Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Quantum technologies for positioning, navigation, and timing

Apply for funding to accelerate the development of quantum technologies for positioning, navigation, and timing technologies through development of the underpinning capabilities required to exploit these technologies effectively.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

This investment will form part of EPSRC’s contribution to the National Quantum Technologies Programme.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £1 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects must be 24 months in duration with a fixed start date of 1 June 2023.

Who can apply

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
  • eligible research and technology organisations
  • NHS bodies with research capacity

Check if your institution is eligible for funding.

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

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • 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
  • hold an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages
  • hold fellowships under other schemes (please contact EPSRC 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.

Submissions to this funding opportunity will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

Scope

Positioning, navigation, and timing is a critical enabler across the UK ecosystem. Current positioning, navigation, and timing solutions are typically reliant on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) due to GNSS’s ubiquity. There are however significant robustness and resilience challenges for existing GNSS reliant positioning, navigation, and timing solutions. These challenges have wide ranging implications for the UK including disruption of critical national infrastructure, navigation, and communications.

Advances in quantum positioning, navigation, and timing technologies could mitigate these issues and provide new opportunities where GNSS is not a feasible solution such as underground or underwater. Developments in quantum positioning, navigation, and timing therefore have the potential to unlock new market opportunities as well as enabling step-change improvements in performance to meet challenging requirements and applications.

This mission-led investment will form a key part of the wider quantum technologies mission. Further details can be found under ’Additional information’.

This quantum positioning, navigation, and timing mission aims to develop a diverse set of quantum technologies that support robust, resilient positioning, navigation, and timing solutions that provide alternatives to GNSS.

Challenge areas

Projects should address 1 of the 3 challenge areas. Projects should drive fundamental advancements in quantum positioning, navigation, and timing technologies to underpin the resilience, robustness, assurance and coordination of alternative quantum positioning, navigation, and timing solutions in real world environments.

You are asked to clearly highlight your chosen area from the following within their proposal.

Quantum clocks

This involves research into viable quantum clock technologies driving towards delivering higher precision, holdover or portability compared to current state of the art clocks, for example, optical clocks.

The technology chosen for this should have the capability of achieving an appropriate size, weight, power, and cost for at least one application domain. This does not have to be within the timeframe of the grant, but there should be a clear pathway for how this would be achieved.

Quantum inertial sensors

This involves research into maturing quantum inertial measurement technologies that deliver a step change in the rate of positioning, orientation, velocity, and acceleration error grown in practically sized form factors. This should include research into engineering robust systems which are more resilient driving towards practical applications.

Quantum positioning, navigation, and timing technologies systems solutions and integration

This involves developing systems solutions for hybrid and fully quantum positioning, navigation, and timing. Addressing the systems engineering challenges required to integrate quantum sensors into multi-sensor hybrid or fully quantum positioning, navigation, and timing systems.

To enable the future commercialisation and pull through of these advancements, the projects funded through this mission will be expected to build appropriate partnerships across sectors, drawing industry, government and third sector into fundamental research in positioning, navigation, and timing relevant areas and ensuring applicability of the proposed research to real world challenges. To enable this, EPSRC requires proposals to place an emphasis on the practicality of their proposed solution identifying:

  • how the technology would address specific challenges in an aspect of quantum positioning, navigation, and timing
  • a credible development pathway to address real world positioning, navigation, and timing requirements from collaborators. This does not have to be within the timeframe of the grant, but there should be a clear pathway for how this would be achieved

It will be essential that proposals make a clear case for the potential of the proposed technology to achieve superior performance or otherwise provide an advantage, over conventional technologies in the context of at least 1 real world target application area with proposals indicating a realistic maturation pathway.

As a follow on to these projects, there will be an opportunity for grant holders to bid for follow on funding where the case can be justified. Further details will be provided at a later date.

Funding available

Up to £8 million of EPSRC funding will be available for this opportunity. The full economic cost of your project can be up to £1 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects must be 24 months in duration and must start on 1 June 2023.

