Programme grants provide flexible funding to world-leading research groups seeking to address significant research challenges across the EPSRC remit. We expect most successful applications to be interdisciplinary and collaborative, but they can also address key challenges in a single discipline. They are not just large grants, they must be strategic in nature.
We are looking for proposals that:
- bring together the best researchers to tackle bigger, more open-ended challenges in a coherent and holistic way
- build partnerships between universities and promote cross-disciplinary working
- provide freedom to conduct feasibility studies, cross-fertilise ideas and build up new skill sets
- create greater visibility nationally and internationally among other researchers and industry
- help to bring in other researchers, attract more funding and promote UK science
- allow early career researchers in the team to be given greater independence and responsibility, and promote their career development
- offer grant holders flexibility to allocate resources between different projects and respond quickly to new challenges
Key features of a programme grant
Quality and ambition
A programme grant is seen as a scheme that attracts best with best and allows researchers to tackle bigger, more open-ended problems, tackled through a more coherent or holistic approach.
The stability in tackling a longer range vision helps motivate teams, provides the freedom required to take risks, and enables longer term planning.
The scale of activity is seen to create stronger links between the universities involved and greater visibility at a national and international level.
The size of programme grants allows for the assembly of the best team and collaborators, all with complementary expertise leading to the development of effective multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary working.
The duration of programme grants allows investment by the team in building effective collaborations. The scale of a programme grant leads to industry interest beyond the original project partners and greater input from the wider community, including industry, resulting in more external visibility on the research direction for the area.
The programme grant mechanism provides freedom to scope new opportunities, allows the team to cross-fertilise ideas, and build up new skills sets. This allows the team to develop new themes, and to trade ideas and resources.
The stability of the grant allows early career researchers (ECRs) in the team to express their creativity and pose ideas for investigation. In addition, the grant holder is able to concentrate on the science challenges rather than grant writing.
Impact and advocacy
Programme grants are seen to have greater visibility and recognition within the universities involved and the relevant research communities at both a national and international level. This gives the programme grant team more influence than smaller scale research activities.
They are able to attract more visits and engagement with high quality researchers and external stakeholders, leverage other funding, and influence wider strategies. The visibility also enhances the opportunities for outreach and advocacy, promoting UK science.
Programme grants are seen as a good environment for ECRs with longer term career development. The flexibility and longer durations allow the investigators to empower junior team members giving them greater independence through more responsibility and leadership over activities.
Postdoctoral staff gain a broader experience due to the breadth of experience and expertise in the team and there are greater opportunities for secondments, mentoring and involvement in management. This makes programme grants an attractive employment prospect leading to higher quality recruitment. PhD students are often aligned to programme grant teams, also benefiting from interacting with a team of broader expertise and activity.
The flexibility programme grant holders are afforded is seen as a real strength of the scheme. The flexibility enables a more dynamic allocation of resources and a nimble approach to recruitment or the individual projects being undertaken.
The scheme does not allow for flexible pots of cash or unassigned funds, instead funding should be provisionally assigned at the start of the project (for example, to post-doctoral research assistants or consumables). This funding can then be reallocated and redeployed subject to project needs.
The independent advisory boards are seen as a crucial element of identifying what projects should be shut down, freeing up resources for other strands. The resulting agility allows the team to undertake aggressive triage if necessary and respond more quickly to new and evolving challenges.
Management and monitoring
Programme grants should have effective management and monitoring arrangements for the investment. This should include a risk management strategy and a strategy for how the flexibility of resources will be managed.
We expect all programme grants to establish and run an independent advisory board, or equivalent body, to provide advice and recommendations on the strategic scientific and research direction and activities (such as impact, advocacy and outreach) of the programme grant.
This independent advisory board must meet at least annually. This group should have at least 50% independent membership and an independent chair.
We strongly encourage you to consider costing in project management and other administrative support such as employing a full-time equivalent project manager, and not relying on the project lead for these duties.
We are 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.
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. We expect you to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
You should look to consider the sustainability of the research activities during the lifetime of the programme grant and following the end of the programme grant. Consideration should be given to all available funding mechanisms.
The duration of this award is up to six years.
EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.
The funding available depends on the theme of your project.
You should have discussed the funding for your project at the pre-outline stage.
Quotes for equipment do not need to be included in your application, but please retain quotes for equipment costing more than £138,000 as we may ask for these at post-panel stage before releasing funds.
Supporting skills and talent
We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.
If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.
Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.