This funding opportunity is designed to launch the next phase of the Supergen programme.
This funding opportunity will evolve the 3 current Supergen Hubs (bioenergy, networks or ORE) to focus on:
- impact (in all its forms)
- demonstrable contributions to how the UK will meet net zero
The new hubs will work with the wider research and innovation community through a multidisciplinary consortium that ensures the outputs from the Supergen Hubs 2017 are rapidly translated into impact.
This funding opportunity forms 1 part of the next phase of the Supergen programme, and is focused on accelerating current generation technologies. This will be complemented by a second programme strand, through a funding opportunity to be launched in early 2023. The second opportunity will be focused on pioneering the next generation of clean energy technologies to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of renewable and networks technologies and solutions.
We expect the new hubs to evolve their strategy to focus on knowledge transfer, translation and impact, including partnering with policy, industrial engagement and leveraged funding. Both in terms of meaningful commitments of leveraged funding at the application stage and a plan to grow the volume of leveraged funding during the programme.
The Supergen Hubs are a key component of EPSRC’s engineering net zero priority, UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) strategic theme of building a greener future and the UK’s net zero research and innovation framework. They will ensure the UK benefits from and remains at the forefront of clean energy research and innovation.
Hubs must describe how they will work together on both technical and non-technical issues (for example, equality, diversity and inclusion and, early career researchers (ECR)).
Supergen hub structure
The proposal should be in the form of a consortium of leading research institutions working in bioenergy, networks or ORE and should be focused to maximise the impact of the research outputs and developments from the current Supergen hubs.
The proposal should present a clear strategy for taking bioenergy, networks or ORE forward, including how the hub will ensure:
The hub must demonstrate progression from the previous Supergen hub, to focus on accelerating the impact of current generation technologies and solutions over the course of the investment, including:
- adopting strategies to ensure translation of research and overcome ‘the valley of death’
- taking technologies out of the lab, improving process and working with closely with industry
- leveraging support from stakeholders and users
The hub must ensure knowledge transfer and the exploitation of intellectual property. This strategy should refer to, and take account of, the existing national landscape, published roadmaps and other official documents.
Contribution to net zero targets
The hubs are expected to demonstrate how their activities will contribute to securing net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050 and global decarbonisation efforts, encompassing decarbonisation (including materials, chemicals, embodied carbon) as well as energy generation.
Visible research leadership
The hub must be credible and able to act as the international face of the community, feeding into and helping to respond to as-yet unadopted challenges and strategies. They should be a centre of collaboration.
Hub management functions
This will include co-directors, a hub manager and an advisory board.
Role of the hub director
The director from the Supergen Hubs 2017 will fulfil this role. The applicant must demonstrate their ability to lead the evolution of the hub to focus on impact.
As well as continue to demonstrate:
- thought leadership
- strategic vision
- inspirational team leadership
- be a community ambassador
A leadership development plan should be included, detailing how the next generation of hub directors will be supported and developed. Key person risk should be addressed as part of the risk register within the workplan.
Role of the co-directors
The co-directors are expected to take on a strong supporting role which should be defined in the proposal document. We expect applicants to consider and justify the right make up of personnel to deliver the area strategy for the hub.
We would expect all new hubs to consider social and environmental aspects, as well as to integrate where appropriate with the other Supergen hubs, as well as other UKRI investments where there are common areas of interest.
The new hubs will also have the freedom to look beyond EPSRC space and consider how research outputs from other research councils (for example, the Economic Social Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Science and Technology Facilities Council) can create additionality.
Supergen Bioenergy hub
This hub will provide a focus for the UK research community, working in close partnership with businesses, governments, and administrations throughout the UK to accelerate the impact of current generation bioenergy technologies and solutions.
The Supergen Bioenergy 2023 hub will be co-funded by EPSRC and BBSRC, to increase the hub’s potential and gain additionality from combining engineering, technological, biological and biotechnological research outputs. We would also expect the new bioenergy hub to consider social and environmental aspects.
Continuing support in this area will ensure that bioenergy has a role to play in replacing fossil fuels to meet net zero targets. Research will continue to address important sustainability issues including crop yields, water dependence and the availability of land for energy and food crops.
The successful translation of research underpinning the production of advanced fuels will help the UK meet its commitments for reaching net zero by 2050. The commercialisation of advanced fuels should encourage increased sustainability, energy security and economic growth. The hub will look to develop solutions and pathways for the forthcoming UK bioenergy strategy.
Supergen Networks hub
This hub will discover, develop and deploy cross-cutting solutions to the cross-sector challenges relating to energy networks. The hub will work in close partnership with businesses, governments, and administrations throughout the UK to accelerate the impact of current generation energy network technologies and solutions.
This should include a strategy for working with the Energy Systems Catapult to maximise translation and impact.
