Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Strategic infrastructure outlines

From 10 July 2023, you must apply for EPSRC strategic infrastructure outline proposals, including capital and digital infrastructure, via the UKRI Funding Service. Both equipment and resources can be requested through this opportunity.

The funding seeks to improve UK scientific capability and enable cutting-edge research of high priority to EPSRC.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for EPSRC funding.

The cost of the equipment requested, including VAT, must be at least £400,000.

Proposals including only resources must have a maximum duration of two years.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the eligibility of your organisation.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

EPSRC standard eligibility rules apply. For full details, visit EPSRC’s eligibility page.

A research technical professional can apply as a project lead or project co-lead, provided that:

  • your appointment is resourced from the central funds of their institution at the time of application
  • your level of responsibilities and duties is appropriate to a person with substantial research experience
  • your contract extends beyond the duration of the project

International applicants

The UKRI-Research Council of Norway Money Follow Cooperation agreement does not apply to this funding opportunity. As such strategic infrastructure grants cannot include a Norway-based Project co-lead (international).

Resubmissions

We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI or any other funder.

Projects that have been submitted as outlines to previous EPSRC strategic equipment funding opportunities can be resubmitted providing you address the feedback given from the previous submission.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI

What we're looking for

Scope

Strategic infrastructure for engineering and physical sciences evolved from the previous strategic equipment grant to better reflect that in this opportunity:

  • both equipment and resources can be requested
  • both capital and digital infrastructure can be requested

The strategic infrastructure funding opportunity is for either:

  • route one: purchase and set-up of strategic infrastructure
  • route two: resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

These two funding routes have different scopes but the application and assessment processes are via the same strategic infrastructure opportunity.

Route two applying for resources to support existing strategic infrastructure is only for applicants who received invitations from relevant theme leads from EPSRC.

Strategic infrastructure

Strategic infrastructure is intended to enhance UK scientific capability and support cutting-edge research of high priority to EPSRC. The request should fit within the host institution strategy and enable research that predominantly falls within EPSRC’s remit.

Strategic infrastructure includes a wide range of investments. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • technology that increases novel research capability; for example, capital infrastructure enabling transformative research of high importance to EPSRC and the UK, or capital infrastructure empowering UK to become world leading as a result of the enabled research
  • research through increased capacity; for example, high-specification capital infrastructure that enables faster, higher resolution or more cost-effective results
  • non-capital costs where there is a clear requirement and should only be used to support the infrastructure requested

All strategic infrastructure requests should include:

  • justified cost
  • appropriate use
  • appropriate strategy

Find more details on the scope of the strategic infrastructure route

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

The resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route is only for invited applicants where strategic needs are identified. You must be invited by the relevant EPSRC theme lead to submit applications.

The resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route is intended to maximise utilisation of existing infrastructure that has already been procured, delivered and installed. This funding route supports improved access and approaches to enable a better sharing of existing infrastructure. We expect that funding will provide seed or invest-to-save funding to initiate increased use and sustainability of the existing infrastructure.

The infrastructure may have been funded by EPSRC or other sources. The research enabled by the infrastructure must be within the EPSRC remit.

We do not expect that you will need more funding through this funding route after the first application. You must articulate clear plans for sustainability in your application. We will not accept further applications to support sharing of the same item or items of capital infrastructure.

Find more details on the scope of the resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route

Duration

Strategic infrastructure

There are no limits on the duration of funding, but the duration must reflect that this is an infrastructure grant and not a research grant.

The duration should cover the procurement, delivery, installation and set-up of infrastructure.

If it is appropriate, the length of the funding can include:

  • the development of methods, protocols and access models
  • a small amount of time for pump-priming projects to maximise utilisation of the infrastructure

The duration should not include time for research projects.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

Proposals including only resources to support existing strategic infrastructure should be for a maximum duration of two years, unless agreed otherwise with EPSRC.

Funding available

Strategic infrastructure

Strategic infrastructure includes capital and digital infrastructure. Capital infrastructure includes capital equipment and digital infrastructure includes central processing units and computing hardware.

Funding is available for items of infrastructure over £400,000, including VAT.

You can also request items of equipment under £400,000 that are essential to the running of the larger infrastructure.

You can request funding for up to 100% full economic cost (FEC) of the infrastructure. However, contributions from the host organisation are welcome. The cost entered in your application form should be the cost to EPSRC, with any contributions detailed in the text of your application.

The £400,000 minimum threshold can be met by a single item of equipment or by several items that are clearly intended to be combined in a single asset. The threshold cannot be met by the accumulated total of a number of individual items of standalone equipment.

Non-capital costs can be included where there is a clear requirement and should only be used to support the infrastructure requested. These will be funded at 80% FEC.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

Funding via this route should provide additional underpinning infrastructure, or staff support that improves current use of infrastructure, or both. You will be required to demonstrate the added value of the funds for increasing equipment utilisation, and the strategic demand for this.

All costs under this route will be funded at 80% FEC.

What we will not fund

Strategic infrastructure

We will not fund:

  • costs associated with the support of individual research projects. For example, project lead time for research and project specific consumables are not an allowable cost on this opportunity. It would be for the university to consider how best to cover research project consumables through usage and charging arrangements
  • underpinning infrastructure that we would expect to see in a well-found lab
  • software, research software development or cloud computing credits

You should submit any application focused on creating novel instruments or performing modifications to an existing instrument through standard mode as instrument development.

Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure

We will not fund:

  • capital costs through this funding opportunity. For example, items of equipment over £10,000. Individual items with a value less than £10,000 are not considered to be equipment
  • long-term research projects. For example, we do not expect to see postdoctoral researcher effort requested as part of an application. Costs for individual research projects are only eligible when these are short-term seed projects to support new users. These costs should have been proposed at the outline stage
  • replacement of existing support, maintenance, service contracts, or capital costs. For example, current staff costs for time assigned to the equipment are not eligible. It is expected that awards will provide seed funding to initiate increased use

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the UKRI Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply:

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a UKRI Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email support@funding-service.ukri.org
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the UKRI Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service.

Deadline

We must receive your application by 31 August 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

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

We will need to collect some personal information to manage your UKRI funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

We will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at Grants on the Web.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

In plain English, provide a summary that can be sent to potential assessors to determine if your proposal is within their field of expertise.

Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed infrastructure in terms of:

  • what the proposed infrastructure is
  • its context

Word count: 200

Applicants

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

You should only list 1 individual as project lead.

Research technical professionals

A research technical professional can be listed as a project lead or project co-lead, provided that:

  • their appointment is resourced from the central funds of their institution at the time of application
  • their level of responsibilities and duties is appropriate to a person with substantial research experience
  • their contract extends beyond the duration of the project

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

Section: Purpose and vision

Word count: 300

Question: Why is this infrastructure needed, and why should EPSRC support it?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide evidence on how the infrastructure sought will:

Section: Approach and sustainability

Word count: 350

Question: What are your plans to manage and sustain the proposed infrastructure during and beyond the end of this funding?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, explain how in your approach to the proposed infrastructure you will:

  • manage access to the infrastructure,
  • identify, prioritise and support users across the landscape
  • maximise the utilisation of the infrastructure

Using the text box, explain how you plan to ensure sustainability of the proposed infrastructure including:

  • an appropriate cost recovery model
  • training and development of specialist technical staff
  • development or expansion of the user base after the initial period of funding

Section: Applicant and host institution capability to deliver

Word count: 250

Question: Why are you and your host institution the right individual, team and place to procure and manage this infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the textbox, provide evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience, appropriate to your career stage, to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work, including the appropriate leadership and management skills on your approach to develop others

Provide evidence of why or how your host institution:

  • is the most appropriate place for the proposed infrastructure
  • will use its existing capacity to best complement the proposed infrastructure

Section: Resource and cost justification

Word count: 250

Question: Are the resources requested from EPSRC and contributions from host institution justified?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, please provide the expected costs of the proposed infrastructure in pounds sterling (including VAT) by providing totals for Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated, Indirect and Exceptions cost headings:

  • Make a clear distinction between cost of equipment items and the cost of any associated resources. State the anticipated funds that would be requested from:
    • EPSRC
    • host institution and project partners including the nature and level of contributions if applicable
  • describe the timescales associated with procurement of the equipment and when you anticipate you will spend any capital provision made
  • ensure the costs are as accurate as possible at this stage. The costs in a full proposal must be within + or -10% of the outline proposal

For each of these, demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Section: References

Word count: 1,000

Question: List the references you’ve used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Ensure your application is a self-contained description. You can provide hyperlinks to relevant publications or online resources. However, assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application. You must not include links to web resources in order to extend your application. If linking to web resources, to ensure the information’s integrity is maintained include, where possible, persistent identifiers such as digital object identifiers.

Section: Facilities

Word count: 250

Question: Does your proposed research require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter N/A into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If you will need to use a facility, you should follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Where prior agreement is required, ensure you obtain their agreement that, should you be offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project.

In the text box below, for each requested facility you should provide:

  • the name of facility, copied and pasted from this list of facilities (DOCX, 35KB)
  • the proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicted on that list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

Do not put the facility contact details in your response.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Please note that your outline proposal will be assessed by EPSRC internal staff only. Your outline proposal should be aimed at this audience instead of the peer review community.

The EPSRC internal panel does not assess the technical feasibility of your proposal. You should focus on evidencing the clarity and coherence of your descriptions against the assessment criteria.

We will assess your application using the following process.

Outline stage

An EPSRC internal staff panel will review and score your application against the assessment criteria for the outline stage. The panel will then recommend proposals to be invited to submit a full proposal.

Successful applicants will be provided with guidance on submitting their full proposal on the UKRI Funding Service.

Full proposal stage

If you are invited to submit a full proposal, we will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite experts to review your application independently, against the full proposal assessment criteria for this funding opportunity.

Shortlisting

We will review the comments and scores for each application. Full applications that do not receive sufficiently strong support from reviewers will be rejected at this stage.

If your application is shortlisted, you will have 14 days to respond to reviewers’ comments.

