Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Developing STFC nuclear physics priorities

Apply for funding for a small nuclear physics project focused on feasibility.

To apply you must be an academic member of staff or hold a fellowship, won through open competition. You can be at any career stage.

Your proposal must relate to the strategic opportunities outlined in the Nuclear Physics Roadmap.

We will fund a limited number of projects..

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £250,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project can last up to two years.

Who can apply

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

For more information on eligibility see the STFC research grants handbook.

What we're looking for

Purpose of the funding opportunity

This funding scheme is intended to develop the capacity and capabilities needed to underpin UK science and technology leadership in future nuclear physics.

Your research and development project must have the potential to enable STFC to deliver the future Nuclear Physics programme.

The aims of the scheme are to:

  • support the early development of small scale research and development projects that relate to the nuclear physics priorities listed in the Nuclear Physics Roadmap
  • identify project opportunities that have come out of the Nuclear Physics Roadmap
  • provide a small level of support to a few projects that have the potential to be further developed into longer term projects that would be considered by STFC.

Read the Nuclear Physics Roadmap 2019 (STFC).

Subject to budgets and affordability, STFC ultimately expects an additional larger project to be selected for support through a Science Board-led activity. Projects that get supported through this scheme will not automatically be supported beyond this phase.

STFC Nuclear Physics programme

Your project must relate to one of the broad areas of research in the STFC Nuclear Physics programme.

The Nuclear Physics programme can be divided into four broad areas of research:

  • nuclear structure
  • nuclear astrophysics
  • hadron physics
  • phases of strongly interacting matter.

Nuclear physics research seeks to answer fundamental questions about the universe and our understanding of it. Key science questions include:

  • what governs the structure and behaviour of atomic nuclei?
  • what is the origin of the elements?
  • how do the properties of hadrons and the quark-gluon plasma emerge from fundamental interactions?
  • what is the nature of nuclear matter?


Your project must be:

  • developing novel technologies, beyond the concept stage, to underpin the nuclear physics science programme and to place UK scientists in leading positions in future projects
  • supporting applications that lead towards the exploitation of STFC technology infrastructure for high priority scientific projects
  • exploratory technology development work prior to starting or joining a new project
  • research and development initiatives and small upgrades to existing projects.

The scheme will fund projects up to technology readiness level (TRL) 6:

  • TRL 1: basic principles observed
  • TRL 2: technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3: experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4: technology validated in lab
  • TRL 5: technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 6: technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 7: system prototype demonstration in operational environment
  • TRL 8: system complete and qualified
  • TRL 9: actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies, or in space).

Science area

Your proposal must be within the nuclear physics area. Projects with multiple science areas are welcomed, however your project should be at least 50% within the remit of the STFC Nuclear Physics programme.

Funding available

The maximum award from STFC for each project will be £250,000. Following full economic costing guidelines, the STFC contribution to the project will be at 80% of the project request (up to £200,000). The amount applied for should reflect the nature and scale of the activity. The total budget available is expected to be approximately £800,000.

There is a limited capital budget for this call. Applicants should discuss with STFC their capital needs ahead of applying.

All applicants should consider their next steps or ambitions in progressing the project beyond any funding provided by this call, with reference to this in the case for support.

It is expected that in the majority of cases, projects will not exceed 24 months in duration. The projects must start on 1 January 2022.


There is a limited capital budget for this call. Applicants should discuss with STFC their capital needs ahead of applying.

Please see the equipment guidelines in the STFC Research Grants Handbook for the latest terms and conditions.

How to apply

Stage one: expression of interest

Applicants should submit an expression of interest by 20 September 2021. It must note the:

  • proposed grant title
  • investigators’ names
  • universities involved
  • total project costs
  • capital costs.

This is to allow STFC to manage any conflicts of interest of the expert assessment panel.

The expression interest notifies us that you will be submitting a full application. You will not receive any feedback from us. You can progress immediately to stage two.

Stage two: full Je-S submissions

All proposals should be submitted online using the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system. The login screen has links to tutorials and system help.

When applying, please ensure the following details are entered correctly so your application reaches the correct council and the correct opportunity. Providing incorrect details at this stage could result in your application not being considered for this opportunity.

When applying select:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call title: Nuclear Physics Feasibility Call 2021.

After completing the application:

  • you must ‘Submit document’, which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration
  • your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process.

Applicants should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date. STFC must receive your full proposal application by 16:00 on 2 November 2021.

Finances for STFC labs

Finances that are associated with the STFC labs should be separated from those of the UK research organisations. This is best done by submitting joint proposals with lead and non-lead organisations. There is no specific condition on who should be the lead organisation. This is entirely up to the project team and how the project is designed.

It is mandatory for the non-lead application to submit a completed Je-S proposal form. This form will not include all the sections which are available to the lead. It is most important to complete the sections on finances.

Stage two: Je-S documents

As well as the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) application form, the following documents must be submitted.

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

You must also read the full guidance on document requirements (PDF, 165KB).

Case for support

This document is mandatory.

It must be up to 10 pages, consisting of:

  • track record: up to two A4 sides
  • strategic relevance: six A4 sides describing proposed research and its context
  • justification of resources: up to two A4 sides.

Data management plan

This document is mandatory.

It is anticipated that all applications will produce or collect data during the course of the proposed project. The data management plan should explain how the data will be managed over the lifetime of the project and, where appropriate, preserved for future re‐use.

The plan should be no longer than two pages of A4.

Gantt chart

This document is mandatory.

Include a Gantt chart that sets out your project plan.

Project partner letters of support

These must be included from all named project partners.

They must be on headed paper or email and be signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission date.

Each letter should be no longer than two pages of A4.

Letters of support

This document is optional. There are no page limits.

In exceptional circumstances a maximum of three letters can be submitted.

Cover letter

This document is optional. There is no page limit.

This is not seen by the panel.

Technical assessment

This document is optional. There are no page limits.

For the use of a major facility, where applicable.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

The expression of interest stage is not assessed.

Full proposals will be assessed by a streamlined peer review process involving consideration by a specially convened expert assessment panel. The panel’s assessment will be based upon the quality of the proposal documentation and, if required, a written clarification question.

Proposals will not be sent to external reviewers, therefore there will not be a principal investigator or applicant written response to reviewers’ comments stage.

In the event of this funding opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, STFC reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

Proposals deemed by STFC to lie outside the remit or the scope of the funding opportunity may be rejected without reference to peer review.

Assessment criteria

The panel will assess full stage proposals against the following four criteria.

Scientific or technical excellence

This will be assessed on:

  • the scientific or technical excellence of the proposal including the specific objectives of the project (primary)
  • the scientific importance of the project including the current state of the area and a longer-term view of the future (secondary major)
  • timeliness of the project.

Strategic value within the STFC programme

This will be assessed on:

  • scientific value: to what extent a successful outcome will contribute to increasing our understanding of STFC’s key science questions
  • technological value: to what extent the proposal will enable future science by providing better, cheaper or novel technologies.

Leadership, planning and project management

This will be assessed on:

  • the competency and likelihood of applicants delivering stated goals within the timeframe of the project
  • the potential of the small project to develop into a large and/or complex project
  • to what extent the requested resources are appropriate and fully justified
  • to what extent the project planning and management (including risk management) is suitable for the proposed project.

Social and economic impact from the proposed research

The assessment looks at to what extent the proposal shows applicants have:

  • identified the potential to deliver economic and societal impact
  • developed the means to achieve impact beyond the project.


Applicants will be given written feedback from the panel summarising the reasons why the proposal was successful or unsuccessful.

No further feedback will be available.

Contact details

Get help with this opportunity

You can contact either Georgina or Ailsa.

Georgina Freeman

Senior Programme Manager, STFC Programmes Directorate

Ailsa Johnstone

Programme Manager, STFC Programmes Directorate

Get help with 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.

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

Telephone: 01793 444164

Additional info


UKRI recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their careers that may have been caused by the pandemic, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes.

Panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts of the impact that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, applicants can highlight this within their application, if they wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

UKRI acknowledges that it is a challenge for applicants to determine the future impacts of COVID-19 while the pandemic continues to evolve. Applications should be based on the information available at the point of submission and, if applicable, the known application specific impacts of COVID-19 should be accounted for.

Where known impacts have occurred, these should be highlighted in the application, including the assumptions or information at the point of submission. There is no need to include contingency plans for the potential impacts of COVID-19.

Requests for travel both domestically and internationally can be included in accordance with the relevant scheme guidelines, noting the above advice.

Reviewers will receive instructions to assume that changes that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, post-submission, will be resolved and complications related to COVID-19 should not affect their scores.

Where an application is successful, any changes in circumstances that affect the proposal will be managed as a post-award issue.

Collaboration agreements

Successful applications which include more than one organisation (academic or non-academic) on the Je-S form must have collaboration agreements signed between all organisations. A copy of this should be sent to the STFC office before the start of the project. Such an agreement should include how intellectual property will be managed.

Example model research collaboration agreements that may be used as a basis for specific agreements between partners have been developed through the Lambert toolkit for collaborative research. Review the model research collaboration agreements on GOV.UK.

Unconscious bias

Read about unconscious bias in STFC’s peer review and assessment guidance.

Equality and diversity

Find information about STFC’s commitment to promoting equality and diversity on the STFC website.


All award holders are required to submit outputs from their STFC Nuclear Physics project on the UKRI Researchfish platform.

Award holders are required to provide information about outputs arising from their work annually during the period of the award and normally for at least five years after the award has terminated.

The STFC Nuclear Physics team will monitor outputs on all Nuclear Physics grants and may contact you for further information on outputs and outcomes, in particular with a view to publishing a case study.

Supporting documents

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.