Applications are required to demonstrate the specific need for doctoral training through the CDT mechanism which includes the following key features:
- a clear requirement for doctoral level education in their area
- the need for a cohort-based training approach
- the provision of both depth and breadth in the research training proposed is necessary to address the identified skills need
We expect many CDTs to seek significant business or other leverage and to be developed with business or other input from users of research.
This CDT investment will address key engineering and physical sciences needs aligned to our 3 discovery and 4 mission-inspired priorities, and to regional, national and global drivers and opportunities as detailed in the EPSRC strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025. Applications must be centered within EPSRC’s research and training remit but interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary CDTs extending more widely across the breadth of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are welcome.
Further information on the areas EPSRC and other research councils support is available on the UKRI website. There is specific information on priorities for skilled people in quantum technologies developed by EPSRC and partners as part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) on the EPSRC and NQTP websites.
Proposals focused on the applications and implications of novel and existing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies should be submitted to the UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training in artificial intelligence funding opportunity.
Proposals focused on the mathematical and computational foundations of AI without a clear application to one of the UKRI AI CDT priority areas should be submitted to this EPSRC CDT funding opportunity.
Applicants who are unclear about which funding opportunity is best suited to the vision for their CDT should seek advice from EPSRC. We reserve the right to move applications from this funding opportunity to the UKRI AI CDT funding opportunity before or after the outline assessment, and vice versa, should an application better fit the scope of the other funding opportunity.
The doctoral education delivered by the CDTs should provide:
- the support for 5 student cohorts, with a minimum cohort size of 10 doctoral students per academic year, on a 4-year doctorate or equivalent, with a critical mass of supervisors (around 20 to 40) of internationally recognised research excellence with a track record of doctoral supervision
- a cohort approach to doctoral education including peer-to-peer learning both within and across cohorts. This cohort approach to education should be provided throughout the lifetime of student’s doctorate training programme. Students may also work as a cohort to address research challenges
- opportunities for significant, challenging, and original research projects leading to the award of a doctoral-level degree in accordance with a university’s standard regulations. Universities are free to choose the type of research doctoral qualification that is offered to students for example PhD or EngD. Centres may choose to offer all students the same type of qualification or a mixture. Students should also expect that doctoral projects are designed or planned in such a way that (barring exceptional circumstances) they are able to submit their thesis within their 4-year funded period or equivalent
- a formal, assessable programme of taught coursework, which should develop and enhance, for example, technical disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge, as well as broadening skills including entrepreneurship, commercialisation, responsible innovation and environmental sustainability
- an opportunity for students working as a cohort to build the ability to communicate and collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders. In appropriate areas this also could include clinicians, patients and the public. Particularly in areas such as AI, digitalisation and data, engineering, net zero and quantum technologies we expect CDTs to introduce systems thinking to support consideration of the technological, economic, social and environmental aspects of future solutions
- a significant commitment to and support for the training environment by the hosts and partners including appropriate co-creation and co-delivery of the centre
- opportunities for all students to gain experience beyond their doctoral projects
- mechanisms by which students funded through other routes can benefit from the training experience offered by the centre, and for the centre to reach out to the broader research community, user community and wider public
- appropriate user or employer engagement in the research and training
- a diverse and inclusive research environment to support people in achieving world class research
All applicants will need to choose 1 of 3 focus areas for the description and assessment of their proposal.
Meeting a user-need and/or supporting civic priorities
Users refers to users of research or people skilled in research, in business or more widely in other organisations including government and the third sector. Examples (non-exhaustive) of users:
- public sector organisations, such as public sector research establishments and government at all levels, including devolved administrations
- third sector organisations
- the public
- other key stakeholders across the research and innovation landscape
Proposals addressing a civic priority should aim to deliver benefit to the civic stakeholders in the short and long term. These benefits may include, but are not restricted to:
- local and regional economic growth, skills development, job creation or retention
- increased private investment, including foreign direct investment, in a specific place
- cluster development including through knowledge diffusion, supply chain development, small and medium-sized enterprise growth, generation and growth of spin outs
- development of research, development and innovation infrastructures
Examples (non-exhaustive) of organisations we consider to have a civic role are:
- enterprise, development or skills bodies (such as local enterprise partnerships or devolved equivalents)
- local authorities, councils or combined authorities
- growth, city, and region deals
- devolved administrations and their agencies
- regional or local industrial bodies
- local NHS trusts
Centres must be co-developed and co-delivered with non-academic partners, as well as demonstrating significant co-investment by those stakeholders.
Partnerships must include appropriate representation of stakeholders in the industrial sector or region or nation in question. A minimum leverage of 20% of studentship costs is required. Significant additional cash and added value in-kind contributions up to a total of 40 to 50% of the CDT cost are expected in many applications. These contributions will form part of the assessment at the full proposal stage.
We expect the level of cash and in-kind contributions and model of engagement to be appropriate to, for example, research and development intensity of the sector or size of the companies or other partners involved. We expect that collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises may need a different approach to collaboration with major international companies.
Examples (non-exhaustive) of added-value in-kind contributions include:
- fully funded studentships or top-up of stipends
- additional training for students
- salaries of staff working on the project (for example, supervisors, project managers, technicians)
- software licenses
- new equipment or equipment produced by the business
- access to equipment and facilities
- provision of data
- refurbishment of facilities
Delivering an EPSRC research priority
The EPSRC strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025 has 7 cross-cutting scientific strategic priorities. These priorities have been developed to deliver against the UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027 to support research and innovation across our remit, and address government priorities. Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary applications are welcome as long as they are centered in the engineering and physical sciences research and training remit.
3 cross-cutting priorities address discovery research, including:
- physical and mathematical sciences powerhouse
- frontiers in engineering and technology
- digital futures
4 cross cutting priorities deliver mission-inspired research, including:
- engineering net zero
- AI, digitalisation and data: driving value and security
- transforming health and healthcare
- quantum technologies
Further details on these 7 scientific priorities are outlined in EPSRC’s strategic delivery plan.
Supporting an innovative approach to CDT delivery
This focus area provides an opportunity to design a new cohort-based approach to doctoral education. To encourage innovative approaches we are not providing detailed examples. However the approach may relate to the recruitment and support for a diverse student community, the research and training environment including integration into wider training initiatives, support for a diversity of career paths and support for entry and exit to doctoral work or alternative doctoral qualifications.
Selecting a focus area
We expect that many CDT applications will address more than one of these focus areas and that is welcome, but you will need to select the most appropriate focus area to be used in the assessment process.
EPSRC encourages user co creation and engagement across the entirety of its doctoral training portfolio. The extent of that engagement varies according to the nature of the research and training and may also vary with the size of the business or other user organisation.
We encourage all forms of user engagement and contributions where this is beneficial to the research and training provision. This may include models such as funding studentships, industrial placements and co-created workshops.
The appropriateness of the support offered will vary depending on both the area, sectors, and type of partner (for example, business, public sector, third sector). This should be demonstrated and will be assessed based on the added value of the engagement.
Centre delivery and enhanced training provision
Impact and translation
CDTs will support students to maximise the impact of the research they undertake, by providing them with an understanding of how research projects can be designed to include considerations of impact from the start. Depending on the nature of the CDT, impact training may cover knowledge exchange and maximising academic, environmental, societal and economic impacts from research.
Students should understand the research and innovation lifecycle in which they are participating, including translation of research and consideration of end-use. Where appropriate, training should develop people who are able to work with and across industry sectors, and who can foster new innovative approaches.
In some areas, training could provide understanding of intellectual property, entrepreneurship and commercialisation. Others may require understanding of regulatory and policy considerations. For research of relevance to the healthcare sector, applicants must consider the impact and translation toolkit as part of CDT bids.
Wider training experience
Enabling EPSRC-sponsored research students to benefit from research experience outside their home laboratory can contribute to the wider training experience possible through a CDT. This can be in the form of industrial experience, entrepreneurial training, public engagement activities, or a period of time spent in an overseas academic collaborator’s laboratory for example.
Funding for international placements, policy and industry secondments and Creativity@home activities can be included in CDTs. If placements or secondments are proposed, plans for ensuring the experience is beneficial to the research training of the individual should be clearly articulated in the full proposal.
Responsible research and innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, trusted research and student wellbeing
All CDTs are expected to implement responsible research and innovation (RRI), environmental sustainability , equality, diversity and inclusion , trusted research approaches and support for student wellbeing to the highest standard in the design and operation of their CDT. We expect centres to promote a culture and ethos of responsible research and innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, trusted research and student wellbeing and embed this thinking in all they do. CDTs must also provide appropriate training for their students and, where not covered already, for other centre participants.
You need to make some initial outline plans and resource provision for activities and processes to address these issues in your CDT to ensure they can be embedded. However, we are not asking for these plans to be included in the outline or full proposals. Instead, to reduce the burden of proposal development and assessment and to enable CDTs to work together in collaboration rather than in competition, we will ask the CDTs selected to be funded to work together with us and experts in the field to develop detailed plans for EPSRC approval.
Facilities and research tools
To carry out cutting edge engineering and physical sciences research, researchers need to be able to access and use a wide range of equipment, facilities and e-infrastructure (software and high performance computing etc.).
CDT students will therefore need to be trained in how to use the essential tools for their research. Students should benefit from the environment and accessibility of infrastructure at CDT hosting institutions and partners. Existing access to the necessary infrastructure is good evidence of the suitability of the bidding institution as a host for the CDT.
If appropriate to their research, students should also have access to large facilities and EPSRC national research facilities.
Find an EPSRC facility or resource.
It is not expected that centres will create bespoke training courses in the use of essential research tools if access to existing courses is available. Funding for students to attend these courses can be included in applications.
EPSRC expects applicants to liaise with the appropriate contacts throughout the development of their application to secure commitment from the facility or trainer. Centres requiring significant interactions with facilities should describe how they will ensure the students receive and excellent grounding in the experimental techniques for their research.
Computational and data-driven research
Alongside experiment and theory computational and data driven research cuts across the whole science and engineering remit, CDTs should consider provision of:
- access to appropriate training on computational and data techniques. This should enable students to confidently undertake such research in a manner that is correct, reproducible and reusable including consideration of data curation and management (this may need to include data protection and regulation)
- for students who are required to adapt, extend, or develop software as part of their research we expect them to be given training in basic programming and software engineering skills, including working collaboratively on code development, testing, automation, and revision control
- centres requiring students to undertake computational research should set out a programme of training, tailored to meet the needs of the centre students, and explain how this training will be provided. There is a significant amount of training available and centres should contact potential providers, as they may be able either to provide the training required, or to help with ‘training the trainers’ so that material can be delivered locally and at the most appropriate time
Computational research training would be expected to include at least one of the following:
- fundamentals of computing
- basic data analysis
- numerical analysis and algorithm development
- how to apply computational techniques and data analytics as research tools, in particular the design of experiments and the interpretation of results
- targeted training in applying and using the standard codes for the particular research area of the CDT
- matching problems with available and new hardware (desktop, cloud, high performance computing, graphics processing units etc.) and scaling up beyond the desktop
Up to £324 million funding is available for this opportunity. Once indexation is applied to successful awards, we expect this to support approximately 40 CDTs.
Funding will be available from AHRC and MRC for successful interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary CDTs with research in their remits and aligned with their strategic delivery plans. Funding may also be available from other research councils for interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary CDTs.
EPSRC’s contribution to eligible costs will be funded at 100%. Estates and indirect costs will not be funded on these awards.
The duration of the grant should be no more than 102 months (8.5 years) or the equivalent if students are part-time, to cover a maximum of 5 cohorts of 4-year studentships and to include initial preparation time.
Costs that may be requested from EPSRC include:
- studentship costs (fees, stipends and appropriate research training support (RTSG)) for the equivalent of 40 students over 5 cohorts. This can be used flexibly but must support individual students at a minimum of 50% of their studentship costs. Additional support must be provided from non-UKRI sources to achieve the minimum required student numbers (50 students). RTSG covers items such as travel and consumables
- tuition fees and stipend above the minimum rates published by UKRI. However, EPSRC will not cover additional college fees. Fees charged to UKRI cannot be higher than the fee charged by the university for home non-research council funded students on similar programmes. For further details check the international eligibility implementation guidance (PDF, 195KB)
- stipend enhancement should be justified in the context of the area of training and UK skills need
- centre delivery, coordination (including between a centre and other parties if justified) and management staff costs can be requested. Costs associated with student supervision may not be included
- start-up costs will only be paid for new centres. Existing centres will already have the necessary infrastructure in place and will have carried out much of the preparatory work required for a successful CDT
All costs (including stipends and fees) requested in applications should be calculated at current rates with no addition made to consider inflation over the length of the funding period. EPSRC will include all allowance for this indexation at the final funding stage.
Costs should not be included to support students outside the CDT cohorts who are part of the centre but supported by funding from other sources (aligned students). Where a central cost is incurred by the CDT (for example in developing a new training course principally for the CDT students) these ‘aligned ‘students can benefit. However, additional ‘per student’ costs such as conference fees, facility access fees, travel, and subsistence for these students should not be included. UKRI expects such support to be provided from the source of the student’s support for example, the Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) or an industrial sponsorship award.
Further guidance on costing CDTs is available in the ‘Supporting information section of this funding finder page.
Additional information form (XLSX, 21KB)
Additional support and leverage
Applicants are required to leverage cash support from non UKRI sources. Leverage must include:
- a minimum 20% cash contribution towards the total studentship costs (stipends, fees, and research training support grant) from non-UKRI sources. EPSRC will contribute no more than the studentship costs equivalent to 40 students
- this additional support must include the fee (equivalent to 10 students’ fees for four years and stipend costs (equivalent to 10 students’ stipend for four years). It cannot be solely for RTSG
- the leverage will normally be achieved through support from the applying institutions and/or collaborators and project partners
- applicants can use the additional studentship costs flexibly. This could be by providing full support for some studentships annually within a 10-student cohort or spreading the funding to partially support all the students in the cohort
Additional cash and appropriate in-kind leverage appropriate to the CDT is expected in many cases and is particularly important for the user need and/or supporting civic priorities focus area.
Leverage may be staggered (ramped up over time, but the average must still come to at least the minimum requirement) if:
- it is a new centre
- an innovative training model
- an emerging science area or challenge where there is a need to build capacity
Even if successful at the outline stage, applications will be rejected at later stages if it is found that these minimum leverage requirements have not been met. To ensure that CDTs support at least 50 students over their lifetime, institutions must underwrite the minimum cash support needed, over and above the funding sought from EPSRC, to deliver these, irrespective of the proposed source.
Ministry of Defence (MOD) funding
The MOD is offering to fully support a CDT seeking transformational developments and training in interdisciplinary research that will uniquely and profoundly take forward the Defence and Security of the UK in the 25 year timeframe. More details on support from the MOD will be provided at the full proposal stage. See the additional information section for further details.
Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this funding opportunity. At the full proposal stage, smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Other Costs’ heading.
EPSRC approach to equipment funding.
Where possible researchers are asked to make use of existing facilities and equipment, including those hosted at other universities.
Investigators and supervision
The investigators named on the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system application form should represent the core management team of the centre. We would generally expect no more than 10 investigators to be named. A strong justification will need to be provided for a larger core management team. Any requested funding for investigator time should reflect commitments to centre delivery and should not include individual student supervision related to research projects.
Applications will need to provide evidence of a suitable pool of potential supervisors, taking into account the interdisciplinary focus of the CDT. You should not record supervisors on the Je-S application form.
We also welcome CDT proposals which include elements of international engagement where they add value to the proposed centre. Support requested might include travel, subsistence and consumable costs for UK-based students undertaking training or research visits to overseas centres of excellence (including student exchange programmes) or for leading researchers to visit the UK to contribute to the students’ training experience.
Where a formal, joint training partnership is proposed, the UK component must be able to stand on its own merits. Students registered at international institutions will not count towards the minimum cohorts, nor will the additional funding count towards the minimum additional support requirements of the funding opportunity.
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.
Further information on EPSRC’s work around international engagement and partnerships can be found on our international funding pages.
UKRI-Research Council of Norway (RCN)
The UKRI-RCN Money Follow Cooperation Agreement does not apply to this funding opportunity. As such CDT grants cannot include a Norway-based co-investigator.