The New Investigator Award (NIA) scheme is intended to support individuals who hold an appropriate academic position (lectureship or equivalent) and have not previously led a research group.
We do not consider years post-PhD or job title to be a marker of career progression, for eligibility we consider overall funding history and portfolio. We recognise alternative career paths and value the diversity of career experiences
Eligibility criteria are based on the objectives of the scheme, that is, to give applicants the opportunity to build their first research project, manage a team, establish research independence and build their own personal and professional development.
As such, your role and previous experience is taken into account in the eligibility criteria, particularly the degree of involvement in previous projects. While we recognise that there are many individual circumstances, we will reject applications that are not in the spirit or do not meet the overall aspirations of the scheme, or where previous experience would duplicate the objectives of the NIA scheme.
We expect research offices to advise applicants on eligibility. If multiple ineligible applications are received from a single institution, EPSRC may seek to engage with the university before additional applications can be made.
Eligibility and employment
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for opportunities being run on UKRI Funding Service from May 2023. For full details, see eligibility as an individual.
Applicants must comply with the standard EPSRC terms for eligibility to hold research grants.
Project leads must be academic employees (lecturer or equivalent) of an eligible organisation. Eligible organisations include:
- all UK higher education institutions that receive grant funding from one of the UK higher education funding bodies
- some research institutes
- NHS bodies with research capacity
- UKRI-approved independent research organisations
- public sector research establishments that have independent capability to undertake and lead research programmes and satisfy various financial and legal criteria
If you have a fixed-term appointment, you are eligible provided that your contract extends beyond the end date of the proposed research, and your host research organisation provides you with the support they would normally offer a permanent employee. Extension of a fixed-term appointment cannot be conditional on your application for a NIA being successful.
Current holders of postdoctoral-level fellowships are not eligible to hold EPSRC research grants (unless you hold employment status equivalent to a permanent academic member of staff). These fellowships include, but are not limited to:
- EPSRC Postdoctoral Fellowship
- Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship
- Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship
- Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship
- NERC Independent Research Fellowship
- Ser Cymru Fellowship
- Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship
If you are employed in a staff post on a research grant, you are not eligible to be a project lead, unless you hold an early career fellowship and your university gives you the same stature as a permanent academic member of staff. These early career fellowships include, but are not limited to:
- EPSRC Early Career Fellowship
- EPSRC Open Fellowship
- UKRI Future Leader Fellowship
- Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship
- RAEng Research Fellowship
- RAEng Industrial Fellowship
- Royal Society University Research Fellowship (URF)
- Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
Where URFs have received enhanced funding, the value of the enhanced funding does not affect eligibility for the NIA scheme. However, postdoctoral research assistants (PDRA) time in excess of 6 months as part of the URF enhancement would then make an applicant ineligible.
Where a fellowship funds 100% of the project lead’s salary, but does not cover other costs and allows or expects other grants to be held simultaneously, a NIA application can be submitted with no project lead (principal investigator) time subject to the rules of the fellowship.
Applicants must be resident in the UK.
Eligibility and application history
The application to the NIA scheme must be the applicant’s first to EPSRC as a project lead, with the following exceptions:
- if your proposal was rejected at the outline stage
- Industrial CASE Studentship
- Overseas Travel Grant
- EPSRC studentship through doctoral training partnership and centres for doctoral training
- Workshop Grant
- EPSRC New Horizons, EPSRC Mathematical Science Small Grants Scheme, or other funding opportunities which specifically note in the information to applicants that they do not affect the eligibility for the scheme
If you have previously submitted an EPSRC application in a joint proposal as the project lead (principal investigator) of a child grant, you may still be eligible to apply, subject to meeting the rules around significant grant history. Note that under UKRI Funding Service child grants are no longer recognised.
Applicants who have unsuccessful EPSRC early career fellowship, EPSRC Open Fellowship or UKRI Future Leader Fellowship applications can still apply to this scheme.
Eligibility and funding history
Applicants are likely not eligible if they have been leading projects which:
- included more than 6 months PDRA time
- have capital equipment in excess of £20,000
- is a single research activity valued at over £100,000 full economic cost
However, if you feel that your circumstances are not covered by the conditions above, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the following information about your funding history:
- grant(s) value
- scheme and funder
- your level of involvement in the award, including individual work packages
- your level of responsibility in directing, designing or developing the project
- your management responsibility for staff (PDRA level or equivalent)
Funding received from local sources while working overseas must be taken into consideration, and the same scheme eligibility principles apply. Involvement in European (EU-wide) programmes will be examined on a case-by-case basis.
In general, applicants who have previously directed the vision of a research group are not eligible to apply.
We require candidates and research offices to be satisfied at the point of application that the candidate is eligible for the scheme.
Previous holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are welcome to apply if they meet the other eligibility criteria, even if the fellowship was more than £100,000 full economic cost. However, if the postdoctoral level fellowship included more than six months of PDRA time or capital equipment over £20,000, then you are unlikely to be eligible.
Previous holders of early career level fellowships are not eligible.
Current holders of fellowships at early career level and above which include more than six months of PDRA time are not eligible.
Current holders of fellowships at early career level and above which do not include PDRA time are eligible if they meet the other eligibility criteria, even if the fellowship was more than £100,000 full economic cost.
Project co-leads (co-investigators)
If you have been a project co-lead (co-investigator) on a grant funded by EPSRC, you would be welcome to apply subject to meeting the other eligibility criteria.
Please note that applicants who have acted as project co-leads (co-investigators) on a significant workstream role with PDRA time, and have had significant input into the research proposal, would not be eligible to apply.
We consider a ‘significant role’ to include where you had an influential or leading role in developing the application or were responsible for leading a significant work package (for example, in excess of £100,000 full economic cost, more than six months of PDRA time, or more than £20,000 in capital equipment).
If you have received a grant which was solely for capital equipment and did not include PDRA or research time, you are still eligible to apply even if it was of significant value, provided that the other eligibility criteria are met.
Collaboration with industry
If you have previously received a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Innovate UK grant, or similar award based on collaboration with industry, you may still be eligible to apply for a NIA even if the value was in excess of £100,000 full economic cost. This depends on your role in developing the proposal and directing the vision of the research.
Still uncertain about eligibility
If you have read the guidance above, checked our frequently asked questions, spoken with your research office and still do not know if you are eligible to apply, please contact us for advice before submitting an application under this scheme.
Assessment of appropriateness for this scheme will be undertaken on a case-by-case basis, based on the scheme principles, the individual circumstances of the applicant and their career path.
Please bear in mind that we cannot assess individual CVs or non-EPSRC fellowships on a case-by-case basis.