Supergen ORE hub
The new Supergen ORE hub will focus on areas of offshore renewable energy that are suitable for translation into and development with industry and other stakeholders. It will also continue to focus on common challenges for the sector. The hub will work in close partnership with businesses, governments, and administrations throughout the UK to accelerate the impact of current generation ORE technologies and solutions.
The new Supergen ORE hub should work with the ORE Catapult and Offshore Wind Innovation Hub to maximise impact and ensure that fundamental and applied research is used to address user inspired challenges currently facing the offshore renewables industry.
Policy partnerships and industrial engagement
Securing the engagement and buy-in of relevant users will be essential to the success of the hubs and leveraging support from project partners is a requirement for this funding. All hubs will also need to have a greater tie in with industry, actively communicating fundamental research outputs and encouraging uptake of academic solutions into industry and the wider user base.
The hubs must demonstrate that they have secured meaningful project partner interest and contributions to the prioritised, proposed research programme. The hubs should detail the planned approaches to elicit more leveraged support as further research activities are prioritised during the hub’s lifetime. The hubs should detail the cash and in-kind contributions project partners will provide, as has been agreed at the point of application.
To ensure that research outcomes from the hubs can be fully exploited by industry and policy at all spatial levels, EPSRC expect to see clear evidence of genuine, substantive partnerships, with co-creation and co-delivery of projects and activities, in addition to financial contributions.
In the hub governance procedures, advice from users must be appropriately used in the hub decision-making strategy to grow user engagement in terms of funding and numbers of users.
The hubs are expected to take an open and inclusive approach and to grow and evolve over the lifetime of the grant. To reflect this, it is expected that they should develop a flexible approach to the research agenda and priorities of the programme beyond the first 12 months of the hubs to account for changes in the landscape, emerging opportunities and industrial sector priorities.
Given the intention to co-create research with industry and government leading to impact, at application phase EPSRC expects the hubs to evidence the following matched funding (from the private sector, and regional and civic bodies) to every £1 of EPSRC investment:
- for bioenergy at least 15p
- for Networks and ORE, at least 30p
Throughout the lifetime of the hubs, the number of project partners will increase and cash or in-kind contributions rising to the following level of matched funding to every £1 of EPSRC funding is expected:
- for bioenergy at least 60p
- for Networks and ORE, at least £1
The panel will be asked to assess evidence of stakeholder interest and contributions, in the context of the disciplines and sectors involved. Hubs should make the case for why the total project partner support at full proposal phase, and planned approaches towards eliciting more leveraged support, are appropriate in the context and reach of their submission.
The hubs must align their activities and work together to act as a coherent Supergen research programme. The hubs should work across the breath of the research and innovation community, across all areas of the UKRI portfolio including but not limited to engineering, environmental, physical and social sciences, to identify key challenges, barriers and opportunities for coordinated activity.
The Supergen directors are expected to work together, in partnership, to enable alignment and complementarity of the respective hub activities, ensuring facilitation of knowledge exchange to secure maximum impact from all hubs. All of the hubs will be expected to form a Supergen Directors Group which will meet periodically to enable collaboration, coordinate joint-funding opportunities, and joint responses to government consultations.
In addition, a Hub Managers Group will also be established to coordinate communication, engagement and other joint activities between the hubs.
Contributing to place-based agendas
The hubs should relate to and connect effectively with local, regional (including where appropriate devolved administrations and their bodies) research and innovation ecosystems, drawing on and contributing to the local economy.
EPSRC has a portfolio of existing investments in energy and decarbonisation research as a major component of EPSRC’s engineering net zero delivery plan priority (for example, the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions or the UK Energy Research Centre). The hubs are expected to engage with existing grant holders to work in partnership, tackling cross sectoral issues. They are also expected to engage with any relevant research and innovation investments made by UKRI and other public funders, including Innovate UK.
A critical feature of the hubs will be their ability to tackle the most pressing needs of businesses, UK government departments, and policy makers across the UK to secure both UK commercial advantage and policy objectives. This will ensure effective 2-way engagement, and information and knowledge exchange between all related investments and hubs to accelerate research and development.
Ensuring and increasing public awareness of sustainable power generation and supply across the energy system and its importance in delivering net zero is essential. The hubs are expected to deliver effective public engagement plans to co-create the research programme and outcomes, ensuring the solutions being developed are accessible and inclusive.
Host organisation support
The host organisations will also be expected to demonstrate substantial support for the hub through cash or in-kind contributions. 20% full economic cost contribution to any funded grant will not count towards the consideration of matched funding.
Host organisations should use the host organisation statement to clearly describe:
- their long-term strategy relevant to the hub and how this links to their role in the local, regional and national research and development landscape
- how their strategy complements the UK landscape
- how they anticipate the hub will enable them to deliver their strategy
- their intended approach to supporting the individual, their team, and their research activity to enable their full potential contribution to the UK to be realised
Monitoring and evaluation
Directors should make provision in their proposal to track the hubs’ contribution and impacts. This will include an annual report (with Impact case studies) submitted for evaluation by the Supergen High Level Group, that provides evidence of the hubs are contributing to Net Zero Innovation Board (NZIB) Research and Innovation Framework priorities and UK net zero targets. It may also include a mid-term review of the hubs and a final evaluation of the programme.
