Develop new manufacturing instrumentation

Manufacturing: instrumenting the future

Apply for funding to create new instruments that help solve a manufacturing challenge.

You must be a researcher at a UK organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

The new instruments must reach laboratory standards. They can improve existing manufacturing processes, develop new ones or do both.

Your research must address one or more of these areas:

  • manufacturing
  • manipulation
  • measurement.

This funding opportunity will not fund off-the-shelf equipment.

Who can apply

To help us manage demand, you can submit only one proposal, either as principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator (Co-I).

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Check if you are eligible.

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

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level or equivalent
  • 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).

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

If you are currently restricted under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy, you will only be able to submit one full proposal (as PI or Co-I) during the 12 month restricted period.

What we're looking for

Your project should be excellent novel research into the development of novel manufacturing instrumentation to improve existing processes and develop new capabilities.

You must develop novel manufacturing research techniques to the point that they can be incorporated into or form the basis of new laboratory-standard instruments. These instruments should be capable of supporting research into novel manufacturing and further development into industry-standard machines.

This funding opportunity will not fund off-the-shelf equipment.

Scope

Your research should aim to develop world-class research platforms organised around unique research instrumentation and infrastructure.

Your project must achieve one or more of the objectives of this call:

  • to grow the UK research base in important areas of strength or opportunity where the UK is, or has the potential to be, an international leader
  • to deliver advanced technology with the potential for innovation and growth
  • to develop the UK supply chain in advanced instrumentation and research equipment.

Your research outputs will be bespoke equipment, which could be:

  • an instrument based on existing equipment customised beyond the original specification and modified to suit novel research requirements
  • an entirely new instrument based on fundamental research
  • a combination of the two.

The instrument developed must offer a unique capability that has the potential to support the:

  • UK manufacturing research base
  • UK supply chain
  • the development of future commercial markets in emerging technology areas.

One characteristic feature of world class manufacturing research facilities is their unique experimental capability. In developing such equipment through this call, EPSRC hopes to help place UK research institutes at the forefront of global manufacturing research.

Areas in scope

The research proposal must address one or more of the following areas.

Manufacturing

The development of a novel piece of instrumentation to create a novel product or to improve the creation of an existing product. For example, by making the process:

  • faster
  • cheaper
  • more resource efficient, capable or suitable for a wider range of materials or intended end uses or supply chains.

Manipulation

Development of novel handling processes to allow the faster throughput of materials, ease the use of difficult-to-handle materials and increase the operating range of machinery. For example, through:

  • being able to handle larger samples
  • being able to work on multiple samples simultaneously
  • overcoming accessibility issues.

Measurement

Design and development of novel instrumentation to improve the speed and accuracy of measurement of equipment, the workpiece or both.

Examples of research in and out of scope

An example of research that may be considered within the scope of this call is the upgrading and development of existing equipment.

For example, this could be through the combination of two or more pieces of existing equipment to expand their present capability or enhancement through improved process control, systems or image analysis. In this case, the enhancement of existing equipment should exceed the current state of the art and availability.

Research not within the scope of this call includes the purchase and use of standard (in other words, off-the-shelf) equipment for manufacturing research (such as manufacturing and assessment of materials).

Manufacturing sustainability statement

The Manufacturing the Future (MtF) theme recognises the importance of considering the sustainability of manufacturing research across the breadth of the manufacturing portfolio.

You must outline your consideration of environmental sustainability relating to the research you will conduct. There is not an expectation that these projects will be focused on researching sustainability in and of itself, but to ensure that applicants have considered the wider implications of the research being conducted, prior to application.

This requirement will be in the form of an additional document, but it will not form part of the assessment made by peer review.

The statement should demonstrate and address:

  • considerations made to the wider environmental sustainability of your approach. For example, where appropriate, have any life cycle assessments been conducted? Is the research method energy and waste efficient?
  • does the research have potential for positive improvements in environmental sustainability for the manufacturing sector?
  • if (and how) the research may contribute to national and global sustainability priorities, for example Net Zero commitment, Paris Agreement, Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy
  • how will you ensure the research does not have unnecessary negative environmental impacts? If potential negative environmental impacts are identified, what is being done to minimise and mitigate against these?

Funding available

There is up to £10 million available through this call for projects expected to be up to three years in duration.

We anticipate that proposals may be small or large scale and do not have to be at the top end of either the time or cost spectrum to be considered.

We do not anticipate that the equipment developed within this call would initially be made available for wider use by other research groups. However, we do encourage you to consider opportunities for open access and wider use.

Due to the nature of the call, equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is available through this call. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading.

We do not expect you to request single items of equipment worth more than £400,000.

