Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Civil nuclear research with Japan: phase 9

In line with the change in UKRI funding rules, catapults who apply for and meet UKRI funding eligibility will be able to apply to this opportunity on or after 1 June 2022.

Apply for funding to research challenges in civil nuclear energy relevant to Fukushima and Sellafield.

You must:

  • be a UK-based researcher employed by an eligible research organisation
  • collaborate with Japanese researchers.

Your proposal must address one of these fields:

  • radioactive waste treatment
  • robotic and autonomous systems for decommissioning
  • fuel debris materials
  • decommissioning technology.

The full economic cost of the UK project work can be up to £625,000. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost (up to £500,000).

Your project must start on 1 November 2022 and end on 31 March 2025.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Check if you are eligible.

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of the criteria below:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level or equivalent
  • hold a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee
  • hold an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages
  • hold fellowships under other schemes. If this is your situation, please contact EPSRC to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Submissions to this funding opportunity will not count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

This funding opportunity seeks to support two projects covering key research challenges to accelerate and advance nuclear science including decommissioning relevant to Fukushima and Sellafield.

Fields and themes to address

Proposals must address issues in at least one of these four fields:

  • radioactive waste characterisation
  • robotic and autonomous systems for decommissioning
  • fuel debris materials
  • decommissioning technology.

Within these fields, we would like research proposals to fall within at least one of the sub-themes provided below.

Radioactive waste management

Sub-themes within this field are:

  • waste characterisation
  • the treatment and immobilisation of radioactive wastes
  • sludge and slurry treatment.

Robotic and autonomous systems for decommissioning

Sub-themes within this field are:

  • remote handling
  • remote inspection
  • radiation hardened detectors
  • integrated robotic systems
  • digital twins.

Fuel debris materials

Sub-themes within this field are:

  • fuel debris characterisation and aging
  • the characterisation of radioactive aerosols.

Decommissioning technology

Sub-themes within this field are:

  • monitoring
  • in situ repair
  • risk management
  • advanced data analysis and modelling.

This funding opportunity is not open to research proposals on new fuels and new reactors. It is preferable, but not essential, that your application complements existing research projects funded under previous phases of the UK Japan Civil Nuclear Energy programme. You can find links to previously funded projects in the ‘Additional information’ section.

Japan-UK partnership

This is a jointly funded opportunity between EPSRC and MEXT. We expect applications to be a collaboration between UK-based and Japan-based researchers.

The UK partner should submit their proposal part to EPSRC, and the Japanese partner should submit their part to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science (CLADS).

Find out more about the JAEA and CLADS part of the funding opportunity at:

Differences to a standard application

There are some differences with the application for this funding opportunity compared with a standard application. With this funding opportunity:

  • projects are to be of fixed duration, with a fixed start date of 1 November 2022 and a fixed end date of 31 March 2025. This fixed timeline is set to accommodate Japan’s funding cycle
  • the case for support can be up to 12 sides of A4 to match the allowed limit in Japan
  • the case for support submitted to EPSRC should match the content submitted to JAEA and CLADS as closely as possible given the difference in language, and describe the work being done in both Japan and the UK
  • you should request only the travel and subsistence cost for the UK part of the project. Your Japanese partner should request any funds they need from MEXT
  • additional grant conditions apply, detailed in the ‘Additional information’ section.

Funding available

This funding opportunity is jointly run by EPSRC and MEXT, with EPSRC funding the UK-based component of the research project, and MEXT funding the Japan-based one.

The full economic cost of the UK project work can be up to £625,000. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost (up to £500,000). We intend to support the UK component of two research projects.

Equipment

Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) will not be funded. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be listed under the ‘Directly incurred – other costs’ heading in your Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) application.

Find out more about the EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

How to apply

Expression of interest

You should complete the expression of interest survey as soon as you can prior to applying. This will:

  • give us an indication of the number of applications we can expect
  • help us to form an appropriate assessment panel.

To complete the survey you will need to provide:

  • details of the personnel involved, for example principal investigators, co-investigators and project partners
  • the name of the UK research organisations.

Complete the expression of interest survey.

Applying through Je-S

You must apply using the Je-S system.

You should ensure that you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme Phase 9.

After completing the application you must select ‘submit document’. This will send your application to your host organisation’s administration

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. You should allow sufficient time for this between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date.

Your host organisation will be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application. You can also find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 16 June 2022. The closing time in Japan may be different from this. Please plan your joint submissions accordingly.

Other documents you need to submit

In addition to the Je-S application form, you must also submit:

  • a case for support (up to 12 sides of A4, see ‘case for support’ section below for details)
  • a work plan (one side of A4)
  • a justification of resources (up to two sides of A4)
  • a project organisation diagram. Contact your Japanese collaborator for guidance as this is included in their application form.

Submitting CVs is optional. You may choose to include a CV for any named researchers, visiting researchers and researcher co-investigators, as applicable. Each CV should be no more than two sides of A4.

Where applicable, you should also include:

  • a project partner letter of support (no page limit). If a letter of support is applicable you can upload it to the ‘project partner’ section of the Je-S application
  • a technical assessment for the use of major facilities (no page limit).

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

Please note that on submission to EPSRC all non-PDF documents uploaded onto Je-S are converted to PDF. The use of non-standard fonts may result in errors or font conversion, which could affect the overall length of the document.

You should adhere to the above attachment requirements when submitting your proposal. Any missing, over-length or unnecessary attachments may result in your proposal being rejected.

Case for support

Your case for support should be no more than 12 sides of A4. It should match your Japanese partner’s submission as closely as possible. We understand that there will be differences in language. It should include:

  • a track record (up to two sides of A4) detailing the relevant expertise that the investigator and team will bring to the research programme
  • a description of the proposed research, describing the work being done in both Japan and the UK (up to ten sides of A4). It should also include a national importance statement.

For reference, JAEA and CLADS have requested that Japanese applicants include in their equivalent of the case for support:

  • the aims of the joint research theme, describing the research goals and specific results that will be obtained from this collaboration, and how these will contribute to the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi NNP and Sellafield
  • the roles of UK and Japan research teams, describing the role of both UK and Japan-based researchers in this project and how collaboration will occur
  • the research approach: the Japanese and UK research goals and plans
  • expected outcomes from the Japanese and UK researchers, listing the synergistic effects.

For more information, read our advice on what to include in your proposal.

Ethical requirements

EPSRC will not fund a project if it believes that there are ethical concerns that have been overlooked or not appropriately accounted for. All relevant parts of the ‘ethical information’ section must be completed. Read more about completing ethical information in Je-S.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals which are considered to be outside of the remit of this funding opportunity without reference to peer review.

Proposals will not undergo postal peer review, however pre-panel comments from panel members will be shared with you. You will have an opportunity to make a response to these comments in writing before the panel.

Component proposals from Japan-based researchers will be assessed by interview panel in Japan. UK partners may be asked by their Japanese partners to contribute to the Japan interview via teleconference or video conference, but this is not mandatory. There will not be an equivalent interview stage in the UK. Both UK and Japan-based applicants will be notified of the outcomes of the interview at this stage.

Successful proposals from this stage will be assessed by a joint UK-Japan expert panel resulting in a rank-ordered list. The panel will make a combined assessment of the proposals against the EPSRC and MEXT assessment. The UK assessment criteria is listed below.

Funding decisions will be made following the outcomes of the combined panel, and applicants will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible after the panel meeting.

Assessment criteria

Proposals submitted to this funding opportunity will be assessed on their fit to the scope of the funding opportunity, and to the criteria listed below. EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals which are considered out of the remit of this opportunity without reference to peer review.

Standard criteria

Quality (primary)

Reviewers will comment on the degree of research excellence of the proposal, making reference to:

  • the novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.
National importance (secondary major)

Reviewers will comment on the national importance of the research. How it:

  • contributes to or helps maintain the health of other disciplines
  • contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges or future UK economic success and the development of emerging industries
  • meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio
  • plans for dissemination and knowledge exchange with potential beneficiaries of the research.
Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

Reviewers will comment on the applicant’s ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to the:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
  • leadership quality and experience of the principal investigator
  • effectiveness of planning and resource management
  • appropriateness of resources requested.

Funding opportunity specific criteria

Fit to funding opportunity

Reviewers will consider the alignment of the research programme to the aims and objectives of the funding opportunity.

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 Andrew Eustace, Portfolio Manager, EPSRC

Email: andrew.eustace@epsrc.ukri.org

Mr Christopher Carlton, Senior Portfolio Manager, EPSRC

Email: christopher.carlton@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Background

This is an EPSRC funding opportunity in collaboration with MEXT and the Nuclear Safety Research Association (NSRA). We are inviting collaborative research applications with UK and Japan-based principal investigators relating to the removal of fuel debris and environmental safety around reactor core decommissioning of the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and Sellafield’s decommissioning challenges.

EPSRC will fund the UK-based research and MEXT will fund the Japan-based research components. This funding opportunity represents the ninth phase of the UK-Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme and it is for small projects of approximately 30 months duration, with a fixed end date of 31 March 2025.

Grant additional conditions

Grants will be subject to the standard UK Research and Innovation grant conditions. However, the following additional grant condition will be added to this funding opportunity:

  • notwithstanding ‘RGC 5.2 starting procedures’ of the terms and conditions for research grants, this grant has a fixed start date of November 2022. No slippage of this date will be permitted. Expenditure may be incurred prior to the start of the grant and be subsequently charged to the grant, provided that it does not precede the date of the offer letter.

Projects funded in previous phases of this opportunity

It is desirable that applications to this phase complement existing research projects funded under previous phases of the UK Japan Civil Nuclear Energy programme.

You can read overviews of previously funded projects in the following links for phases 2 to 8:

Supporting documents

Expression of interest survey

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 148KB)

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