Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Strategic infrastructure outlines

Start application

Apply for funding to purchase strategic infrastructure including equipment, resources or both.

The funding seeks to improve UK scientific capability and enable cutting-edge research of high priority to Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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

This funding is for either:

  • purchase and set-up of infrastructure
  • resources to support existing infrastructure

The full economic cost (FEC) of your infrastructure must be at least £400,000.

The resources to support existing equipment applications must have a maximum duration of two years.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

EPSRC standard eligibility rules apply. For full details, visit EPSRC’s eligibility page.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service. For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

A research technical professional can apply as a project lead or project co-lead, provided that:

  • your appointment is resourced from the central funds of their institution at the time of application
  • your level of responsibilities and duties is appropriate to a person with substantial research experience
  • your contract extends beyond the duration of the project

International applicants

Under the UKRI and Research Council of Norway Money Follows Cooperation agreement a project co-lead (international) (previously co-investigator) can be based in a Norwegian institution.

Resubmissions

We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI or any other funder.

Find out more about EPSRC’s resubmissions policy.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

Scope

Strategic infrastructure for engineering and physical sciences evolved from the previous strategic equipment grant to reflect that in this funding opportunity both capital and digital infrastructure can be requested.

Strategic infrastructure funding opportunity is for either:

  • route one: purchase and set-up of strategic infrastructure
  • route two: resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

These two funding routes have different scopes but the application and assessment processes are via the same strategic infrastructure funding opportunity.

Route two: resources to support existing strategic infrastructure is only for applicants who received invitations from relevant theme leads from EPSRC.

Strategic infrastructure

Strategic infrastructure is intended to enhance UK scientific capability and support cutting-edge research of high priority to EPSRC. The request should fit within the host institution strategy and enable research that predominantly falls within EPSRC’s remit.

Strategic infrastructure includes a wide range of investments. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • technology that increases novel research capability; for example, capital infrastructure enabling transformative research of high importance to EPSRC and the UK, or capital infrastructure empowering UK to become world leading as a result of the enabled research
  • research through increased capacity; for example, high-specification capital infrastructure that enables faster, higher resolution or more cost-effective results
  • non-capital costs where there is a clear requirement and should only be used to support the infrastructure requested

All strategic infrastructure requests should include:

  • justified cost
  • appropriate use
  • appropriate strategy

Find more details on the scope of the strategic infrastructure route.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

The resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route is only for invited applicants where strategic needs are identified. You must be invited by the relevant EPSRC theme lead to submit applications.

The resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route is intended to maximise utilisation of existing infrastructure that has already been procured, delivered and installed. This funding route supports improved access and approaches to enable a better sharing of existing infrastructure. We expect that funding will provide seed or invest-to-save funding to initiate increased use and sustainability of the existing infrastructure.

The infrastructure may have been funded by EPSRC or other sources. The research enabled by the infrastructure must be within our remit.

We do not expect that you will need more funding through this funding route after the first application. You must articulate clear plans for sustainability in your application. We will not accept further applications to support sharing of the same item or items of capital infrastructure.

Find more details on the scope of the resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route.

Duration

Strategic infrastructure

The duration must reflect that this is an infrastructure grant and not a research grant.

The duration should cover the procurement, delivery, installation and set-up of infrastructure.

If it is appropriate, the length of the funding can include:

  • the development of methods, protocols and access models
  • a small amount of time for pump-priming projects to maximise utilisation of the infrastructure

The duration should not include time for research projects.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

Proposals including only resources to support existing strategic infrastructure should have a maximum duration of two years.

Funding available

Strategic infrastructure

Strategic infrastructure includes capital and digital infrastructure. Capital infrastructure includes capital equipment. Digital infrastructure includes central processing units and computing hardware.

Funding is available for items of infrastructure over £400,000, including VAT.

You can also request items of equipment under £400,000 that are essential to the running of the larger infrastructure.

You can request funding for up to 100% full economic cost (FEC) of the infrastructure. However, contributions from the host organisation would be expected to be in line with the scale of the proposal.

The cost entered in your application form should be 100% FEC equipment cost under ‘Exceptions’ heading, with the cost to us and any contributions detailed in the text of your application.

The £400,000 minimum threshold can be met by a single item of equipment or by several items that are clearly intended to be combined in a single asset. The threshold cannot be met by the accumulated total of a number of individual items of standalone equipment.

Non-capital costs can be included where there is a clear requirement and should only be used to support the infrastructure requested. These will be funded at 80% FEC.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

Funding via this route should provide resources to improve current use of the existing infrastructure. You will be required to demonstrate the added value of the funds for increasing equipment utilisation, and the strategic demand for this.

All costs under this route will be funded at 80% FEC.

