Software for research communities

Apply for funding to adapt or maintain existing software used by researchers.

You must be a UK resident based at an organisation eligible for UKRI funding. We particularly encourage applications from research software engineers and early career researchers.

Your project must be within the remit of EPSRC.

You can use the funding for:

  • development and re-engineering of existing software
  • maintenance activities
  • activities that widen participation in development and maintenance.

We will provide funding for three years. EPSRC will fund 80% of your project’s full economic cost.

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 and NHS bodies with research capacity.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of these criteria:

  • 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.

What we're looking for

Synopsis

EPSRC recognises that investment is required to develop, support, and maintain software.

While previous software funding mechanisms have typically had a narrow focus on enabling novel research and innovation activities, or have supported software development as part of a wider programme of research, such approaches do not emphasise the long-term sustainability of research software.

As such, a community-driven approach to software development and maintenance is favoured for this call.

EPSRC aims to fund projects where the proposal provides evidence of an established or growing demand for the proposed software to facilitate more effective or efficient research workflows.

This may include the development of new functionality for existing software, benefitting the existing community and enabling new communities to be reached.

Alternatively, the proposal could focus on advancing the sustainability of software benefitting a well-established user base.

For example, by adapting software for new architectures, building new models and mechanisms for co-development, upskilling, incorporating existing good practices, the development of documentation and training materials, or other essential maintenance activities.

EPSRC encourages applicants to demonstrate the community demand within their application through:

  • elaborating plans to support collaborations between software developer(s) and user(s) for the project by facilitating the sustainability of or enhancing the scope of existing collaborative mechanisms, or by establishing new collaborations
  • providing evidence of the benefits that will be delivered to specific communities of practice by the proposed project, for example, by demonstrating:
    • impact of existing software on existing user communities
    • adoption of the software to-date
    • demand from new user communities
  • providing evidence that the benefits of the proposed project will continue to be realised beyond the period of funding.

Funding is available for projects of up to three years in length in this call.

Scope

The focus of this opportunity is to support software that benefits EPSRC’s research portfolio and strategic objectives.

Software supported by this opportunity may be focused on supporting workflows that are specific to certain user communities (for example, imaging or spectroscopic tools) or foundational tools that benefit multiple user communities (for example, supporting the management and analysis of research data in engineering and physical sciences disciplines).

In all cases, the applicant must be able to demonstrate the benefit to research methods and workflows within EPSRC’s remit.

Funding can be requested for:

  • the addition of new functionality to existing software to enhance or extend the utility and usability of software to meet the ambition of researchers and enable improved research workflows
  • the development and re-engineering of existing software to improve performance, enable operation on different hardware architectures, and incorporate good practice in software development
  • maintenance activities for existing software, including activities to support documentation, training and dissemination
  • co-creation activities to widen participation in the development and maintenance of the software.

Projects with the following characteristics are not eligible for this opportunity but are encouraged to explore alternative funding opportunities provided by UKRI:

  • projects that are primarily focussed on the development of novel computational tools, techniques and methodologies without a well evidenced use case, rather than providing tools to support researchers
  • projects that are primarily focussed on the development and application of software to contribute to a specific research project or programme and where there is limited potential for broader applications
  • projects that are unable to demonstrate evidence of support from prospective or actual user communities because there is insufficient evidence of feasibility and significant benefit over alternative solutions.

EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals that do not sufficiently clearly demonstrate the contribution of the proposed software project to research within EPSRC’s remit.

Funding available

Up to £4.5 million is available for this opportunity. EPSRC will fund 80% of the project’s full economic cost.

Equipment over £10,000 in value (inclusive of 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 guidance for equipment funding (EPSRC website).

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. Therefore applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC Framework for Responsible Innovation (EPSRC website).

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

Trusted Research guidance (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure)

How to apply

Intent to submit stage

Full proposals will only be considered from applicants who submitted an intent to submit by the deadline of 16:00 on 14 September 2021.

The intent to submit asks for:

  • names of principal and co-investigators
  • title of proposal
  • most relevant EPSRC theme
  • a brief description of the proposal.

