Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: EPSRC postdoctoral fellowship, May 2023

These are personal, career development focused awards, limited to topics in:

  • energy
  • mathematical sciences
  • synthetic biology
  • Stephen Hawking areas of research (go to the What we are looking for section for details)

You must have either:

  • a PhD
  • at least four years’ experience in a relevant field by the start of your fellowship

You must be hosted and supported by an eligible UK research organisation during your fellowship.

Your fellowship can focus on research in one or a combination of:

  • discovery science
  • innovation
  • instrumentation and technique development
  • software engineering

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

Who is eligible to apply

You can apply if you have a PhD or have worked in a relevant field for at least four years by the start date of your fellowship.

This is an early career fellowship for those that have not already been in receipt of significant funding or been leading in an area of technical development.

Postdoctoral fellowships are only available in limited topics.

You could consider applying for a postdoctoral fellowship if you:

  • have recently started formulating your own research ideas for programmes of work up to three years in duration that will deliver high quality research with a focus on discovery science, innovation, instrumentation/technique development or software engineering
  • can demonstrate that you have acquired the skills and expertise to successfully deliver your research proposal
  • have not previously held a significant grant (usually defined as those that included PDRA time, capital equipment or were over £100,000 full economic cost (FEC))
  • have identified training and development needs to enable you to prepare for an enhanced career in research and innovation

There are no eligibility rules about how many years of postdoctoral experience you need. You do not need to hold a permanent academic position to be eligible for postdoctoral fellowships. Your employment status may vary by host institution.

Candidates with more research experience may prefer to apply for the open fellowship or open plus fellowship.

We encourage applications from candidates who have taken a non-standard career path after their first degree.

We also welcome applications from candidates who want to move back into research after a career break or any other type of break from active research.

Research organisations

We expect eligible research organisations to submit the most suitable candidates for these fellowships and identify the additional support and resources they will provide the applicant with if successful.

If you are a research organisation, you must:

  • make sure that the experience, aims and aspirations of the applicant are suitable for a fellowship application
  • commit to supporting the applicant to ensure their knowledge and expertise in implementing good practice in creating a modern and inclusive research environment is continually updated
  • identify the additional support you will provide to ensure successful project delivery and opportunities for the applicant to expand or enhance their current role
  • for those applicants who are choosing to add the additional plus component, you should indicate how the topic they have chosen to champion fits the work your organisation is doing in this area, and how you will assist the applicant to lead their chosen area

Resubmissions

We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI or any other funder.

Find out more about EPSRC’s resubmissions policy.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

Aim

EPSRC is committed to the continued support of excellent responsive, discovery led research as detailed in EPSRC’s Strategic Delivery Plan 2022 to 2025.

EPSRC fellowships are a prestigious individual award aimed at exceptional, ambitious and talented researchers and technical professionals who wish to develop, expand or establish a programme of research or technical development alongside personal and professional development.

Our fellowships present an accelerated pathway to progression and success on your career journey. Postdoctoral fellowship schemes are designed to be flexible and enable you to design a programme around your individual needs, with freedom to design a package that fits your career ambitions, research needs and personal and professional development requirements.

Successful fellowships can include elements of community engagement and advocacy, research leadership, and drive positive change in the research environment.

You could consider applying for a postdoctoral fellowship if you:

  • have recently started formulating your own research ideas for programmes of work up to three years in duration that will deliver high quality research with a focus on discovery science, innovation, instrumentation or technique development, or software engineering
  • can demonstrate that you have acquired the skills and expertise to successfully deliver your research proposal
  • have not previously held a significant grant (usually defined as those which included PDRA time, capital equipment or were in excess of £100,000 full economic cost (FEC))
  • have identified training and development needs to enable you to prepare for an enhanced career in research and innovation

If you have already been in receipt of significant funding as defined here or have been leading in an area of technical development, you may wish to apply for an open fellowship.

You can only apply for postdoctoral fellowships in the following areas of EPSRC research:

You will be asked to indicate which of these areas you are applying to.

