Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: EPSRC Quantum Technology Research Hubs: outline stage

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Apply for funding for EPSRC Quantum Technology (QT) Research Hubs.

This EPSRC investment aims to support up to 5 QT Research Hubs.

QT Research Hubs will act as UK centres of excellence in cutting edge quantum technologies research with the aim of building a wider technology and innovation ecosystem.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

The funding can be from £15 million to £19.5 million (80% full economic cost) per QT Research Hub.

Funding will be for up to 60 months.

The latest start date will be 1 December 2024.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • eligible research and technology organisations
  • 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 1 of the following conditions:

  • 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 the outline stage of this funding opportunity will not count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy. Unsuccessful full proposals will count towards this policy.

You may only submit 1 outline proposal as a principal investigator. You can be a co-investigator on more than 1 outline submission.

There will not be a limit on the number of applications that project partners or eligible institutions can partner on.

Only 1 application form should be submitted per bid.

What we're looking for

Scope

The QT Research Hubs will be expected to act as UK centres of excellence in cutting edge quantum technologies research. They will bring together teams of multidisciplinary academic researchers; thereby developing the next generation of quantum technology researchers, academic leaders and entrepreneurs.

They will act as a focus for industry, government and other stakeholder involvement in QT research, supporting a vibrant technology innovation ecosystem and fostering links with appropriate quantum, infrastructure and fabrication facilities.

The aim of this funding opportunity is to fund a portfolio of QT Research Hubs that cover the following scope areas. We intend to make at least 1 award in each of these areas. Applications will therefore be expected to address 1 of the scope areas described. Applications will need to address the majority of the scope bullet points to ensure that the vision in that area can be realised with the funding available. Applications may cover more than 1 scope area.

Quantum networks for distributed entanglement

This would cover the areas of quantum communication, computing and sensing and include underpinning technology in control systems, and integration.  Broad research topics to be addressed include:

  • quantum networks at different scales
  • scaling quantum communications
  • distributed quantum computing
  • quantum safe communications

Quantum computing research to improve quantum computing performance

Investments in this scope area would work in collaboration with the National Quantum Computing Centre. Broad research topics to be addressed include:

  • hardware development (qubit performance, noise sources, calibration and control: platform specific and cross platform protocols to be explored)
  • error mitigation and error correction
  • benchmarking, verification, theory and standards
  • development and execution of applications for noisy intermediate scale quantum platforms and fault tolerant platforms
  • community building through multidisciplinary science networks for example integration of high performance computing and quantum computing

Engineering quantum technology devices and components for sensing, imaging, positioning and timing

Broad research topics to be addressed include:

  • quantum systems integration
  • scale up and manufacturability
  • integrated optics
  • hybrid systems
  • working with application domains to understand how to achieve the full potential of quantum components and devices

EPSRC anticipates funding more than 1 QT Research Hub in this area, with no single investment expected to cover its full breadth. Any application should demonstrate a good coverage of the area.

Expectations

In addition, all QT Research Hubs will each be expected to:

  • act as a UK centre of excellence, able to harness existing strengths from across the research landscape, through consortia that bring together researchers and research translators in relevant areas such as:
    • engineering
    • information and communications technology
    • computer science
    • mathematical sciences
    • physics
  • focus on challenges associated with translation of quantum technology to application areas, addressing the scope areas identified
  • include relevant underpinning and enabling science for the scope areas for example materials and components
  • offer visionary leadership, with the ability to collaborate with the other QT Research Hubs and the wider community to champion the area and the UK QT community
  • have significant engagement with industry and other stakeholders, as this is essential to continue to contribute to the development of a quantum technologies industry base in the UK. This includes developing an interface that allows easy engagement for industry and user communities
  • deliver its programme of work in a responsible fashion according to best practice in responsible research and innovation
  • integrate with other relevant UK, UKRI and National Quantum Technology Programme investments where appropriate

Funding available

Research funding is available to support up to 5 QT Research Hubs with a significant budget. The funding can be from £15 million to £19.5 million (80% full economic cost) per QT Research Hub. The duration of the funding will be for up to 60 months.