Full proposal stage

For the full proposal you should prepare and submit your proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select New Document, then select:

  • Create New Document’
  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Standard
  • on the Project Details page you should select ‘Software for Research Communities’.

After completing the application you must ‘submit document’ which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. Applicants should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the closing date.

EPSRC must receive your full proposal application by 16:00 on 14 October 2021.

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted.

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.

Case for support

Maximum eight pages, two on your track record and six on the scientific case.

Evidence of good practice of software development should be included where relevant, for example through a link to Github.

Workplan

One page

Justification of resources

Two pages

CVs

Up to two A4 sides each only 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), and visiting researchers.

Project partners letters of support

Included in the Je-S form, no page limit.

Letters of support

No page limit, up to three letters can be submitted.

Technical assessments

For facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance, no page limit.

Cover letter

Optional attachment. No page limit, not seen by peer review

Further guidance

Read our advice on writing proposals (EPSRC).

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.

Read further guidance on the ethical information section of the Je-S form.

EPSRC guidance can be found under Additional information.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

The intent to submit will not be assessed, it is for monitoring the applications for this call only.

Full proposals will be sent to external peer reviewers for their comments. Where sufficiently supportive reviewer comments have been received, principal investigators will be invited to submit a response to the reviewers’ comments. Proposals will then be considered and prioritised for funding by a peer review panel within the most relevant EPSRC theme.

Information on EPSRC themes.

Funding decisions will be based on the recommendations provided by the thematic panels. In the event that the number of high-quality proposals exceeds the budget available for this call, EPSRC reserves the right to balance funding across thematic areas to ensure a diverse portfolio of projects.

Applicants should note that peer reviewers will be drawn from a pool that may include software development experts, computational scientists and engineers, computer scientists, computational mathematicians as well as domain experts.

Panel members will be drawn from a pool containing experts in the relevant thematic area. EPSRC reserve the right to sift proposals at any stage to ensure all proposals fit the call.

Submissions to this call will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy (EPSRC website).

Assessment criteria

The proposal will be assessed against the following criteria.

Quality (primary)

The research excellence, 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 multi-disciplinary 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 and contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry(s)
  • meets national needs by establishing/maintaining a unique world leading activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

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

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant(s)
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators.

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

There will be no feedback from the intent to submit stage. There is no assessment of the intent to submit.

Feedback on the full proposal is provided by the reviewer’s comments and, unless sifted prior to the meeting, the rank order list information is published on EPSRC’s Grants on the Web (GoW) system shortly after the meeting.

Occasionally there is specific feedback from the prioritisation meeting which will be passed to the applicant.

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.

For more information about the reviewer selection process, please see the related content links.

Guidance for reviewers

For more information about the EPSRC peer review process, read our guidance for reviewers (EPSRC).

Guidance for reviewing standard grants (EPSRC).

Contact details

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 a question about this opportunity

Email: researchinfrastructure@epsrc.ukri.org

Michael James

Email: michael.james@epsrc.ukri.org

Sarah King

Email: sarah.king@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org
Telephone: 01793 444164

The helpdesk is staffed Monday to Thursday 08:30 to 17:00 and Fridays 08:30 to 16:30 (excluding bank holidays and other holidays).

Additional info

Background

EPSRC considers software to be a critical infrastructure that underpins cutting edge science and engineering research with usage ranging from equipment and instrumentation to computational modelling and simulation to data analysis.

EPSRC’s strategic investment in software projects in the past decade includes the Software for the Future and Software for the Future II calls in 2012 and 2014, respectively, and the Software Flagship Project call in 2016.

In 2018, EPSRC published its latest software infrastructure strategy, which details EPSRC’s software investment through different programmes. The strategy highlights EPSRC’s long-term commitment to funding the development of reliable and reproducible software for research communities.

EPSRC Software Infrastructure Strategy 2018

Research software engineers

We note the significant contribution of staff such as research software engineers (RSEs) to interdisciplinary computational projects, and support the recognition of their vital contributions to research outcomes. We encourage applicants to acknowledge and cost RSEs on research grant applications where appropriate.

Society of Research Software Engineering.

Supporting documents

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