The EPSRC contribution for equipment funded from the EPSRC world class labs budget is 80%. This increased from 50% on 1 April 2021. For equipment funded from other sources, such as the Strategic Priorities Fund, the required contribution will remain at 50%.

If a proposal is based entirely around the development of a novel instrument, the costs of the equipment required to develop the instrument can be funded at 100%. To qualify as instrument development, the following additional rules apply:

  • the equipment must be entirely novel
  • the equipment must be designed, fabricated, and tested in the institution or institutions holding the grant, rather than being built by an external manufacturer to a specification defined by the PI and co-workers
  • the focus of the project should be entirely on the design, development and testing of the instrumentation rather than the application of the developed instrument to a range of problems.

Depending on the focus of the work proposed, some proposals produced in response to this call may be considered as instrument development, provided they fulfil all the relevant criteria.

A decision on whether a proposal qualifies as instrument development will be made on submission of the proposal before postal peer review. This decision will be final and communicated to the PI.

Being classed as instrument development will not be seen as an advantage at the funding panel.

Read more information on EPSRC equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

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
  • 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. We encourage our research community to do likewise.

Therefore applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation given on the EPSRC website.

Read the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

International collaboration

Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

Read the Trusted Research guidance (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure).

How to apply

Although proposals may be multi-institutional, only one application form should be submitted for each bid. Joint proposals on separate Je-S forms will not be accepted.

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:

  • ‘create new document’
  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard

On the project details page, you should select the ‘Manufacturing: Instrumenting the Future’ call.

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 call closing date.

EPSRC must receive your full proposal application by 16:00 on 14 September 2021.

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 post-doctoral 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, must be on headed paper, and signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission date
  • cover letter: no page limit, not seen by peer review, highlight any important information to EPSRC such as reviewer conflicts
  • additional document: up to two-page manufacturing sustainability statement.

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.

Please ensure you adhere to the above attachment requirements when submitting your proposal.

Any illegible, missing, over length or unnecessary attachments may result in your proposal being rejected.

Read advice on writing EPSRC proposals.

Ethical information

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.

Read further guidance on completing the ethical information section of the Je-S form (Je-S).

EPSRC guidance can be found under additional information.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Applications will be assessed via a one-stage process, full proposal to prioritisation panel.

The submitted full proposals will be assessed through postal peer review. Reviewers will be assessing applications against the full proposal assessment criteria detailed below. Full proposals must be submitted by 16:00 on 14 September 2021.

Applications that receive sufficient support from reviewers will be taken to a prioritisation panel. The panel will assess proposals against the full proposal assessment criteria to produce a rank ordered list.

It is anticipated that the prioritisation panel will take place in February 2022 with decisions expected in March 2022.

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

Any proposals not within the remit of the MtF theme will not be sent to postal peer review and you will be asked to withdraw your application.

Assessment criteria

Full proposals will be assessed against the following criteria:

Research quality (primary criterion)

This must include:

  • relevance to the UK manufacturing research base and potential to provide the UK with unique capability
  • novelty, relationship to context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • ambition, adventure and transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • suitability of proposed methodology and appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

Importance (secondary major criterion)

This must include:

  • evidence of how the proposed research contributes to:
    • maintaining health of other research disciplines
    • addressing key UK societal challenges
    • current or future UK economic success or enables future development of a key emerging industry or industries
  • meets national strategic needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading research activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio.

Call specific – fit to call (secondary major criterion)

Describe the alignment of the research programme to the aims and objectives of the call.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary criterion)

This must include this evidence of the ability to deliver the proposed project:

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

Resources and management (secondary criterion)

This must include:

  • the effectiveness of the proposed planning and management
  • the appropriateness and justification of the requested resources:
    • any equipment requested, or the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
    • any requested activities to either increase impact for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Feedback

Feedback will be provided in the form of reviewer comments, plus information on the panel provided on grants on the web.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal.

Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest.

For more information about the reviewer selection process please see the related content links.

Guidance for reviewers

When completing your assessment, please make sure you complete the section marked ‘call-specific criteria’ to address the ‘fit to call’ criterion.

Read information about the EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers.

Read EPSRC guidance on reviewing standard grants.

Contact details

Get help with this opportunity

Becky Cheesbrough, Manufacturing the Future Portfolio Manager.

Email: rebecca.cheesbrough@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with your proposal

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.

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 444164

Additional info

Manufacturing research has a key role to play in the generation of long-term economic growth and jobs for the UK. This is dependent in no small part on UK companies using new manufacturing technologies, processes and systems to develop innovative and novel products.

The development of these novel technologies, processes and systems requires significant investment into the research of bespoke equipment and specialist instrumentation that address key manufacturing challenges.

The goal of this funding opportunity is to establish new technologies with a strong base in the UK, in terms of supply chains and expertise.

Supporting documents

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