Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training

Only applications assessed and invited following the outline stage of the EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) assessment process are welcome.

There should not be substantive changes from the centre described at the outline stage. All other applications will be rejected.

Apply for funding for CDTs to deliver high quality, cohort-based doctoral education.

EPSRC expects to commit up to £324 million to support around 40 CDTs across the EPSRC landscape along with funding from The Ministry of Defence and potentially from other UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) councils.

In line with the previously published outline funding opportunity this web page has been updated with details of those outline proposals invited to submit a full proposal to the EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training funding opportunity, see the ‘Supporting documents’ for details.

Who can apply

Organisational eligibility

Eligible are those approved by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) at the time the opportunity opens.

Eligibility as an organisation

Applications are welcome from eligible organisations who can demonstrate the ability to host a CDT in a world-leading research training environment. Applications must be led by a research degree awarding body.

Given the scale of CDTs, the organisation or collaboration applying must include a critical mass of supervisors with internationally recognised research excellence, and a proven track record of doctoral supervision.

Individual eligibility

The principal investigator must be from the lead organisation for the application and satisfy the standard EPSRC eligibility criteria.

Check if you’re eligible for funding

Organisations where staff are eligible to participate as co-investigators are those approved by UKRI at the time the opportunity opens.

We also welcome as co-investigators, research technical professionals and professional research and investment strategy managers who are integral to developing the CDT bid.

Building on the Technician Commitment Action Plan, research technical professionals and research software engineers are also eligible as named co-investigators where they are resourced from the central funds of an institution and have a range of responsibilities and duties comparable to someone with substantial research experience.

Collaborative bids and international involvement

Applications are welcomed from both single and multi-institutional teams. Collaborations with non-academic project partners are expected where appropriate for the focus of the centre.

In assembling the centre team, applicants must consider what is most beneficial to deliver the centre vision, research environment, and training provision being proposed.

We also welcome CDT proposals which include elements of international engagement where they add value to the proposed centre. Clear plans for engaging with new and existing collaborators over the duration of the CDT should be set out in the proposal.

New and existing centres

Applications to refresh existing centres and those to support new centres will be considered together. They will be assessed using the same assessment process and criteria. Existing centres are expected to use their achievements and learning to support their proposal and must demonstrate the added value of further investment.

We will not set any expectation on the number of existing or new centres that will be supported. We will not provide peer reviewers with any further information about existing centres beyond that included in applications.

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.

What we're looking for

Scope

In line with the preceding outline stage of this funding opportunity applications must:

  • be centred 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
  • support at least 50 students across five cohorts over the duration of the funding period
  • Include non-UKRI cash contributions at least equivalent to 20% of studentships costs.

These conditions were assessed at the outline stage, but due to the limited information that could be provided in the outlines, we reserve the right to reject applications if these conditions are not met when we see the detail in the full proposal.

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

Beyond the minimum requirements, we expect many CDTs to seek further 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 three discovery and four mission-inspired strategic priorities, and to regional, national and global drivers and opportunities as detailed in the EPSRC strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025.

All applications, irrespective of focus area selected must address at least one of the seven EPSRC strategic priorities, summarised as follows. They are described in more detail in EPSRC’s strategic delivery plan.

Applications may cover more than one strategic priority, but applicants will again need to select the most appropriate strategic priority in the supplementary information form. The three priorities addressing discovery research are:

  • physical and mathematical sciences powerhouse
  • frontiers in engineering and technology
  • digital futures

The four priorities delivering mission-inspired research are:

  • engineering net zero
  • artificial intelligence, digitalisation and data: driving value and security
  • transforming health and healthcare
  • quantum technologies

At outline stage, we stated that proposals focused on the applications and implications of novel and existing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies were out of scope, and should instead have been submitted to the UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training in artificial intelligence funding opportunity. You will already have been informed if UKRI has moved a proposal between these funding opportunities, but this restriction on scope remains for this second stage.

The doctoral education delivered by the CDTs should provide:

  • the support for five student cohorts, with an average cohort size of ten doctoral students per academic year, on a four-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 each student’s doctoral training programme. Students may also work as a cohort to address research challenges
  • a diverse and inclusive research environment to support people in achieving world class research
  • 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. 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 four-year funded period or equivalent
  • 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
  • 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. EPSRC has no specific guidance on what constitutes a formal assessable programme, and research organisations can design these in line with their existing policies and practices
  • 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, health technologies, engineering net zero and quantum technologies, we expect CDTs to introduce systems thinking to develop the expertise 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 mandatory, primarily independent advisory board, to provide external challenge on CDT strategy, stakeholder engagement and delivery

Focus Areas

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.

Applications should be submitted into one of the three focus areas detailed as follows:

  • meeting a user-need or supporting civic priorities
  • delivering an EPSRC research priority
  • supporting an innovative approach to CDT delivery

We expect that the choice of focus area will be the same as at the outline stage. Changes will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances and with the prior agreement of EPSRC. Exceptional circumstances could include:

  • specific feedback from the outline stage panel
  • significant changes in project partner involvement or contributions

Meeting a user-need or supporting civic priorities

Users refers to users of research, or to people skilled in research, in business or more widely in other organisations including government and the third sector. Examples (non-exhaustive) of users:

  • universities
  • businesses
  • 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 considered 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 regional 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. In many applications for this focus area, we expect to see significant additional cash and added value in-kind contributions in the range of 40 to 50% of the CDT cost.

However, the level of cash and in-kind contributions and model of engagement should 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. Further details are in the additional support and leverage section below.

Delivering an EPSRC research priority

The EPSRC strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025 has seven scientific strategic priorities, outlined previously. 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.

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.

Funding Available

Up to £324 million funding is available for this funding opportunity. Once indexation is applied to successful awards, we expect this to support approximately 40 CDTs. At the full proposal stage accurate costings are required for applications. We are not applying the standard +/- 10% change in costs rule between outline and full proposal stages. However, we do not expect to see a significant change from the level of funds requested from EPSRC at the outline stage.

Additional funding may be available from AHRC, MRC and BBSRC for successful interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary CDTs with research in their remits and aligned with their strategic delivery plans. BBSRC is especially interested in funding CDTs in engineering biology. Funding may also be available from other research councils for interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary CDTs.

The Ministry of Defence is also 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.

The Ministry of Defence will review the published outline proposal summaries of the invited applicants and will indicate to EPSRC which proposals are potentially within their remit. We will contact those applicants separately to ask if they wish to opt in to be considered for this funding. Note: The Ministry of Defence funding will have additional security and eligibility requirements, summarised in the additional information section.

The following information about eligible costs and the assessment process applies equally regardless of whether a CDT will be funded by EPSRC, another UKRI council or the Ministry of Defence.

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 five cohorts of four-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 five cohorts. This can be used flexibly but must support individual students at a minimum of 50% of their studentship costs. Examples of funding models can be found in the Additional Info section of this web page. Additional support must be provided from non-UKRI sources to achieve the minimum required student numbers (50 students). RTSG covers items for individual students such as travel, consumables, and facility access where this is linked to conducting the research of the project, or specialised training such as a summer school only being attended by a student due to their project.
    • tuition fees and stipends. The stipends must be at least at the minimum rates published by UKRI. We will not cover additional college fees. Fees charged to UKRI cannot be higher than the fee charged by the university for home non-funded students on similar programmes. UKRI’s standard cap on international students applies to CDTs: a maximum of 30% of the individuals funded by UKRI per cohort can be international. For further details check the international eligibility implementation guidance (PDF, 195KB)
    • stipend enhancement should be justified in the context of the area of research and 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. Training which forms part of the centre’s cohort training package (for example a course taken by a whole cohort or offered as a module as part of a student’s training package) would be considered a centre delivery cost
  • 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. Existing centres are those currently running and have infrastructure in place. This includes both the 2013 and 2018 CDTs. Existing centres are only able to claim start-up costs in exceptional circumstances where the applicants can justify the costs on the grounds that they could not benefit from the infrastructure or preparatory work of the existing CDT. Please contact EPSRC for specific requests

All costs (including stipends and fees) requested in applications should be calculated at October 2023 rates with no addition made to consider inflation over the length of the funding period. We will include all allowance for this indexation at the final funding stage.

In terms of students not receiving UKRI funding:

  • incorporated students are CDT students receiving non-UKRI, leveraged funds. Centre delivery costs such as core training and CDT cohort activities may be incurred in relation to incorporated students and charged to the grant
  • aligned students are those with an award that is not reliant on CDT funding, but who are nonetheless benefitting from CDT activities. This could include students receiving other UKRI funding, such as a doctoral training partnership. No costs associated with aligned students may be charged to the CDT grant; however where a central cost is incurred by the CDT and there is no added cost related to the aligned students, aligned students can benefit from this.

Equipment

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 expected to make use of existing facilities and equipment, including those hosted at other universities.