Proposals should focus on the research programme with some flexibility to take advantage of opportunities for new partnerships or changes in how the area develops. Bids should not include a ringfenced budget for new partnerships as the community will be expected to take advantage of other funding opportunities EPSRC provides.

Although this is not a funding opportunity designed for significant capital expenditure, equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) and up to £400,000 is available through this funding opportunity.

Additional justification of the requirement for individual items of equipment between £10,000 and £400,000, and details of the proposed contribution to the cost of the equipment, must be provided in the justification of resources.

For any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000 (including VAT) a 2-page equipment business case must also be included at the invited full proposal stage.

Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.

EPSRC approach to equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

You are expected to work within the 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

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

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

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.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: QT Research Hub outline Call.

This will populate:

  • council: ‘EPSRC’
  • document type: ‘Outline Proposal’
  • scheme: ‘Outline’
  • call/type/mode: QT Research Hub outline call

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

After completing the application, you must click ‘Submit document’, which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Invited full proposals

If successful at the outline stage, you will be invited to submit a full application. We will send you guidance on completing a full application at this next stage.

The invited full proposal stage of this opportunity is likely to run on The Funding Service our new funding platform, rather than via Je-S.

The Funding Service has a digital form-based format. This means that the exact application requirements and assessment criteria may alter from what is currently published.

Deadline

EPSRC must receive your outline application by 27 April 2023 4:00pm UK time.

If your outline proposal is successful, and you are invited to submit a full proposal, this application must be received by 5 October 2023 4:00pm UK time.

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.

Attachments

Your application must also include the following attachments.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface. EPSRC will not accept any other attachment types under this opportunity.

Read our advice on writing proposals for EPSRC funding.

Outline proposal

Your outline proposal should consist of an application form which includes all the proposed academic and project partners.

Case for support

Up to 8 sides of A4, which should include the following information using the following headings:

Overall vision and ambition

Describe the QT Research Hub’s vision and ambition. This should describe how the scope or scopes will be met resulting in a UK centre of excellence, which creates a major impact in the area.

Track record

Each QT Research Hub must be led by an internationally respected director supported by a multidisciplinary leadership team, who together form a grouping with recognised excellence.

This section must describe the relevant track record of this team in technology research and development. Highlighting previous experience of leading large scale research and technology programmes and, or, examples of strategic research leadership. Provide details of relevant past collaborative work with entrepreneurs, industry and international research groups.

Proposed programme of work

Describe the programme of technology research that will be carried out and the work packages within the programme of work. Describe how the work packages have been prioritised to ensure the scope area is met.

Management plan

Describe the leadership structure and how the programme of work will be managed. Outline how the technology translation process will be managed as part of the overall management structure.

Collaboration and user engagement strategy

Describe how the consortium has engaged with industry and other users of research during the preparation of the proposal.

Outline the plans to develop and execute a strategy for engaging with potential users of the research. A more detailed user engagement strategy, including intellectual property arrangements and statements of support from partners will be requested at the invited full proposal stage.

Project partners will need to be listed on the outline proposal form with an indication of their commitment. Project partner letters of support will not be accepted at the outline stage.

Responsible research and innovation

Briefly outline the approach to responsible research and innovation. Outline any stakeholder and public engagement activities planned, including any partners or professional expertise that may be engaged.

Financial costs

Identify the percentage of time the director and leadership team will be spending on the project on the application form.

The combined director and leadership time charged to the grant for delivery of the QT Research Hub should be approximately 1 full time effort (FTE). The leadership team will be expected to spend 0.2 FTE on responsible research and innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion, succession planning and development of future research leaders.

Time to do research for the leadership team will need to be in addition to this.

Each QT Research Hub will require a minimum of a FTE in each of the following roles:

  • hub manager
  • communications manager
  • business development manager

An estimated level of resource for directly incurred costs should be provided.

CV for the director

Up to 2 sides of A4.

Justification of resources

Up to 2 sides of A4.

All resource and capital costs will need to be justified.

