Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Boulby infrastructure development project advisory scheme

Apply for funding to support the development of an underground research facility capable of hosting globally leading particle physics experiments.

These include technologies and ideas in the areas of:

  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • astronomy, solar and planetary science
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator science
  • computational science
  • quantum technologies

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for STFC funding.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £150,000 for a period of 1 or 2 years. STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

The submission deadline has been extended to 19 April 2023 at 4:00pm

Who can apply

The proposal must be submitted by a researcher (the principal investigator) who is an employee of a research organisation that is eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

Only academic partners may request funding.

The scheme is open to those who meet the eligibility criteria defined in the STFC guidance for applicants.

If you have any queries on eligibility, please contact the STFC office (see the ‘contact details’ section).

What we're looking for

The aim of the scheme is to fund teams or individuals to support the development of the requirements for a new UK laboratory facility. Ensuring a broad range of underground science can be fully accommodated and supported in the facility.

Applications are welcome from any of the research and innovation programme areas supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The UKRI community is represented by:

  • Science and Technology Facilities Council
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Research England
  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Medical Research Council

Multidisciplinary facility

STFC is exploring the possibility of expanding the current underground science, technology, and innovations programme at STFC Boulby Underground Laboratory. STFC is looking to build a new larger multidisciplinary facility. The facility would be capable of hosting globally leading particle physics experiments alongside a suite of innovative projects that take advantage of the low background environment.

The main aim of the scheme is to support the development of the requirements for a new UK laboratory facility to support the development of an underground research and innovation programme, which:

  • has a distinct requirement for low-background underground infrastructure
  • will result in substantial or novel technical or scientific developments

These include suggested technologies and ideas (but they aren’t limited to) in the UKRI-funded areas of:

  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • solar and planetary science
  • net zero and climate activities
  • quantum computing
  • geology and geophysics
  • biology and life in extreme environments
  • security applications
  • technology development in a low radiation background environment

Proposals for projects must clearly demonstrate that the project, aims, and expertise could be delivered in an underground environment that would enhance the wider programme at Boulby Underground Laboratory and any future facility.

Applicants need to demonstrate that the project idea is aimed at working in an underground environment.

During the lifetime of the award project ideas are expected to be developed with staff at Boulby Underground Laboratory to support the case for new underground infrastructure development.

Successful grants can have a duration of up to 24 months and must select a start date before 31 October 2023.

There is no capital budget for this opportunity and proposals should not include requests for funds for equipment purchases in excess of £10,000 (inclusive of VAT).

Partner involvement

This scheme is aimed towards developing the facility requirements for a future underground science programme. It is expected that you will discuss project development with STFC staff at Boulby Underground Laboratory before applying and throughout the duration of the award.

If successful you will be expected to attend programme development meetings at Boulby two to three times a year. Travel provision for these should be costed in the application.

A project partner from a non-academic institution (for example, government departments, charities, or NHS foundations) is also allowable.

Any partner should:

  • provide either financial or in-kind contributions to the project development
  • be committed to the success of a new underground facility build in the vicinity of the current Boulby Underground Laboratory

How to apply

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.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least 7 working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: Boulby Infrastructure Call 2023.

This will populate:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Standard
  • call/type/mode: Boulby Infrastructure 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.


STFC must receive your application by 19 April 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.


As part of the application process, the following documents should be uploaded to Je-S and labelled accordingly:

  • Je-S pro forma
  • case for support (required, 7 sides of A4)
  • Gantt chart (recommended, 1 side of A4)
  • data management plan (2 sides of A4)
  • project partner letter of support where relevant
  • covering letter (optional, cover letters will not be seen by external reviewers or the panel)
  • other (optional, any document uploaded under ‘other’ will not be seen by external reviewers or the panel)

Any documents not listed, such as CVs, extra results, or list of publications, will be returned to the principal investigator for removal.

All documents should conform to the guidelines described in the Je-S handbook.

Project partners

If a project partner is involved in the project, this should be included under ‘project partners’ in the Je-S form. Resources to be provided by any project partners, whether cash or in‐kind contributions, should be clearly identified in the proposal.

STFC will pay up to 80% of the total costs of the project, excluding any project partner contribution.

Project partner contributions, either direct or in‐kind, should be as additional to STFC’s contribution and are not considered part of the full economic cost of the project. It is the responsibility of the principal investigator to ensure that the total budget requested by all members of a single project idea (joint applications) is within the financial limits of the award.

Case for support

The case for support should be no longer than 7 sides of A4 and conform to the font and margin guidelines in the STFC specific requirements.

The case for support should be a self-contained summary of the proposed work with the necessary context given to enable panel members to make an informed judgement on the overall quality of the proposal.

The case for support must be structured using the following headings.