Panel

Shortlisted proposals submitted under the Resources to support existing strategic infrastructure route will be invited to either an interview panel or a prioritisation panel, depending on the size and scope of the proposal. We will inform you if you are required to attend an interview when you are invited to submit a full proposal.

For shortlisted applications submitted under the Strategic Infrastructure route an expert interview panel will conduct interviews with applicants against all the full proposal assessment criteria for this funding opportunity. The interview panel will then make a funding recommendation.

We expect interviews to be held in March 2024. The exact date and time for your interview will be confirmed around one month in advance.

Proposals for resources to support existing infrastructure that are invited to interview will be assessed using the same process as strategic infrastructure proposals but on a separate funding list. Funding decisions on proposals for resources to support existing infrastructure are independent of funding decisions for strategic infrastructure proposals.

Funding decision

EPSRC research infrastructure theme will make the final funding decision based on the interview panel funding recommendation and budget available.

Timescale

We aim to complete the following assessment process within the timeline of:

  • outline stage: four to five weeks of closing the outline opportunity
  • full proposal stage: six months of closing the full proposal opportunity

Feedback

If your application was discussed by the outline or the interview panel, we will provide feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI Principles of Assessment and Decision Making.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment criteria

What we are looking for at the outline stage

Section: Purpose and Vision

Have the applicants demonstrated how the infrastructure they are proposing will:

  • enable transformative research that cannot be achieved elsewhere
  • enhance and complement the existing regional or national research capability, or both
  • underpin EPSRC research area(s) and meet EPSRC’s six world-class objectives and eight strategic priorities
  • have a strong demand from the user base

Section: Approach and sustainability

Have the applicants demonstrated that in their approach to the proposed infrastructure they will:

  • manage access to the infrastructure
  • identify, prioritise and support users across the landscape
  • maximise the utilisation of the infrastructure

Have the applicants demonstrated how they plan to ensure sustainability of the proposed infrastructure, including:

  • an appropriate cost recovery model
  • training and development of specialist technical staff
  • development or expansion of the user base after the initial period of funding

Section: Applicant and host institution capability to deliver

Have the applicants provided evidence of how they, and if relevant their team, have:

  • the relevant experience, appropriate to their career stage, to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work, including the appropriate leadership and management skills on their approach to develop others

Have the applicants provided evidence of why or how their host institution:

  • is the most appropriate place for the proposed infrastructure
  • will use its existing capacity to best complement the proposed infrastructure

Section: Resources and cost justification

The applicants are asked to provide the following:

  • the expected costs of the proposed infrastructure in pounds sterling (including VAT) by providing totals for Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated, Indirect and Exceptions cost headings. the expected cost of the proposed infrastructure in pounds sterling (including VAT)
  • make a clear distinction between cost of equipment items and the cost of any associated resources. State the anticipated funds that would be requested from
    • EPSRC
    • host institution and project partners including the nature and level of contributions if applicable
  • describe the timescales associated with procurement of the equipment and when they anticipate they will spend any capital provision made
  • ensure the costs are as accurate as possible at this stage. The costs in a full proposal must be within + or -10% of the outline proposal

Have the applicants demonstrated how the resources they anticipate needing for their proposed infrastructure:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

The assessment criteria for the full proposal stage will be published around October 2023 when applicants are invited to submit their full proposals. The full proposal assessment criteria will be used at both the peer-review and interview panel processes.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Li Convey, Senior Portfolio Manager, Research Infrastructure

Email: li.convey@epsrc.ukri.org

Stephen Gilligan, Portfolio Manager, Research Infrastructure

Email: stephen.gilligan@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through the UKRI funding service

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the UKRI Funding Service helpdesk on support@funding-service.ukri.org

Include in the subject line: the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the Applicant and team capability section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice

Additional info

Background

For more information about our portfolio and strategies, visit:

We wish to encourage a culture of equipment sharing where appropriate to maximise usage within the research group, across institutions or across the UK. As such, strategic infrastructure should account for the national picture, both in terms of equipment available and research being undertaken.

The £400,000 threshold for items of equipment that you can apply for does not imply any consequences for university procurement and tendering rules.

Grant additional condition

Grants will be subject to the standard UK Research and Innovation grant conditions. The following additional grant condition will be added to this funding opportunity:

We consider the equipment over £400,000 purchased under this grant to be part of your university’s EPSRC capital equipment portfolio. You are required to provide information regarding this equipment as part of your university’s annual equipment report to EPSRC.

Supporting documents

Equality Impact Assessment (PDF, 217KB)

Webinar resources

EPSRC held a webinar for potential applicants and research officers on 9 August 2023. At the webinar, we provided information about the opportunity details and a chance to ask questions.

View the presentation given at the webinar (PDF, 1.22MB)

View the webinar questions and answers document (PDF, 135KB)

Updates

  • 12 September 2023
    The strategic infrastructure outlines opportunity (August 2023) has seen an unprecedented volume of applications. Due to this unprecedented demand and limited staffing resource in the team, we decided to move the timeline of the outline panel, full proposal stage and interview panel, see the ‘timeline’ section for the updated dates.
  • 22 August 2023
    Post webinar resources, including the webinar presentation and webinar questions and answers documents, added to the 'