This page sets out expectations for the New Investigator Award. As the award is designed to be appropriate for a wide range of research areas and types of project, we expect some variation in grants, but the general principles described below are intended to support applicants as they consider whether to apply.
The scheme is to establish an individual’s research independence and support the development of their career. Therefore, in addition to a program of high-quality research, the application should provide a framework to support career progression and the development of new skills (such as leading a group, building a network of international collaborators, working with industry).
The proposal should outline how the proposed research program and associated activities contribute to career development both in terms of the resources requested and support from the host organisation (for instance mentoring provision, training and development courses).
Projects should be self-contained with clearly defined objectives and outcomes. The duration of the project (typically one to three years) should be suitably matched to these objectives. Complex, multifaceted research projects with many objectives are not appropriate for this scheme.
Scale of award
As with all EPSRC grants, you should request the appropriate suite of resources to carry out the proposed research. Resources should be clearly articulated in the grant application.
The following guidelines are intended to support applicants in their initial thinking about their project, and so should be seen as a starting point rather than a list of constraints.
Under the New Investigator Award scheme, funding is typically sought for 10% to 20% of the project lead’s time. Those who are seeking to substantially exceed this should consider other funding mechanisms.
The time allocation stated above is to be used as a guide only, and the project lead should ensure they allocate time to a level appropriate for:
- undertaking their contribution to the research
- the management of the research team and project
- carrying out career development and taking into account other activities expected of, and beneficial to, an early career academic that are appropriate to include on the New Investigator Award
The scheme is to establish an individual’s research independence so project co-leads should only be involved where they bring complementary and different skills to the project. Co-leads are likely to be from a different discipline to the project lead.
With regards to postdoctoral research assistants (PDRAs), funding for a suitable length of time (one to three years of total PDRA time) to meet the project objectives should be requested and you should have appropriate plans for recruitment. If the university is providing additional PhD students or PDRA time to input into the project objectives, appropriate management time should be requested (but not supervision time for doctoral students).
We expect reasonable attendance at conferences (for both project lead and PDRA) to be included in the grant to keep track of related work published in the field, establish and maintain collaborations and disseminate results of the project.
We would expect suitable conferences to be identified and named and attendance to be within the duration of the grant, in line with our standard grant conditions. Additional costs may be available for those with caring responsibilities (see EPSRC equality, diversity and inclusion support).
NIAs are subject to the same guidance on equipment funding as responsive mode.
Applicants are encouraged to request an appropriate level of resource to fulfil the aims of the proposed research. These resources should be fully justified as part of your proposal.
Career development and the host organisation
We expect the applicant to have had a conversation with their head of department (or similarly appropriate person) about their career development and training needs over the duration of the grant. This conversation should be reflected in the research organisation support section in UKRI Funding Service.
As preparation for this conversation, the applicant might like to draw on existing professional development toolkits and consider the following questions.
Thinking about the future, what are your career goals? Where do you want to be in five to 10 years?
Do you have skill gaps that need filling in order to achieve this?
Reflecting on the above, is the New Investigator Award an appropriate funding scheme to support you in achieving these goals?
Courses at your host organisation
What courses are available at your host organisation to enhance your skills?
The courses may be centralised across a university or at a departmental, faculty or school level.
This includes a wide range of skills from technical skills to aid your research, to teaching, communication, proposal writing, time management, leadership skills, recruiting to build your team, people management, networking and other skills.
The research organisation support section should not list all courses which are available, but should articulate candidate development needs and identify routes to gaining that experience, so that the EPSRC award is placed in the context of wider career development.
Plans for meeting development needs
If you have identified training and development needs that cannot be provided by your university, do you have a plan for how you can ensure these needs are met?
Examples might include finding a mentor from industry, taking a role in a network you would like to become more involved in or attending training courses that cannot be provided at your institution.
What do you need from a mentor, and who in your institution or more widely in the landscape can provide this?
Where relevant, we expect the research organisation support section to include details of who your mentor will be, and what the expectations of the mentor-mentee relationship are.
Are there any networks at an institutional, regional, national or international level which you could benefit from becoming involved with?
Previous recipients of similar schemes have found it beneficial to be active in various types of networking groups, both to share experiences with other researchers at the same career stage and to open up possible avenues for future collaborations.
Skills opportunities outside academia
Are there opportunities for you outside academia to develop broader or different skills, for instance engagement with industry, public sector, working with government representatives, pre-university education?
How could you develop your relationships to enable access to these opportunities? Could your institution do anything to help facilitate these relationships?
Managing team members’ career development
What steps will you take to actively manage the careers of PDRAs on your grant or doctoral students associated with your grant? How will you create a culture of supportive team working and inclusivity?
For example, are you helping them find an appropriate mentor? What opportunities are there for your staff to develop their skills, (for instance, presenting at conferences, working in other labs, training courses, teaching, experience outside of academia)?
Do you need to attend any training in order to prepare for recruitment, line management and team leadership responsibilities?
Applicants are encouraged to have early discussions with their institutions to identify what training and development opportunities are available to meet their aspirations over the duration of the proposal.
Examples of support expected from the host organisation
Examples of support include:
- full access to labs and other university facilities with associated administrative or technical support
- dedicated mentor(s) and roles of each mentor identified, including frequency of meeting or extent of support
- professional development activities identified which have been tailored to the needs of the applicant
- reduction in teaching or administrative load: note that having teaching or administrative duties can often be a useful part of academic life and becoming part of the university, so if the current level of these duties already are reduced to support the early career academic to establish their research career (including time to lead the research grant), no additional reduction is required. The research organisation support should explain how the individual will be supported in terms of appropriate workload
- sufficient support to ensure that all students or research associates supervised by the applicant have a good quality experience
How much funding to request
The New Investigator Award is designed to support technical development, theoretical and experimental research projects across the breadth of EPSRC’s remit. Therefore we expect the level of funding applied for to vary, but be appropriate for the proposed research programme. The scale may also vary significantly, depending on the focus of the award.
These guidelines are to support the initial development of the project. It may also be useful to explore our current New Investigator Award portfolio.
You can find an overview of projects in Visualising our portfolio, filtering ‘funding route’ by choosing ‘New Investigator’. You can click through into each grant to read further details and a summary of the grant application, and export the list of grants into other document formats.
If you are thinking about preparing a New Investigator Award application, please discuss your idea first with the research support staff or administration office at your institution.
Then if you have a question about the scheme itself, please contact us at email: firstname.lastname@example.org.