Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Semiconductor technology for ICT innovation and knowledge centre

Apply for funding to establish an innovation and knowledge centre (IKC) in novel and emerging semiconductor technologies with relevance to information and communications technology (ICT) devices.

The aim is to build critical mass and drive emergent ICT-led semiconductor technologies towards market via the development of prototypes and demonstrators through co-creation with business and industry.

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

Funding for at least one award is available jointly from EPSRC and Innovate UK.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £12,500,000. EPSRC will fund 80% FEC.

Funding can be requested for up to five years.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) approved independent research organisations and NHS bodies with research capacity
  • public sector research establishments
  • eligible research and technology organisations

We also welcome research technical professionals and professional research and investment strategy managers as co-investigators.

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:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level 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.

If you are currently restricted under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy, you may submit unlimited outlines. However, you will only be able to submit one full proposal as principal investigator or co-investigator during the 12-month restricted period.

What we're looking for

Scope

Semiconductors are a class of materials which are used to create the hardware which underpin electronic devices. The digital economy would be unable to function without them. They are as essential to modern life as grain or oil.

Technically, they are the basis upon which integrated circuits, or computer chips, are built. They are also vital for analogue circuits such as those involved in power management, radio frequency, lasers and sensors.

Semiconductors play an important part in our lives and are essential components in the electronic devices we all use and rely on each day. Semiconductors are increasingly recognised as an area of global strategic significance.

They are a key enabling technology across multiple commercial sectors (automotive, power electronics, quantum, communications) and are essential to driving progress towards meeting key technological, societal, and economic challenges such as:

  • artificial intelligence
  • quantum
  • telecomms
  • digital healthcare
  • net zero

Semiconductors of various type, size and complexity are used throughout the ICT ecosystem. This funding opportunity is focused on semiconductors for ICT, specifically at the semiconductor chip and device level. Research and innovation directly focused on semiconductor materials or using semiconductors for other applications are outside the scope of this funding opportunity.

The opportunity

EPSRC will award at least one award IKC in the semiconductors for ICT space. This is best described as semiconductors for intelligent connected devices, focusing on the device level for the processing and transmission of information, either by electronic, optoelectronic or photonics means. Research and innovation directly focused on semiconductor materials or using semiconductors for other applications are outside the scope of this funding opportunity.

IKCs should deliver world-class early-stage critical mass in an area of disruptive ICT-centric semiconductor technology research (but not limited to ICT researchers). Additionally, an IKC will:

  • understand the potential future societal, sustainability and business needs around semiconductor technologies and using this to ensure that suitable routes to adoption are developed for these technologies
  • focus on translation of “pre-technology” and “pre-device” low technology readiness level (TRL) semiconductor research from the academic domain into industry
  • bring many parallel research solutions through the TRL levels, producing new processes, products, technologies and devices
  • connect up and unite excellence in the landscape in this area, in terms of infrastructure, business and academic activities to enable collaboration, where appropriate. In order to develop sovereign capability and enable the UK to go beyond Moores Law
  • push emergent research ideas through to commercially viable technologies, products, or processes
  • co-create research ideas and collaborate with businesses, industry and end users to enable scale-up and drive novel low TRL technologies towards market
  • match emerging technology capabilities to potential end-use markets to establish where the technology is most likely to realise near-term impacts
  • enable impact of existing outcomes of research in terms of addressing industrial challenges, commercialisation as well as enabling broader societal and economic impact

Applications should:

  • include expertise or understanding across the funding opportunity scope to enable the interface with the wider academic and industrial communities (including economists and social scientists if appropriate). However, any proposed research programme does not need to encompass the entire scope outlined
  • focus on lower TRL discovery science and engineering ideas which can be translated through to higher TRLs through the creation of demonstrators and prototypes
  • demonstrate how research ideas will be co-created with industry and end users
  • align to certain business, industrial and government needs in the areas, as appropriate

IKC model

The IKC model was created as a mechanism to address a market failure in a particular area and drive the transition of technologies that emerge from fundamental research towards proof-of-concept, commercialisation, and exploitation.

