This opportunity offers funding for up to 4 large-scale manufacturing research hubs to address challenges relating to vaccine delivery, vaccine manufacturing or both, in LMICs. The funded vaccines manufacturing research hubs will join EPSRC’s portfolio of other critical mass investments in manufacturing research.
The hubs will support the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) a DHSC strategic investment and deliver against priorities in the EPSRC strategic delivery plan including transforming health and healthcare, and engineering net zero.
Funding for much of the hub is being provided by DHSC to focus on benefits to LMICs, with additional funding from EPSRC for a complementary work package that must focus on UK impact.
This funding opportunity is being run specifically under DHSC guidance for ODA eligibility, with EPSRC acting as the delivery partner.
The objectives for the hubs are to:
- create and deliver a coherent programme of high quality, multidisciplinary research that addresses the major long term challenges facing vaccine manufacturers, in particular ease, speed, and cost of manufacture for vaccines used in LMICs
- lead and support the development of major new disruptive technologies in the field of vaccine manufacturing for the benefit of LMICs
- develop technologies and systems that allow for a rapid increase and scale-up of vaccines manufacturing in an epidemic or pandemic situation
- demonstrate national and international leadership in this area of science, working closely and collaboratively with academic and industrial partners from the UK, other high-income countries and LMICs
The funded vaccine manufacturing research hubs will join EPSRC’s portfolio of critical mass investments in manufacturing research, and the UKVN’s portfolio of investments into vaccines for diseases of epidemic potential in LMICs.
The scope of this opportunity is to support innovative, multidisciplinary research programmes on vaccine delivery, vaccine manufacturing or both for the primary benefit of LMICs.
We envision that proposals include:
- design and development of new and existing manufacturing processes, technologies, systems and networks as part of the vaccine development chain for:
- rapid scale-up, quicker, simpler and more cost-effective manufacturing in epidemic or pandemic settings in LMICs
- development of novel vaccine manufacturing technologies, creation of standardised antigen presentation and formulation or delivery systems that are either used directly in LMICs, or that improve the development and manufacture of vaccines that are used in LMICs
- modernising existing vaccines used in LMICs where a modernised, reformulated or redeveloped vaccine would be a genuine improvement on the currently available vaccine and have a realistic chance (in the medium term) of replacing the currently used vaccine
- development of economic modelling and decisional tools to assist and demystify the vaccine development process, where this is likely to improve distribution or use of vaccines in LMICs
DHSC and EPSRC are also very interested in any other areas of research, outside those areas listed above, that would contribute towards the opportunity objectives.
DHSC and EPSRC expect each hub to work with multiple platforms and technologies. It is not expected that any hub would focus solely on 1 type of platform or technology, or work on so many that their efforts are overly diluted.
The hub research programme must:
- address 2 or more areas of research highlighted above
- include the significant involvement of partners and users both in industry and in LMICs
- draw on advances in underlying science, engineering and technology, such as (but not limited to) vaccinology, biotechnology and information and communications technology
- explicitly consider the pathway to vaccine manufacture, including production scale up and integration within the wider industrial system
- consider the longevity of the research programme established by the hub after 2028 such as long-term impacts and retention of infrastructure
The hubs will be funded through both DHSC, via the UKVN, and EPSRC which have different drivers for funding. The main body of work must be a programme primarily benefitting LMICs. There must also be an additional complementary and aligned work package focusing on achieving impact in the UK.
All activities funded through this research are expected to have satisfied regulatory and ethical requirements in each country prior to activities beginning.
Vaccines manufacturing research hub characteristics
The ‘hub and spoke’ model is being used, where the lead institution is responsible for the core management and running of the hub and spokes.
The lead institution will:
- maintain a strong operational core with an appropriate, robust management structure in place to ensure the efficient operation and resilience of the hub including a mechanism for reviewing the vision
- have a clear outline of programmes and activities that identify work packages, milestones, and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) objectives, with a clear mechanism for monitoring, reviewing, and reporting. It should also be flexible to respond to the evolving nature of the vaccine landscape
Surrounding institutions or groups inputting specific expertise in areas that complement those from the lead institution will be the spokes.