Additional support and leverage

You are required to leverage a minimum 20% cash contribution towards the total studentship costs (for a cohort of 50) from non-UKRI sources. This must include the equivalent of a minimum of ten students’ fees, stipend costs and RTSG for four years.

Leverage will normally be achieved through support from the applying organisations or collaborators and project partners.

Applications will be rejected if we judge that the minimum leverage requirements have not been met. Organisations must underwrite the minimum cash support needed, over and above the funding sought from EPSRC, to ensure that CDTs support at least the minimum 50 students over their lifetime, irrespective of the proposed source.

Additional cash and appropriate in-kind leverage appropriate to the CDT is expected in many cases and is particularly important for the user need or supporting civic priorities focus area.

Leverage can be used flexibly. This could be by providing full support for some studentships annually within a ten-student cohort or spreading the funding to partially support all the students in the cohort. It may also be ramped up over time, provided the average meets at least the minimum requirement.

Reviewers and panel members will be asked to form a judgement on the contextual value of both host organisation and project partner contributions, rather than on their monetary value alone, taking into account the research area, sector, organisations, and geographic areas. Our key focus is therefore on the value in terms of why contributions will make a significant difference to the CDT.

Following is a definitive list of what constitutes an eligible cash contribution from host organisations, project partners or other collaborators.

Researchers’ salaries

All or part of the pro rata, gross salary cost associated with researchers employed by universities and providing a significant direct contribution to the CDT (including investigators, teaching-only staff and non-academic staff). This does not include researchers whose role is primarily student supervision. The gross salaries of staff employed by non-academic partners are also eligible as long as they are providing a significant direct contribution to the CDT, again beyond supervision.

Software licenses

New software licences needed for the CDT and their maintenance cost for the duration of the grant. Software licences or intellectual property (IP) owned by a non-academic partner which are already accessible by the partners will apply at marginal cost, not at market rate.

New equipment, either at the host institution or produced by a non-academic partner

To be eligible, the equipment should be dedicated to the objectives of the CDT and use should be critical to deliver the activity.

The access doesn’t have to be restricted to CDT students, but EPSRC expect at least 50% of the time to be dedicated to the CDT. All equipment should be appropriately justified.

Equipment produced by a non-academic partner should only be at the cost of manufacture, not market rate.

Access to equipment and facilities

Access to specific equipment and facilities critical to delivering the CDT. If the facility is based at an academic or non-academic partner, the contribution will be at the internal rate, not market rate.

Facilities refurbishment

Facilities refurbishment can be an eligible research organisation cash contribution if the upgrade will increase the capability of the facilities and provide clear direct benefit to the CDT. This contribution must be justified in addition to any estate costs already factored in.

Business or other non-academic partner cash donation

Cash donations which will be provided to the partner universities, for the universities to manage in line with the CDT objectives.

Studentship costs – top-ups or fully-funded

Any contributions to student fees, stipends or RTSG, with two exceptions:

  • research organisations cannot count college fees or waiving any difference between home and international fees
  • where students will continue to be employed by a project partner during their doctoral study, and their salary is significantly higher than the stipend paid to other CDT students, only the value of the stipend paid to other CDT students will count as a cash contribution. The difference between the salary and the stipend level will count as an in-kind contribution.

Training

Training provided by a non-academic partner for CDT students, at marginal cost, not at market rate.

Any contribution not listed previously but still contributing to the CDT would count as in-kind. Examples (non-exhaustive) of added-value in-kind contributions include:

  • additional training for students
  • staff time, travel or subsistence for staff not directly/significantly involved in the CDT
  • new equipment not directly related to the CDT, or loan or use of existing equipment or facilities
  • provision of data

User engagement

We encourage user co-creation and engagement across the entirety of its doctoral training portfolio.

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.

Additional plans from successful centres

All CDTs are expected to implement and promote a culture and ethos of responsible research and innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, trusted research and support for student wellbeing. CDTs should embed this thinking to the highest standard in all they do through the design and operation of their CDT. CDTs must also provide appropriate training for their students and, where not covered already, for other centre participants.

Successful applications will be required to develop detailed plans and processes for the following essential elements to ensure these can be embedded in your CDT:

  • equality, diversity and inclusion
  • responsible research and innovation
  • trusted research
  • environmental sustainability
  • student support and wellbeing

These plans will not be assessed at this stage and are not required in the case for support. 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.