Proposal cover letter

Optional attachment with no page limit and not seen by peer review

This is an optional attachment and will only be seen internally by EPSRC.

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 must be completed.

Guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

How we will assess your application

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

Assessment process

There are 2 stages in the assessment process:

1. Outline proposals

The outline proposals will be considered by an expert outline panel. The panel will base its advice on the submitted outline documentation (Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system form, case for support and accompanying attachments).

EPSRC will decide, based on the advice from the outline panel whether proposals are invited to the full stage. All successful outline applicants will be provided with feedback on their outline QT Research Hub bid and invited to submit full proposals, taking into account the feedback from the outline panel.

2. Invited full proposals and interview panel

Invited full proposals will be sent to independent national and international peer reviewers, including at least 1 nominated by the applicants. The postal peer reviewers’ role will primarily be to comment on the quality of the proposed research. This is to provide quality assurance of the QT Research Hub proposals.

Where the majority of reviews are unsupportive, the proposal will be ‘review rejected’ at the review stage. The applicant will no longer qualify for the right to reply.

If your application has received enough support from reviewers, it will go forward to the interview panel. Prior to the interview panel, usable reviewer comments that were included in the decision process will be sent to you. This gives you the opportunity to correct factual inaccuracies and respond to any queries raised by the reviewers in a principal investigator response document. Feedback will be provided in the form of reviewer comments.

The director and up to 3 others identified on the proposal will be allowed to attend the interview. It is up to the applicants which members of the leadership team attend the interview; there will be a formal presentation by the applicants as part of the interview.

The interview panel will be provided with a copy of the feedback received by each consortium at the outline stage and will expect to see appropriate responses by the applicants to the feedback received. The interview panel will assess the proposal against the assessment criteria, using reviewers’ comments, the principal investigator response and overall performance at interview. Further details will be provided with the invitations to submit full proposals.

Outline assessment criteria

The assessment criteria for the outline proposal stage are as follows:

Fit to scope

The outline panel will assess the proposal to ensure that it meets the funding opportunity criteria and addresses the relevant scope area. To do this the panel will evaluate the QT Research Hub vision and proposed technology research work programme.

Membership

The panel will evaluate the membership to ensure that there is the correct mixture of disciplines and skills to enable the QT Research Hub to deliver the scope.

Ability to deliver the work programme

The ability of the leadership team to deliver the proposed work programme will also be assessed. This will include the management structure, the interaction (and proposed interaction) with industry, users and the other QT Research Hubs.

The panel will look at the resource and capital requests to ensure that the proposal has been appropriately costed and include the resources required to deliver the programme.

Portfolio balance

At both the outline and the invited full proposal stage, the expert panel and the interview panel with additional input as required, will provide advice on the selection of a balanced QT Research Hubs portfolio ensuring coverage of the 3 funding opportunity scope areas from the highest quality proposals. The final funding decisions will be made by EPSRC.

Assessment criteria for invited full proposals and interview stage

Vision

The proposal must articulate the overall research vision of the research programme and how this meets the scope area.

It is expected that the research vision will be ambitious, transformative and would result in a significant step change in knowledge and understanding that will have a major impact on the research area. It should ensure the UK maintains its international profile in this area.

Membership

The membership must bring together consortia of international standing and demonstrate an established record of relevant technology research. It should clearly and purposefully contribute to the scope stated in the funding opportunity.

It should present a strong, multidisciplinary partnership of researchers with the necessary skills to be able to deliver the QT Research Hub.

The panel will evaluate the membership to ensure that there is the correct mixture of disciplines and skills to enable the programme to deliver the scope.

Leadership

The ability of the leadership team to effectively drive the QT Research Hub forward, and to ensure that all members are focussed on the overall vision.

The director and leadership team need to not only be leaders in their field, but also be able to establish consensus, motivate their staff and take executive action to ensure the research objectives are met. Furthermore they need to demonstrate their ability to make international linkages, influence research agendas and act as champions for the QT community.

Quality of technology research work programme

The proposal must demonstrate that the research is of the highest quality and will be undertaken by a world-leading team. The research programme should address the scope area.