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)
As leaders in the community, hubs will be expected to embed EDI in all their activities throughout the lifetime of the hub. If funded, this will include identifying the specific EDI challenges and barriers in their own environment and developing a strategy to address these, with reference to EPSRC’s published expectations for EDI.
Hubs must ensure that they request appropriate resources to develop and deliver their EDI strategy effectively.
Responsible innovation and environmental sustainability
The hubs must follow the principles and guidance contained within UKRI’s environmental sustainability strategy, regarding the sustainability of the research methodologies and practices used. The hubs must also consider the responsible innovation and environmental sustainability aspects of the proposed research approaches, and the associated outputs and outcomes.
They should provide an opportunity for the UK to achieve more sustainable and clean economic growth and prosperity. This should involve the consideration of the risks, costs and trade-offs associated with different materials, technologies and approaches and an appropriate degree of application of tools such as life cycle analysis.
The new Supergen hubs will be expected to curate and store generated data as well as that from past iterations of the hub and enable access for the broader community.
EPSRC will fund up to 3 hubs.
The 80% full economic cost can be:
- up to £7.5 million for ORE
- up to £5 million for networks and bioenergy
EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. The Supergen Bioenergy hub will be co-funded by BBSRC.
The directors are expected to request the funding required to achieve the objectives and outcomes they have proposed for the hub. This may include, but is not limited to, funding for:
- directors and co-directors
- core research
- flexible fund
- impact, engagement, communication and networking
- support staff
The spilt of the funding between each of the above will fall to the Supergen leader and their team to decide, but this will need to be fully justified. The directors should retain flexibility within the overall programme of work to allow for the hub to respond to emerging priorities and opportunities.
Directors and co-directors
The directors and co-directors time to lead and deliver the hub activities. Directors and co-directors are permitted to have a postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) to support their own research efforts within the hub. When considering consortium partners, applicants are encouraged to ensure that funding isn’t spread too thinly, and that the hub remains focused on impact.
The core research budget is to cover key topics identified within the hub’s research programme. It is understood that the research programme may require more funding than the initial set-up funding allows. It is expected that the new Supergen hub would seek additional funding from opportunities across UKRI to cover the research needs identified in the research programme and to adapt to change.
All opportunities will be listed on the UKRI funding funder. Any additional UKRI funded grants can be branded as ‘Supergen Programme’ if the principal investigator of that grant accepts additional grant conditions, which tie it to the programme, and the director of the Supergen hub discusses any potential applications with the relevant portfolio manager for that research area.
The flexible fund should be used to provide ‘seed corn’ funding for multidisciplinary projects which should subsequently support the following:
- applications for translation or impact funding (such as impact acceleration account (IAA), place based IAA,or other research council equivalent)
- support for early career researchers including staff retention or recruitment (for staff returning after career break, etc.)
- support for EDI activities within the hub. Any EDI activities should not supersede any existing university activities
The fund should also be used to support agile research on emerging topics in the energy landscape as well as drawing in expertise from other disciplines outside of the core hub (where useful).
It is expected that the fund will be held at the host organisation and distributed as required. The Supergen hub’s management board (or other EPSRC approved group) will be required to assess the quality of proposals and the potential outcomes against the Hubs vision and strategic priorities.
Use of the flexible fund, subsequent outcomes (this includes, number of grants applied for, additional funding successfully acquired, etc.) and in particular activities to support ECR or EDI will be monitored via the annual reporting process and any mid-term review.
Impact, engagement, communication and networking
This can include:
- funding to support impact activities (including stakeholder and user engagement, policy engagement and public engagement)
- funding to support networking and community building activities, to enable engagement and collaboration across key disciplines and sectors, and with policy officials
- funding to support governance, monitoring and evaluation activities
- funding of external agencies, should the hub team require any additional support in areas such as marketing and public relations
A resourced engagement plan and communication strategy will form a key part of the hub’s activity. The full communication strategy and engagement plan should be developed within the first 6 months of the Supergen hub.
This must include a hub manager and any additional administrative or technical staff required to support the integration, coordination, knowledge exchange and publication activities of the hub. We note the new focus of the hubs will likely necessitate an increased requirement for knowledge exchange expertise.
Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.
Read more about EPSRC’s approach to equipment funding.
Funding is available for up to 5 years and must start no earlier than 1 July 2023.
Hub funding is not suitable for research areas still in their early stages. Please do not include plans for these within your proposal. Such technologies or approaches will be eligible for funding in the Supergen Next Generation funding opportunity planned in early 2023.