You are encouraged to include an estimate of costs to deliver these plans. The EPSRC CDT full proposal stage supplementary information document in the additional info section at the bottom of this web page provides more details on these areas.

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 ten 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.

Supervisors not part of the core management team should not be recorded on the Je-S application form.

International collaboration

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 the National Protective Security Agency website guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration while 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.

How to apply

This funding opportunity forms the second half of a two-stage assessment process. An outline stage has already been held. Applications will only be accepted from those who were successful at the outline stage and have been invited to submit a full proposal.

There should not be substantive changes from the centre described at the outline stage, unless agreed in advance of submission by EPSRC. All other applications will be rejected.

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

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least seven working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training.

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Centres For Doctoral Training
  • call/type/mode: EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training 2023 Full Proposals

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

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

Deadline

EPSRC must receive your application by 12 September 2023 at 4:00PM.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

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

Je-S application form

  • all names of centres must be prefixed by “EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in”
  • the summary section must contain an accessible overview of the research area of the centre, the need for doctoral scientists or engineers the centre will produce, and the proposed approach to provide this training
  • the duration of the grant should normally be 102 months with a start date between 1 April 2024 and 1 October 2024
  • under the ‘related grants’ section please include the grant reference number (EP/Y……/1) of your successful outline proposal
  • Je-S funding tables
    • the UKRI contribution will be paid at 100% for all eligible costs. The total UKRI contribution to the centre being sought must not be significantly higher than that requested in the outline application
    • details of how to complete the Je-S funding tables are provided in the EPSRC CDT full proposal stage supplementary information document in the Additional Info section at the bottom of this page
    • total contributions from project partners should be completed with breakdowns for in-kind and cash contributions as appropriate. In-kind and cash contributions must be quantified (not £1 or £0) and must match the value in the letter of support
    • the funding requested from EPSRC and project partner contributions should match the values provided in the supplementary information form
    • only the core centre management staff should be listed on the Je-S form. Details on the potential pool of supervisors should be included in the Case for Support, not the Je-S form
      • no more than ten investigators should 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
      • the names of three nominated reviewers should be included, at least one of these should be international (preferably more if possible)
      • use the most appropriate discipline classification for routing the proposal, recognising that they may not map on to the EPSRC strategic priorities

Attachments

Formatting and attachment guidance

All attachments must be completed in single-spaced typescript in Arial 11 or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size, with margins of at least 2cm. Arial narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types.

Text in embedded diagrams or pictures, numerical formulae or references can be smaller, as long as it is legible. Text in tables and figure labels not within embedded diagrams or pictures should be at least 11 point.

We recommend that all attachments are uploaded into Je-S as Adobe Acrobat files (PDF) as uploading word documents can result in layout changes to the document. Also, as Je-S does not support all Microsoft Office Word font types, unsupported fonts will be replaced, possibly resulting in layout changes to the document.

Converting to PDF can alter the formatting and result in layout changes: for example, converting from LaTeX to PDF can add small serifs or alter font size. You should ensure documents converted to PDF still meet the formatting guidelines outlined before submission.

We will reject all proposals which do not conform to these formatting rules.

Your application may also include the following attachments.

Cover letter – ‘proposal cover letter’ document type, max. 1 side A4 (optional)

This letter will not be sent to peer review and should be used to flag any of the following to EPSRC:

  • any personal circumstances or reasonable adjustments that we may need to consider in advance of the interview
  • anything that has been discussed and agreed with EPSRC staff beforehand
  • declarations of conflicts of interest for us to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the track record
  • planned leave (including parental leave) that may impact on ability to submit a principal investigator response, attend interviews, or otherwise respond to queries
  • any costs duplicated across multiple proposals
  • any other information that is relevant to your application

For sensitive information the applicant should state clearly whether the information is confidential.

Case for Support – ‘case for support’ document type, max. 12 sides A4 (mandatory)

You should use the case for support to address the assessment criteria for the full proposal stage. In addition to the four core assessment criteria, each focus area also has a dedicated assessment criterion.

While there is no template, the case for support must address the scope for a CDT and the assessment criteria. Please start with a brief summary of your vision for the CDT drawn from your outline submission. The assessment criteria listed here are set out in more detail in the section on how we will assess your application:

  • quality
  • importance
  • appropriate partnerships and engagement
  • resources, management and governance
  • fit to applicant selected focus area for this CDT opportunity:
    • meeting a user-need or supporting civic priorities
    • delivering an EPSRC research priority
    • supporting an innovative approach to CDT delivery:

Supplementary Information Form – ‘additional document’ type, max. 1 side A4 (mandatory)

In addition to the Je-S funding tables, this supplementary Information form must be completed for each CDT and submitted with your application. The form covers financial information as well as the focus area, EPSRC strategic priority and geographic balance of students.