The guidance notes underneath the headings are there to help shape any thinking and add detail to the case for support, which is required to help carry out peer assessment of the proposal.

We understand that not all guidance notes will be relevant to all applicants, as it will be dependent on the nature of the project proposed.


An overview of the project idea must be included as part of the case for support. This should include:

  • a brief review of the underpinning research and innovation context from the area the opportunity arose from. Include details of previous funding where relevant
  • an overview of the status of the innovation or technical proposal, including any preliminary data, proof-of concept, or previous work for example, which will explain the status of the opportunity
  • an outline of how the research and innovation proposal takes advantage of being in an underground environment at Boulby Underground Laboratory
  • a summary of how the project idea developed as part of this award could be developed as a full project in an underground laboratory in future years
  • inclusion of images and diagrams (encouraged where relevant)

Case for support

The remaining pages should give further detail of the application. This should be structured using the following headings. The overview can be referred to as part of the case for support where relevant.

1. Opportunity and application

What is the opportunity or challenge you are seeking to exploit or address, which could lead to a new research and innovation project at a future facility in the vicinity of Boulby Underground Laboratory? What requirements will the facility design have to include to allow the project to proceed?

You should use this section to:

  • describe the application area of that this proposal will seek to address
  • outline how your proposed solution will address an opportunity or need, in the context of the development of a new underground facility
2. Development plan

How has the idea or solution been developed to date and what is the proposed approach for further development? This section should expand on the overview section to discuss the development of the proposal.

You should use this section to:

  • detail the proposed work in the context of determining the requirements to support the design of a new underground facility
  • include specific project milestones or deliverables, and the resourcing necessary to deliver the proposed work
  • detail any necessary access to facilities including access to Boulby Underground Laboratory, expertise, or consultancy essential to delivering the proposed work, including any regulatory requirements
  • detail the contribution (intellectual, technical, or financial) of any businesses or other organisations you plan to partner with (if applicable), and highlight your freedom to operate
  • upload a separate Gantt chart (or similar) to illustrate the project plan. This should be uploaded as a ‘Other Attachment’, on a maximum of one side of A4
  • provide a breakdown of how the funding will be used
  • detail what happens after this award has ended and what the next steps for the project are

At the time of application, or during any subsequent grant, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) would not anticipate any business to have exclusive rights to the assets and intellectual property arising from the funded project.

3. Wider benefits

What are the potential wider benefits of the proposed approach?

You should use this section where appropriate to:

  • explain why the proposed programme is appropriate for public funding
  • consider the potential of the approach to impact on high-level societal and environmental challenges, for example gender equality, diversity, social inclusion, and climate change
  • consider the benefits to the wider research and innovation community
  • consider the benefits to the wider population in the UK
  • describe what steps will be taken to maximise any potential benefits and outputs from the award
4. Ethical considerations

Are there any ethical considerations associated with your project proposal including those that are beyond formal regulatory and legal frameworks?

You should use this section to:

  • outline whether there are any ethical considerations relating to the project or its impacts, including any potential impacts on the environment
  • consider societal acceptance of your research where you think this might limit uptake and outline strategies that could be employed to address this
  • highlight if there are any implications for trusted and responsible research and innovation practises. For example, dual-use (both military and non-military) applications to your research, which could limit the commercial potential

Learn more about UKRI’s approach to trusted research and innovation. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides further information.

Letters of support

Project partners and other letters of support if relevant.

Letters or emails of support must be included from all named partners. In addition, you can include letters of support from other relevant parties not directly involved in the project but who support the objectives (for example, potential end users).

Letters of support should:

  • be on headed paper (for printed letters) and signed by a senior member of staff or director (the capacity in which the supporter is signing off the letter should be stated)
  • be from an appropriate person (for emails) and clearly named alongside their title
  • be dated within 6 months of the submission
  • be no more than 2 sides of A4 in length
  • detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and joint desired outcomes
  • detail specific contributions to the project (either cash or in-kind) with a justifiable monetary value. These contributions should also be stated in the case for support

If the principal applicant has any current or former links to the partner organisation, then they should be declared in the cover letter. This should be alongside the details on any such involvement and how the conflict will be managed or mitigated. This is only relevant where a named investigator has any formal connection with the partner organisation and a vested or financial interest in the commercialisation outcome for example:

  • current or former employee
  • shareholder
  • member of an oversight or advisory board

A letter or email of support of applicability from the director or senior scientist at Boulby Underground Laboratory must be included (see ‘contact details’ section).

This letter or email should:

  • confirm the opportunity is applicable to an underground research and innovation programme
  • confirm the project could be delivered in an underground environment
  • state that the project or opportunity takes advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by working in an underground facility
Head of department

A letter of support from your head of department (or equivalent) should be included with the application.

The letter of support should:

  • relate specifically to the proposal (should not be a generic letter of support)
  • explain in detail how the university sees the project being taken forward and how the university intends to support the work involved

Je-S only allows a maximum of 3 letters of support to be uploaded. Letters of support may be merged into a single document if needed.

It is the responsibility of the principal applicant to ensure that information is worded in such a way as to protect commercial, confidential, or sensitive data. STFC will assume that you have obtained necessary permissions from any party that may be involved in the application.

Reporting plan

It is expected that all applications will produce a report and other documentation detailing how the project or opportunity proposed could be delivered in a new underground facility in the vicinity of the current Boulby Underground Laboratory.

A report at end of the project should detail:

  • an overview of the project that was delivered
  • advantages for the research, innovation wider UK community
  • socioeconomic benefits to society
  • the facility requirements of the underground facility needed to deliver the project
  • an estimate of the funding required to deliver the project
  • an estimate of the personnel that would be involved in the project
  • a schedule and timeline for the project
  • the management arrangements for delivery of the project
  • detail of any partner organisations involved
  • the expectation of support from STFC or the wider UKRI community
  • any anticipated other national or international funding for the proposed project
  • the level of staffing required at the underground facility required to deliver the project

The case for support should detail how this information will be obtained and a plan for how to deliver this as part of the end point of the project.

Data protection

Grants submitted via Je-S are done so under their terms and conditions.

Please make sure you have permission from any relevant bodies before submitting any sensitive data. STFC will not be held accountable if data submitted has been done so without the relevant permissions sought.

Ethical considerations

Projects that involve holding or using sensitive information on individuals (for example, facial recognition) should ensure they conform to UKRI’s research integrity policy.

Although an ethical statement will not need to be submitted alongside any proposals, all the involved researchers should have consideration for such requirements. STFC reserves the right to suspend any grants that do not meet these requirements.

All projects and activities should conform to UKRI’s trusted research and innovation practices.

STFC reserves the right to terminate any grants if there are any concerns.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed by external reviewers and then reviewed by an independent panel made up of experts in the field.

You can nominate 1 reviewer, via the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system, who is not:

  • a current or previous collaborator
  • a friend or family member
  • based at your host institution

But it is not guaranteed that the nominated reviewer will be used.

Peer review process

The summary of the process is:

  • reviewers: all applications will go through a peer review process. Each application will be allocated up to 3 reviewers. You can recommend 1 reviewer via Je-S but it is not guaranteed that the nominated reviewer will be used
  • responses to reviewers: following the review process, you will be given the opportunity to see and comment on the reports via Je-S. Please refer to the Je-S handbook for details
  • panel meeting: this meeting will take place to consider all the proposals, reviewer comments and responses to the reviewers. The panel will make funding recommendations to STFC
  • introducers: a member of the panel will be allocated as ’introducer’ for each proposal. As in previous rounds, the introducer’s role is to clarify any issues which are unclear in the grant proposal documentation and lead the discussion at the panel meeting
  • the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) principles of peer review can be found on the STFC website

You will have the opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments before the panel meeting.

Assessment criteria

Research and innovation excellence

The proposed project:

  • should take advantage of the unique environment afforded by an underground laboratory
  • should be feasible from a technical or delivery standpoint and build on strong underpinning practices
  • should indicate how the proposed work will support the requirement capture and design of new underground facility
  • should indicate, where possible, the developing technology or innovation sits in terms of international and UK benchmarking
  • must include a programme of underground research and innovation development
  • should build on solid and well-thought-out evidence

Leadership planning and project management

You must show the:

  • capability of the project team and partner organisations on being able to deliver on the project
  • capability of the project team to deliver the project milestones, and manage resources and risk
  • capability of the team to engage with partners to create a detailed project proposal for the underground project
  • the team has determined the next steps in the development of the project after the lifetime of this award
  • extent that the environment in which the project is being delivered is supportive of the research and development of the proposal

Strategic value within the UKRI programme

You must show the:

  • extent to which the resources requested, relative to the anticipated outputs, represent an appropriate investment of STFC funds (value for money)
  • degree of support any project partners both during research and after funding, if relevant
  • added value the proposed research or innovation may have on the wider UKRI community
  • a detailed plan for the future of the project after this funding

Social and economic impact

You must show the:

  • benefit or impact the proposed research may have on the wider community outside of the UKRI community
  • extent to which the outputs of the proposed work show direct potential for economic and societal benefit to the UK
  • extent to which responsible research and ethics have been considered

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

Dr Jonathan Burns, Head of Programme, STFC


Boulby Underground Laboratory

Professor Sean Paling, Director, Boulby Underground Laboratory


Dr Paul Scovell, Senior Scientist, Boulby Underground Laboratory

Email: paul.scovell@stfc.acuk

Get help with applying through Je-S



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