Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: High-risk speculative engineering and ICT research: New Horizons – invited full proposals

This invited full proposal stage is only open to applicants who were successful at the outline proposal stage.

Apply for funding for new research projects that are speculative and high risk, with potential for high reward.

Your project must be within the remit of EPSRC’s:

  • engineering theme
  • information and communication technologies (ICT) theme.

You must be:

  • a UK resident
  • based at an eligible research organisation.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £250,000. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project can last up to two years (24 months).

This opportunity is part of the EPSRC New Horizons pilot scheme.

Who can apply

This invited full proposal stage is only open to applicants who were successful at the outline proposal stage.

This New Horizons scheme funding opportunity is limited to one submission per applicant as either principal investigator or co-investigator. That is, you can only appear as an investigator on one application.

This means that you cannot be added to an invited full proposal application (for example, as a co-investigator) if you were part of an outline application, as either principal investigator or co-investigator. This includes both successful and unsuccessful outline applications.

Proposals will be rejected if applicants do not comply with this guidance.

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 your institution is eligible for research and innovation funding.

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

  • you are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • you 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
  • you hold an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages (that is, fellowships from these bodies that are not aimed primarily at the postdoctoral level)
  • you hold fellowships under other schemes (please contact EPSRC by emailing newhorizons@epsrc.ukri.org 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 have any specific queries, please contact EPSRC by emailing:  newhorizons@epsrc.ukri.org. Please note that we may not respond to enquiries submitted within five working days of the full proposal deadline of 10 May 2022.

A dynamic, diverse and inclusive research and innovation system must be an integral part of UK society, giving everyone the opportunity to participate and to benefit.

Therefore, we particularly encourage applications from:

  • early career researchers
  • people who identify as women
  • people who identify as minority ethnic
  • people with a disability
  • other groups who are currently under-represented.

We welcome applications from people based in all regions and nations of the UK.

Note that career stage or diversity information will not be used in the assessment process and will not be used to make funding decisions.

Submissions to this invited full proposal stage will not count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

Applications and awards to this funding opportunity will not preclude applicants from schemes that include holding previous awards as an eligibility factor (for example, New Investigator Awards).

What we're looking for

This invited full proposal stage is only open to applicants who were successful at the outline proposal stage. At this stage, applicants must provide further information on the research idea proposed at the outline proposal stage. Those assessing your full proposal application will not have access to your outline proposal application.

In this second phase of the pilot New Horizons scheme, the aims are to:

  • support speculative, high-risk research ideas that could potentially offer high reward, to ensure the continued flow of these types of research projects into the EPSRC portfolio and wider UKRI funding streams
  • trial ways to minimise the bureaucracy of the application process, particularly for the applicant
  • deliver a faster process compared with current standard funding routes, whilst maintaining robust decision making that is proportionate to the level of risk.

Scope

The scope of this funding opportunity is to encourage and support speculative, high-risk research ideas that could potentially offer high reward.

The New Horizons funding route is intended to stimulate creativity within the research community, to give researchers time and space to test out their speculative ideas.

Applicants are advised to strongly consider whether their research project is truly speculative high-risk and could potentially offer high reward before applying.

We expect the research projects funded to, for example:

  • revolutionise existing fields of research
  • create new fields of research
  • test new, unproven tools or techniques
  • cause paradigm shifts in existing thought and knowledge
  • support discovery that might lead to radically new and disruptive technologies.

Proposals are welcome that are considered to be majority within the remit of the EPSRC engineering and ICT theme research areas.

The EPSRC engineering theme research areas are:

  • biomaterials and tissue engineering
  • built environment
  • coastal and waterway engineering
  • combustion engineering
  • complex fluids and rheology
  • control engineering
  • electrical motors and drives or electromagnetics
  • fluid dynamics and aerodynamics
  • ground engineering
  • infrastructure and urban systems
  • materials engineering (ceramics)
  • materials engineering (composites)
  • materials engineering (metals and alloys)
  • microsystems
  • particle technology
  • performance and inspection of mechanical structures and systems
  • process systems: components and integration
  • robotics
  • sensors and instrumentation
  • structural engineering
  • synthetic biology
  • water engineering.

The EPSRC ICT theme research areas are:

  • architectures and operating systems
  • artificial intelligence technologies
  • biological informatics
  • databases
  • digital signal processing
  • graphics and visualisation
  • human communication in ICT
  • human computer interaction
  • ICT networks and distributed systems
  • image and vision computing
  • information systems
  • microelectronic device technology
  • microelectronics design
  • music and acoustic technology
  • natural language processing
  • optical communications
  • optical devices and subsystems
  • optoelectronic devices and circuits
  • pervasive and ubiquitous computing
  • programming languages and compilers
  • radio frequency and microwave communications
  • radio frequency and microwave devices
  • software engineering
  • speech technology
  • theoretical computer science
  • verification and correctness
  • vision, hearing and other senses.

