Business-led, co-created, co-delivered
The EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships funding opportunity aims to fund business-led research that arises from an industrial need, with the work being co-delivered between the business and academic partners. The opportunity is aimed at supporting excellent, world leading fundamental research which has clear benefit to the businesses involved, resulting in accelerated impact arising from the new knowledge, innovations, or technologies.
Co-creation of the research programme is essential. EPSRC expects programmes funded through this opportunity to:
- drive forward shared research challenges
- demonstrate impact beyond the partners
- provide benefits to the businesses involved.
The programme should contribute positively to the overall strategic partnership framework which exists between the parties.
It should be clear that both the business and academic researchers are making distinct intellectual contributions to the partnership.
Where an individual is discharging responsibilities within both a business and a research organisation (for example, as a consequence of being involved in university spin-outs) clarity on separation of duties and managing conflicts of interest is essential.
If the proposal is deemed appropriate for EPSRC support, a collaboration agreement will be requested before the grant is authorised.
The research challenges to be addressed in the Prosperity Partnership should:
- be relevant to stimulating innovation aimed at tackling major problems faced by the UK and the world
- drive capability in key technologies and scientific advancements.
EPSRC recognises that the specific outcomes will be unique to each project, but applicants should consider how they may:
- deliver new or improved products or services,
- drive efficiencies or cost reductions
- enable expansion to new sectors or markets while also jointly authoring high-impact publications.
Ultimately, the project should be providing economic impact and prosperity which wouldn’t exist without the partnership.
EPSRC seeks to foster greater collaboration and networking between researchers, business and civic bodies in order to deliver research and skills outcomes vital to the long-term prosperity of communities and regions of the UK.
While not an assessment criterion, we encourage applications to articulate how their partnership aligns and supports both industrial and civic ambitions or priorities.
Where applicable, applicants are also asked to demonstrate what place-based outcomes might be expected to arise from their projects, both in the short and longer term. These may include (but are not restricted to):
- local and regional economic growth, skills development, job creation or retention
- critical mass activities leading to increased private investment, including foreign direct investment, in a specific place
- contributions to cluster development through knowledge diffusion, supply chain development, SME growth, generation, or growth of spin outs, and so on.
Applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC Framework for Responsible Innovation.
Applicants should consider and implement plans for responsible innovation throughout the research project, and include details of these plans in the application, including specific actions that will be taken.
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.
Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)
Through productive collaborative partnerships the long-term strength of the UK research and talent pipelines can be enhanced, and to do so effectively all available talent must be harnessed. EPSRC expects equality and diversity to be an integral part, at all levels of research practices as a part of our funding portfolio.
One common approach is to reference institutional strategies and policies related to EDI and indicate that the Prosperity Partnership would be delivered in alignment with these activities. While these activities are important context, EPSRC are looking to understand the specific approach and activities of the projects in relation to management and decision-making processes.
We are committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow applicants to design a package that fits their research goals, career, and personal circumstances. Therefore, these aspects should be strongly ingrained into the projects proposed for this opportunity.
EPSRC encourages cross-disciplinary research and recognises that many Prosperity Partnerships will be inherently so. EPSRC has supported many Prosperity Partnerships to date that build on a cross-disciplinary nature. In some cases, other parts of UKRI have also helped to support programmes.
The primary balance of research should build on EPSRC remit (at least 50%). Other UKRI disciplines may be included if they clearly strengthen the research programme. Below is a list of criteria that the business and academic leads should consider before applying:
- the business and academic partners have a demonstrable, established, research-based relationship
- there are clear plans to evolve this relationship via user-inspired shared research challenges
- both partners are committed to the co-creation of a jointly delivered large scale research programme at technology readiness level (TRL) one to three
- the business and academic partners are able to commit to leveraging EPSRC funding for the Prosperity Partnership with a matching cash contribution
- a definitive list of eligible cash contributions is set out in the ‘Definitive list of eligible cash contributions’ section
- no UKRI, public or government funding will be used as leverage and be able to clearly demonstrate an auditable transfer during the grant duration
- the business lead partner is:
- a business in the private sector driven by profit, or from an organisation with a commercial arm which generates independent revenue
- in a position to contribute to the nation’s prosperity through increasing their investment in R&D activities and subsequent product development in the UK
- the topic of the research programme is mainly in the EPSRC’s remit (multidisciplinary projects are welcomed and funding from other UKRI councils may be sought as long as more than 50% of the topics or work lies within EPSRC’s remit).
EPSRC funding is at 80% full economic costs, with exceptions for studentship costs (100% full economic cost). In this opportunity, the funding provided by EPSRC must be matched by the business lead and project partner’s contributions with eligible cash contributions, as a minimum.
A definitive list of cash contributions can be found in the ’Definitive list of eligible cash contributions’ section. Any contribution from business or other project partners not included in the cash contribution list will count as ‘in kind’.
Single business bid
The total of the matching contributions should be provided by the business lead as a minimum.
The combined contributions from the business partners must, at a minimum, match the EPSRC funding, with the majority of this matched funding coming from the business lead.
It is expected that this majority should be around 80% as a minimum, though we are happy to discuss minor adaptations to this on a case-by-case basis.
Additional business project partners can complete the remaining matching contribution. The business lead can contribute with the total of the matching contributions and still have additional project partners’ contributions in addition to this.
Cash contributions from all partners can exceed the matching contribution. Indirect contributions, such as data, software, management time, facilities access are very welcome and can help show business commitment to the success of the project. However, they will not count towards the matching contributions.
Academic partner’s cash contribution (including the academic lead) does not contribute to the matching figure requirements.
No UKRI or other UK government money, as part of baseline funding or otherwise, may be used as part of the matching contribution.
EPSRC does not mandate a specific audit format for the business contributions to a project, however, a record must be produced and provided if requested. This must be able to demonstrate a continuous auditable cash transfer, or staff time-record, by the business partner per year in each year of the programme.
As an exception, student fees, stipends and some support costs related directly to the training of the student are not funded under the same full economic cost arrangements as for research staff on research grants. Student fees and stipends are covered at 100% full economic cost, so these need to be costed appropriately and considered for total matching of grant funding by the business partner.
EPSRC requires student fees and stipends, and the items of student support training costs, such as ‘travel and subsistence’, ‘conference costs’ and ‘consumables’, to be costed appropriately for the ‘outline application’. ‘Indirect’ and ‘estate costs’ are not applicable to studentships.
Definitive list of eligible cash contributions
The following is the definitive list of eligible cash contributions. These are in addition to providing an auditable cash transfer to the academic organisations.
EPSRC expects all the time of researchers, postdoctoral research associates, technicians, doctoral students and the project manager to be on projects within the Prosperity Partnership, though this does not have to be for the lifetime of the project (for example, 50% of time committed towards six months of work during the project). Exceptions where lower time is devoted to the project will need justification in terms of multidisciplinary and responsibilities distribution.
The appropriateness of the time devoted to the project will be assessed in the panel interview and peer review (at the full proposal stage).
Gross salary can be claimed as matched funding (that is, including indirect costs such as pension, National Insurance, taxes and so on), but not business overheads or profits. The salary of a single member of staff (researcher, PDRA, doctoral student or project manager) can be covered in partnership by the business lead and EPSRC funds in a ratio that best suits the project.
All or part of the pro-rata, gross salary cost associated with researchers employed by universities (including co-investigators). The gross salaries of researchers employed by the business may also be claimed as long as they are working at least 50% of their time on the project.
Postdoctoral research associates’ (PDRA) salary
All or part of the gross salary cost associated with research associates employed by research organisations to work exclusively on the Prosperity Partnership.
Research associates can also be employed directly by the businesses in the partnership and claim the gross salary as a cash contribution as long as they are exclusively committed to working on the Prosperity Partnership.
Professional project managers’ salary
Pro-rata gross salary cost of a professional project manager are an eligible cash contribution provided that they work at least 50% of their time on the Prosperity Partnership.
Pro-rata gross salary cost of technicians are an eligible cash contribution provided that they work at least 50% of their time on the Prosperity Partnership.
New software licences needed for the project and their maintenance cost for the duration of the grant. Software licences or intellectual property (IP) owned by the business which are already accessible by the partners will apply at marginal cost, not at market rate.
Genuine new equipment purchases, please see ‘Equipment’ section. The equipment should be dedicated to the objectives of the Prosperity Partnership and their utilisation should be critical to deliver the activity.
The access doesn’t have to be restricted to the project members but EPSRC expect at least 50% of the time to be dedicated to the Prosperity Partnership project. All equipment should be appropriately justified.
Equipment produced by the business
Equipment produced by the business but only at the cost of manufacture, not market rate.
Access to equipment and facilities
Access to specific equipment and facilities critical to achieve the outcomes of the project. If the facility is based at the academic or business Lead, the contribution will be at the internal rate, not market rate.
Facilities refurbishment can be an eligible research organisation cash contribution if the upgrade will increase the capability of the facilities. This contribution must be justified in addition to any estate costs already factored in.
Business cash donation
Business cash donation which will be provided to the partner universities, for the universities to manage in line with the project objectives.
Top up stipends
Top-up of stipends for EPSRC funded doctoral students.
Extra training for EPSRC funded doctoral students to align with a business cohort of students.
Fully funded doctoral students (fees, stipends and top ups) with up to a maximum of 20% of the matching contribution. Please note that business contributions towards industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (iCASE) awards cannot count towards eligible cash contributions.
Doctoral studentship funds
Funds for doctoral studentships may be applied for as part of the resources requested from EPSRC for this opportunity, however they must not be on the critical pathways for success.
Inclusion of doctoral students presents an interesting and useful opportunity to:
- place students in industrially relevant environments
- draw together vibrant and balanced teams which combine doctoral and post-doctoral research
- build leadership for the future in key areas of the economy.
Doctoral studentships must add value to the proposed research outlined in bids to this opportunity, whilst providing a clear opportunity for a distinct and independent course of enquiry for the student. Therefore, the research grant should:
- still be viable without the studentship
- have distinctive objectives that are not reliant upon the studentship.
Doctoral students supported through Prosperity Partnerships must be:
- embedded within a high-quality research team
- provided with the opportunity to develop their substantive research skills, as well as with broader professional development opportunities.
EPSRC also expects that other doctoral students will be aligned with a Prosperity Partnership, but funded from other sources, for example, by the business partner directly. These doctoral students would have the same training conditions and opportunities as those students funded by EPSRC.
Studentships supported through this opportunity will be four years in length, but the duration of the studentship must not exceed the length of the grant they are associated with.
Where doctoral studentships are requested, EPSRC expects to see requests for post-doctoral research associates. The studentships should not be the only research staffing resource on the application. Careful consideration should be given to the:
- overall staff resource on the Prosperity Partnership
- balance between the different types of staff resource available.
Please note, as an exception, student fees and stipends on research grants, and some support costs related directly to the training of the student, are not funded under the same full economic cost arrangements as for research staff (students fees and stipends are covered 100% full economic cost). These need to be costed appropriately and taken into account for total matching of grant funding by the business partner.
The UKRI minimum stipend and indicative fee must be met, but enhanced stipends can be funded where this is justified in the application.
Guidance on UKRI studentship funding
Student fees and stipends on research grants and some support costs related directly to the training of the student are funded by EPSRC. These support costs include such items as ‘travel and subsistence’, ‘conference costs’ and ‘consumables’ (indirect and estate costs are not applicable to studentships).
Funding available and timeframe
The full funding amount of up to £38 million will be split across two tranches of £18 million to £20 million each.
Tranche A grants will receive their EPSRC commitment shortly after the full proposal panel in November 2022.
Tranche B grants will receive their EPSRC commitment at the beginning of the 2023 to 2024 financial year in April 2023.
This two-tranche approach will allow the full funding amount of £38 million to be allocated from one round of peer review, reducing the overall length and bureaucracy of the process.
Proposals will be assigned to a tranche according to applicant’s preferences where possible. The choice of tranche will have no effect on the assessment of the proposal.
EPSRC funding is at 80% full economic costs, with exceptions for studentship costs (100% full economic cost).
Requested funds may include:
- staff costs
- equipment and other items required to carry out the project
- costs related to impact
- travel and subsistence
- doctoral studentship costs.
ESPRC guidance on equipment funding.