Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Knowledge exchange fellow: environmental response to hydrogen emissions

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Apply for funding to be a knowledge exchange (KE) fellow supporting the projects funded in the environmental response to hydrogen emissions programme.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for NERC funding.

You must focus on accelerating and amplifying impact throughout the cycle of the programme, by engaging and working with a range of stakeholders, partners and user communities.

You can receive up to £250,000 of funding towards the fellowship. NERC will fund 100% of the full direct costs.

Funding will be available from February 2023 for up to 24 months.

Who can apply

Normal individual eligibility applies. Detailed information can be found in section C of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

You do not need a PhD. However, current PhD students are expected to have submitted their thesis before taking up the fellowship.

You can be at an earlier career stage and not yet be eligible as a principal investigator or co-investigator for NERC grants, but may apply for up to 100% of your time through this fellowship. In this instance, your research organisation may upgrade a fellowship account to allow you to apply.

If you are already a principal investigator or co-investigator you can apply for the fellowship. You would generally be expected to apply for the KE fellowship for a percentage of your full time equivalent only.

Organisation eligibility

UKRI research and fellowship grants for all schemes may be held at:

  • approved UK higher education institutions
  • approved research council institutes
  • independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments.

Check if your organisation is eligible for funding.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

NERC is committed to creating and sustaining a positive, fair and inclusive environment for our research community to ensure that all candidates feel welcomed, included and valued. We will seek to go beyond our statutory duties and be a beacon for diversity across the environmental science community. Achieving a high level of diversity within the NERC community provides an excellent foundation and environment for research and innovation priorities to flourish, and actively encourages proposals from diverse groups of researchers.

We warmly welcome applications from individuals who may have undertaken non-standard or non-typical academic routes pre- or post-PhD prior to application.

When considering your application, your career track record, career breaks and part-time working will be taken into account specifically in the assessment process.

Co-applications

Applications are also welcome for co-KE fellows. In this case, the distinct roles and responsibilities of the co-KE fellows (maximum of two) must be clearly detailed in the application. You can either submit:

  • one joint application (if both applicants are from the same organisation a joint application must be used, with one applicant listed as principal investigator and the other listed as co-investigator)
  • separate applications, making it clear that the applications are linked.

For co-applications, you must demonstrate the clear split of responsibility, for example strategy and management. In this case, the applicants must make clear to the assessment panel how they would effectively work together to deliver the required objectives. Applicants do not need the same level of expertise, but both partners should be capable of taking responsibility for the whole application if necessary.

What we're looking for

Scope

The KE fellowship will enable the sharing, flow and translation of knowledge and expertise between the environmental response to hydrogen emissions programme and its stakeholders, partners and user communities.

You should focus on accelerating and amplifying impact throughout the cycle of the programme, by engaging and working with a range of stakeholders (as well as the researchers funded through the programme), such as:

  • policymakers
  • industry
  • user communities
  • business intermediaries.

Impact is defined according to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) definition as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.

You should identify the key stakeholders, partners and user communities you will interact with, and who will benefit from your programme of work and what impacts this may generate. This should specifically focus on relationships with the following partners in this programme:

  • BEIS
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • relevant UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) activities.

Other partners may include, but are not limited to, hydrogen producers, users (potential and real) and the energy community.

Requirements

Your application must demonstrate the criteria of a KE fellow and specific relevance to the environmental response to hydrogen emissions programme scope and objectives.

You should consider how your project will enhance the impact of the environmental response to hydrogen emissions research programme related to the wider community. Think about how you will connect with the most suitable stakeholders to generate impact in terms of:

  • reach (how widely the impact has been felt)
  • significance (how much difference was made to the beneficiaries).

Other expected requirements of the KE fellow are:

  • strengthening existing partnerships with key stakeholders (including BEIS, Defra, DfT and UKRI). Briefings are anticipated to be both written and verbal
  • identification of, and engagement plans for other key stakeholders (some examples of which have been named above)
  • developing and strengthening relationships within the programme (and across funded projects), which may lead to synergies and combined outputs
  • supporting funded projects within the programme to be agile to key stakeholder requirements, for example, setting up a feedback framework between researchers and policy stakeholders (BEIS, Defra and DfT) to reflect and respond to developing policy for research and users
  • consider public engagement is a key part of knowledge exchange to translate research outcomes, enabling  a route to increasing the impact of research
  • identification of the knowledge needs of business, non-government organisations and policymakers
  • developing new market opportunities for the exploitation of research outcomes
  • providing briefings and reports suitable for policymakers and business users
  • demonstrating suitable plans for feedback to key stakeholders through reports or other appropriate reporting mechanisms (you may wish to propose frequency and delivery route for feedback to stakeholders). It is anticipated that the KE fellow will have at least monthly interaction with assigned contacts within BEIS, Defra and DfT, while allowing flexibility for ad-hoc and out-of-schedule updates (for example, at specific milestone points within the programme). The funders welcome applicants proposing innovative and effective ways of delivering these activities.

Additional responsibilities

There will be a programme wide kick-off meeting in early 2023 for funded projects, as well as biannual cross-programme meetings, which the KE fellow is expected to participate in.

These events will allow projects to present their ongoing results and stimulate discussion, and encourage beneficial collaboration between projects, specifically in relation to scenario definition.

An end of programme synthesis report will be developed with input and engagement from all projects. Due to the interlinked nature of the topics of projects funded, the KE fellow will play a key role in the transfer and sharing of information between projects, synthesised through the report, which will feed directly to BEIS, Defra and DfT to inform policy decisions.

In your application, you are expected to set out and expand how your role you will contribute to and facilitate the knowledge exchange for these activities.

Duration

The role must start on 10 February 2023 and last no longer than 24 months.

Funding available

We will provide up to £250,000 of funding towards the fellowship. KE fellowships are awarded at 100% direct costs. You should tick the ‘exception’ box in Je-S.

The KE fellowship will cover the KE fellow’s salary including:

  • superannuation
  • national insurance
  • specific allowances
  • up to £40,000 for travel and other associated work plan costs (this includes costs for attendance at all programme-wide meetings, such as kick-off meetings and meetings that take place twice a year).

The award does not cover overheads and must not exceed the available budget.

Sub-contracts

Sub-contracts are eligible costs on proposals submitted to this opportunity but should only be used for the procurement of goods and services.

Sub-contracts are not permitted for research partners providing intellectual input into the project, where a research partner or project partner relationship is more appropriate.

Hydrogen programme

You should read the environmental response to hydrogen emissions funding opportunity as this fellowship is linked to the delivery of the projects within the programme.

NERC facilities

It is not expected that KE fellow will require NERC facilities. However, if you wish to use a NERC service or facility, you should email the NERC office (hydrogen@nerc.ukri.org) to discuss before submitting an application.

If the NERC office feels your requirement is justified you will need to contact the relevant facility at least two months prior to the closing date of this funding opportunity to discuss the proposed work and receive confirmation that you can provide the services required within the timeframe of the grant.

The facility will then provide a technical assessment form that includes the calculated cost of providing the service.

NERC services and facilities must be costed within the limits of the proposal. See the full list of NERC facilities and resources. You will need to attach the technical assessment form to your Joint electronic systems (Je-S) application.

Most facilities require a technical assessment except for high performance computing, ship-time or marine equipment and the large research facilities at Harwell. These services have their own policies for access and costing.

Data management

The NERC data policy must be adhered to, and a full data management plan will be developed by successful applicants with the appropriate Environmental Data Centre. NERC will pay the data centre directly on behalf of the programme for archival and curation services, but you should ensure you request sufficient resource to cover preparation of data for archiving by the research team.

How to apply

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: Hydrogen KE Fellow.

This will populate:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: innovation people
  • call/type/mode: Hydrogen KE Fellow.

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

NERC must receive your application by 13 October at 16:00.

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

Attachments

You must attach the following documents in your application:

  • curriculum vitae (CV)
  • case for support: incorporating a track record and the capability to deliver (up to two sides of A4), and description of the proposed project (up to four sides of A4)
  • justification of resources: up to two sides of A4 is required. This is a narrative description of why you require the resources requested
  • head of department statement letter: maximum of two sides of A4. The head of department (or suitable or equivalent alternate) of the host institution will be required to demonstrate the availability of structured institutional support, and opportunities for personal development available to the KE fellow.

The following documents are no longer required and should not be attached:

  • outline data management plan: successful grant holders will have to work alongside the appropriate Environmental Data Centre to develop a full data management plan after the grant award
  • project partner and other letters of support.

All attachments submitted, with the exception of services, facilities and equipment quotes, must be completed:

  • in single-spaced typescript of a minimum font size of 11 point (Arial or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size to Arial 11)
  • with margins of at least 2cm.

Arial Narrow, Calibri and Times New Roman are not allowable font types and any proposal that has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected. References and footnotes should also be a minimum font size of 11 point and should be in the same font type as the rest of the document.

Headers and footers should not be used for references or information relating to the scientific case. Applicants referring to websites should note that referees may choose not to use them.

On submission to NERC, all non-PDF documents are converted to PDF. The use of non-standard fonts may result in errors or font conversion, which could affect the overall length of the document. Additionally, where non-standard fonts are present, and even if the converted PDF document may look unaffected in the Je-S system, when it is imported into the research council’s grants system, some information may be removed.

We therefore recommend that where a document contains any non-standard fonts (for example, scientific notation and diagrams), the document should be converted to PDF prior to attaching it to the proposal.

No associated studentships can be requested under this opportunity.

The expected start date for projects funded under this opportunity is between the start of January and 10 February 2023.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

All proposals received that meet the eligibility criteria will be assessed by an independent panel of experts. This will be through a two-stage process:

  • an assessment sift by a panel
  • interview by the same panel.

You will be alerted to the outcome of the sift process, and where applicable the date of the interview panel as soon as possible following the application closing date. The interview panel is expected to take place in early December 2022.

