Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Early stage research and development scheme

Apply for funding to support low technology readiness levels with a focus on development in the Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics (PPAN) community.

You must be eligible to hold UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grants and be from either an approved:

  • UK higher education institution
  • research council institute
  • public sector research establishment
  • independent research organisation
  • catapult.

We encourage technologies or ideas originating from the core STFC-funded areas of:

  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • astronomy
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator physics
  • solar and planetary science
  • computing that underpins these areas.

We encourage you to work with a small or medium-sized enterprise where appropriate.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £200,000 per year for three years. STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

Proposals for projects must clearly demonstrate that the science, technology and expertise is aimed at the STFC core PPAN science programme.

Standard organisation eligibility applies to this opportunity.

Applications will be assessed by the STFC External Innovations office staff for eligibility following submission and returned at this early stage if they do not fulfil the requirements.

Lead applicants

Lead applicants (otherwise known as principal investigators) need to demonstrate that the project idea is aimed at PPAN STFC research.

As such, the early stage research and development scheme is only open to those who meet the eligibility criteria defined in the guidance for applicants.

If you have any queries on eligibility, please contact the STFC office (see the ‘contact details’ section).

Lead research organisation

The lead research organisation must be eligible to hold UKRI grants and be either an approved:

  • UK higher education institution
  • research council institute
  • public sector research establishment
  • independent research organisation
  • catapult.

Full details of approved research council institutes and independent research organisations can be found on the UKRI website.

For further information, you should refer to the STFC guidance for applicants.

Non‐academic organisations

Industrial organisations, including research or training organisations and not‐for‐profit operations, must:

  • collaborate with a lead academic partner
  • demonstrate that they possess the relevant technical capabilities and capacity to meet the scheme’s aims.

These collaborators are expected to be project partners, who donate funds or aid in-kind to the project.

Furthermore, as this scheme is UK funded, the organisation must have a strong presence and benefit to the UK economy.

The industrial support may be based outside the UK, but it is expected that value should be added to the UK economy, both within the project timescale and after the award has completed.

In cases where the principal investigator has current or former links to the project partner organisations, then this should be clearly declared in the cover letter, alongside details of their involvement and how it will be managed or mitigated.

Furthermore, any contributions to the project should be clarified, so that, for example, any support is not being double counted as commitments by the academic leads.

What we're looking for

This scheme is one of two new knowledge exchange schemes offered by STFC to support the PPAN community. These schemes are designed to fund projects from initial research and development through to commercialisation.

The PPAN community is defined as:

  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • astronomy
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator physics
  • solar and planetary science
  • computing that underpins the above areas.

Stages of commercialisation

Both schemes are designed to facilitate the transfer of STFC PPAN-funded research into an industrial setting over different stages of commercialisation.

Early stage research and development

To fund research and development with a focus on technology development in the PPAN community from technology readiness levels (TRL) one to five. In partnership with industry as appropriate.

Late stage commercialisation

To fund commercialisation (TRL five to seven or eight) developed from STFC PPAN-funded research. In partnership with industry as appropriate.

Aims

The main aim of the early stage research and development scheme is to support technology development addressing current and future challenges facing the PPAN community.

This includes technologies or ideas originating from the core STFC-funded areas of: particle physics, particle astrophysics, astronomy, nuclear physics, accelerator physics, solar and planetary science, and computing that underpins these areas.

A secondary aim of the scheme, during the lifetime of the award, is to further develop products and technology (move them through the TRL). Where appropriate, we encourage you to work with industry.

Funding

The scheme provides funding for a maximum of £200,000 a year full economic cost (fEC) for three years.

Receipt of funding for year three of the award will be dependent on a light touch stage gate assessment. It is expected that most of the development work will take place in year three. The scheme will therefore operate on a two plus one-year funding model to retain flexibility.

Partner involvement

As this scheme is aimed towards technology development, working with a small or medium-sized enterprise, where appropriate in the project, is encouraged. However, you can choose to submit without industry involvement, or start to collaborate with industry at any point during the lifetime of the award.

A project partner from a non-academic institution (for example, government departments, charities or NHS foundations) is also allowable. Any partner should provide either financial or in-kind contributions to the project and be committed to the success of the project.

How to apply

This scheme will be open for applications once a year.

It is mandatory that you make STFC aware of your intention to submit by emailing kegroup@stfc.ac.uk on or before 8 August 2022. Please give details of the:

  • principal investigator name
  • area of PPAN you will be working in
  • title of the application in the email.

Applying through Je-S

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in the:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: Early Stage R&D Call 2022.

This will populate:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: Early Stage R&D Call 2022

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

STFC must receive your application by 19 September 2022 at 16:00 UK time. Proposals submitted after the deadline will not be accepted.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should be aware that submitting a proposal in Je-S sends the application to the university’s research office, not UKRI. Please allow enough time before the deadline for the proposal to process through the institution’s internal submitter pool.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Attachments

As part of the application process, the following documents should be uploaded to Je-S and labelled accordingly:

  • Je-S pro forma
  • case for support (required, seven sides of A4)
  • Gantt chart (recommended, one side of A4)
  • data management plan (required, two sides of A4)
  • letter of support from your technology transfer office (recommended if industry is supporting the application)
  • project partner letter of support from each project partner (required if partners are present)
  • letters of support from organisations interested in the project (recommended)
  • covering letter (optional, cover letters will not be been seen by external reviewers or the panel)
  • other (optional, any document uploaded under ‘other’ will not be seen by external reviewers or the panel).

Any documents not listed, such as CVs, extra results or list of publications, will be returned to the principal investigator for removal.

All documents should conform to the guidelines described in the Je-S handbook.

Project partners

It is expected that project partners will contribute an appropriate level of support throughout the project and have a vested interest in any outcomes.

This information should be detailed in the Je-S application and letter of support. The principal investigator must submit this information on behalf of the supporting partner.

If a project partner is involved in the project, this should be included under ‘project partners’ in the Je-S form. Resources to be provided by any project partners, whether cash or in‐kind contributions, should be clearly identified in the proposal.

STFC will pay up to 80% of the total costs of the project, excluding the project partner contribution. Project partner contributions, either direct or in‐kind, should be as additional to STFC’s contribution and are not considered part of the full economic cost of the project. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to ensure that the total budget requested by all members of a project (joint applications) is within the financial limits of the award.

Case for support

The case for support should be no longer than seven sides of A4 and conform to the font and margin guidelines in the STFC specific requirements.

The case for support should be a self-contained summary of the proposed work with the necessary context given to enable panel members to make an informed judgement on the overall quality of the proposal.

The case for support must be structured using the following headings.

The guidance notes underneath the headings are there to help shape any thinking and add detail to the case for support, which is required to help carry out peer assessment of the proposal.

We understand that not all guidance notes will be relevant to all applicants, as it will be dependent on the maturity of the technology.

Technical overview

An overview of the technology must be included as part of the case for support. This should include:

  • a brief review of the underpinning research and context from the science area the opportunity arose from. Include details of previous funding where relevant
  • a technical overview of the current status of the innovation or technology, including any preliminary data or proof-of concept, for example, which will explain the status of the technology development
  • a description of the current technology and its application, along with a comparison of how your idea could improve on this
  • inclusion of images and preliminary data (encouraged where relevant).

Case for support

The remaining pages should give further detail of the application. This should be structured using the following headings. The technical overview can be referred to as part of the case for support where relevant.

1. Opportunity and application

What is the opportunity or challenge you are seeking to exploit or address, which could lead to the development or deployment of a new or improved product, service or technology?

You should use this section to:

  • describe the application area of the technology or need that this proposal will seek to address
  • outline how your proposed solution will address the opportunity or need, considering the scalability of the proposed approach.
2. Development plan

How has the idea or solution been developed to date and what is the proposed approach for further development? This section should expand on the technical overview section to discuss the research and development.

You should use this section to:

  • detail the current understanding or maturity of the innovation or technology and how the proposed work will enable its development. You can reference back to the technical overview if required
  • include specific project milestones or deliverables, and the resourcing necessary to deliver the proposed work
  • detail any necessary access to facilities, expertise or consultancy essential to delivering the proposed work, including any regulatory requirements
  • detail the contribution (intellectual, technical or financial) of any businesses or other organisations you plan to partner with (if applicable), and highlight your freedom to operate
  • upload a separate Gantt chart (or similar) to illustrate the project plan. This should be uploaded as a ‘Other Attachment’, on a maximum of one side of A4
  • provide a breakdown of how the funding will be used
  • detail what happens after this award has ended and what the next steps for the project are.

At the time of application, or during any subsequent grant, UKRI would not anticipate any business to have exclusive rights to the assets and intellectual property (IP) arising from the funded project.

3. Wider benefits

What are the potential wider benefits of the proposed approach?

You should use this section where appropriate to:

  • explain why the proposed programme is appropriate for public funding
  • consider the potential of the approach to impact on high-level societal and environmental challenges, for example gender equality, diversity, social inclusion and climate change
  • consider the benefits to the wider scientific community including those of disciplines outside of the PPAN community
  • consider the benefits to the wider population in the UK
  • describe what steps will be taken to maximise any potential benefits and outputs from the award.
4. Ethical considerations

Are there any ethical considerations associated with your product, service or technology, including those that are beyond formal regulatory and legal frameworks?

You should use this section to:

  • outline whether there are any ethical considerations relating to the project or its impacts, including any potential impacts on the environment
  • consider societal acceptance of your research where you think this might limit uptake and outline strategies that could be employed to address this
  • highlight if there are any implications for trusted and responsible research and innovation practises. For example, dual-use (both military and non-military) applications to your research, which could limit the commercial potential.

Learn more about UKRI’s approach to trusted research and innovation. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides further information.

Letters of support

Project partners and other letters of support if relevant

Letters or emails of support must be included from all named partners. In addition, you can include letters of support from other relevant parties not directly involved in the project but who support the objectives (for example, potential end users).

Letters of support should:

  • be on headed paper (for printed letters) and signed by a senior member of staff or director (the capacity in which the supporter is signing off the letter should be stated)
  • be from an appropriate person (for emails) and clearly named alongside their title
  • be dated within six months of the submission
  • be no more than two sides of A4 in length
  • detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and joint desired outcomes
  • detail specific contributions to the project (either cash or in-kind) with a justifiable monetary value. These contributions should also be stated in the case for support.

If the principal investigator has any current or former links to the partner organisation, then they should be declared in the cover letter, alongside the details on any such involvement and how the conflict will be managed or mitigated. This is only relevant where a named investigator has any formal connection with the partner organisation and a vested or financial interest in the commercialisation outcome (for example, current or former employee, shareholder, member of an oversight or advisory board).

Technology transfer office

A letter of support from your technology transfer office (or equivalent) should be included with each application if you have a named industrial partner and the technology is sufficiently mature (for this scheme, maturity is defined as TRL 4 to 5). Please use the STFC technology readiness levels (TRL) definition to help determine the TRL of the technology.

The letter of support should relate specifically to the proposal (should not be a generic letter of support) and explain in detail how the university sees the project being taken forward and how the university intends to support the work involved. It should also outline the current and anticipated IP position (whether a patent has been filed or granted) of any involved parties.

Je-S only allows a maximum of three letters of support to be uploaded. Letters of support may be merged into a single document if needed.

It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to ensure that information is worded in such a way as to protect commercial, confidential or sensitive data. STFC will assume that you have obtained necessary permissions from any party that may be involved in the application.

Data management plan

It is anticipated that all applications will produce or collect data during the course of the proposed project.

The development of a data management plan as an attachment to the Je-S proforma is mandatory for all applications. The plan should be no longer than two sides of A4.

The plan, together with any costs associated with it, will be considered, and assessed by the normal peer review process. The data management plan should explain how the data will be managed over the lifetime of the project and, where appropriate, preserved for future re‐use.

Applications that do not have a data management plan will not be accepted.

Data protection

Grants submitted via Je-S are done so under their terms and conditions.

Please make sure you have permission from any relevant bodies before submitting any sensitive data. STFC will not be held accountable if data submitted has been done so without the relevant permissions sought.

Ethical considerations

Projects that involve holding or using sensitive information on individuals (for example, facial recognition) should ensure they conform to UKRI’s research integrity policy.

Although an ethical statement will not need to be submitted alongside any proposals, all the involved researchers should have consideration for such requirements. STFC reserves the right to suspend any grants that do not meet these requirements.

All projects and activities should conform to UKRI’s trusted research and innovation practices.

STFC reserves the right to terminate any grants if there are any concerns over the above.

How we will assess your application

Panel assessment

Applications are assessed by an independent panel comprised of academic members from the PPAN community as well as industry. Details of the panel membership will be shared with applicants once the opportunity has closed.

Confidentiality and peer review

Applications will be assessed for eligibility and sent for peer review. The principal investigator will be invited to respond to the comments. In accordance with UKRI guidelines, you have five working days to respond to these comments unless otherwise agreed with the STFC office. Proposals will then be sent to the panel for review, and final decisions made shortly after.

Proposals will be assessed by a panel of experts, typically around 10 to 12 weeks after the closing date. STFC takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the contents of applications submitted are treated as confidential.

All members of the panel sign a non‐disclosure agreement and peer reviewers must comply with the STFC’s reviewer protocols. Reviewers and panel members are asked to declare conflicts of interest in relation to an application before they are asked to assess.

Each proposal will be assessed by external reviewers, one of whom can be nominated by the applicant.

Any reviewers nominated by the applicant should not be a current or previous collaborator, a friend or family member, neither should they be from the applicant’s or collaborator’s home institution.

Please see STFC’s guidance on confidentiality and conflicts of interest. Should it arise the reviewer is in violation of this, the nominated reviewer will not be invited to review.

Assessment criteria

As this opportunity is designed to support research and development of technology, applications will be assessed against the following criteria.

Each criterion will be assigned an equal score by the panel, based on the information provided by the applicant and feedback from external reviewers. This score will be used to determine which projects receive funding. These assessment criteria are as follows.

Scientific and technical excellence

The proposed project:

  • should be feasible from a technical standpoint and build on strong underpinning quality science
  • should indicate, where possible, the developing technology in terms of international and UK benchmarking
  • must include a programme of excellent technical development
  • should build on solid and well-thought-out technical evidence.

Leadership planning and project management

You must show the:

  • capability of the project team and partner organisations on being able to deliver on the project
  • capability of the project team to deliver the project milestones, and manage resources and risk
  • capability of the team to engage with industry
  • extent to which the team has considered the next steps in the development of the project after the lifetime of this award
  • extent that the environment in which the project is being delivered is supportive of the research and development of technology.

Strategic value within the STFC programme

You must show the:

  • extent to which the resources requested, relative to the anticipated outputs, represent an appropriate investment of STFC funds (value for money)
  • degree of support from project partners both during research and after funding, if relevant
  • added value the proposed research may have on the PPAN community
  • consideration of the future of the project after this funding.

Social and economic impact

You must show the:

  • benefit or impact the proposed research may have on the wider scientific community outside of the PPAN community
  • extent to which the outputs of the proposed work show direct potential for economic and societal benefit to the UK
  • extent to which responsible research and ethics have been considered.

Project partner commitment

The individual nature of proposals submitted, means that the partner’s contribution will vary in context and each application will be assessed on its own merit.

The assessment panel will look for evidence of project partner commitment, which could be shown by direct funding or in-kind support. The panel will consider whether this commitment is substantially justified.

You are advised to obtain the necessary clearances from collaborators with a commercial interest in the content of the application before submitting it.

If the proposal is from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) or European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), then the extent to which the proposed project will enable CERN or ESRF technology to be exploited by UK industry or non‐STFC academic sectors will be considered.

Response to reviewers

Each principal investigator will have the opportunity to respond to the reviewer comments before the panel meeting.

You should be aware that we will request your response to reviewers approximately four to six weeks following the closing date of the opportunity. All key dates (including an estimated date for this response) will be communicated to any eligible applicants following submission.

The principal investigator response should be no more than half a side of A4 per reviewer (maximum of two pages), submitted in Arial font size 11. This should be submitted within five working days of receipt.

See the principal investigator response guidance.

Contact details

Get help with developing 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.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Wendy Carr, Senior Programme Manager

Email: wendy.carr@stfc.ac.uk

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

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