Stephen Hawking Fellowships

Areas included in the opportunity are:

  • cosmology
  • general relativity
  • quantum gravity
  • classical gravity
  • string theory
  • statistical physics
  • nuclear physics
  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • theoretical astronomy
  • theoretical plasma physics
  • solar or planetary physics
  • mathematical physics
  • condensed matter physics
  • theoretical quantum optics and information
  • quantum fluids and solids
  • cold atoms and molecules

Applications are also welcome from across the fundamental mathematical and computer sciences. You would need to demonstrate that the research will underpin these approaches and can directly build capability in the area of theoretical physics.

The scope and ambition of this fellowship includes a requirement for applications to include a strong element of public engagement and outreach as an integral part of a wider programme of research.

Duration

You can apply for up to three years for a postdoctoral fellowship. We expect most of our fellows to hold the fellowship for 100% of their time.

If you work part-time, you can hold your EPSRC fellowship part-time as well, at a minimal level of 50% full-time equivalent. In these circumstances, the duration of your fellowship can be extended proportionally to a maximum duration of six years.

In exceptional circumstances, if you do not work part-time, you may hold our fellowship for between 50% and 100% of your time. This must be clearly justified in your application. However, the total fellowship duration will be fixed at three years.

Funding available

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost of your project. You may request funding for:

  • equipment and other items needed to carry out the project
  • costs related to impact
  • travel and subsistence

We will not fund costs for additional researchers on postdoctoral fellowships or individual items of equipment over £10,000 (including VAT).

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.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.

How to apply

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service

We are running the funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply for this funding opportunity on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

If you do not already have an account with the UKRI Funding Service, you will be able to create one by selecting the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page. Creating an account is a two minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.

Research offices that have not already received an invitation to open an account should email support@funding-service.ukri.org

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service.

Submitting your application

To apply:

  1. Select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. This will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. This is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers.
  4. Once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

EPSRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

EPSRC will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Deadline

The closing date for the first responsive mode round on the Funding Service will be 28 September 2023 at 4:00pm.

We must receive your application by this date. You should ensure that you are aware of and follow any internal institutional submission deadlines that may be in place.

The subsequent fellowships round on the Funding Service will open on 2 October 2023.

We will not be returning applications for amendment. If an application is withdrawn prior to peer review or office rejected due to substantive errors in the application, it cannot be re-submitted to the same round

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

Word count: 550

In plain English, provide a summary that can be sent to potential reviewers to determine if your proposal is within their field of expertise.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context
  • the challenge the project addresses and how it will be applied to this
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits

Applicants

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • fellow
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

For fellowships, the role of fellow will be responsible for intellectual leadership and management (equivalent to project lead). You can only list one fellow on the application.

Find out about UKRI’s new grant roles.

1. Section: Fellowship thematic area alignment

Word count: 1

Question: Select which thematic area you are applying for a post doctoral fellowship in.

In the text box, copy the letter corresponding to your selected area:

  • Energy
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Stephen Hawking areas of research
  • Synthetic biology
Additional guidance

This is for administrative purposes to help the initial application processing. Post doctoral fellowships must be within one of these thematic areas.

2. Section: Fellowship focus areas

Word count: 4

Question: Select which are the focus areas for your fellowship.

In the text box, copy the letters corresponding to your selected areas (with no spaces):

You may select as many as are relevant:

  • Discovery science
  • Innovation
  • Instrument and technique development
  • Software engineering
Additional guidance

This is for administrative purposes to help us to monitor the types of fellowship applications we receive.

3. Section: Vision and Approach

Word count 5

You should upload the Vision and Approach document as a six page PDF, plus an additional page for a diagrammatic workplan. The document must have single line spacing, margins of at least 2cm and be typed using Arial 11pt, or another ‘sans serif’ font with an equivalent size to Arial 11pt.

Question: What are you hoping to achieve with and how will you deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

For the Vision, explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment

Within the Vision section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be

For the Approach, explain how you have designed your work so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the Approach section we also expect you to:

  • demonstrate access to the appropriate services, facilities, infrastructure, or equipment to deliver the proposal
  • provide a project plan including milestones and timelines

4. Section: Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word count: 2,500 (2,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions)

Question: Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • the appropriate research environment for the work to succeed and individuals to achieve their goals
  • contributed to developing a positive environment and wider community (for example, research integrity, RRI, EDI, advocacy or advisory roles, stakeholder engagement, participation in peer review, influencing policy, public engagement or outreach)

The word count for this section is 2,500 words – 2,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you, and if relevant your team (investigators, researchers, other (technical) staff for example research software engineers, data scientists and so on, and partners), have and how this will help to deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. You should use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

You should complete this as a narrative and you should avoid CV type format.  You can use short lists if they help readability.

Additions: Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences or outputs, but any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

5. Section: Personal aspirations and continued professional development

Word count 500

Question: How will this fellowship develop you and your career?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, you should explain:

  • how the award of the fellowship will progress your career over and above your current trajectory
  • the professional development goals you have put in place to enable your career development, and the plans you have put in place to enable you to reach these goals
  • why you need this award at this time to achieve this career progression
  • how the programme will benefit you on your career journey

Career development goals should demonstrate a knowledge of ethical, responsible and inclusive research culture as well as research expertise. Assessment will focus on future career aspirations and potential developments.

6. Section: Team and community leadership

Word count 500

Question: How will you develop and support teams and people around you and lead in the creation of a modern research environment?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, you should explain:

  • how you will ensure continued research and professional development of staff or other colleagues you will be managing on the project, to have a positive research experience with opportunities/support to progress their own careers
  • how you will lead by example in developing a modern research environment and wider community development (for example, research integrity, responsible research and innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion, advocacy or advisory roles, stakeholder engagement, participation in peer review, influencing policy, public engagement or outreach)

Assessment will account for the relative career stage of the applicant and the support offered by the host institution in terms of expectations of team and community leadership.

7. Section: Research organisation support

Word count 500

Question: What support is being provided from the research organisation in underpinning your fellowship?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Considering your career trajectory and how the support offered forms a cohesive career development package for you, use the text box to explain who you have engaged with in your research organisation (name and role) and what they have said your research organisation will provide, covering:

  • how you will ensure continued research and professional development of staff, or other colleagues you will be managing on the project
  • your approach and methodology to driving change in a community, at local level and beyond
  • how you will lead by example across a range of stakeholders
  • your plans for community and team engagement and the expected outcomes

8 Section: References

Word count: 1,000

Question: List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You should include all references in this section of the application and not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application. If linking to web resources, to ensure the information’s integrity is maintained include, where possible, persistent identifiers such as digital object identifiers.

You must not include links to web resources in order to extend your application.

9a Section: Project partners: contributions

Word count: 1000

Question: Provide details about any project partners’ contributions using the template provided.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you do have project partners, download and complete the project partner contributions template (DOCX, 52KB) then copy and paste the table within it into the text box.

Ensure you have obtained prior agreement from project partners that, should you be offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the template.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation that is contributing to the application and will have an integral role in the proposed research. Project partners cannot normally receive funding directly from the grant. Two exceptions to this are:

  • where a project partner is providing services or equipment that will go through a formal procurement process audited by the host research organisation
  • the project partner can receive small amounts of funding from the grant, such as for travel and subsistence to attend project meetings. These will need to be requested and fully justified in the application

9b Section: Project partners: letters (or emails) of support

Word count: 10

Question: Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the table in the previous ‘contributions’ section.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you have named project partners in the previous ‘contributions’ section, enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box.

Each letter or email you provide should:

Unless specifically requested, do not include any personal data within the attachment. Upload details are provided within the service on the actual application.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

10 Section: Facilities

Word count: 250

Question: Does your proposed research require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter N/A into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If you will need to use a facility, you should follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Where prior agreement is required, ensure you obtain their agreement that, should you be offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project.

In the text box, for each requested facility you should provide under the following headings:

  • facility name: the name of facility, copied and pasted from this list (DOCX, 37KB)
  • usage: the proposed usage time or costs, or costs per unit where indicated on that list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required – copy the following text: ‘I confirm that I have contacted the facility and their agreement that, should you be offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on my project for the usage specified.’

Do not put the facility contact details in your response.

11 Section: Sensitive information

Word count: 10

Question: Is there sensitive information you need to share with UKRI that you do not want shared with assessors?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have anything to share, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If you, or a key team member, need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, enter the words ‘email sent’ in the text box.

Then email the Funding Service helpdesk on support@funding-service.ukri.org. You must include in the subject line: <EPSRC responsive mode, sensitive info, Funding Service application number>.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • applicant is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, see UKRI’s privacy notice.

12 Section: Resources and cost justification

Using the costs table within the resources and cost summary, provide details of the total funding required under each fund heading. You should include high-level costs only, not a detailed breakdown of individual items. You should use the textbox for the justification of resources to provide further details on what is being requested and why it is needed to deliver your proposed work.

Question: What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

Word count: 1000

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

This resources and cost justification should not simply be a list of the resources requested, as this will already be given in the costs table. Costings should be justified on the basis of full economic costs (FEC) of the project, not just on the costs expected from UKRI. For some items we do not expect you to justify the monetary value, rather the type of resource, such as amount of time or type of staff requested.

Where you do not provide adequate justification for a resource, we may deduct it from any funding awarded.

You should identify:

  • support for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement, knowledge exchange or to support responsible innovation
  • support for access to facilities, infrastructure or procurement of equipment
  • support for preserving, long-term storage, or sharing of data
  • support from your organisation or partner organisations and how that enhances value for money

13 Section: Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word count: 500

Question: What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how you will manage them.

Additional sub-questions (to be answered only if appropriate) will be included in the Funding Service. These will ask about numbers, species/strain and justification about:

  • genetic and biological risk
  • research involving the use of animals
  • conducting research with animal overseas
  • research involving human participation
  • research involving human tissues or biological samples

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite at least three peers to review your application independently, against the published criteria (areas of assessment) for this funding opportunity.

You will not be able to nominate reviewers for your application. Expert reviewers will continue to be selected by EPSRC.

UKRI are monitoring the requirement for applicant nominated reviewers as we review policies and processes as part of the continued development of the new UKRI Funding Service.

You will be able to respond to reviewers’ comments if your application gains enough support.

Panel

If your application gains enough support from reviewers, your application, reviewers’ comments and your response will go to the most appropriate prioritisation panel. Using this information, the panel will score it against our assessment criteria (areas of assessment) and rank it with alongside other applications.

EPSRC responsive mode panels are structured as follows:

  • mathematical sciences
  • information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • engineering
  • physical sciences

Panel membership for each panel is taken from across the disciplines to cover the breadth of proposals considered in each panel.

Interview

Those proposals that are successful will go to an interview panel, which will be held approximately five weeks after the panel.

Areas of assessment

The criteria against which your application will be assessed directly relates to the core application questions.

For Fellowships, the assessment process will place more emphasis on the ‘research-based’ criteria at prioritisation panel and more emphasis on the ‘person-based’ criteria at interview.

However, both stages of review may consider any assessment criteria:

  • vision of the project
  • approach to the project
  • capability of the applicant or applicants and the project team to deliver the project
  • ethical and responsible research and innovation (RRI) considerations of the project
  • resources requested to do the project
  • research organisation support
  • personal aspirations and continued professional development
  • team and community leadership

Further detail on what the assessors are looking for is available in the questions in the How to apply section.

Timescale

Panels are expected to be held during spring and summer 2024.

Feedback

No further feedback beyond the reviewers’ comments will be provided after the panel.

Principles of assessment

UKRI supports the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognises the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI Principles of Assessment and Decision Making.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office.

Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Additional info

Webinar for potential applicants

We will held a webinar at 1:00pm on 21 June 2023. This provided information about the funding opportunity and a chance to ask questions.

Watch a recording of the webinar

Webinar passcode: B7V+gWct

Webinar slides (PDF, 918KB)

Supporting documents

Equality Impact Assessment for EPSRC Fellowships (PDF, 274KB)

Updates

  • 21 December 2023
    Expected panel review timescale added under How we will assess your application.
  • 28 September 2023
    New closing date added.
  • 13 July 2023
    8 Section References: word count updated from 250 to 1,000.

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