The proposal should clearly state why the challenges are ambitious; applicants should set the proposed technology research in context of the current state of knowledge and other work under way in the field.

The technology research programme should also be sustainable beyond the lifetime of the grant and have significant impact beyond its immediate group.

The director and leadership team should have brought together a world-class team with complimentary expertise so as to enhance the potential to achieve the vision.

National importance

The proposal should clearly identify how, over the long term, the research proposed:

  • contributes to, or helps maintain the health of other research disciplines, contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges, contributes to current or future UK economic success and, or, enables future development of key emerging industry or industries
  • meets national strategic needs by ensuring that the UK maintains its international standing in quantum technology
  • fits with and complements other UK research already funded in the area or related areas, including the relationship to the EPSRC and the National Quantum Technology Programme (NQTP) portfolio

Equality diversity and inclusion (ED&I) strategy

The proposal must describe the plans for improving and monitoring ED&I during the QT Research Hubs lifetime. The plans for succession planning and developing future research leaders should also be described.

Partnership and user engagement strategy

The proposal must demonstrate strong user engagement and partnership approach. There should be clear plans to develop these to the benefit of the QT Research Hub that open up translation pathways and benefit the broader UK quantum technology ecosystem.

Exploitation strategy and potential impact

The proposal must articulate who will benefit from the research and how they will benefit. Plans should be described to disseminate results, exchange knowledge and build collaborations.

Governance and management strategy

The proposal must describe the governance and demonstrate that there is a clear management plan. This will ensure that resources, including staff resource, are deployed in the most effective way to deliver high quality research outputs that have the potential to induce a step-change in the knowledge of the subject area.

It is expected that the deliverables and milestones will be routinely reviewed to ensure that the most promising lines of research are pursued and that a strategy will be in place to seek independent external advice. Sufficient resources are assigned to ensure the project is professionally managed.

Institutional commitment

The proposal must demonstrate strong institutional commitment from all higher education institutes involved in the QT Research Hub. Proposals should demonstrate alignment to other relevant large UKRI and NQTP investments at the institutions involved.

Portfolio balance

At both the outline and the invited full proposal stage, the expert panel and the interview panel with additional input as required, will provide advice on the selection of a balanced QT Research Hub portfolio covering the 3 funding opportunity scope areas from the highest quality proposals. The final funding decisions will be made by EPSRC.

Guidance for reviewers

The outline panel members will be provided with this funding opportunity document before assessing the outline proposals.

The invited full proposal peer reviewers and interview panels will also be given specific guidance based on the information in the invited full proposal guidance.

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

Quantum Technologies Theme mailbox

Email: quantumtechnologies@epsrc.ukri.org

Please include ‘Quantum Technology Research Hubs’ 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

Webinar

EPSRC are holding a webinar on 7 February 2023 at 10:00am to 11:30am UK time to support this funding opportunity. Attendees are required to register for the webinar.

Register for webinar via SmartSurvey

Background

EPSRC as part of the National Quantum Technology Programme (NQTP) started a process to develop the funding opportunity for QT Research Hubs from 2024 to 2029 in January 2022.

This was to ensure the momentum and capabilities developed by the phase 1 and phase 2 QT Research Hubs was not lost and the community were able to plan for the 5 years from 2024 to 2029.

This funding opportunity is open to applications from existing and new QT Research Hubs.

EPSRC held roundtables and workshops with the academic community to develop the funding opportunity scope as well as consulting with academic, industry, NQTP partners and the Strategic Advisory Board from July to November 2022.

EPSRC is a key partner within the NQTP and shares the ambition to maintain the UK’s reputation as an excellent place to do research. Find out more about EPSRC’s quantum technologies theme.

This funding opportunity is related to EPSRCs strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2024 where quantum technologies is a priority area.

Grant Additional Conditions (GAC)

GAC 1: project officer appointment

We will nominate a member of our staff (the project officer) who will be your primary point of contact. The project officer will ensure that the project is being run in accordance with the terms and conditions and in line with financial due diligence.

The project officers should have access to all documentation of governance and reporting bodies, in so far as it relates to the administration and application of the grant. As funding administrators, all UKRI staff have agreed to maintain the confidentiality required by all parties involved in our funded research.

GAC 2: equality, diversity and inclusion strategy

In addition to RGC 3.4, you are expected to prepare a full equality diversity and inclusion plan for the duration of this grant to demonstrate best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the lifetime of this funding award.

This must be received by the project officer within 3 months of the grant start date. Progress and updates to this plan will be recorded through the grant reporting process.

GAC 3: collaboration and user engagement strategy

You must develop and execute a strategy for engaging with potential users of the research funded in the project. This strategy should be reviewed and updated regularly as part of the formal management and reporting process agreed for this grant.

GAC 4: collaboration agreement

Where the grant is associated with more than 1 research organisation and, or, other project partners, a formal collaboration agreement must be in place with the basis of collaboration between the organisations including the following:

  • the process of the flexible allocation of resources throughout the project
  • ownership of intellectual property
  • rights to exploitation

The terms of collaboration agreements must not conflict with the UKRI terms and conditions.

We must be informed within 3 months of the start of the grant, that the collaboration agreement is in place and has been signed by all partners and, or, the progress made (unless some alternative timeline has been agreed with us).

If sufficient progress has not been made within 3 months of the start of the grant, we reserve the right the enact RGC 12.1

Arrangements for collaboration and, or, exploitation must not prevent the future progression of research and the dissemination of research results in accordance with academic custom and practice.

GAC5: advisory board appointment

This grant must establish and run an independent advisory board, or equivalent body, to oversee the running of the project and provide advice on the strategic direction and activities of the project.

The terms of reference and membership of this group (at least 50% independent membership and an independent chair) should be agreed with us.

The project officer will also be expected to attend and participate in advisory board and other appropriate meetings for the duration of the grant.

GAC 6: governance and leadership structure

You should have established an appropriate governance, leadership and management structure with clear lines of responsibility and authority to oversee the day-to-day running of the project.

This should be in place within 6 months of the start date of the grant.

The terms of reference and management structure, including the leadership team membership must be approved by us in advance. As must any changes to this structure.

The project officer will be our main contact with the project, and must receive all meeting minutes of the management committees. We reserve the right to attend any meetings.

GAC7: management resourcing

Adequate resourcing to support an appropriate management structure, as specified in the funding opportunity documentation, should be costed within the grant.

GAC 8: monitoring and reporting

Notwithstanding the requirements set out in standard grant conditions RGC 7.4, RGC 7.5 and RGC 10, you are responsible for providing to the project officer annual progress reports against financial and non-financial performance metrics.

Additional financial or non-financial information may occasionally be requested outside of the standard annual reporting cycle. You agree to undertake all reasonable endeavours to comply with these requests in a timely manner.

GAC 9: publicity and branding

In addition to RGC 12.4 Publication and Acknowledgement of Support, you must make reference to our and UKRI funding and include the UKRI logo relevant branding on all online or printed materials (including press releases, posters, exhibition materials and other publications) related to activities funded by this grant

You must acknowledge the support received from the UK NQTP, including logos where appropriate.

GAC 10: working with the NQTP

The director and members of the leadership team are expected to take a leading role in national policy and debate in relation to quantum technology research, innovation, and exploitation.

In this context, the director and leadership team are expected to support and contribute to our strategies and coordination as requested by us, and participate in the work of the UK NQTP as requested.

About NQTP

The NQTP was established in 2014 to make the UK a global leader in the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies, which is set to transform the global society and economy.

Find out more information about the NQTP.

The strategic intent also further sets out the following specific objectives in relation to maintaining the UK’s excellence in research and technology:

  • continue to build on existing excellence to strengthen our global position in research, build the skills pipeline and open-up new opportunities for technological convergence, enabling work across disciplines to unlock innovation
  • as an enabling technology we will develop new quantum tools and opportunities for wider science applications

You can download the NQTP strategic intent from NQTP resources.

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor and to encourage our research community to do likewise.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 252KB)

This is the integrated website of the 7 research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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