Find detailed remit information for each EPSRC research area.

For projects requesting funding for researchers at different eligible organisations to work together, only the lead organisation, on behalf of all organisations involved in a project, can submit one proposal through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

This means that projects consisting of multiple proposals (sometimes known as joint proposals) are not eligible for this opportunity.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £250,000. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost (up to £200,000)

Your project can last up to two years (24 months).

This funding opportunity follows typical EPSRC funding guidelines, which means indexation will be added by EPSRC and so costings should exclude indexation as usual.

Standard EPSRC costs can be applied for.

Equipment over £10,000 in value (inclusive of VAT) can be included through this opportunity within the maximum project award amount of £200,000 (80% value of full economic cost). For more information, see the EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

Successful projects from this opportunity which show promise can seek further funding afterwards through the current routes, for example, standard mode proposals or fellowships.

Responsible innovation and including international collaborators

Applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC Framework for Responsible Innovation.

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

How to apply

This invited full proposal stage is only open to applicants who were successful at the outline proposal stage.

At this stage, applicants must provide further information on the research idea proposed at the outline proposal stage. Those assessing your full proposal application will not have access to your outline proposal application.

Applications will follow a non-standard format, as detailed within this opportunity information.

EPSRC will not be returning any invited full proposals for amendment due to errors in submission, after the funding opportunity closes.

Submitting an invited full proposal through Je-S

You should prepare and submit your invited full proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

Applicants should ensure they are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

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/outline/ …’
  • ‘New Horizons 2021 Invited Full Proposal’ on the project details page.

Guidance for completing the Je-S form

In the ‘related proposals’ section, you must add your corresponding outline proposal grant reference in the format EP/XXXXXXX/1.

In the ‘resources – equipment’ section, equipment costs can be requested within the maximum project award amount of £200,000 (80% value of full economic cost).

We do not require equipment attachments at this stage of the scheme. If prompted, please upload a blank PDF document for equipment business cases and equipment quotes as a workaround.

In the ‘project partners’ section,  project partner letters of support are not required at this stage when adding a project partner.

Costings

Full costings should be confirmed with your institution’s research office and included in the Je-S form.

Costs under the ‘exceptions’ heading are not allowed. Proposals requesting exceptions costs will be rejected.

Costs can change from the value requested at the outline proposal stage, as long as the total cost remains within the £250,000 full economic cost maximum.

This funding opportunity follows typical EPSRC funding guidelines. This means indexation will be added by EPSRC and so costings should exclude indexation as usual.

Attachments

The ‘attachments’ section of the Je-S form must include the following two documents.

Case for support (mandatory attachment)

The case for support for this opportunity follows a non-standard format.

You must attach a four-page ‘case for support’ document on the attachments page of the Je-S form.

The full proposal stage case for support must conform to the following:

  • three pages describing the proposed research and its intended outcomes. It should cover the context, importance, methodology and all the associated work and activities you propose to carry out that will make this a high-quality research project
  • one page describing the applicant team’s ability to deliver the research, including their skills and expertise. The applicant team includes any project partners.

Note that this invited full proposal stage is different from the outline proposal stage in that the invited full proposal stage is not anonymous with respect to applicant and institution.

The project must be within either the EPSRC engineering or ICT theme’s remit or across these two remits. By this we mean that the majority of the research project should fit within one or more of the EPSRC engineering and ICT theme research areas, which are listed in the ‘Scope’ section.

Justification for resources (mandatory attachment)

The justification for resources for this opportunity follows a non-standard format.

You must attach a one-page ‘justification for resources’ to the Je-S form.

Each heading in the ‘resources’ section on the Je-S form should appear in the justification for resources, with a brief explanation in line with our guidance on how to write a justification for resources. Note however that in this specific funding opportunity the justification for resources must be one page maximum.

Formatting and attachment guidance

You should attach your four-page case for support and one-page justification for resources documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They must be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or a similar-sized sans serif typeface, with margins of at least 2cm. Arial Narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types.

Text in embedded diagrams or pictures, numerical formulae or references can be smaller, as long as it is legible. Text in tables and figure labels not within embedded diagrams or pictures must be at least 11 point.

EPSRC will reject all proposals which do not conform to these formatting rules, with no exceptions made. Please be aware that converting to PDF can alter the formatting and result in layout changes: for example, converting from LaTeX to PDF can add small serifs or alter font size. You should ensure documents converted to PDF still meet the formatting guidelines outlined prior to submission.

EPSRC will not be returning any invited full proposals for amendment due to errors in submission, such as wrong attachment types. EPSRC will reject these invited full proposals, with no exceptions made.

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 on the Je-S form must be completed. See what information is needed in the guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

EPSRC guidance can be found in ‘related content’.

After completing the form

After completing your 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. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 10 May 2022.

EPSRC will not be returning any invited full proposals for amendment after the funding opportunity closes, due to errors in submission.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

This initiative will aim to deliver a simpler application process for applicants, with a shortened timeline between application and funding decision compared with current standard funding routes. Applications will follow a non-standard format as detailed within this opportunity information.

Applications will be assessed via a two-stage process. There will be no postal peer review in either stage: applications will be assessed at panels.

This guidance is for stage two (invited full proposals). In this stage, the peer review assessment is not being performed anonymously and therefore the four-page case for support should not be anonymous.

Invited full proposals will be batched and sent to panels. There may be a number of parallel panels, covering broad research areas. The expertise of the panel members will reflect the broad areas of the research proposals being considered.

The panel will place proposals into bands based upon the assessment criteria described below. Invited full proposals placed in the top band or bands as deemed by the panel will be funded.

EPSRC plans to communicate final funding decisions to applicants in June 2022. We expect to make 50 to 60 awards.

Assessment criteria

The assessment criteria for stage two (invited full proposals) are set out below.

These three assessment criteria are equally weighted.

Assessment criterion one

Assessment criterion one is: fit to the aim of the New Horizons scheme, to support speculative, high-risk research ideas that could potentially offer high reward.

Panel members will use the following descriptors in their assessment of assessment criterion one:

  • very high risk and very exciting: project is highly speculative, wholly untested and has the potential to be revolutionary or ground-breaking
  • high risk and exciting: project is speculative, most aspects are untested and it has the potential for significant breakthroughs
  • medium risk and somewhat exciting: project is risky with some aspects currently untested and it has the potential for interesting or novel insights
  • low risk and not exciting: the project involves little risk and has little potential for reward.

When considering the above descriptors, please comment on the degree to which the proposal will do one or more of the following:

  • revolutionise existing fields of research
  • create new fields of research
  • test new, unproven tools or techniques
  • cause paradigm shifts in existing thought and knowledge
  • support discovery that might lead to radically new and disruptive technologies.

For assessment criterion one, by risk we do not mean the potential threats faced by a project. Instead, we are assessing how untested and speculative the proposed project is.

Assessment criterion two

Assessment criterion two is: suitability of the proposed methodology.

Panel members will use the following descriptors in their assessment of assessment criterion two:

  • appropriate methodology for the proposed work
  • methodology has minor weaknesses
  • methodology has major weaknesses.

Assessment criterion three

Assessment criterion three is: to what extent the applicant team has the necessary skills, resources and expertise to carry out the proposed methodology.

Panel members will use the following descriptors in their assessment of assessment criterion three:

  • high confidence: the team is appropriate and has the skills and expertise required to carry out the methodology, including access to the required resources
  • medium confidence: the team generally has sufficient skills, expertise and access to the resources required to carry out the proposed methodology, but there are minor weaknesses
  • low confidence: the team does not have sufficient skills, expertise and access to the resources required to carry out the proposed methodology.

Feedback

In stage two (invited full proposals), there will not be a right to reply. However, we aim to provide some feedback to applicants at this stage, after funding decisions have been made.

Contact details

For help and advice on costings, requesting resources and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask a question about this opportunity

Please read this opportunity guidance in full before contacting EPSRC with any questions.

Email: newhorizons@epsrc.ukri.org

We will endeavour to respond to queries within five to 10 working days.

Please note that enquiries submitted within five working days of the proposal deadline of 10 May 2022 may not be responded to.

Enquiries made directly to EPSRC staff may not be responded to.

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

Opening times: Je-S opening times

Additional info

Background

The EPSRC Delivery Plan 2019 (PDF, 4.3MB) highlighted the desire to continue promoting excellence in research by investing in ways that are optimised to the specific researcher base and research outputs desired. As part of this strategy, EPSRC proposes investing in new approaches to delivery, such as this New Horizons scheme funding opportunity.

New Horizons is a pilot scheme that comprises funding for researcher-led, high-risk research focused on:

  • advancing knowledge
  • securing the pipeline of next-generation innovations.

It will enable funding for completely new ideas, which are essential to future-proof our research base. The first phase of the pilot was held in 2020 with a focus on the mathematical and physical sciences community.

Read the New Horizons: piloting a streamlined application process.

This is the second phase of the pilot, where the aim of the funding opportunity is to challenge the engineering and ICT communities to formulate speculative, high-risk research ideas that could potentially offer high reward. The scheme aims to ensure the continued flow of these types of research projects into the EPSRC portfolio and wider UKRI funding streams.

Community feedback on the first phase of the pilot has been used to inform the process of the second phase. For example, anonymous peer review was retained for stage one (outline proposals) of this second phase as it was well received by applicants in the first phase. In addition, 74% of reviewers felt the anonymisation removed bias from the process and 66% felt that it helped them to focus on assessing the science.

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 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.

UKRI guidance and resources on responsible innovation.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (DOCX, 66KB)

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.