Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Digital manufacturing: invited full proposals

Apply for funding to support novel research into how digital approaches can be applied to improve manufacturing processes, manufacturing systems or both.

This opportunity is open only to applicants who have been invited to submit a full proposal from the outline stage of this opportunity.

You must be:

  • a UK resident
  • based at an eligible research organisation.

EPSRC will provide up to £7 million in total to fund a number of projects at 80% of the full economic cost. Grant size must be within 10% of the total amount indicated at the outline stage.

Projects can run for up to 36 months.

Who can apply

Only applicants who were successful at the outline stage and have been invited to submit a full proposal can apply.

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply.

Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Check if your institution is eligible for funding.

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

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • 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 (please contact EPSRC to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis).

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an EPSRC grant.

Submissions to this funding opportunity will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

Manufacturing the future (MtF)

The vision for EPSRC’s MtF theme is one of a prosperous and productive UK, supported by a thriving research and knowledge-led manufacturing base. To enable this, our mission is to create and capture the benefits of basic research for UK manufacturing industries.

This opportunity seeks to support that aim by contributing to the delivery of MtF digital manufacturing priority.

Grants are expected to be:

  • in line with the size of usual standard research grants
  • within 10% variance of the total funding request indicated at the outline stage.

Scope

The scope of this opportunity has been developed in collaboration with members of the manufacturing research and innovation community. The topic of ‘digital technology for manufacturing’ emerged as a research priority during the manufacturing futures retreat and community engagement activities (PDF, 12.5MB). This priority was reaffirmed in a 2019 manufacturing the future research priorities workshop.

We are looking to support the novel research needed to enable accurate simulation of products and processes through their lifecycle.

In particular, this research will seek to understand how to model complex materials and systems; the perturbations, transformations (or both) that they undergo through manufacturing processes.

The research will also seek to understand how these insights can be used to:

  • reduce the need for physical prototypes
  • reduce the risk and time to market associated with launching new products
  • improve the accuracy of requirements capture and design specification processes
  • reduce discard rate and improve product quality control
  • enable new product architectures
  • reduce certification time and inspection costs.

You must clearly show how the proposed research constitutes manufacturing research, and how it addresses at least one of these key digital manufacturing research challenges:

  • interoperability of analogue and digital process or legacy systems to support digitalisation
  • design space exploration, design-support systems
  • data challenges influencing modelling capability
  • data integrity and risk management in manufacturing systems
  • data analytics and visualisation
  • human-simulation interaction, people in the loop
  • real time simulation and optimisation
  • tools to support the verification of models, metrology in manufacturing
  • virtual testing, to facilitate non-destructive testing or moving testing online
  • building security, privacy, risk and trust into the manufacturing process and supply chains.

Not all research that can address one (or more) of the above points would constitute manufacturing research. Proposals must demonstrably lie within the remit (minimum 50%) of EPSRC MtF theme.

To fit within this remit, proposals must focus on the fundamental engineering and physical sciences research into manufacturing technologies, the manufacturing process, or the manufacturing process’ design and operation.

Any proposals that EPSRC deems outside the remit of MtF theme, or the scope of this opportunity, may be rejected without reference to peer review.

Industrial engagement

You are encouraged to consider industrial engagement. This might include developing plans to engage with a range of relevant manufacturing companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, throughout the project.

Manufacturing sustainability

The MtF theme recognises the importance of considering the sustainability of manufacturing research across the breadth of the manufacturing portfolio. Therefore at this full proposal stage (stage two), invited applicants are required to provide a manufacturing sustainability statement. This requirement is to ensure you have considered the wider implications of the research being conducted, prior to applying.

This statement will not form a part of the assessment of your proposal. It is important to understand that your proposal is not expected to be focused on researching sustainability in and of itself.

Your manufacturing sustainability statement should demonstrate and address:

  • considerations made to the wider environmental sustainability of your approach. For example, where appropriate, have any life cycle assessments been conducted? Is the research method energy and waste efficient?
  • if the research has the potential for positive improvements in environmental sustainability for the manufacturing sector
  • if, and how, the research may contribute to national and global sustainability priorities (for example, the net zero commitment, the Paris Agreement, the industrial decarbonisation strategy and other relevant targets)
  • how you will ensure the research does not have unnecessary negative environmental impacts
  • if potential negative environmental impacts are identified, what is being done to minimise and mitigate against these?

You are required to provide this statement at this full proposal stage.

Funding available

EPSRC will provide up to £7 million to fund a number of projects:

  • at 80% of full economic cost
  • up to 36 months in duration.

The grant amount you request in your full proposal must be within 10% of the total amount indicated at the outline stage.

Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this funding opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be listed under the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading in your application.

Find out more about EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

You are expected to work within EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

International collaboration

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.

How to apply

Applying through Je-S

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

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select ‘new document’, then select:

  • ‘create new document’
  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: digital manufacturing call full proposals – invite only.

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. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 30 June 2022.

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted.

Case for support

This is a mandatory attachment. It should be no more than eight sides of A4. Two sides of A4 should be about your track record. The remaining six sides of A4 should state your scientific case.

Workplan

This is a mandatory attachment. It should be no more than one side of A4.

Justification of resources

This is a mandatory document and should be no more than two sides of A4.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

CVs should be no more than two sides of A4 per person. You should only include CVs for:

  • named and visiting researchers
  • researcher co-investigators.

Project partner letters of support

You must provide a letter of support from all named project partners.

Letters must be:

  • on headed paper
  • signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission date.

Read EPSRC’s guidance on project partners letter of support.

Letters of support

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

Technical assessments for facilities

You only need to provide this if a facility you intend to use is listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance. There is no page limit for technical assessments.

Cover letter

This is a mandatory attachment. You should use it to confirm that you are applying following a successful application to the outline stage. Please quote the application reference of your outline proposal. This should be of the form ‘APP1XXX’.

You may also include any other information usually included in a cover letter. Read the ‘proposal cover letter’ section in our guidance on what to include in your proposal.

Manufacturing sustainability statement

This is a mandatory attachment. It should be no more than two sides of A4. It is not seen by peer review.

To upload it to your application you should use the document type ‘other attachment’ in your Je-S application.

Document formats

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

For more information about what to include with your application, read our advice on writing proposals for EPSRC funding.

Ethical information

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 of the Je-S application must be completed.

Get guidance on completing ethical information in Je-S.

EPSRC guidance on ethics can be found in the related content section.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process, you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal.

Please ensure that any nominations meet EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Stage two: invited full proposals

Applicants who were successful at outline stage (stage one) will have been invited by email to submit a full proposal.

Full proposals will be assessed through postal peer review. Reviewers will assess applications against the full proposal assessment criteria provided below.

Full proposals must be submitted by 16:00 on 30 June 2022.

If your application receives sufficiently supportive reviews you will be invited to provide a principal investigator response, and your proposal will be presented to a prioritisation panel.

The panel will consider the:

  • reviewer comments
  • principal investigator response.

The panel will assess proposals against the full proposal assessment criteria. This will be used to produce a rank ordered list.

The prioritisation panel will take place in November 2022.

Funding decisions will be based on the rank ordered list compiled by the panel and we expect to communicate the final decisions in December 2022.

Assessment criteria

Full proposals will be assessed against the following criteria.

Standard criteria

Quality (primary)

The 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. For multidisciplinary proposals please state which aspects of the proposal you feel qualified to assess.
National importance (secondary major)

How the research:

  • contributes to or helps maintain the health of other disciplines, contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges or contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry or 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 EPSRC portfolio.
Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

The ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators.
Resources and management (secondary)

The effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

  • any equipment requested, or the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
  • any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Opportunity specific criteria

Fit to opportunity (secondary major)

Alignment of the research programme to the aims and scope of the opportunity.

Feedback

Feedback on the full proposal is provided by the reviewers’ comments.

The prioritisation panel may provide specific feedback if deemed necessary, but this will not be given as standard. The rank ordered list from the prioritisation panel will be published on EPSRC’s grants on the web shortly after the meeting.

Guidance for reviewers

When completing your assessment please use the section marked ‘call specific criteria’ to address the fit to opportunity criterion. This means that you should assess the alignment of the research programme to the aims and scope of the opportunity as described on this page.

For more information read:

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

Tochukwu Ajare, Portfolio Manager, mtF theme

Email: tochukwu.ajare@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘Digital manufacturing’ in the subject line.

Stephanie Williams, Portfolio Manager, mtF theme

Email: stephanie.williams@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘Digital manufacturing’ in the subject line.

mtF theme central email inbox

Email: manufacturingpeerreview@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘Digital manufacturing’ in the subject line.

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

EPSRC MtF theme has recently refreshed its research priorities, with input from numerous members of the manufacturing research and innovation community. The topic of ‘digital technology for manufacturing’ has emerged as one of the theme’s updated research priorities.

In 2018, MtF held a strategic retreat to explore the future manufacturing research and innovation landscape and examine future strategic opportunities.

The outputs were further developed through a series of community engagement activities, forming the basis of a MtF strategic priorities workshop in 2019.

During the 2019 workshop, the importance of ‘digital technologies for manufacturing’ as a priority area for future manufacturing research was reaffirmed.

This was envisioned to cover novel research required to enable accurate simulation of products and processes through their lifecycle. Subsequent discussions with the MtF strategic advisory team and input from the early career forum in manufacturing research and a community digital manufacturing workshop, developed this opportunity.

Find out more about the manufacturing futures retreat 2018.

Read the workshop report on EPSRC MtF regional meetings 2018 to 2019 (PDF, 12.5MB)

Read the report on MtF research priorities workshop (PDF, 884KB)

Supplementary information

The made smarter review (2017) set out a vision for growth and increased productivity across the manufacturing sector by unlocking the potential of industrial digital technologies.

This opportunity hopes to continue UKRI’s focus on research and innovation elements of ‘made smarter’. This is done in the form of manufacturing specific standard mode grants that focus on key challenges in the area raised by the community.

Stage one outline information

This full proposal stage opportunity was preceded by an outline stage, a summary of its requirements is listed below for information.

At the outline stage, we looked for applications that are a good fit for the scope of the opportunity. Any proposals not within the scope of this opportunity, or not primarily within the remit of EPSRC MtF theme, were rejected prior to assessment.

An independent expert panel assessed the outline applications based on how well the information provided met the following assessment criteria.

Suitability of the research vision and research challenge

This assessment criteria includes:

  • fit to opportunity scope of the applicants’ vision as described
  • extent of the research contribution to the vision of digital manufacturing, either existing or future
  • appropriateness of the consideration of broader issues and challenges relating to the research and its impact.

Appropriateness of the proposed team and programme of research to deliver innovative, high-quality research

This assessment criteria particularly includes potential for transformative aspects or significant potential outcomes.

Successful applicants have been invited to submit a full proposal in stage two via email.

Grant additional conditions

Grants are awarded under the standard UKRI grant terms and conditions.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 143KB)

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