The funders will use the recommendations of the panel along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

It is expected that you will be notified of the final within two weeks of the interview that is anticipated to take place in December 2022 (date to be confirmed).

Assessment criteria

Suitability of the KE fellow

This relates to the relevance of an applicant’s experience to the proposal and their approach. The successful applicant will demonstrate clear evidence of relevant skills, including:

  • high standards in skills, capabilities and ambitions relative to their career stage
  • a broad understanding of the research and innovation landscape, and the value of knowledge exchange and translation
  • clear evidence of, or potential for, KE, innovation or engagement leadership
  • evidence of the ability to engage effectively, build partnerships, and be a clear communicator and disseminator of knowledge and innovation
  • ability to develop and mature new relationships and influence across multiple disciplines and sectors
  • evidence of using the fellowship for personal development
  • strong, adaptable communication skills, and proven ability to tailor communication methods appropriately to the audience.

Potential impact of the proposal

Applications will be scored against the degree to which they fit the scope of this opportunity. This includes:

  • quality and effectiveness: effectiveness of the proposed work plan to successfully address KE in support of the environmental impacts of hydrogen emissions programme objectives.
  • user engagement: demonstration of ongoing involvement and engagement of users in design and delivery
  • efficiency and effective management:
    • outline of work plan exemplifying how the work will deliver on programme objectives
    • justification of resources requested, including partner contributions of cash or in kind and leverage
    • evidence of the potential for a lasting legacy and long-term sustainability
    • consideration of how the impact will be assessed and recorded
    • demonstrate good governance structures
  • commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through the proposed work, in terms of both management (membership of groups and boards) and impact (who will be impacted). In addition to, demonstrating an approach and commitment to championing diversity, equity and inclusion by removing barriers in the research environment and promoting an open and inclusive research community.

Feedback

You will be given feedback from the panel summarising the reasons why the proposal was successful or unsuccessful. No further feedback will be available.

COVID-19 impacts

NERC recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. NERC is committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their careers, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic.

Panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the activities and outputs they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, applicants can highlight this within their application if they wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

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

Dr Joseph Taylor, NERC

Email: hydrogen@nerc.ukri.org

Include ‘hydrogen KE fellow’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within three working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Background

The implementation of a hydrogen economy will be a critical part of delivering net zero by 2050 in the UK. Clean hydrogen production is one of the key recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change as part of the Sixth Carbon Budget.

The UK government announced policies in 2020 to expand the hydrogen economy to deliver energy decarbonised at the point of use.

The 10 point plan for a green revolution (and the subsequent UK hydrogen strategy) announced that the UK is aiming for five gigawatts (GW), equivalent to around one megatonne (Mt), of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. In April 2022 the British energy security strategy doubled this ambition to up to 10GW with at least half from electrolytic hydrogen.

While hydrogen has some current UK industrial uses (0.7Mt per year), principally for petroleum refining and ammonia production, industrial releases to the environment are thought to have been minimal.

The acute flammability and explosivity of hydrogen at high concentrations are well studied, but the environmental impacts of (more diffuse and sustained) hydrogen release are less well researched.

The research funded through this programme is required to provide evidence of environmental concerns for delivering a hydrogen future. A 2018 literature review assessing the cost reduction potential and competitiveness of novel (next generation) UK carbon capture technology funded by BEIS identified a number of evidence gaps that prevent accurate assessment of hydrogen’s environmental impact.

There remain substantial gaps in knowledge on the environmental impacts of increased hydrogen release and atmospheric implications of its use. Recent BEIS commissioned research made progress in understanding the atmospheric composition, radiative forcing and global warming potential of hydrogen emissions.

However, there are still significant gaps in the evidence of the environmental behaviour and impacts of hydrogen that limit the ability to understand the significance of impacts and hence make informed policy decisions. BEIS have recently published a policy report on atmospheric implications of increased hydrogen use.

Programme management

The funders (NERC and BEIS), along with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Department for Transport (DfT), will establish a Programme Executive Board (PEB) to oversee the progress of the programme.

Reporting requirements

The KE fellow and funded grants will report to the PEB through a report twice a year.

Due to the interlinked nature of the topics of projects funded, the KE fellow will play a key role in the transfer and sharing of information between projects. The successful KE fellow will be required to report at the end of their project to policymakers as well as contribute to the writing of a programme-wide final synthesis report. This report will bring together all of the research topics (for example, synthesising a summary workshop) that would be directly used by BEIS, Defra and DfT to inform policy decisions.

If you are successful, you will be required to report research outcomes on Researchfish in line with standard UK Research and Innovation terms and conditions. This is required annually and continues for up to five years post grant end.

NERC may require additional information for monitoring and evaluation purposes during the programme lifetime and, according to standard grant terms and conditions, the KE fellow project may be required to comply with any additional requests.

Responsible business

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, not just through research outputs and outcomes, but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities managed. All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set out in the NERC responsible business statement.

Responsible research is defined as reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities. Grant holders should consider the responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.

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