bringing real defence benefit to the UK.

Small grants will be covered by ‘flexible funding’ (see additional conditions), and this should be clearly stated on applications under the ‘directly incurred costs’ heading.

There will be a fixed start date of 21 March 2022. Spending must begin by 31 March 2022.

Please see the guidance for applicants for full details on what costs you can apply for.

The NetworkPlus scheme allows you to include costs for core research, funding opportunities and any other relevant activities which are fully justified.

Core research

Research activity to support the aims of the NetworkPlus and impact activity related to this research.

Funding opportunities

A budget for funding opportunities which support the aims of the NetworkPlus that can be allocated to researchers at other universities. It is up to applicants to determine the appropriate balance between core network activities and scale of funding that they make available for funding opportunities.

The expectation is that some of these small projects will lead to applications for further support from appropriate funding bodies.

Other costs you may apply for

Communications

Costs to support the production of reports, videos and other media relevant to the aims of the NetworkPlus.

Administrative support

A sufficient level of administrative support should be requested to ensure the coordination, management and smooth running of the NetworkPlus. Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the NetworkPlus’s output can also be included.

Events

Funding can be requested for costs involved in running activities such as:

  • networking events
  • expert working groups
  • debates
  • online discussion forums
  • lectures
  • seminars
  • problem-solving workshops.

Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about the range of activities that could support the delivery of the NetworkPlus goals.

How to apply

Applicants should ensure they are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. You should prepare and submit your proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select ‘new document’, then select:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • the appropriate opportunity on the ‘project details’ page.

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted:

  • case for support: eight pages (two on your track record and six on the scientific case)
  • workplan: one page
  • justification of resources: two pages
  • CVs: up to two A4 sides each only for named postdoctoral staff, researcher co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time) and visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form: no page limit
  • letters of support (up to three) are permitted in exceptional circumstances that do not meet the requirement for project partner letters of support: no page limit
  • host organisation letter of support from the principal investigator’s institution: two pages cover letter: optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review.

Your host organisation letter of support should include details of specific support that will be given to the applicant team, including:

  • investigators
  • management team
  • administrators.

This is for managing, administering and commissioning the small project funding and ongoing governance to ensure correct usage and accountability. Please note, details about how your NetworkPlus will be managed should go in the case for support document.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

We will not be accepting submissions consisting of multiple proposals.

After completing the application, you must ‘submit document’ which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. Applicants should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the opportunity closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 1 February 2022.

Advice on writing proposals.

EPSRC will not fund a project if it believes that there are ethical concerns that have been overlooked or not appropriately accounted for. All relevant parts of the ‘ethical information’ section must be completed.

Further guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

EPSRC guidance can be found under ‘additional information’.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Any proposals that do not fit the remit of the opportunity will be rejected prior to assessment. We will also reject proposals which do not include plans to establish and run an independent steering board with membership and terms as specified in the conditions.

Please note that the proposal must be at least 50% in EPSRC remit and focus on the specified scenario.

Applicants whose proposals pass remit will be invited for interview. Proposals will be assessed and prioritised by an expert interview panel using the assessment criteria below (there will be no postal peer review).

The principal investigator should attend along with up to two other members of the team. Applicants will have the opportunity to reply to the reviewers’ comments during the interview panel.

As this assessment will be undertaken by an EPSRC-nominated expert interview panel, there is no opportunity for applicants to nominate reviewers.

If of sufficient quality, the highest ranking NetworkPlus application will be funded.

In the event of this opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable using the above process, EPSRC reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

Assessment criteria

Call specific criteria (primary)

The contribution the NetworkPlus will make towards addressing the challenge, making reference to:

  • the extent to which the proposal demonstrates an insightful grasp of the predefined scenario and associated problem domains, including an appreciation of the challenges and sensitivities of working in this area
  • how the proposed project will build interdisciplinary capability relating to defence and resilient systems across the broadest possible range of disciplines
  • how the proposed project will build and strengthen relationships between the UK defence sector, industry, and academic community, particularly those who may not typically engage with the defence sector.

Quality (primary)

The research excellence, making reference to:

  • the novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • the suitability of the proposed strategy for the NetworkPlus and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

Importance (secondary major)

The importance of the proposed research to the UK, making reference to:

  • how the proposed project contributes to, or helps maintain the health of other research disciplines, contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges, contributes to current or future UK economic success and enables future development of key emerging industries
  • the extent to which the project proposed has the potential to meet national strategic needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world-leading research activity (including areas of niche capability)
  • how the project fits with and complements other UK research already funded in the area or related areas, including the relationship to the UKRI portfolio.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

The ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators.