The model was cited in the UK Innovation Strategy as an initiative that can “convene industry and academics to co-design, develop and drive the adoption of transformative tech”.

This is achieved by creating a critical mass of innovators, led by an academic institution, which serves as the nucleating point for an emerging technology. IKCs accelerate and promote the exploitation of world class research and new technology by businesses in a strategically important area, building capacity and capability within the UK to deliver economic and societal benefits.

The convening power of an IKC offers the opportunity to raise market awareness and the subsequent adoption of new and emerging technologies through innovation via academic and industry collaboration.

In addition to benefitting businesses, the IKC model encourages the generation of new cutting edge research knowledge through the application of technologies to new and existing challenges. An IKC can draw on technical expertise but also on research into areas how businesses and markets innovate, adopt and diffuse these technologies.

IKCs are typically run from a single leading research organisation. Consortia can be composed of either a single research organisation, or multi-institution with an identified lead research organisation.

We encourage applications from local and regional clusters of research organisations with excellence and expertise in defined areas of academic research combined with strong links to industry.

Industry and business

All consortia must demonstrate meaningful engagement, collaboration and integration with industry and business. This is essential to maximise the short-term and long-term impacts of the IKC. Because of the scale of these awards, significant integration into the centre and leverage (cash or in-kind) will be expected from project partners.

We strongly encourage engagement from other partners (for example public sector and third sector bodies and policymakers).

You will also need to show how the core research organisations involved will support your application through research infrastructure access. It should link cohorts of doctoral training partnership (DTP) studentships to the work of the IKC, providing adequate space, buildings, etc.

The IKC should be appropriately integrated into the wider UK research and innovation landscape, with a strong network formed and engagement plans to support the wider needs of the industry. This includes development of the pipeline of ideas from research concept to commercialisation, and the supply of skilled people into the industry.

Plans to create sustainable activity beyond this period of funding should be included in the proposal, including both university and business partners, and plans to target additional external investment.

We expect funded IKCs to integrate plans of how to develop and retain intellectual property (IP) within the UK, and outline how any generated IP would impact on the UK research ecosystem and broader economy.

IKC structure

A typical IKC will comprise of (but is not limited to):

  • a virtual or physical centre based around a single research organisation or multi-institution with an identified lead research organisation
  • an academic centre director with a proven track record of managing large investments and excellence within their discipline
  • a broader leadership team representing the span of the research remit proposed in the IKC. It is expected this will be composed of a diverse academics from different career stages with suitable track records and expertise
  • a management and administrative team, that should include an IKC manager and industrial engagement manager, as well as other relevant non-academic staff, to ensure effective running of the centre and coordination with external partners
  • non-academic staff including coordinators, business development officers, research technical professionals, project managers, industrial liaisons, commercialisation experts, technology transfer officers, technicians, etc.
  • postdoctoral research assistants (PDRAs) working on projects within the IKC
  • a core engineering team for the development of prototypes and demonstrators
  • appropriate advisory and governance structures, including as a minimum, an independent advisory board which should meet at least annually and include key academic, industrial, relevant policy officials and other stakeholders. It is expected that a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) representative will sit on this advisory board, who will be appointed by UKRI. Provision of the precise and full membership of such a board will not be required at point of application

Funding remit

We will accept applications from across the range of EPSRC research areas and the majority of the research must be within EPSRC remit. We welcome overlap with multiple EPSRC research areas but the focus should be on driving emergent ICT-led semiconductor technologies towards market. Relevant research areas within the ICT theme include:

Areas of focus

Potential areas of focus for the research programme within the IKC could include, but is not limited to:

  • heterogeneous integration of semiconductor technologies: through novel integration of multiple separate semiconductor components into a higher level multi-chip modules to provide greatly enhanced functionality, improved operating characteristics, and marketable technologies
  • hybrid integration of semiconductor technologies: novel combination and integration connecting multiple types of semiconductor chips or devices from different material technologies into single advanced packaging solutions
  • photonic computing devices: development of devices, systems and architectures that harness photons for data processing, storage or communication
  • integrated circuit design: development of novel circuit design tools, processes and automation. This could include managing design complexity, integration, verification and testing and novel designs combining analogue and digital components
  • nano or microelectromechanical systems: integration of nano or microelectronic component devices and systems with mechanical systems to derive higher-level sensor functionality
  • novel computing paradigms harnessing semiconductor technologies: this could include the development of novel hardware for neuromorphic or biologically-inspired computing, massively parallel computing structures, or devices combining electronics with other computational state variables beyond electronic charge (such as spin polarisation)
  • enabling longer term scale-up of emergent semiconductor technologies and processes, including insight from manufacturing research communities

IKCs could include aspects of the following as appropriate:

  • supply chain design and execution, especially across the multiple sectors using semiconductors, taking into account the geopolitics of semiconductor supply
  • regulatory challenges and opportunities: what are the policy and regulatory implications of improved computer hardware security? Are there policy barriers to adoption or opportunities to accelerate adoption? To what extent does the regulatory environment affect the increased adoption of semiconductor technologies?

We encourage applications that align with cross-cutting areas in the semiconductor space, including but not exclusive to:

  • integration of advanced and novel materials into ICT devices
  • novel approaches to semiconductor manufacturing or fabrication
  • embedded and on-chip security
  • future communications systems

EPSRC is not looking to fund semiconductor technology IKCs where the majority of the remit focuses specifically on:

  • quantum technologies
  • artificial intelligence
  • solar and other energy harvesting technologies
  • fundamental physical and material properties of semiconductors

We encourage the development of a healthy, diverse, and inclusive talent and skills pipeline across the semiconductor technology spectrum. You will be required to consider UK skills needs within the sector as part of your proposal. This could include the provision of skills training, upskilling and reskilling of staff to meet specific technical needs, and the development of research technical professionals. The advancement and training of those engaged in the IKC should be considered from every career stage.

Studentships

EPSRC is not providing studentship funding through this funding opportunity. Consortia should consider how best to leverage DTP allocations, and how to work with businesses to access I-CASE studentships to align with the IKC, where appropriate.

Flexible funding

Each consortium should propose an initial research programme to tackle the initial research and innovation challenges. It is envisaged that the IKC will be able to flexibly reallocate funds to tackle new and impactful avenues of research, which are aligned to the overarching objectives of the centre.

Up to £2 million (80% FEC) of flexible funding can be incorporated into the proposal which can be used for:

  • impact activities, including specific engagement with small and medium enterprises
  • economic and commercialisation activities, including fast-fail, proof-of-concept projects, demonstrator-scale outputs as well as de-risking business involvement
  • public engagement and collaboration outreach. This may include incorporating new industrial or business partners into the centre, including those within its regional vicinity
  • the translation of research outputs and tools

Each consortium should submit a single outline application through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. This must be done by the lead applicant on behalf of the entire consortium, and should include funding requested for researchers at other institutions that are part of the application.

Your outline application should cover:

  • research team: outline who will be involved and what their expertise is
  • IKC research vision: summarise the scope of the IKC’s research and innovation programme
  • impact and commercialisation: provide details on how you push low TRL ideas and technologies and ideas through to market
  • industrial engagement: detail who the key industrial partners and businesses you will engage with are and how will you deliver research programmes through cocreation
  • governance: outline how the IKC would be governed and how it will interact with the wider landscape of current investments

Funding is being provided by EPSRC and Innovate UK for this funding opportunity.

Funding available

EPSRC will fund at least one IKC. The FEC of each investment can be up to £12.5 million. EPSRC will fund 80% FEC. The budget is indicative and subject to change.