What we will not fund

Strategic infrastructure

We will not fund:

  • costs associated with the support of individual research projects. For example, project lead time for research and project specific consumables are not an allowable cost on this funding opportunity. It would be for the university to consider how best to cover research project consumables through usage and charging arrangements
  • underpinning infrastructure that we would expect to see in a well-found lab
  • software, research software development or cloud computing credits

You should submit any application focused on creating novel instruments or performing modifications to an existing instrument through standard mode as instrument development.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

We will not fund:

  • capital costs through this funding opportunity. For example, items of equipment over £10,000. Individual items with a value less than £10,000 are not considered to be equipment
  • long-term research projects. For example, we do not expect to see postdoctoral researcher effort requested as part of an application. Costs for individual research projects are only eligible when these are short-term seed projects to support new users. These costs should have been proposed at the outline stage
  • replacement of existing support, maintenance, service contracts, or capital costs. For example, current staff costs for time assigned to the equipment are not eligible. It is expected that awards will provide seed funding to initiate increased use

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email support@funding-service.ukri.org
    Please allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. You should:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • ensure files are smaller than 5MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:

Deadline

We must receive your application by 4.00pm UK time on 7 March 2024.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected. If an application is withdrawn prior to peer review or office rejected due to substantive errors in the application, it cannot be resubmitted to the funding opportunity.

Personal data

Processing personal data

EPSRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

EPSRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at a Tableau tool web page.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Summary

Word limit: 250

Guidance for writing a summary

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

At the start of this section, please state which EPSRC theme(s) your application fits into by using the following theme categories:

  • physical sciences
  • information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • engineering
  • digital economy
  • mathematical sciences
  • quantum technologies
  • healthcare technologies
  • manufacturing and circular economy
  • energy and decarbonisation
  • digital research infrastructure (central processing units or computing hardware)

If your application is a resubmission agreed with EPSRC, please also state at the start of this section.

Your summary should succinctly describe your proposed infrastructure in terms of:

  • what the proposed infrastructure is
  • its context

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Application questions

Purpose and vision

Word limit: 300

Why is this infrastructure needed, and why should we support it?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide evidence on how the infrastructure sought will:

Approach, accessibility and sustainability

Word limit: 500

What are your plans to manage and sustain the proposed infrastructure during and beyond the end of this funding?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

For approach, evidence how you will:

  • effectively manage the infrastructure
  • identify, prioritise, support and maximise users across the landscape

For accessibility, evidence how you will:

  • consider and demonstrate your pathway to ensuring and improving accessibility of this infrastructure and its user diversity during and beyond the duration of this grant

For sustainability, evidence how your plan will include:

  • an appropriate cost recovery model
  • training and development of specialist technical staff
  • steps to enhance the environmental sustainability of the proposed infrastructure
  • development or expansion of the user base after the initial period of funding

Applicant and host institution capability to deliver

Word limit: 300

Why are you and your host institution the right individual, team and place to procure and manage this infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience, appropriate to your career stage, to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work, including the appropriate leadership and management skills on your approach to develop others

For the host institution, provide evidence of:

  • why it is the most appropriate place for the proposed infrastructure
  • how it will use its existing capacity to best complement the proposed infrastructure

Outline costs

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

Please provide the expected costs of the proposed infrastructure in pounds sterling (including VAT) by providing totals for Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated, Indirect and Exceptions cost headings.

Justification of resources

Word limit: 250

What the assessors are looking for in your response
  • make a clear distinction between cost of equipment items and the cost of any associated resources. State the anticipated funds that would be requested from:
    • EPSRC
    • host institution and project partners including the nature and level of contributions if applicable
  • describe the timescales associated with procurement of the equipment and when you anticipate you will spend any capital provision made
  • ensure the costs are as accurate as possible at this stage. The costs in a full proposal must be within + or -10% of the outline proposal

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

References

Word limit: 1000

List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Include all references in this section, not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application.

If linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible.

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

Facilities

Word limit: 250

Does your proposed research require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you will need to use a facility, follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Ensure you have prior agreement so that if you are offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project.

For each requested facility you will need to provide the:

  • name of facility, copied and pasted from the facility information list (DOCX, 34.9KB)
  • proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicated on the facility information list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

If you will not need to use a facility, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Please note that your outline proposal will be assessed by EPSRC internal staff only. Your outline proposal should be aimed at this audience instead of the peer review community.

The EPSRC internal panel does not assess the technical feasibility of your proposal. You should focus on evidencing the clarity and coherence of your descriptions against the assessment criteria.

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

Outline stage

An EPSRC internal staff panel will review and score your application against the assessment criteria for the outline stage. The panel will then recommend proposals to be invited to submit a full proposal.

If successful you will be provided with guidance on submitting your full proposal on the UKRI Funding Service.

Full proposal stage

If you are invited to submit a full proposal, we will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite experts to review your application independently, against the specified criteria for this funding opportunity.

