Science, Engineering and Technology Board

The Science, Engineering and Technology Board (SETB) uses scientific and technological insight to identify and champion bold new research challenges at the cutting edge of engineering and physical sciences for future investment.

SETB terms of reference

Vision and purpose

The SETB’s purpose is to use scientific and technological insight to identify and champion bold new research challenges at the cutting edge of engineering and physical sciences for future investment.


The responsibilities of the SETB are to:

  • provide advice and scientific guidance to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) executive about identifying priority areas and positioning areas for future critical mass investments (such as centres of excellence and institutes)
  • develop and maintain an overview of a pipeline of ideas to identify strategic opportunities for additional funding streams, including National Productivity Investment Fund Awards (NPIF) such as the UKRI Challenge Fund and Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF)
  • assess and prioritise ideas for council consideration, providing scientific assurance
  • enable the executive to make informed recommendations to council on scientific priorities
  • understand the benefits and scientific outputs of our large investments by, for example, interacting with EPSRC researchers to identify exciting science stories and breakthroughs which could inform future priorities, and by taking an independent advisory oversight of the EPSRC institutes
  • champion multidisciplinary and emerging scientific research challenges
  • work with EPSRC and its other advisory bodies, including the theme strategic advisory teams (SATs) to make the case for fundamental, discovery research, helping to identify and publicise scientific breakthroughs in the EPS domain
  • work across UKRI councils to identify cross-council opportunities and priorities
  • help with two-way communication between EPSRC and the research community.


Board members are drawn from across EPSRC’s stakeholder groups, reflecting a diverse mix of characteristics and backgrounds. They are expected to bring a broad strategic view and to act as ‘generous generalists’, advising EPSRC on the scientific, engineering, and technology aspects of its portfolio. Members are not required to act as representatives of their own organisation, research area or sector, but are expected to adhere to the seven principles of public life. Representatives from EPSRC Council serve on the board on a rotating basis.

Membership of the SETB is usually for four years, with extensions at the discretion of the executive. To ensure maximum flexibility and long-term continuity across the membership of the SETB, some members may serve for less than four years.

Chair of SETB

  • Jane Nicholson, EPSRC Director, Research Base

Current members

  • Avinash Aithal, Energy Networks Association
  • Jeremy Burroughes, CDT Ltd
  • Miles Elsden, University of York
  • Jane Jiang, University of Huddersfield
  • Leigh Lapworth, Rolls-Royce
  • Graham Niblo, University of Southampton
  • Alison Noble, University of Oxford
  • Tim Softley, University of Birmingham
  • Phil Taylor, University of Bristol
  • Su Taylor, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Charlotte Williams, University of Oxford
  • Paul Winstanley, CENSIS

Declarations of interest

Members are required to declare any personal, private or commercial interests that might conflict with the interests of the EPSRC, and must withdraw from any discussion of topics in which they have such an interest.

Declarations of interest for EPSRC Science Engineering and Technology Board 2021 to 2022.

Nominations and recruitment

Recruitment for the SETB is carried out every two years through an open call for nominations, including self-nominations and invited nominations from key stakeholder groupings. Based on the competencies and characteristics required for the role, detailed in the SETB person specification, the executive identifies those it might wish to appoint. The Appointments Assurance Committee (AAC) has oversight of all appointments of EPSRC’s strategic advisers, including the SETB. This committee considers and reviews the executive’s proposals and the rationale for these recommendations, challenging as appropriate, and reviews the appropriateness of the recruitment process. The AAC is ultimately responsible for confirming and ratifying appointments.

The next round of recruitment for the SETB is due in 2023.


Meetings of the SETB take place up to four times a year.

Notes from SETB meetings held since September 2019.

In addition to these formal meetings, the SETB works flexibly with EPSRC throughout the year to provide advice as requested by the executive. SETB members are expected to commit between four and ten days to SETB work per year.

Every effort is made to support remote participation in SETB activities where appropriate, and part-time working may be considered. Support is also available to researchers with caring responsibilities.

Members are paid a fee for each activity they are involved with and, when attending meetings in person, are reimbursed for travel and subsistence expenses in line with our policy.

Quality assurance

EPSRC relies on the quality of the strategic advice it receives. This provides an external check on the development of EPSRC’s direction and plans. The deputy executive chair of the EPSRC chairs the SETB in order to ensure that reported outcomes accurately reflect the nature of the advice received, and that all present at the meeting discharge their roles appropriately. EPSRC and this board are committed to acting according to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. The advisory function of the SETB is separate from the:

  • responsibility for decisions made by the executive and by council
  • independent peer review processes managed by EPSRC.


The executive endeavours to:

  • provide appropriate information so that SETB members are adequately briefed and able to contribute meaningfully
  • provide forums and tools for members to provide appropriate, high-quality strategic advice
  • maintain members’ knowledge of EPSRC strategic thinking and direction by facilitating the flow of information between SETB and EPSRC Council, and SETB and other EPSRC advisory streams, including theme SATs
  • be clear about the information SETB members can share more widely and that which is provided in confidence
  • inform members about the use made of the advice and subsequent outcomes and, in particular, to explain the rationale where the advice has not been followed
  • make public a note of meetings.

The members of the SETB endeavour to:

  • act within the seven principles of public life, in particular to provide independent, informed advice avoiding actual or perceived conflicts of interest, and to take a collegiate approach to policy and strategy development
  • act according to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion
  • bring a broad strategic view and act as ‘generous generalists’, advising across the breadth of EPSRC’s portfolio
  • constructively challenge or validate EPSRC’s perspectives, drawing on the available evidence and their own experiences
  • take individual and collective ownership of the advice they provide, whilst recognising the separation of that advice from responsibility for the decisions made (which rests with the executive)
  • work as a team with other SETB members and EPSRC, and be proactive in bringing issues and opportunities to the attention of the executive
  • work flexibly with EPSRC, including assisting with the consideration of scientific opportunities on fast timescales between formal meetings.

They are also expected to use their profile as SETB members to sustain excellent two-way communications with and between their respective stakeholder communities and, where appropriate, with decision-makers. For example:

  • gathering intelligence that can be brought to used in policy development
  • explaining EPSRC policies to the community
  • advocating on specific issues on behalf of EPSRC
  • attending meetings of the SETB.

Success features and outcomes

The success of the SETB is measured in terms of:

  • exciting and well-evidenced science, engineering and technology priorities
  • continually improving evidence and assurance to support decision-making by the executive and council
  • cross-cutting and multidisciplinary approaches, collaboration with other advisory groups, and integrated information flow to maximise the potential of all of EPSRC’s advisory streams
  • membership that best reflects the level and type of expertise and insights that we require to develop science, engineering and technology priorities in the changing funding landscape
  • enhanced credibility of EPSRC’s science, engineering and technology priorities across its stakeholder communities
  • flexible and adaptable operations which allow the executive to dynamically respond to opportunities
  • high-quality linkage between emerging research challenges and capital or infrastructure and skills needs
  • examples of excellent science that can be used to make the case for fundamental research.

Last updated: 4 May 2023

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