Spoke expertise could be in research skills, capability or research translation and knowledge exchange. The overall number and identity may evolve over the hub lifetime and with spokes being engaged at differing levels of intensity and over different timescales.
Research spokes comprise groups providing research expertise not in the core hub research group, whether from a separate institution or from the wider hub host institution.
Their engagement could cover a range of activities, including sharing platform support resources, sharing equipment, feasibility projects and promoting
Innovation spokes act with the hub to improve impact by:
- working across technology readiness levels
- facilitating translation of research outputs to LMICs
- providing a clear path to commercialisation for translation
They could be based in partnering countries or the UK, including:
- UK national laboratories
- government organisations having acknowledged science standing and independent verification capacity
- research and technology organisations
Funding for activities will depend on the business model of the spokes.
You must demonstrate that your hub and spokes will:
- deliver a high-quality innovative research programme with a multidisciplinary team, building on a history of excellence in research
- have a clear shared vision, encompassing a core mission with a strategic view of the research programme and activities
- draw on emerging research opportunities and bring in new disciplines
- be an international centre of excellence working with organisations at the early stage of the vaccine development process, which includes:
- providing end-to-end advice on how to manufacture and take their ideas into real products
- enabling cross talk between scientists in early discovery, manufacturers in process development and end users
- have clear routes to generating impact and how to maximise these to LMICs and UK manufacturing industries
- show the added value of being a hub, with strong connectivity and a coherent focused portfolio of research
- have a framework for active management of and engagement with LMICs, UK and other international collaborators, forming partnerships beyond the core membership. It is expected these partnerships will evolve over time and provide significant direction and support
- provide leadership in the innovation landscape and drive forward the vaccine manufacturing research agenda, influencing and working with stakeholders to accelerate impact and generate growth
The hub is also expected to network and engage other researchers with relevant expertise beyond the hub and spokes across LMICs, the UK and internationally.
You must also demonstrate for the LMIC-focused programme:
- how the hub and spokes will be ODA compliant in all aspects
- address challenges and international development needs faced by LMICs
You must also demonstrate for the UK-focused programme:
- how the hub will deliver impact in the UK
- apply learning and outcomes from the LMIC-focused work
LMIC-focused programme: ODA
The majority of the hub programme must be focused on research that will have primary impact on LMICs and must be in line with ODA principles. This applies to all hub activities, except the separate UK-focused work package. This funding opportunity is being run specifically under DHSC guidance for ODA eligibility, with EPSRC acting as the delivery partner.
Although this opportunity is not part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the guidance regarding ODA (PDF, 330KB) should be followed.
ODA funded activities focus on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. ODA is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective. Activities can occur within the UK, the partner country or countries, or both, though the activities must primarily benefit LMICs.
Demonstrating how the programme would be ODA compliant should be set out in the case for support. You should ensure that their proposal focuses on the challenges specific to the partner country or countries and not broader global issues (those that are transboundary beyond LMICs).
It is important to note that capital expenditure on permanent, fixed facilities in the UK would not be considered ODA eligible. Where expenditure that could not reasonably be classed as ODA eligible is identified, you should look to leverage it from other funding sources.
Alternatively, if it constitutes a single, well-defined work package that is aligned to the hub’s main body of work and will primarily deliver impact within the UK, it could be requested as part of the UK-focused work package.
UK-focused work package
An additional work package focused on delivering impact within the UK, must also be included.
It must be thematically aligned with the overall hub vision and contribute towards achieving the objectives. The hub director retains oversight of the entire hub, including this work package, and should ensure that the hub functions as a cohesive whole.
Although the main aim of the hub is to carry out research for the benefit of LMICs, this work package offers an opportunity to ensure that hub research can also benefit manufacturing industries within the UK. This work package must be reserved for work that is not ODA-eligible and should seek to apply learning and outcomes from the hub within a UK national context.
You may wish to focus this work package on 1 particular aspect of the hub (for example, a particular technology or manufacturing process) or alternatively you could consider a more-cross-cutting approach, which seeks to leverage UK benefit from across the hub activities.