You will not be able to nominate reviewers for applications on the new Funding Service. Research councils will continue to select expert reviewers.

We are monitoring the requirement for applicant-nominated reviewers as we review policies and processes as part of the continued development of the new Funding Service.

Shortlisting

We will review the comments and scores for each application. Shortlisted applications will go to a panel who will make a funding recommendation.

If your application is shortlisted, you will have 14 days to respond to reviewers’ comments.

Panel

For shortlisted applications submitted under the Strategic Infrastructure route an expert interview panel will conduct interviews with applicants against all the full proposal assessment criteria for this funding opportunity. The interview panel will then make a funding recommendation.

We expect interviews to be held in September 2024. The exact date and time for your interview will be confirmed around one month in advance.

Shortlisted proposals submitted under the resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route will be invited to either an interview panel or a prioritisation panel, depending on the size and scope of the proposal. We will inform you if you are required to attend an interview when you are invited to submit a full proposal.

Proposals for resources to support existing infrastructure that are invited to interview will be assessed using the same process as strategic infrastructure proposals but on a separate funding list. Funding decisions on proposals for resources to support existing infrastructure are independent of funding decisions for strategic infrastructure proposals.

The EPSRC research infrastructure theme will make the final funding decision based on the interview panel funding recommendation and budget available.

Timescale

We aim to complete the following assessment process within the timeline of:

  • outline stage: four to five weeks of closing the outline funding opportunity
  • full proposal stage: six months of closing the full proposal funding opportunity

Feedback

At the outline stage, feedback will only be provided to:

  • successful applicants who are invited to submit full proposals
  • applicants who are invited to resubmit by the outline panel

At the full proposal stage, feedback will be provided to all applicants when they are informed of the outcome.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment criteria

The criteria we will assess your outline application against are:

Purpose and Vision

To what extent has the applicant provided evidence on how the infrastructure sought will:

Approach, accessibility and sustainability

For approach, has the applicant evidenced how they will:

  • effectively manage the infrastructure
  • identify, prioritise, support and maximise users across the landscape

For accessibility, has the applicant evidenced how they will:

  • consider and demonstrate their pathway to ensuring and improving accessibility of this infrastructure and its user diversity during and beyond the duration of this grant

For sustainability, has the applicant evidenced how their plan will include:

  • an appropriate cost recovery model
  • training and development of specialist technical staff
  • steps to enhance the environmental sustainability of the proposed infrastructure
  • development or expansion of the user base after the initial period of funding

Applicant and host institution capability to deliver

To what extent has the applicant provided evidence of how they, and if relevant their team, have:

  • the relevant experience, appropriate to your career stage, to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work, including the appropriate leadership and management skills on their approach to develop others

For the host institution, to what extent has the applicant provided evidence of:

  • why it is the most appropriate place for the proposed infrastructure
  • how it will use its existing capacity to best complement the proposed infrastructure

Resources and cost justification

The applicant is asked to provide the following:

  • the expected costs of the proposed infrastructure in pounds sterling (including VAT) by providing totals for Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated, Indirect and Exceptions cost headings.
  • make a clear distinction between cost of equipment items and the cost of any associated resources. State the anticipated funds that would be requested from:
    • EPSRC
    • host institution and project partners including the nature and level of contributions if applicable
  • describe the timescales associated with procurement of the equipment and when you anticipate you will spend any capital provision made
  • ensure the costs are as accurate as possible at this stage. The costs in a full proposal must be within + or -10% of the outline proposal
  • assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources.

To what extent has the applicant demonstrated how the resources they anticipate needing for the proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UKRI Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

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.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact researchinfrastructure@epsrc.ukri.org

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org
Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find out more information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact tfschangeepsrc@epsrc.ukri.org

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Background

For more information about our portfolio and strategies, visit:

We wish to encourage a culture of equipment sharing where appropriate to maximise usage within the research group, across institutions or across the UK. As such, strategic infrastructure should account for the national picture, both in terms of equipment available and research being undertaken.

The £400,000 threshold for items of equipment that you can apply for does not imply any consequences for university procurement and tendering rules.

Grant additional condition

Grants will be subject to the standard UK Research and Innovation grant conditions. The following additional grant condition will be added to this funding opportunity:

We consider the equipment over £400,000 purchased under this grant to be part of your university’s EPSRC capital equipment portfolio. You are required to provide information regarding this equipment as part of your university’s annual equipment report to EPSRC.

Webinar for potential applicants

We will hold a webinar on the week commencing 12 February 2024. This will provide more information about the funding opportunity and a chance to ask questions.

Register for the webinar.

Research disruption due to COVID-19

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

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

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

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

Supporting documents

Equality Impact Assessment (DOCX, 65.6KB)

Updates

  • 9 February 2024
    12 February webinar registration link added under Additional info section

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