This opportunity is stage two of a two-stage assessment process. Your full proposal should:
- include full details of your proposed research, including the scientific, technical, and methodological aspects
- be essentially the same idea presented in your outline proposal, but with additional detail. It should not be a completely new idea or introduce significant new approaches, themes, or research areas. Co-investigators may be added to the proposal at this stage, where this would add complementary expertise, provided this does not constitute a significant change to the vision or programme of work.
Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future will deliver a programme of innovative research in the engineering and physical sciences, related to the challenges in commercialising early-stage research and manufacturing.
The hubs will feature high quality, multidisciplinary research, strong engagement with relevant manufacturing industries, and will take a leadership role in their national network.
In particular, they will demonstrate a cross-cutting and embedded approach to environmental sustainability, and promote active equality, diversity and inclusion action planning and delivery.
Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future will complement and refresh EPSRC’s existing portfolio of future manufacturing research hubs and contribute to delivering EPSRC’s strategic priorities, which could include:
- artificial intelligence
- resilient digital technologies
- transformative health and healthcare
- creative engineering and manufacturing solutions.
Hubs are expected to deliver:
- high quality, multidisciplinary research
- a strong ethos of skills development for staff
- efficient management of hub operations
- a clear path to realising impact.
Hubs will be leaders within the landscape, driving forward the national manufacturing research agenda in their area and connecting with other players in the community, including users, policymakers and other public investments. For example, catapults, other hubs and EPSRC investments.
The hub and spoke model will be used, with the lead institution responsible for the core management and running of the hub and surrounding academic and industrial ‘spokes’ inputting specific expertise in areas that complement those from the lead institution.
The hub is expected to deliver added value (be more than the sum of its parts) by demonstrating strong connectivity between all hub partners and offering additional facilities, training and development than what is already provided by individual institutions.
Hub partnerships and impact should span all scales, building on the successes of previous similar investments to deliver impact in regional economies while also playing a national role in an international context.
In line with the government’s levelling up agenda, hubs should bring together the right people and organisations from places across the UK, to tackle the challenges relevant to their chosen research area.
The objectives are to:
- deliver a programme of high quality, multidisciplinary research related to the challenges in commercialising early-stage research and manufacturing
- create strategic advantage and drive forward the national manufacturing research agenda in a particular area, as leaders within the landscape
- centre and embed environmental sustainability throughout hub aims, objectives, operations and research outcomes, considering the context of each hub’s specific research area
- engage with diverse and relevant partners to ensure that research is co-created and co-delivered with users
- embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within hub operations and activities by developing and delivering an EDI action plan, led by the hub EDI lead, which takes into account the specific EDI context and challenges within the hub’s research area and community.
This opportunity is to support innovative research programmes in the engineering and physical sciences, related to the challenges in commercialising early-stage research within manufacturing.
The hub research programmes should:
- draw on advances in underlying science and technology
- focus on the design and development of new and existing manufacturing processes, systems and networks
- explicitly consider the pathway to manufacture, including production scale up and integration within the wider industrial system.
You will need to articulate the hub’s strategy at each stage of the value chain (discovery, understand, integrate or adapt, demonstration and deploy).
We welcome applications focusing on diverse research areas and diverse sectors, and we expect all hubs to integrate environmental sustainability at all stages of the research and innovation process. By this, we do not mean that hub research must focus on sustainable manufacturing as a research area, but instead we expect hubs to:
- embed environmental sustainability in all aspects of the hub, ensuring that environmental impact and mitigation is considered at all stages of the research lifecycle and throughout the lifetime of the hub
- identify the major challenges relating to environmental sustainability in the chosen research area and integrate these as part of the hub research programme. You should consider ambitious challenges that may be at a lower technology readiness level but will support a step change in future sustainability, as well as how to improve and embed sustainability in technology that is closer to commercialisation
- demonstrate leadership in environmental sustainability by carrying out hub operations in an environmentally sustainable way, with consideration of how to minimise the negative environmental impact of running the hub. You should seek opportunities to influence others and leave a legacy of environmental sustainability within the broader operations of your academic and industry partners.
Sustainability may be used to cover three broad areas: social, economic and environmental. While hubs may wish to consider some aspects of social and economic sustainability as part of their programme, this is not the focus of this funding opportunity.
Environmental sustainability may include consideration of such broad areas as:
- reducing carbon emissions
- protecting and enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity
- waste or pollution elimination
- resource efficiency and circular economy.
Environmental sustainability is complex and there are often conflicting drivers.
Hubs will need to take a whole systems approach to enable consideration of the trade-offs, risks and mitigations associated with different approaches and ensure research outcomes are used to support industry and government partners to make informed choices and mitigate unintended consequences.
We will not fund
We are seeking to refresh and complement our existing future manufacturing hubs portfolio. Therefore, we will not fund two hubs in the same research area, or in an area of research where there is an existing EPSRC future manufacturing hub ending after 31 March 2023.
Proposals must demonstrably lie primarily within the remit of EPSRC and must be within the scope of this funding opportunity. Any proposals that EPSRC deems out of remit or scope may be rejected without reference to peer review.
EPSRC expects a hub director to have a track-record of collaborating with users, and for the hub proposals to demonstrate cash and in-kind support from relevant and diverse sectors.
We expect that throughout the lifetime of the hub, the number of project partners will increase and cash or in-kind contributions will rise to a level similar to the EPSRC funding contribution.
To ensure that research outcomes from the hubs can be maximally exploited by industry, we are looking for clear evidence of genuine, substantive partnerships, with co-creation and co-delivery of projects and activities, in addition to financial contributions.
The strategy for engaging with industry should include plans to engage with a new and emerging range of relevant manufacturing companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, throughout the lifetime of the hub. If funded, you will be expected to implement your user engagement strategy and continue to review it regularly. However, as the user engagement strategy document was assessed at stage one, you do not need to include it within your full proposal.
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.
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 your own environment and developing a strategy to address these, with reference to EPSRC’s published expectations for EDI.
You must ensure that you request appropriate resources to develop and deliver your EDI strategy effectively. This must include at least one costed staff post with responsibility for EDI (the hub EDI lead).
EPSRC does not specify any particular full-time equivalent, salary level or career stage for this post. Hubs may decide what is most appropriate for their programme, whilst giving due consideration to flexible working.
Hubs should include information and full costings on EDI resources (including the mandatory costed staff post for the EDI lead and any other resources (for example, mentoring schemes, training, workshops and data exercises) in the justification of resources.
We will fund two projects. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost of each project up to £12 million.
Grants are expected to be awarded with a start date of 1 April 2023, with a possible slippage of up to six months.
This opportunity is intended to be the first in a series of planned opportunities for manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future over the coming years.
The total costs requested must be within 10% of the total indicated in your outline application but costs within individual fund headings may vary by more than this. The total EPSRC contribution may not exceed £12 million.
Learn about the costs you can apply for.
Funding is available for items of equipment dedicated to the hub, costing up to £400,000 (including VAT). EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.
Equipment items costing less than £10,000 (including VAT) should be included under ‘other costs’ within the ‘directly incurred’ fund heading.
Items costing between £10,000 (including VAT) and £400,000 (including VAT) should be listed under ‘equipment’ within the ‘directly incurred’ fund heading.
For any single item of equipment costing more than £25,000, three quotations should accompany the proposal. These may be verbal for equipment in the range of £25,000 to £138,000 and must be written for equipment costing more than £138,000. Quotes should include VAT, delivery charges and incorporate any standard academic discounts.
For any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000 a two-page equipment business case must also be included in the proposal documentation.
Equipment funded through this opportunity must be dedicated to the hub and its objectives for the duration of the hub. All equipment must be fully justified in the justification of resources.
Learn more about EPSRC’s approach to equipment funding.
Funding for each project will be awarded over seven years.
You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
If you are planning to include international collaborators on your proposal, you should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.