This work package must demonstrably lie primarily within EPSRC’s remit. If this work package is deemed to have a majority remit within another UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) council, EPSRC may reject the proposal without reference to peer review.
DHSC and EPSRC are offering up to £19.5 million to support up to 4 vaccines manufacturing research hubs for a fixed duration of 4.5 years.
Funding is subject to DHSC budgetary availability. Authorisation of grants is subject to DHSC sign-off and, should budgets change, we reserve the right to terminate or reduce grants. This could take the form of cuts to grants before they are awarded, or in exceptional circumstances, at any point during the grant lifetime.
The hubs will be primarily funded by DHSC. For each hub, the full economic cost of the DHSC component must be from £4 million up to £10 million. This funding will be subject to ODA conditions and DHSC will fund 100% of the full economic cost.
Proposals should also include an additional UK-focused work package which may have a full economic cost of up to £450,000 and will be funded by EPSRC. This funding will not be subject to ODA conditions and we will fund 80% of the full economic cost. This will be awarded as a separate grant to the main DHSC-funded programme, due to differences between ODA and non-ODA funding and the percentage funding to be awarded.
We are keen to fund projects of various sizes, so applications at the smaller end of the advertised funding range are encouraged as well as larger projects. All projects should offer value for money.
Funding can be used to support activities such as:
- core research activities or technologies that are necessary or valuable to the hub, including the appropriate dissemination of research knowledge and vaccine manufacturing technologies
- supporting several major research projects or themes
- retention of key staff and nurturing collaborations
- networking with other hubs and centres in LMICs, the UK and overseas
- feasibility studies to be conducted as part of the outreach programme
- long-term vaccine manufacturing research challenges of users in LMICs, capturing future industrial opportunities from emerging research areas or both
- operational funding, supporting hub administration, management, and governance
For the LMIC-focused programme, activities taking place outside of the UK are eligible for funding where they are appropriate and justified.
Additional financial and reporting requirements will apply to this award and the DHSC and EPSRC components must be reported on separately. Full details will be included in the grant terms and conditions issued with the successful grants.
Grants will have a fixed start date of 1 September 2023.
Funding for each project will be awarded over 4.5 years from 1 September 2023 until 31 March 2028.
Funding beyond the current spending review period (ending 31 March 2025) is provisional. In exceptional circumstances, should funding no longer be available for whatever reason, we reserve the right to reduce or terminate grants before the planned end date.
Funding is available for items of equipment dedicated to the hub and the LMICs focused activities, costing up to £400,000 (including VAT). DHSC will fund 100% of the full economic cost. Equipment funding is subject to ODA conditions.
Items costing between £10,000 (including VAT) and £400,000 (including VAT) should be listed under ‘equipment’ within the ‘directly incurred’ fund heading.
Three quotations will be required for equipment costing more than £25,000 and, additionally, a 2-page equipment business case will be required for equipment costing more than £138,000. Quotes may be verbal for equipment in the range of £25,000 to £138,000 and must be written for equipment costing more than £138,000. They should include VAT, delivery charges and incorporate any standard academic discounts.
For any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000 a 2-page equipment business case must also be included in the proposal documentation.
Equipment funded through this opportunity must be dedicated to the hub and its objectives for the duration of the hub. All equipment must be fully justified in the justification of resources.
Equipment items costing less than £10,000 (including VAT) should be included under ‘other costs’ within the ‘directly incurred’ fund heading. All assets costing more than £500 should be itemised separately.
An asset register is expected to be kept by the hub for all assets worth over £500 and shared with DHSC upon request. DHSC will retain ownership of all assets throughout the lifetime of the programme and will retain the right to carry out spot checks on assets throughout the programme and to reclaim the asset after the funding is finished. Full details will be provided in the grant conditions. Please see Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s guidance (PDF, 383KB) for an indication of these requirements.
Equipment costing more than £10,000 is not available within the UK-focused work package (funded by EPSRC).
EPSRC approach to equipment funding.
You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
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.
Hubs should look to consider the environmental sustainability of the proposed research approaches and hub operations, as well as the associated project outputs and outcomes.
Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information