Resources and management (secondary)

The effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

  • the project plan and management arrangements which should be proportionate to the scale and complexity of the activity proposed, including appropriate governance for the commissioning of funds to ensure correct usage and accountability
  • plans for achieving self-sufficiency beyond the grant support
  • the appropriateness of the requested resources
  • the appropriateness of the balance between core network activities and funds for calls.

Feedback

Feedback will be provided after the expert interview panel.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Please contact the Business Engagement team if you have any other questions about this opportunity.

Email: user.engagement@epsrc.ukri.org

There will also be an opportunity to ask questions at the webinar on 14 December. See the additional information section for details.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org
Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Webinar

We will be hosting a webinar for interested parties to find out more and ask questions. This will take place on 14 December 2021 at 10:00 to 11:00, and you may attend and ask questions anonymously.

Register for the webinar on Smart Survey.

The webinar will be recorded. Anyone may request a link to the recording from the EPSRC Business Engagement team after the event.

Background

EPSRC has had considerable success from previous NetworkPlus investments which focus on academic research challenges. These NetworkPlus investments have developed a rich body of outputs, including:

  • new collaborations
  • grant proposals
  • new research methods
  • horizon scanning reports
  • new policy
  • feasibility studies.

Lessons learned from previous NetworkPlus activities include:

  • a clear, well-defined topic for the network is needed to focus plans and activities
  • the portfolio of grants needs to be regularly reviewed
  • sufficient administrative and host university support for the network is vital, in order to support activities such as small projects and dissemination activities
  • the amount of funding you provide to small projects may be variable, and should depend on the research topic or discipline
  • be flexible and think carefully about the most appropriate assessment process to use for each opportunity
  • expectation and arrangements for full economic costing of network activities need to be clear across all parties
  • advertising of events needs to be included in the budget
  • long-term plans for the legacy and sustainability of the network need to be considered early on
  • a NetworkPlus should coordinate and complement existing research in the area, rather than compete or replicate work.

Defence Science and Technology (DST)

DST works under the direction of the Ministry of Defence’s Chief Scientific Adviser to maximise the impact of science and technology for the defence and security of the UK.

Defence Academic Pathways Steering Group (DAP SG)

DAP SG is an industry-led collaboration aimed at identifying and nurturing science and technology within academia for future defence capability.

MOD Science and Technology Strategy 2020

View the Ministry of Defence Science and Technology Strategy 2020.

Responsible innovation and trusted research

Responsible innovation creates spaces and processes to explore innovation and its consequences in an open, inclusive and timely way, going beyond consideration of ethics, public engagement, risk and regulation. Innovation is a collective responsibility, where funders, researchers, interested and affected parties, including the public, all have an important role to play.

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor and to encourage our research community to do likewise.

In addition to UKRI principles on trusted research and innovation, we expect applicants to follow guidance and best practice in working to reduce vulnerabilities to UK national infrastructure.

Additional grant conditions (AGCs)

In addition to the standard terms and conditions for UKRI grants, successful applicants will be required to fulfil the following additional conditions.

Notwithstanding RGC 5.2 starting procedures, this grant has a fixed start date of 21 March 2022. Further to this, the successful NetworkPlus is expected to start spending by 31 March 2022.

The NetworkPlus must establish and run an independent advisory board to oversee the running of the project and provide advice on the strategic direction and activities of the project. We expect this to include representatives from key stakeholder groups: Defence Academic Pathways (DAP) and Defence Science and Technology (DST).

The terms of reference and membership of this group should be agreed with EPSRC. It is expected the first advisory board meeting will be held within four months of the start date of the project.

Notwithstanding standard grant condition RGC 4.4, the sum awarded under the heading of ‘flexible funds’ can include both directly incurred and directly allocated expenditure.

These funds must be reported on the final expenditure statement (FES) as awarded on the offer letter and a breakdown of the expenditure must be submitted along with the FES. If a breakdown of this expenditure is not received, the final expenditure statements will be returned. Standard grant conditions apply to all other funds awarded on this grant.

Small projects funded by the NetworkPlus are expected to secure a matched contribution from industry or other partners, aiming for approximately 25% (cash or in-kind) across all small projects funded by the NetworkPlus.

Publicity and branding

In addition to RGC 12.4 Publication and Acknowledgement of Support, you must make reference to DST and EPSRC funding and include relevant branding on all online or printed materials related to activities funded by this grant. This includes:

  • press releases
  • posters
  • exhibition materials
  • other publications.

Supporting documents

Further guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

Equality impact assessment (DOCX, 65KB)

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