Because of the nature of this investment, there will be additional requirements on reporting, monitoring and evaluation, and grant start date. This will be reflected in the grant additional conditions, and those funded will need to comply with them.

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. You should check if your proposed research is feasible, and obtain a technical assessment if the Je-S system marks it as required
  • non-academic staff, including business development officers, project managers, industrial liaisons, coordinators, administrators, technology transfer officers, technicians, etc.
  • research technical professionals and professional research and investment strategy managers as co-investigators
  • up to £2 million of flexible funding
  • proof of concept and prototype development funding
  • travel
  • research technical support including research software engineers, data scientists, PDRA and fellow salaries
  • training
  • other standard expenses

Resources may also be used for activities that initiate, grow, and maintain collaborations with stakeholders (for example academia, business, government, third sector) such as:

  • secondments
  • staff exchanges
  • regular travel

Although this is not a funding opportunity designed for significant capital expenditure, equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) and up to £400,000 is available through this funding opportunity. All equipment should be fully justified and essential to the mission of the IKC.

Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading. EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

All other eligible resources may be requested in accordance with standard EPSRC funding criteria.

Duration

Funding is available for 60 months. Funded projects must begin by 1 April 2024.

Responsible innovation and trusted research

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible research and innovation that makes a positive contribution to society and the environment. Not just through research outputs and outcomes but through the way in which research and innovation is conducted and facilities are managed.

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 encourage our research community to do likewise.

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

You should:

  • consider responsible research and innovation in the context of your project, not just your host institution as a whole
  • take action to enhance your responsible research approach where practicable and reasonable
  • consider bias, privacy, security and ethics should be considered where appropriate

The IKCs will be required to embed principles of responsible innovation and those of trusted research throughout their activities. IKCs will be expected to engage with the relevant regulatory bodies where concerns may arise under the National Security and Investment Act. We encourage you to talk to your research office and the Research Collaboration Advice Team to understand more.

International collaboration

If you plan to include international collaborators in your proposal you should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

Sustainability

UKRI’s environmental sustainability strategy lays out our ambition to actively lead environmental sustainability across our sectors. This includes a vision to ensure that all major investment and funding decisions we make are directly informed by environmental sustainability, recognising environmental benefits as well as potential for environmental harm.

Environmental sustainability is a broad term but 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 a circular economy

EPSRC expects centres to embed careful consideration of environmental sustainability at all stages of the research and innovation process and throughout the lifetime of the IKC.

Centres should ensure that environmental impact and mitigation of the proposed research approaches and operations, as well as the associated project outputs, methodologies developed across science and engineering and outcomes is considered.

Centres must also seek opportunities to influence others and leave a legacy of environmental sustainability within the broader operations of your academic and industry partners.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

As leaders in the community, the IKC will be expected to champion and embed EDI in all their activities throughout the lifetime of the investment.

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.

An IKC must ensure that they request appropriate resources to develop and deliver their EDI strategy effectively. This must include at least one costed staff post with responsibility for EDI (the centre EDI lead) and we encourage the principal investigator or co-investigator should lead this.

IKCs should include information 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 document.

EPSRC does not specify any particular full-time equivalent, salary level or career stage for the EDI lead post. IKC applicants may decide what is most appropriate for their programme, while giving due consideration to flexible working.

How to apply

Expression of interest

To help EPSRC plan for this funding opportunity, you are asked to submit an expression of interest by 1 June 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

This should contain:

  • principal investigator details including name, email address, title, job title, organisation and country
  • ORCID ID
  • core research theme or areas being addressed
  • name of any co-investigators or partners and their host organisations
  • short description of the research covered
  • acknowledgement that your organisation’s research office is aware of your intention to submit an application to this funding opportunity
  • details of the contact within the lead organisation’s research office

Complete an expression of interest on SmartSurvey.

Email confirmation for completion of this survey will only be sent once the survey has closed.

Webinar

We are holding a webinar on 17 May 2023 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm for prospective applicants to this funding opportunity.

Join the webinar.

For more information about the webinar please email jennifer.wilkinson@epsrc.ukri.org or ict.theme@epsrc.ukri.org

Application process

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

You can find advice on completing your application in:

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:

  • select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’
  • select ‘call search’
  • to find the funding opportunity, search for: ICT Semiconductor Technology IKC – Outline

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard research
  • call/type/mode: ICT Semiconductor Technology IKC – Outline

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.

If successful at the outline stage, you will be invited to submit a full application. We will send you guidance on completing a full application at this next stage.

The invited full proposal stage of this funding opportunity is likely to run on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service, our new funding platform, rather than through Je-S.

The Funding Service has a digital form-based format. This means that the exact application requirements and assessment criteria may be different to what you are familiar with. Further information will be published on the funding finder for the full proposal funding opportunity.

Deadline

EPSRC must receive your application by 15 June 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

Outline proposal

Case for support

Up to a maximum of three sides of A4, which includes:

  • the IKC’s fundamental research and innovation vision
  • details relating to the organisations that are involved with the IKC’s consortium (including detail around geographical reach)
  • track record highlighting the skills, expertise, and experience of the applicant team as relevant to the programme. You may consider non-academic partners or collaborators as part of the team
  • a summary which outlines and includes specific use case examples plans for collaboration and engagement with end-users, industry, and project partners throughout the lifetime of the IKC
  • how the IKC would be governed
  • how the IKC will interact with the wider landscape of current UKRI and UK government investments
Commercialisation, user engagement and impact strategy

Up to one side of A4 which includes:

  • strategic plans for commercialisation of novel semiconductor technologies and long term impact through engagement with industry, project partners and end users throughout the lifetime of the IKC
  • what steps will be taken to ensure that research ideas are co-created with business and that research outputs are impactful
Proposal cover letter (optional)

Up to two sides of A4.

This letter will only be seen internally by UKRI. This is optional but can be used to express any other information you feel is relevant to your application.

Project partner letter or letters of support

Project partner letters of support will not be accepted at the outline stage. You will have the opportunity to include project partner letters of support at the invited full proposal stage (stage two).

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.

Documentation: full proposal

Stage two of this funding opportunity is likely to run on the Funding Service our new funding platform, rather than via Je-S.

The Funding Service has a digital form-based format. This means that the exact application requirements  may alter from what is currently published. Further information will be published in the full proposal funding opportunity.

At the full proposal stage, you will be required to provide information on the following:

  • the scientific case, strategy, engagement and equality, diversity and inclusion plans
  • the cost and justification of resources for your project
  • a workplan
  • details of, and support from project partners
  • support from the host organisation including a top-level agreement between all universities and core collaborators involved in the application
  • the support the research organisation, or research organisations, will be providing to this proposal to ensure success, such as leverage of doctoral training partnership, use of existing or new equipment, defined lab space, buildings, etc.

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.

EPSRC guidance can be found under ‘additional information’.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

A two-stage assessment process will be used.

Stage one: outline proposals

Outline proposals will be considered by a mixed panel consisting of internal EPSRC and Innovate UK staff and key external strategic advisors.

This panel will be assessing:

  • fit to funding opportunity scope (including commercialisation and impact strategy)
  • quality (including research vision and ability to enable the push technology towards market)
  • applicants and partnerships

It is expected that the outline proposal will only include the core leadership team, including key non-academic partners and collaborators. This should be expanded upon should you be invited to submit a full proposal.

At this outline stage, the panels and EPSRC may take into account the portfolio, geographic and subject matter diversity of applications received when deciding which applicants to invite to submit full proposals.

If you are successful at this stage you will be invited to submit a full proposal. In the event of this funding opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, EPSRC reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

Feedback will not be provided at outline stage unless specifically requested by the outline panel.

EPSRC has kept the required documents at a minimum for this stage.

If your proposal is successful at the outline stage, and you are invited to submit a full proposal, there will be scope to include new collaborators and you will be able to add further detail to your proposal. Please note that the vision for the IKC and the core leadership will not be allowed to change between the outline and full proposal stages.

To enable this, EPSRC will not be limiting the change in proposal costs to 10% difference between outline and full proposal to allow additional collaborators to be brought in.

Upon completion of the outline stage, titles of applications that are invited to full proposal will be published online along with a brief description of proposed work and details of applicants, including the team named. We encourage the addition of further collaborators and project partners between outline and full proposal stage and may host networking events to facilitate additional partnerships.

Stage two: invited full proposals and expert interview panel

Stage two of this funding opportunity is likely to run on the Funding Service our new funding platform, rather than via the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

The Funding Service has a digital form-based format. This means that the exact application requirements and assessment criteria may alter from what is currently published. Further information will be published in the full proposal funding opportunity.

If you are successful at outline stage you will be invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals will be assessed by an expert interview panel. It is expected that up to eight applications will be shortlisted to submit a full proposal. However, EPSRC reserves the right to modify this approach should circumstances change.

Prior to submission, you will be given the opportunity to include project partner letters of support for all aligned business interactions within the project.

The principal investigator and up to two others identified on the proposal will be invited to attend the interview (this must include the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) lead). All criteria will be assessed in determining the recommendations of the panel.

Full details of the interview process will be sent to candidates before the interviews.

Feedback at stage two will be provided following the interview based on the interview discussions and the responses to the interview questions.

In the event of this funding opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, EPSRC reserve the right to modify the assessment process.

Assessment criteria

Stage one assessment criteria (outlines)

Quality

The research excellence of the proposal, making reference to:

  • the IKC’s vision, including the ambition and adventure of the proposed research and innovation programme and the potential for its outcomes to have a transformative effect on the UK’s semiconductor landscape
  • the degree of novelty in the research programme, which could be incremental or iterative in nature, and how this programme enables the push of emergent technology towards market
  • the degree to which the research programme advances the specific field of semiconductor research and innovation, the relationship to the broader context of the current research area nationally and internationally, and timeliness and relevance to identified industrial stakeholders
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impacts across sectors and timescales
  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes and impact
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact
Fit to opportunity scope

This includes:

  • alignment of the research programme to aims and objectives of this funding opportunity
  • the applicant has appropriately addressed and has a plan for enabling responsible innovation, trusted research and sustainability
  • the request of appropriate resources to support co-creation, business engagement, public engagement, EDI, technology commercialisation throughout the project
  • complement existing strategies and investments within the semiconductor ecosystem in the UK
  • evidence the proposed IKC will address real world research and innovation problems, working with stakeholders across sectors and disciplines to achieve sustainable solutions
  • appropriateness of commercialisation strategy and plans for engaging with stakeholders and users of the research
  • extent to which the IKC considers UK skills needs within the sector
Applicant and partnerships

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

  • appropriateness of the track record of the lead applicant and their ability to manage large investments to drive technology development towards market applications
  • suitability and balance of skills and expertise within the applicant team, including non-academic collaborators
  • relevance, appropriateness, and balance of the academic and industrial organisations that are involved in the IKC (including geographic distribution of involved stakeholders)

Stage two assessment criteria (full proposal and interview)

At stage two, panel members will assess the full proposals using the following indicative criteria headings:

Vision

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed IKC?

In particular you need to demonstrate the ambition and adventure of the proposed research and innovation programme and the potential for its outcomes to have a transformative effect on the UK’s semiconductor landscape.

Approach

How are you going to deliver your proposed IKC?

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Detailing you and your teams ability to successfully deliver the IKC.

The IKC should bring together a world class team and demonstrate a balance of skills and expertise within the applicant team, including non-academic collaborators. Geographic distribution of stakeholders and career development support will also be considered.

Resources and cost justification

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

Including any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement, support responsible innovation, EDI, business engagement, or technology commercialisation. Details of flexible funds and allocation approach, if appropriate.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation

what are the ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations of the proposed work?

Fit to funding opportunity scope

Alignment of the research programme to aims and objectives of this funding opportunity.

Including evidence IKC will address real world research and innovation problems, considers UK skills needs in the sector, and provides appropriate strategy and plans for commercialisation and user engagement.

These criteria are subject to change. Full details will be provided in the stage two guidance.

Feedback

Feedback will be provided for proposals at the expert interview stage.

Guidance for reviewers

EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers.

Reviewer guidance for standard calls

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

ICT theme

Email: ict.theme@epsrc.ukri.org

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

UK landscape

In the UK, there are opportunities for economic growth and the development of sovereign capabilities by harnessing existing strengths across several areas of semiconductor research and innovation. There are, however, a number of challenges facing the semiconductor sector including complexity of international supply chains, pace of technological change, security risks, and access to skills.

Semiconductor research and innovation remains a priority area for the National Science and Technology Council. Semiconductor technology is a core enabler for the ‘electronics, photonics and quantum’ technologies family of UK strength and opportunity, identified in the Innovation Strategy and Integrated Review refresh.

This technology underpins the digital infrastructure that society relies on to enable communications, security, growth, and prosperity. The importance of semiconductors is noted by the current development of a semiconductor strategy by government, which is set to be launched in 2023.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investment

There is a vibrant world leading research and innovation community within the UK supported by considerable funding delivered through UKRI, including EPSRC and Innovate UK.

Current ICT-centric semiconductor activity covers design and intellectual property, front-end manufacturing and fabrication, back-end manufacture as well as systems architecture.

EPSRC has funded £897 million in grants for semiconductor-related research over the past five years, delivered through its ICT, physical sciences, advanced materials, quantum technologies, engineering, and artificial intelligence themes.

Investment into semiconductors is highlighted directly within the EPSRC strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025. It will support driving a resilient, secure and environmentally sustainable digital future to support the UK economy.

Improvements to communications, computing and the internet will shape our future society and economy. Developments in semiconductors will underpin these critical advances, and could allow for low-power digital systems, energy efficient devices and components to be developed.

This funding opportunity links with other current and future funding opportunities within the ICT theme, most prominently the future communication systems early-stage hubs recently awarded. Semiconductor technology is integral to the functioning of 5G and 6G communications systems and networks.

The Innovate UK strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025 highlights semiconductors as one of five key areas for digital and technologies. Plans focus on supporting the UK to become a global leader in semiconductors through supporting technology development, recognising the importance of collaboration and ecosystems to drive rapid industrial commercialisation of technologies.

Community engagement

EPSRC and Innovate UK held a roundtable on 12 January 2023 to bring together experts from academia, industry and policymakers working in the semiconductor technology space to discuss potential research council led strategic interventions.

A core focus was the potential funding of IKCs or research hubs in semiconductor technology to drive emergent technologies towards commercialisation.

The broad aims of the roundtable were:

  • to garner input from the academic, industrial communities around government and UKRI priorities in the semiconductor technology space
  • to understand what the key UK strengths and gaps within the research space are and how these can be brought together most effectively
  • to understand how to facilitate the push of emergent ICT-led semiconductor technologies and products towards market
  • to identify if there are any key research areas of focus that should be prioritised
  • to highlight whether a particular funding model would result in the greatest impacts, both short and long term

This activity provides the basis for the scope of this strategic intervention.

IKCs

An IKC is a key component of the UK’s approach to the commercialisation of emerging technologies. It creates early-stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology. It possesses international quality research capability in its technology domain, and access to the companion technologies needed to make commercially viable products, processes or service systems work.

Based in a university it is led by an expert team with a truly entrepreneurial spirit. It continues to advance the research area to the benefit of the UK, while also furthering commercialisation by exploiting the network of businesses that it builds up over its lifetime.

For the initial phase of an IKC, it is expected that the ambition is to become an established leader in the industry it is nucleating. It has a strong foundational understanding of the key opportunities and challenges for the area and is expected to provide both short and long term impact it in order to contribute to future UK economic success.

There should be clear demonstration of the barriers that remain to commercialisation of emerging technologies and the requirement for IKC expertise and capabilities to overcome these. The IKC should be able to demonstrate the ability, in collaboration with its partners, to help develop and commercially exploit new products, processes and services, and show a clear understanding of its industry’s growth potential and challenges.

Grant additional conditions (GAC)

Grants are awarded under the standard UKRI grant terms and conditions. The following additional grant conditions will also apply:

GAC 1: start date of the grant

Notwithstanding RGC 5.2 Starting Procedures, this grant must start by 1 April 2024. No slippage of start date will be permitted.

Expenditure may be incurred prior to the start of the grant and be subsequently charged to the grant, provided that it does not precede the date of the offer letter.

GAC 2: equality, diversity and inclusion

In addition to RGC 3.4, you are expected to prepare a full equality diversity and inclusion plan for the duration of this grant to demonstrate best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the lifetime of this funding award.

This must be recorded through the grant reporting process.

The plan must be received by the project officer within three months of the grant start date.

GAC 3: naming and branding

In addition to RGC 12.4 Publication and Acknowledgement of Support, you must make reference to the EPSRC and Innovate UK funding and include the relevant, up to date, logo and relevant branding on all online or printed materials (including press releases, posters, exhibition materials and other publications) related to activities funded by this grant. References to the strategic priorities fund must be included.

GAC 4: collaboration and collaboration agreements

Where the grant is associated with more than one research organisation or other project partners, a formal collaboration agreement must be in place with the basis of collaboration between the organisations including the following:

  • the process of the flexible allocation of resources throughout the project
  • ownership of intellectual property
  • rights to exploitation

It is your responsibility to put such an agreement in place before the research begins. The terms of collaboration agreements must not conflict with the UKRI terms and conditions. Arrangements for collaboration or exploitation must not prevent the future progression of research and the dissemination of research results in accordance with academic custom and practice.

We must be informed within three months of the start of the grant, that the collaboration agreement is in place and has been signed by all partners or the progress made (unless some alternative timeline has been agreed with us beforehand). If sufficient progress has not been made within three months of the start of the grant, we reserve the right to enact RGC 11.1.

GAC 5: governance

We will nominate a member of our staff (the project officer) who will be your primary point of contact.

The project officer will ensure that the project is being run in accordance with the terms and conditions and in line with financial due diligence. The project officer should have access to all documentation of governance and reporting bodies, in so far as it relates to the administration and application of the grant.

As funding administrators, all UKRI staff have agreed to maintain the confidentiality required by all parties involved in our funded research.

GAC 6: monitoring and reporting

Notwithstanding the requirements set out in standard grant conditions RGC 7.4, RGC 7.5 and RGC 10, you are responsible for providing to the project officer quarterly and annual progress reports against financial and non-financial performance metrics.

A detailed list of performance metrics and instructions for reporting will be agreed with you upon commencement of the grant.

We reserve the right to suspend the grant and withhold further payments if the performance metrics requested are not provided by the stated deadlines or are determined to be of an unacceptable standard by our project officer.

Additional financial or non-financial information may occasionally be requested outside of the standard annual and quarterly reporting cycle. You agree to undertake all reasonable endeavours to comply with these requests in a timely manner.

GAC 7: embedding trusted research

The IKC is expected to embed trusted research and innovation throughout their activities.

We reserve the right to suspend the grant and withhold further payments if trusted research is not embedded throughout the programme or is deemed to be of an unacceptable standard by the us.

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

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 281KB)

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have some quick feedback or help us improve your experience by taking three minutes to tell us what you think of the UKRI website.