Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop early-stage research outputs for commercial application: STFC follow-on fund Feb 2022

Apply for follow-on funding to turn early-stage research outputs into a commercial application.

You must:

  • be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding
  • have previously received funding from the STFC core science programme.

We will support:

  • scientific and technical development
  • securing of intellectual property
  • market research
  • exploration of licensing opportunities or joint ventures.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £200,000. STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project can run for up to 18 months.

This funding opportunity is part of the STFC follow-on fund knowledge exchange scheme.

Who can apply

You must:

  • be employed at an eligible research organisation
  • have held, or hold, STFC funding from our core science programme.

The STFC core science programme consists of:

  • nuclear physics
  • particle physics and particle astrophysics
  • astronomy and space science
  • accelerators
  • computing in support of these.

If you have received funding from the STFC core science programme but not as a principal investigator or a co-investigator, you are still eligible for this scheme. This could, for example, include postdoctoral research assistants and PhD students.

You must contact the STFC office with a grant reference number to confirm your eligibility. You must be attached to an eligible research organisation and under contract for the duration of the award.

Eligible organisations are:

  • higher education institutions
  • approved research council institutes
  • approved independent research organisations.

Check if you’re eligible for funding.

If you’re not eligible, then find out about STFC’s other knowledge exchange schemes.

Who cannot apply

STFC employees working at one of the national laboratories are not eligible for this scheme and should apply for the internal proof of concept fund.

What we're looking for

We are looking to support very early or pre-seed stage ideas for commercial applications that follow on from STFC-funded research.

Our funding will support proof-of-concept research that demonstrates commercial potential to the market and could provide:

  • an opportunity for a spin-out or licensing opportunity
  • information needed to bid for our other knowledge exchange funding schemes, including the innovation partnership scheme or the challenge-led applied systems programme.

Funding available

Projects should not exceed £200,000 and should last no longer than 18 months. STFC will fund 80% of the full economic costs.

You must start your project within three months from the date of the award letter.

Funding could be used for:

  • scientific and technical development of an idea
  • work to secure intellectual property for the host institution
  • market research into the opportunities for a new product or process
  • identifying potential licensees or opportunities for joint ventures.

You do not need to have industrial partners. However, we do welcome projects with industry, non-government or other academic partners where appropriate.

We do not require you to have funding from elsewhere, but we will look favourably on those applications that do have funding on top of that requested, for example, from their host organisation.

See the full guidance for applicants (PDF 69KB).

How to apply

Applying through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system

You should apply through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You should attach the following documents to your application:

  • Je-S pro forma
  • case for support (six pages)
  • Gantt chart (one page)
  • data management plan
  • letter of support from technology transfer office
  • letters of support from organisations interested in the project
  • letters of support from any project partners
  • optional covering letter (covering letters will not been seen by external reviewers or the panel)
  • other (any document uploaded under ‘other’ will not be seen by external reviewers or the panel).

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 you submit the application, it will first go to your host organisation for review. Please allow sufficient time for this.

The process from submission deadline to decision normally takes about five months.

In Je-S, please include and complete the following:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: IPS
  • call/type/mode: KE Feb 2022.

See the guidance for applicants for more information on how to apply (PDF, 359KB).

Case for support

The case for support should be no longer than six pages and conform to the font and margin guidelines in the Je-S help text.

It’s the responsibility of the principal applicant to ensure that the 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.

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 six-page case for support must include information under the following headings (applications will be rejected by the office for non‐compliance with these directions).

Background and aim

The information must cover the following:

  • what is the STFC funded research that will form the basis of this project
  • what is the aim of this application
  • who will benefit from this project and subsequent commercialisation?
Technical summary

Provide a detailed account of the current status of the technology you are proposing and the plan for development.

The summary should provide sufficient detail for referees to assess fully the technical aspects of the proposed project.

Business plan

Please describe how you will investigate the development of a business plan, which will include a route to market.

Describe the commercial opportunity and the predicted investment and mechanism required post-project to take forward to commercialisation.

This should also include a summary of the current intellectual property position (further detailed in the letter of support from your technology transfer office (TTO)).

Work plan and risk analysis

Detail specific work packages, assigning responsibility between partners if appropriate.

You should show that you have identified risks and developed alternative strategies to mitigate these. You should consider technical, programmatic and, where relevant, commercial risks.


State the resources requested by the applicants and provide justification for them.

The panel can reduce resource requests if they feel there is insufficient justification. Describe what the added value of STFC funding will be.

Project deliverables

Identify what the direct outputs will be at the end of this grant (please be specific).

Letters of support

Technology transfer office (mandatory)

A letter of support from your technology transfer office (or equivalent) must be included with each application.

It should relate specifically to the proposal and should not be a generic letter of support. The letter should include:

  • support from the office already provided (such as financial or resource), if relevant
  • support that will be provided if the application is successful
  • outline of current and anticipated future intellectual property position (for example, has a patent been filed or granted?).
Project partners (optional)

If relevant, letters of support must be included from any named partners. These must:

  • be either formal letters of support (on headed paper and signed by a senior member of staff or director) or sent by email
  • be dated within six months of the submission
  • be no more than two sides of A4 in length
  • detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and desired outcomes together.
Supportive organisations (optional)

Letters of support can be included from other relevant parties who are not directly involved in the project but who support the objectives (for example, potential end users). Letters should:

  • be either formal letters of support (on headed paper and signed by a senior member of staff or director) or sent by email
  • be dated within six months of submission
  • detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and desired outcomes together
  • detail the projected market size, customers and sales
  • describe how the company could commercialise the technology beyond the project.

For more information, please see what to include in your proposal.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed by external reviewers and then reviewed by an independent panel made up of members from industry and academia.

You can nominate one reviewer who is not a current or previous collaborator, friend or family member, or based at your host institution.

Criteria for assessment

Your application will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • technical excellence
  • commercial potential
  • development plan
  • added value.

Technical excellence

The proposed project must:

  • be based on STFC research
  • include a programme of excellent technical development.

The proposal should be feasible from a technical standpoint and build on a strong underpinning science case.

We appreciate that this follow-on funding opportunity is aimed towards developing a proof-of-concept and therefore is more high-risk in terms of success.

Commercial potential

We will assess:

  • the size of the commercial potential of the idea, including potential benefits to the UK (both economic and societal)
  • your consideration of the market need, intellectual property position and commercialisation strategy
  • the likelihood for the project to deliver.

Development plan

We will assess:

  • the quality of the plan for technical and commercial development, with evidence of how the project will be managed
  • your consideration of potential partner engagement as the technology matures towards commercialisation
  • your consideration of the future of the project after follow-on funding.

Added value

We will assess:

  • the extent to which the resources requested, relative to the anticipated outputs, represent an appropriate investment of STFC funds (value for money)
  • the potential impact the project could have in relation to the size of the award
  • the strategic value within the STFC programme.

Response to reviewers

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

You can use Je-S to indicate the reviewers or include this in a covering letter attached to the application and uploaded through Je-S.

You should be aware that we will request your response to referees approximately four to six weeks following the closing date of the funding opportunity.

All key dates (including an estimated date for this response) will be communicated to all eligible applicants following the closure of the funding opportunity.

The principal investigator response should be:

  • no more than half a page of A4 per reviewer (Arial font size 11)
  • no longer than two pages in total, unless otherwise stated by the office.

Failure to adhere to these guidelines could result in your principal investigator response not being taken forward to the panel meeting. For more details, please see the Je-S helpdesk.

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. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Wendy Carr, Senior Programme Manager

Ed Mansfield, Programme Manager

Include ‘STFC FoF’ in the subject line.
We aim to respond within one working day.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Find out more about STFC funding to help turn academic research into commercial applications in the STFC knowledge exchange.

Current panel members

View the current membership below for the February 2022 round. STFC reserves the right to change the panel membership if required:

  • Mark Bray, BAE Systems Ltd (Chair)
  • Derryck Reid, Heriot-Watt University (Vice-Chair)
  • Karen Aplin, University of Bristol
  • Alexander Cherlin, Kromek Group
  • Richard Bates, Glasgow University
  • David Petyt, European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
  • Eva Vilella, University of Liverpool
  • Konstantin Stefanov, The Open University
  • Norman Maloney, OHM-E Technology
  • Andrew Williams, European Southern Observatory
  • Don Pollacco, University of Warwick
  • Kathryn Welsby, STFC (Central Laser Facility)
  • Philippe Wilson, Nottingham Trent University
  • Des Gibson, University of West Scotland.


STFC takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the contents of applications submitted to this follow-on funding opportunity are treated as confidential.

When appointed to the panel, members are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement covering all knowledge exchange applications. Additionally, when any conflicts of interest arise, the panel member will be excused from any discussion regarding the related proposal.

Referees are also asked to declare conflicts of interest in relation to an application, before they are asked to assess. Peer reviewers must comply with the research councils’ reviewer protocols.

Supporting documents

Equality and inclusion impact assessment (PDF, 199KB)

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