EPSRC recognises that quantum technologies are a key enabling technology in positioning, navigation and timing with the potential to enhance technologies relevant to national resilience, addressing the government’s Integrated Review and the UKRI strategic theme Building a Secure and Resilient World. In support of this opportunity, £1.9 million of the funding available has been provided by the ‘Building a Secure and Resilient World’ UKRI strategic theme.

Due to the nature of the mission, there will be additional requirements on reporting, monitoring and evaluation, and grant extensions. This will be reflected in the grant additional conditions, and those funded will need to comply with them. Further details are provided in ’Additional information’.

Funding for this opportunity is subject to business case approval by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury.

Costs

Resources may be used for research expenses including:

  • UKRI funded research facilities. Please note that if you plan to use a major facility in your research, such as those funded centrally by EPSRC or a European facility, contact the facility before applying to EPSRC to check if your proposed research is feasible, and obtain a technical assessment if the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system marks it as required
  • travel
  • research technical support including research technical professionals, postdoctoral research assistants and fellow salaries
  • other standard expenses

It is expected that resources to be used for activities that initiate, grow, and maintain collaborations with stakeholders (for example academia, business, government, third sector) will be requested such as:

  • secondments
  • staff exchanges
  • regular travel
  • workshops

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.

EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

International collaboration

Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

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: EPSRC Quantum Positioning, Navigation, and Timing.

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Standard Research
  • call/type/mode: EPSRC Quantum Positioning, Navigation, and Timing

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

EPSRC must receive your application by 1 February 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

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

Your application must also include the following attachments.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface. EPSRC will not accept any other attachment types under this opportunity.

Read our advice on writing proposals for EPSRC funding.

Case for support

Up to 8 pages.

2 sides of A4:

  • track record highlighting the skills, expertise, and experience of the applicant and their team as relevant to the project. Consider non-academic partners or collaborators as part of the team
  • may include examples of prior successes and lessons learnt from previous projects

6 sides of A4 to include:

  • background
  • novelty of the proposed work, the research objectives and the proposed methodology to achieve those objectives in one of the 3 challenge areas
  • national importance
  • plans to manage the proposed work and its associated risks
  • details of potential applications for the proposed research including details of:
    • the practicality of the proposed solution with respect to the applications
    • articulated pathway for how this will be developed within the project and beyond
    • plans to maximise the impact of the proposed research

Workplan

1 side of A4.

The work programme should be illustrated with a simple diagrammatic work plan, such as a programme evaluation and review technique (PERT) or Gantt chart.

Justification of resources

Up to 2 sides of A4.

This should be a 2-page narrative description of the need for the resources requested. Please ensure you justify all of the resources you request.

See our guidance for writing the justification of resources document.

Project partner letter or letters of support

No page limit.

All project partner letters of support must be signed, dated (no more than 6 months before the opportunity closing date) and on letterheaded paper. The letter or letters must include an outline of how the project partner involvement helps to enhance the quality of proposed multidisciplinary research.

CVs

Up to 2 sides of A4 each for named:

  • postdoctoral staff, researcher co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time)
  • visiting researchers

Technical assessments

No page limit.

Required for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance.

Proposal cover letter

Up to 2 sides of A4.

This optional attachment should be no more than two sides of A4. It will only be seen internally by UKRI.

You can use this to present any other information you feel is relevant to your application.

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 must be completed.

Guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

Read EPSRC’s guidance on ethical considerations.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process, you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal. Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

The assessment is a 2-stage process including:

  • postal peer review
  • panel meeting

Applications will be sent out for peer review. We aim to have a minimum of 3 usable reviews for each proposal.

Proposals with unsupportive reviews will be rejected and will not be progressed to the panel.

If your proposal receives sufficient support at peer review, you will be given the opportunity to respond to peer reviewers’ comments within 14 days which will be used to support the panel discussion.

Proposals receiving sufficient support will progress to be assessed by a panel that will score the proposals against the assessment criteria and rank them.

Projects submitted across the challenge areas highlight in the what we’re looking for section will be assessed separately but funding decisions will be taken across the whole positioning, navigation, and timing mission portfolio at the point of funding to ensure a balanced portfolio which can deliver across the desired positioning, navigation, and timing mission objectives and outputs as outlined in this document.

Applicants will be informed of outcomes in May 2023. Funded projects must start by 1 June 2023.

Assessment criteria

Our assessment criteria includes:

  • fit to opportunity (primary criterion)
  • quality (primary criterion)
  • national importance
  • applicant and partnerships
  • resources and management

Funding opportunity-specific criteria

Fit to opportunity (primary)
  • clear case for the potential of the proposed technology to achieve superior performance, or otherwise provide an advantage, over conventional technologies in one of the three challenge areas
  • potential for the project to advance the technology along a realistic maturation pathway in the context of the proposed application areas
Quality (primary)

The research excellence of the proposal, making reference to:

  • the novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact. For multidisciplinary proposals please state which aspects of the proposal you feel qualified to assess
National importance (secondary major)

How the research:

  • contributes to or helps maintain the health of other disciplines
  • contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges
  • contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry or industries
  • meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world-leading activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio
  • plans for dissemination and knowledge exchange with potential beneficiaries of the research
Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

The ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
  • suitability of the plans for industry, government or third sector engagement, including:
    • demonstration of how applicants will ensure industry involvement
    • addresses industry needs and challenges
    • has cross-sectoral diffusion and adoption in mind
Resources and management (secondary)

The effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

  • any equipment requested, or the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
  • any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation

Feedback

Feedback on full proposals will be provided in the form of reviewer comments, plus information on the panel provided on Grants on the Web shortly after the meeting.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process, you will be invited to nominate up to 3 potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal. Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC conflicts of interest policy.

Find out about our reviewer selection process.

Guidance for reviewers

If you are a reviewer for this opportunity, read our guidance for reviewers.

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

Quantum technologies team

Email: quantumtechnologies@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘quantum PNT mission’ in the subject line.

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 UK Innovation Strategy sets out the government’s vision to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035. Its fourth pillar, ‘missions and technologies’, establishes a clear strategic aim to stimulate innovation to tackle major challenges faced by the UK and the world and to drive capability in key technologies.

The Innovation Strategy makes clear that these 2 critical elements of the UK innovation landscape are complementary. It outlines that new, emerging technologies can be pivotal in solving major challenges and opportunities, while in turn, missions can:

  • help to bring profile and significance to technological innovation
  • support diffusion of new technologies

This missions approach sets inspiring and stretching targets which focus the efforts of research, industry, and government stakeholders on complex problems with a coordinated approach for successful delivery.

This model will ensure that each technology mission to be supported has a clear direction and efforts are aligned across the private sector and research community. This is anticipated to create spill over-benefits including the attraction of significant private investment and the creation and retention of additional capacity and expertise within each technology area within the UK.

This funding opportunity is part of the quantum technologies mission and contributes to the wider National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP).

The projects funded through the quantum positioning, navigation, and timing mission will:

  • accelerate the development of new products, systems and services
  • ensure UK leadership in quantum and alternative positioning, navigation, and timing
  • develop and maintain sovereign capabilities in positioning, navigation, and timing, particularly positioning, navigation, and timing in Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) denied environments
  • establish the UK as a leader in quantum and alternative positioning, navigation, and timing technologies, components and systems

The mission is being delivered through 2 layers of activity, outlined below.

Enabling foundational activity

This opportunity sits within this enabling foundational activity. It ensures the ecosystem can deliver meaningful transition to incorporate new application of these technologies, by funding foundational research that may lead to new scientific discoveries, or by establishing or maintaining strategic advantage through capability in science and technology.

Application centred challenges

This strand focuses on increasing commercialisation readiness of established discoveries or innovations, with a view to broadening their applications or increasing adoption and is not covered by this opportunity.

National Quantum Technologies Programme

The NQTP was established in 2014 to make the UK a global leader in the development and commercialisation of quantum technology, which is set to transform the global society and economy.

The NQTP strategic intent sets out the programme’s ambitions for the next 10 years, including the following overall aims:

  • stimulate market growth, unleash innovation and grow a thriving ecosystem
  • maintain the UK’s excellence in research and technology
  • build a resilient network of national assets and mutually beneficial international relationships
  • grow, attract and retain talent

The strategic intent also further sets out the following specific objectives in relation to maintaining the UK’s excellence in research and technology:

  • continue to build on existing excellence to strengthen our global position in research, build the skills pipeline and open-up new opportunities for technological convergence, enabling work across disciplines to unlock innovation
  • as an enabling technology we will develop new quantum tools and opportunities for wider science applications

You can download the NQTP Strategic Intent from NQTP resources.

EPSRC are a key partner within the NQTP and share the ambition to maintain the UK’s reputation as an excellent place to do research.

EPSRC forms an integral part of the international landscape in quantum technologies.

EPSRC funded a national network of 4 quantum technology hubs through a £120 million investment in phase 1 (2014 to 2019) and a £94 million investment in phase 2 (2019 to 2024) to harness the UK’s strengths in quantum science by turning this into strength in quantum technologies.

The hubs cultivate strong links with international partners and facilitate collaboration across the breadth of the quantum technology landscape.

EPSRC continues to deliver opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration through standard mode, lead agency opportunities and other strategic funding opportunities.

This focus has set the UK apart from the international competition, but the UK needs to continue moving forward as technological developments gather pace.

Building a Secure and Resilient World strategic theme

The UKRI Strategy for 2022 to 2027, Transforming Tomorrow Together, outlines 5 strategic themes which look to harness the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to address major national and global challenges.

Building a Secure and Resilient World is 1 the themes under the auspices of which UKRI will catalyse, convene and conduct research and innovation, through taking a systemic approach that is human-centred, aimed at strengthening societal and economic resilience.

The theme aims to enhance national security across virtual and physical environments, by improving awareness of risks and threats, preparedness, informed decision-making and response, and allowing change to be understood as a force for good.

Building a Secure and Resilient World directly tackles core methodologies for supporting a better and more robust approach to managing crisis from business to government to communities. A core focus of the theme is on supporting systems thinking and decision making to reduce risk and strengthen our security and resilience, and showing how this should support, and be implemented by, communities at every level, from local to international.

We have identified 5 inter-related sub-themes, through which UKRI will deliver a range of activities tailored to enable resilience to different risks in different systems that:

  • is built on the strengths of our current economy and society
  • helps reduce vulnerability
  • prepares for robust and rapid responses and enhances recovery
  • encourages approaches which bring positive transformation.

The 5 sub-themes are:

Global order in a time of change

To enable UK to take one of the leading positions in shaping an international order that is secure, resilient and just.

Technologies for resilience, security and defence

To advance capacity of state defence and security, society and economy to reduce vulnerabilities, to respond to and recover from shocks through innovation and technological advancement.

Resilient and secure supply chains

To increase the resilience of supply chains (food, critical materials, manufacturing, complex systems) to a wide variety to potentially interacting shocks.

Behavioural and cultural resilience

To reduce the impact of shocks on individuals and communities through adaptation and embracing change, deployment of resources for personal resilience that is fair and just.

Strengthening resilience in natural and built environment

To mitigate impact of natural and anthropogenic hazards and risks on wider societal processes and operations in rural and urban contexts being responsive to particular requirements of place.

This call speaks directly to the ‘technologies for resilience security and defence​’ sub-theme exploring and critically assessing the role of technologies in making systems more robust against external threats.

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.

Supporting documents

Grant additional conditions (PDF, 68KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 85KB)

This is the integrated website of the 7 research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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