EPSRC, in partnership with MRC, invites proposals for Network Plus grants that build capability for responsible research across the breadth of neuro-technologies.
EPSRC and MRC are looking for a balanced portfolio of networks which will lead to new collaborations, aiming to form new interdisciplinary research communities, involving a group with a range of expertise and experience, and demonstrating the added value EPSRC and MRC funding would bring in this area.
The research focus of the networks will be supported by EPSRC and MRC and will draw significantly on:
- physical sciences
- information and communications technologies
- mathematical sciences.
We are particularly encouraging activities which target health needs.
The networks will lead to new collaborations, excellent research proposals and inform ideas for future research themes. They will provide a foundation for addressing ethical questions and addressing future research within the framework of responsible innovation.
Applicants should also consider public, patient involvement and engagement and how this may be integrated into the network. For more information, see the EPSRC impact and translation toolkit.
To be successful, there needs to be a clear vision, understanding of the wider context, and demonstration of the added value arising from the network. It would also be helpful to set the research focus in an international context.
Networks will be expected to set a collaborative research agenda and fund small scale proof of concept studies and other relevant activities flexibly over the lifetime of the grant in line with their central vision.
We expect the funded networks to be collaborative and not competitive, that is, they should work together where appropriate (for example, joint events). The networks should cover a range of approaches and aspects of neuro-technologies. We would welcome plans to address the potential for UK-wide activities across the breadth of neuro-technologies.
Proposals may include up to five investigators (one principal investigator and up to four co-investigators) and this core group should reflect the people setting up and leading the network. We appreciate there will be a wider group who advise on or participate in the network.
The role of the network is to nurture research ideas between its members and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to a broader community. Networks are encouraged to work with a range of project partners and collaborators.
The networks should aim to bring together interdisciplinary experts with leading capabilities in underpinning research areas to explore significant research opportunities that enable the full potential of neurotechnology. This includes experts in areas such as:
- medical imaging
- bioelectronic medicines
- brain-computer interfaces
- materials sciences
- machine interfacing
- neural prosthetics
- clinical sciences
- fundamental research.
Neurotechnologies are also expected to raise new ethical questions and the networks will build research communities that can address these questions.
A project partner is an organisation with an integral role in the proposed network. Project partners cannot receive funding from the grant. A letter of support is required from each project partner to outline their contribution. There are no restrictions regarding other collaborating organisations.
Up to £6 million will be available to fund networks for up to three years at 80% full economic cost. We expect to fund three to six networks to build the UK community, build future capacity and inform the strategy for neurotechnology development. Therefore the expected budget for each network is in the area of £1.2 million to £2 million.
Proposals can seek costs of building interdisciplinary research communities including but not limited to:
- investigator salaries
- travel and subsistence
- organisations of different types of workshops or engagement events
- summer schools
- part-time coordinators
- administrative support
- feasibility studies and small-scale research studies.
Equipment over £10,000 in value (inclusive of VAT) is not available through this opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading.
Full economic costing for feasibility study funding
The “plus” of Network Plus is that the grants include funding for feasibility or proof of concept studies. The network will be expected to distribute the funds to test approaches to particular research challenges identified by the network. Each study will typically be in the region of £50,000 to £80,000. A feasibility study may help to inform preparation for a larger project proposal to EPSRC or MRC.
EPSRC does not stipulate whether the funds for proof-of concept or feasibility studies must be transferred at 80% of the full economic cost or at 100%. However, the normal grant arrangements apply and funds in the grant to the lead institution will be awarded at 80% full economic cost.
All costs for the feasibility studies need to be shown on the proposal form under ‘Directly Incurred other costs’ at 80% FEC.
The costs should cover support for a series of feasibility projects to advance research projects.
These feasibility funds should be intended to support development of research ideas, generation of proof-of-concept data and identification of clinical or industry support for example.
The costing should be based on the numbers of projects you are proposing to fund, and the PDRA resource required to develop the research.
We do not specify arrangements for estates and indirect for the feasibility studies but as the network plus is giving out money for feasibility studies through your own call, it is up to you to set the rules about what can and cannot be applied for need in order to efficiently run the network.
You will wish to check with your research office, before applying, about the transfer of funds and how you can ensure that costings and arrangements will be transparent for any recipient universities.
The collaboration agreements and fund transfers are likely to be a call on staff time and we recommend bearing this in mind when developing your proposal. Network Plus proposals can include funds for administrative or network support.
There are some restrictions in that feasibility studies can only be the kind of research that EPSRC funds through its research grant route. So that, for example, the recipient organisation should be eligible for EPSRC funding.
The funds cannot be used for studentships or for the kind of training and support that would be drawn from a doctoral training grant.
Previous advice from Network Plus leads on funding feasibility studies:
- each network will be acting almost as a mini research council and you will need to plan the process carefully to be transparent and robust
- we recommend early conversations with your finance office on how to manage the funds and transfers
- there may need to be iteration of the costings so that finance and other offices in your research organisation can confirm the viability of the arrangements.
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.
Applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible research and innovation.
Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit the Trusted Research website for information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.
Trusted Research website (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure)