Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UK Japan civil nuclear research programme 2023

Apply for funding for research into accelerating and advancing nuclear science including decommissioning relevant to Fukushima and Sellafield.

This programme aims to support two projects focused on the decommissioning of Fukushima and Sellafield with a fixed start date of 1 November 2023 and a fixed end date of 31 March 2026.

Projects can be up to £593,750 at 100% full economic cost (FEC). EPSRC will fund 80% of the FEC to £475,000.

EPSRC will only fund the UK component of the research.

You must:

  • be a UK-based researcher employed by an eligible research organisation
  • collaborate with Japanese researchers

Your proposal must address one of these fields:

  • radioactive waste treatment, packaging, and storage
  • remote handling, robotic, and autonomous systems in decommissioning
  • environmental behaviour of radionuclide release and management of risk and degraded infrastructure

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply, research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation-approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity

Read the guidance on institutional eligibility.

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

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level or equivalent
  • 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

This funding opportunity is supported through the International Science and Partnerships Fund (ISPF). The ISPF is designed to enable potential and foster prosperity.

It will support UK researchers and innovators to work with international partners on the major themes of our time, and to help them create new knowledge and technology for the world. It is managed by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

It will be delivered by a consortium of the UK’s leading research and innovation bodies including UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Overview

The UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme 2023 is a jointly funded opportunity between EPSRC and MEXT and aims to target key challenges in the decommissioning of both Fukushima and Sellafield nuclear power plants.

This programme supports advances in knowledge which will support the UK’s ambition to ramp up our nuclear capacity in the UK to up to 24GW by 2050. There is a strong focus on our ability to decommission legacy nuclear power plants such as Sellafield, to enable the scaling up of UK’s nuclear programme.

There is a need to research ways into decommissioning these plants in an easier, safer, more cost effective and sustainable way. This research will increase our knowledge on how to decommission these new reactors once they reach end of life, and will help to find solutions in decommissioning our current legacy nuclear power plants.

The funding opportunity will directly deliver against the UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme objectives and EPSRC’s engineering net zero priority ambitions, by targeting key challenges of the decommissioning process of both Fukushima and Sellafield nuclear power plants. The research will address challenges in:

  • radioactive waste treatment, packaging, and storage
  • remote handling, robotic, and autonomous systems in decommissioning
  • environmental behaviour of radionuclide release and management of risk and degraded infrastructure

These research challenges are fundamental for the successful decommissioning of the two sites and will help pave the way for cleanup and decommissioning of future reactors, and help strengthen our ties with Japan on nuclear decommissioning.

Scope

UKRI and MEXT in Japan has identified priority issues which potential applicants within the UK research and innovation community must address.

Proposals must address issues in at least one of the three fields:

  • radioactive waste treatment, packaging, and storage
  • remote handling, robotic, and autonomous systems in decommissioning
  • environmental behaviour of radionuclide release and management of risk and degraded infrastructure

Within these fields, we would like research proposals to fall within the sub-themes.

Radioactive waste treatment, packaging, and storage

Sub-themes:

  • long-term management and disposal of degraded fuels
  • innovating application of the waste hierarchy to improve radioactive waste management

Remote handling, robotic, and autonomous systems in decommissioning

Sub-themes:

  • robotic deployment systems, surface and underwater, deployment through narrow access ports
  • digital technologies, digital twin, planning, and autonomy
  • inspection, in-situ characterisation and decontamination, and in-situ chemical analysis and mechanical testing, including underwater
  • methods for collecting fuel debris and other materials

Environmental behaviour of radionuclide release and management of risk and degraded infrastructure

Sub-themes:

  • leak detection, contamination countermeasures, and clean up
  • data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning
  • digital technologies, digital twin, planning, and autonomy to manage risk

This funding opportunity is not open to research proposals on new fuels and new reactors. It is preferable, but not essential, that your application complements existing research projects funded under previous phases of the UK Japan Civil Nuclear Energy programme.

Differences to a standard application

The differences are:

  • applications must include a collaboration between UK-based and Japan-based researchers
  • this is a jointly funded opportunity between EPSRC and MEXT. The UK partner should submit their proposal part to EPSRC, and the Japanese partner should submit their part to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science (CLADS):
    • projects are to be of fixed duration, with a fixed start date of 1 November 2023 and a fixed end date of 31 March 2026. This fixed timeline is set to accommodate Japan’s funding cycle
    • the case for support can be up to 12 sides of A4 to match the allowed limit in Japan
    • the case for support submitted to EPSRC should match the content submitted to JAEA and CLADS as closely as possible given the difference in language, and describe the work being done in both Japan and the UK
  • you should request only the travel and subsistence cost for the UK part of the project. Your Japanese partner should request any funds they need from MEXT
  • additional grant conditions apply, detailed in the ‘additional info’ section

Find out more about the JAEA and CLADS part of the funding opportunity at:

Funding available

This funding opportunity is jointly run by EPSRC and MEXT, with EPSRC funding the UK-based component of the research project, and MEXT funding the Japan-based one.

The FEC of the UK project work can be up to £593,750. EPSRC will fund 80% of the FEC (up to £475,000). We intend to support the UK component of two research projects.

Equipment

Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this funding opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.

EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

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

International collaboration

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

How to apply

Applying through Je-S

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:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme 2023.

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme 2023

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

EPSRC must receive your application by 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

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.

Your application must also include the following attachments:

  • case for support (up to 12 sides of A4, see ‘case for support’ section for details)
  • workplan (one page)
  • justification of resources (two pages)
  • project organisation diagram. Contact your Japanese collaborator for guidance as this is included in their application form
  • submitting CV’s is optional for this funding opportunity but if chosen: CVs (up to two A4 sides each) for named:
    • postdoctoral staff, researcher co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time)
    • visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form (no page limit), EPSRC guidance on project partners letter of support
  • quotes for equipment above £25,000 (no page limit)
  • equipment business case for any items of equipment or combined assets with a value above £138,000: up to two pages
  • technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance (no page limit)
  • host organisation letter of support (two pages)
  • cover letter (optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review)

Case for support specifics

Your case for support should be no more than 12 sides of A4. It should match your Japanese partner’s submission as closely as possible. We understand that there will be differences in language. It should include:

  • track record (up to two sides of A4) detailing the relevant expertise that the investigator and team will bring to the research programme
  • description of the proposed research, describing the work being done in both Japan and the UK (up to ten sides of A4). It should also include a national importance statement

For reference, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science (CLADS) have requested that Japanese applicants include in their equivalent of the case for support:

  • the aims of the joint research theme, describing the research goals and specific results that will be obtained from this collaboration, and how these will contribute to the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and Sellafield
  • the roles of UK and Japan research teams, describing the role of both UK and Japan-based researchers in this project and how collaboration will occur
  • the research approach: the Japanese and UK research goals and plans
  • expected outcomes from the Japanese and UK researchers, listing the synergistic effects

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 info’.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Proposals will not undergo postal peer review, however pre-panel comments from panel members will be shared with you. You will have an opportunity to make a response to these comments in writing before the panel.

Component proposals from Japan-based researchers will be assessed by interview panel in Japan. UK partners may be asked by their Japanese partners to contribute to the Japan interview via teleconference or video conference, but this is not mandatory. There will not be an equivalent interview stage in the UK. Both UK and Japan-based applicants will be notified of the outcomes of the interview at this stage.

Successful proposals from this stage will be assessed by a joint UK-Japan expert panel resulting in a rank-ordered list. The panel will make a combined assessment of the proposals against the EPSRC and MEXT assessment. The UK assessment criteria is listed in the assessment criteria’ section.

Funding decisions will be made following the outcomes of the combined panel, and you will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible after the panel meeting.

Assessment criteria

Proposals submitted to this funding opportunity will be assessed on their fit to the scope of the funding opportunity, and to the criteria listed below. EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals which are considered out of the remit of this opportunity without reference to peer review.

Standard criteria

Quality (primary)

The research excellence of the proposal, making reference to:

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

How the research:

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

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

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
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

Opportunity specific criteria

Fit to opportunity (primary):

  • reviewers will consider the alignment of the research programme to the aims and objectives of the funding opportunity

Feedback

As proposals will not undergo postal peer review, however pre-panel comments from panel members will be shared with you. You will have an opportunity to make a response to these comments in writing before the panel.

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

Mr Ethan Tull, Portfolio Manager

Email: ethan.tull@epsrc.ukri.org

Energy and Decarbonisation Team

Email: energy@epsrc.ukri.org

Please include ‘UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme 2023’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five to seven working days.

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

This funding opportunity delivers to UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) 2022 to 2027 strategy, transforming tomorrow together, to:

  • support world-class impact
  • focus the UK’s world-class science and innovation to target global and national challenges
  • create and exploit tomorrow’s technologies
  • build the high-growth business sectors of the future

It also helps to deliver the recent UK government strategy: powering up Britain which aims to:

  • build international relationships with strong, trusted partners and allies
  • provide a clean, secure energy supply
  • addressing demand by increasing efficiency for homes and businesses
  • supporting the rest of the economy through the transition

Key council strategies

In addition, this funding opportunity responds to EPSRC’s key council strategy:

EPSRC’s engineering net zero

EPSRC will support a whole systems approach to support the research and innovation critical to the discovery, development and deployment of solutions to tackle climate change, enhance sustainability and ensure economic prosperity.

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme 2023 background

This is an EPSRC funding opportunity in collaboration with the MEXT and the Nuclear Safety Research Association. We are inviting collaborative research applications with UK and Japan-based principal investigators relating to the removal of fuel debris and environmental safety around reactor core decommissioning of the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and Sellafield’s decommissioning challenges.

EPSRC will fund the UK-based research and MEXT will fund the Japan-based research components. This funding opportunity represents the tenth phase of the UK-Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme and it is for small projects of approximately 30 months duration, with a fixed end date of 31 March 2026.

Grant additional conditions

These grants are awarded through the International Science and Partnerships Fund. The standard UKRI grant terms and conditions apply but additional grant conditions may also apply, including:

Start and end date

Notwithstanding RGC 5.2 starting procedures, this grant has a fixed start date of November 2023, no slippage of this 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.

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.

Previous phases: funded research projects

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase two

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase three

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase four

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase five

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase six

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase seven

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase eight

UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme phase nine

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