A template for the form and details of how to complete this can be found in the supporting documents section of this page.

As this will be submitted through Je-S as a PDF applicants are requested to also email an Excel copy of the completed document to students@epsrc.ukri.org with the subject ‘Supplementary Information Form EPSRC CDT full proposal EP/Y……/1’ by 13 Sept 2023 at 4:00pm UK time. The grant reference in the subject line should be for the full proposal, not the outline proposal.

Justification of Resources (JoR) – ‘justification of resources’ document type, max. 2 sides A4 (mandatory)

This document should explain why the resources you are requesting are required to help reviewers make an informed judgement about whether the resources requested are appropriate for delivering the CDT described in the application. We reserve the right to remove any unjustified or ineligible costs included in applications to be funded.

Statement of Support from the institution(s) – document type ‘host organisational statement’

You should submit one letter, signed and on headed paper, from each university/organisation involved in the centre. For multi-institutional bids all letters should be combined into one document for submission. Letters should detail:

  • the alignment of the centre to the institution’s strategy and evidence of strategic investment by the institution
  • confirmation of the underwriting of the minimum leverage (to achieve support of 50 students across five cohorts)
  • the institution’s commitment to the centre for the lifetime of the award and beyond; this should reference the provision of appropriate and timely support for the principal investigator from core university functions essential to its operation but not directly funded by the CDT, for example contracts, finance, postgraduate admissions office
  • organisations invited to submit multiple bids must also detail the management approaches they will put in place to coordinate and support multiple centres if they are successful, and how they will share resources and best practice, and get best value from the multiple centres at their institution. Institutions can reuse content across all its host organisation support letters
  • details on how the centre will approach supporting a diverse population of students
  • the signatory should hold a sufficiently senior position to authorise the commitments detailed on behalf of the organisation

Statement of Support from all project partners – document type ‘project partner letter of support’

Each centre application must provide a statement of support from each project partner (or cluster of users if this is more appropriate) involved in the co-creation and co-design of the centre. The statement must:

  • outline the benefits the project partner hopes to achieve from its participation in the centre
  • explain how their involvement enhances the quality of the centre and the training provided, and where appropriate, how they are engaged in current doctoral training provision
  • demonstrate how the partner’s involvement will take place and detail how they have been involved in the development of the bid
  • include an indication of the level and nature of resource they are willing to put into the centre (Note: this should be reflected in the in-kind and cash contributions detailed on the Je-S application form)
  • all statements of support should be signed, dated, with dates within six months of the opportunity closing date, and on letter headed paper
  • the signatory should hold a sufficiently senior position to authorise the commitments detailed on behalf of the organisation

Only statements of support from partners specifically contributing to the centre in some way should be included. Letters expressing general support for an area, or the centre will not be accepted. We do not require letters confirming membership of a CDT advisory board.

Where a partner cannot be formally recorded as a project partner due to financially benefiting from the grant, the specific contributions of these partners can be captured using the ‘letter of support’ document type. A maximum of three such letter are allowed. These letters should follow the same guidance as for project partner letters of support.

Facilities – optional document type ‘technical assessment’

Applicants requesting access costs or time units in Je-S for facilities must provide a technical assessment reflecting these costs and time allocation. Costs for this access will be provided directly to the facility. For STFC large-scale facilities (CLF, Diamond, ESRF, ILL and ISIS) which are free at the point of access, enter “0” for cost, units and proposed usage (a technical assessment is not needed in these cases).

For facilities not listed, costs can be included in the training grant cost headings and detailed in the justification of resources. The grant holder will be responsible for paying the facility. A letter of support (‘letter of support’ attachment type) from the facility should be included in the application reflecting the costs requested. They should not be recorded as a project partner.

For the National Research Facilities (with the exception of the National Epitaxy Facility), please do not select the facility from the list on Je-S as the access costs will not be provided directly to the facility. Include costs in the training grant heading as for non-listed facilities and include a ‘letter of support’ as described above. Details of the NRFs can be found on the facilities and resources page.

Ethical information

EPSRC will not fund a project if we believe 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.

Guidance for project partners

Applications will need to detail the co-creation of the bid by significant partners (within and between organisations, and with project partners as appropriate) as part of the case for support.

Project partner commitments should also be detailed on the Je-S form and reflected in statements of support from each partner. Guidance on what to include in a statement is provided above in the attachments section.

Statements of support from partners can provide valuable evidence to assessors of the value of a CDT and the skills developed to the long-term prosperity of the UK. It also adds to the evidence in the rest of the application demonstrating how the CDT addresses the assessment criteria. Partners are encouraged to consider what evidence they can provide to aid the CDT application, and to include this in their statement of support.

There are several ways partners can engage with centres. Examples of cash contributions are provided in the additional support and leverage section. However, partners can also provide wider in-kind support, including:

  • helping to shape the centre vision, training approach or both
  • site visits
  • lecturing
  • student supervision
  • responsible innovation training or awareness
  • summer schools
  • facility access
  • equipment loans or donations

If you commit to being a project partner at application stage on more than one proposal and those CDTs are successful, then it is expected that all partnerships will be committed to.

How we will assess your application

Full proposals will undergo internal checks by EPSRC staff to ensure they meet the opportunity requirements. They will then undergo individual peer review, where they will be assessed by relevant experts, identified by us, we will score the proposal against the published assessment criteria and provide comments.

You are asked to nominate three reviewers from different organisations with the expertise to review the proposal. We usually select one of the nominations as a reviewer (although this isn’t always possible if we identify a conflict of interest or if your nominated reviewers are unavailable). You will receive a copy of the reviewer comments and be given the opportunity to provide a written response. We reserve the right to reject proposals at this stage if reviews are unsupportive.

There is a fixed window for the written response, and we are aware that this cuts across half term for some parts of the country. This is unavoidable as a result of extending the windows for preparing both outline and full proposals, and to ensure applicants receive a decision in good time to recruit for autumn 2024. Please raise any issues with availability in your cover letter.

If reviews are supportive, you will be invited to attend an interview panel provisionally planned to be held between 21 – 23 November 2023 subject to venue availability, and we will aim to communicate with applicants as soon as possible. This is likely to be held in-person; however full logistical details and guidance for applicants will be provided to principal investigators in advance.

Interview panel members will be drawn from the academic and user base communities within the UK and internationally, from disciplines and sectors across EPSRC’s remit and more widely when appropriate for the proposals being considered. The panel will be provided with details of your full proposal, the reviews and your written response to the reviews in advance of the panel.

Up to three people from the CDT team may attend the interview and this would normally include the principal investigator. At the interview, you will be asked to give a short pitch (without slides) of your CDT vision and strategy, followed by a question-and-answer session with the panel members. The panel will then score your application against the assessment criteria, using evidence from the proposal, reviews, written response to reviews and the interview.

Proposals will be ranked into bands of proposals of similar quality. Proposals will be tensioned across the various panel meeting lists to ensure panel outcomes are of similar quality.

Following the panels, we will consider the balance of applications alongside the panel outcomes, as described in the Portfolio Balancing section. While considering the balance, we may decide to progress an application banded or ranked lower than another providing a quality threshold is met.

Full proposal assessment criteria

Quality

  • demonstrates appropriate research experience, expertise and facilities in the applicant team, contributing to an excellent research environment
  • demonstrates a high-quality defined research training programme, delivering the benefits of cohort training, including broader training and experience beyond doctoral research

Importance

  • evidence of the scale of demand for proposed doctoral education from potential students
  • evidence of future employment capacity and opportunities

Appropriate partnerships and engagement

  • demonstrates the importance, role and value of proposed partnerships, as appropriate for the CDT and partners involved, to enhance the quality of research and training experience
  • demonstrates effective cash or in-kind contributions as appropriate for the CDT and partners involved, with plans to maximise these contributions to support student research and training aligned to partners’ strategic needs
  • demonstrates the quality and effectiveness of strategy and approach to sustain, maximise, and evolve partnership development over the lifetime of the centre

Resources, management and governance to deliver the CDT vision:

  • evidence of leadership and management expertise to lead a large, complex investment with appropriate resources to run the proposed centre
  • demonstrates effective governance and advisory structures to deliver the CDT vision, quality assurance of research training and student support, delivery of value for money: evidence that the resources sought from UKRI are fully justified and represent value for money in delivering the CDT vision

Fit to applicant selected focus area for this CDT opportunity:

Applications will be assessed against the assessment criteria associated with their selected focus area. These include:

meeting a user-need or supporting civic priorities:
  • evidence that the CDT has been co-created and will be co-delivered with business, civic or other user organisations, aligned to those stakeholders’ strategic needs
  • evidence of convening an appropriate representation of business, civic or other user organisations and appropriate leverage from them, to ensure that research training aligns to stakeholder needs, and can be adaptive to these changing needs throughout the CDT
delivering an EPSRC research priority:
  • evidence of exciting research training that delivers against at least one of EPSRC’s seven strategic delivery plan priorities
  • demonstrates why a cohort approach would represent an outstanding opportunity for students to work and learn together to progress the chosen research area
supporting an innovative approach to CDT delivery:
  • evidence of the need for the new model, and how this clearly differs from current practice in the landscape
  • evidence of the expected outcomes, gaps and barriers addressed by the proposed model, and how these will be delivered

EDI, responsible research and innovation, support for student wellbeing, trusted research, and environmental sustainability will not be assessed at this stage. CDTs selected for funding will be asked to work together to develop plans for activities in these areas for EPSRC approval.

Portfolio balancing

Like at outline proposals stage, the EPSRC Science, Engineering and Technology Board (SETB), with additional input as required, will provide advice on the selection of a balanced CDT portfolio from the highest quality proposals. The final funding decisions will be made by EPSRC.

There are no specific quotas for the portfolio balancing, and the panel outcomes will be the primary determiner of funding decisions. However, EPSRC has considered portfolio balance when selecting which outline proposals to invite as full proposals, and we will consider portfolio balance again in the final funding decisions.

The process of considering the portfolio balance will start by using the three focus areas set out in the scope (meeting a user-need or supporting civic priorities, delivering an EPSRC research priority or supporting an innovative approach to CDT delivery).

SETB will then consider the distribution over:

  • the seven scientific priority areas in the EPSRC strategic delivery plan
  • the balance within each individual delivery plan priority area
  • geographic distribution (based on the anticipated location of students)
  • other landscape diversity, if needed, such as the balance of organisations and sectors

As part of portfolio balancing, we will also consider how to maximise the funding available, including contributions from other UKRI councils, the Ministry of Defence and project partners.

Feedback

We expect to contact applicants with the outcome by 15 December 2023.

Feedback on the full proposals will be in the form of reviewers’ comments which will be shared with the applicants prior to the interview panels. Additional feedback may also be provided by the interview panel. This will accompany results notifications where possible.

Confidentiality

The content of applications will only be shared with UKRI staff, peer reviewers and panel members. Summary information on the portfolio will be shared with EPSRC’s Science, Engineering and Technology Board, as detailed in the portfolio balancing section. Where applicants have ‘opted in’ for consideration of Ministry of Defence funding, applications may also be shared with the Ministry of Defence and its executive agencies. Further details will be provided to applicants who opt in.

Outcomes will be shared through EPSRC’s public facing investment information systems such as the Grants on the Web (GoW) database and UKRI’s Gateway to Research.

For successful proposals, information on the named investigators, organisations, project partners, and Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system summary section will be published. Other application content and assessment material will be confidential.

GoW will display the results of the full proposal selection. For unsuccessful grants, the only information that will be shared is the grant reference number and its rank. The content and assessment of unsuccessful proposals will be confidential, including details of the organisations and applicants involved.

Where the panel requests for an applicant to receive feedback, this will only be shared with the applicants and the organisations involved.

More information can be found in the UKRI privacy notice.

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

EPSRC Studentships team

Email: students@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

In May 2022 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced that we will transition to working in a collective manner across our £2 billion of talent initiatives covering studentships and fellowships. While we work to develop our approach to collective talent investments, we are continuing with planned funding opportunities.

Through this funding opportunity, we will support centres of excellence in research and doctoral training. Applications must be centred within EPSRC’s research and training remit but interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary CDTs extending more widely across the breadth of UKRI are welcome.

These centres will deliver the next generation of internationally recognised doctoral researchers to meet the needs of academia, industry and other employers.

In particular EPSRC aims to:

  • fund a balanced portfolio of CDTs that are aligned to identified skills required for the UK in the engineering and physical sciences, in partnership with others including other research councils
  • ensure a forward-looking, ambitious portfolio of research training which makes a positive difference for the UK
  • produce highly skilled and talented researchers, and future leaders, by funding world leading innovative centres that are aligned to major research strengths
  • support high quality doctoral research training environments led by robust leadership teams to train internationally competitive doctoral students through a cohort training approach
  • secure leverage in order to maximise the benefit of public funds

This funding opportunity is an important aspect of EPSRC’s strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025 where we have outlined a commitment to providing the research and skills training that will be integral to addressing the challenges highlighted in the UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027. We have focused our strategic delivery plans in three areas:

  • discovery-led research: reaffirming our commitment to the core disciplines of engineering and physical sciences
  • mission-driven priorities: driving the translation of breakthroughs in engineering and physical sciences research through to social and economic benefit in net zero, artificial intelligence (AI), digitalisation and data; transforming health and healthcare; and quantum technologies
  • maintaining an effective ecosystem for engineering and physical sciences: providing the skills training, partnerships, places and infrastructure required by our community to deliver their ambition

We currently provide support for doctoral training through three funding programmes:

  • Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT)
  • Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)
  • Industrial Case Studentships (ICASE)

The three routes are complementary, and we anticipate that much of the need for doctoral students will continue to be met by the DTP and ICASE.

Ministry of Defence (MOD) additional information

The Ministry of Defence is seeking 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.

The successful CDT will require multi-disciplinary and potentially multi-institutional components and need to be positioned where relevant anticipated breakthroughs will occur across the science and technology (S&T) landscape. This may lead to consideration of areas of or an approach that stimulates embryonic technological convergence and emergence, as well as to develop or exploit an understanding of these processes by taking a systems perspective.

The training element may consider alongside technical elements, components relating to:

  • geo-political and socio-technical factors shaping the technology of the future and their relevance in plausible future worlds
  • defence and security policy
  • the tools required to explore and assess such an uncertain, complex and dynamic scenario
  • specific strands of S&T convergence that will create the reality of the future

Additional security requirements for MOD opportunity

For the MOD supported CDT, all personnel employed on the grant must have undergone basic recruitment checks in keeping with the core principles of the UK government’s Baseline Personnel Security Standard screening (BPSS).

Additionally, participation of non-UK nationals, students or researchers and their supervisors in MOD funded research must be authorised by MOD prior to submission of the application outline as in some circumstances additional security screening may be required.

Grant additional conditions

Training grants are awarded under the standard UKRI training grant terms and conditions.

EPSRC reserves the right to modify or include additional conditions before grants are awarded.

Grant additional conditions will include but are not limited to:

  • naming, branding and publicity
  • project officer appointment
  • advisory board appointment
  • management structure
  • project review
  • progress reports
  • collaboration agreements
  • part-time students
  • cohort engagement

Worked Funding Model Examples

Please note the following examples are purely illustrative and do not provide the only options available. Any questions regarding funding models please contact students@epsrc.ukri.org

Acceptable examples

Example 1. 50 students, each 80% UKRI funded, 20% host institution funded

Example 2. 57 students, all with 70% UKRI funding, 10% institutional funding, 20% project partner funding

Example 3. 40 students with 100% UKRI funding 8 students with 100% institutional funding 2 students with 100% project partner funding

Example 4. 25 students with 100% UKRI funding 30 students, each with 50% UKRI funding, 20% institutional funding, 30% project partner funding

Example 5. 20 students with 100% UKRI funding 25 students with 80% UKRI funding, 20% project partner funding 5 students with 50% institution funding, 50% project partner funding

Example 6. Page 25 of 25 80 students 50% UKRI funding, 20% institutional funding, 30% project partner funding 20 students 50% institution funding, 50% project partner funding

Examples that would not be acceptable

Example 1. 60 students, each with 70% UKRI funding, 30% project partner funding Reason: equivalent of >40 studentships requested from UKRI (in this case, equivalent of 42)

Example 2. 32 students with 100% UKRI funding 20 students, each with 40% UKRI funding, 20% institutional funding, 40% project partner funding Reason: there are UKRI-funded students that are not >= 50% UKRI funded

Example 3. 25 students with 100% UKRI funding 20 students with 50% UKRI funding, 50% project partner funding Reason: failure to meet minimum cohort size of 50 total student

Supporting documents

Supplementary Information form template (XLSX, 27KB)

EPSRC CDT Supplementary Information form guidance (PDF, 247KB)

Equality Impact Assessment Form (DOCX, 73KB)

EPSRC CDT outline stage (PDF, 390KB)

Outline proposals invited to submit a full proposal (PDF, 781KB)

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training webinar slides (PDF, 2MB)

Questions and answers from the webinar (PDF, 173KB)

Updates

  • 25 July 2023
    Added 'Questions and answers from the webinar' document and updated the 'Supplementary information form template' document in the 'Additional info' section.
  • 23 June 2023
    EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training webinar slides added in 'Additional info' section.

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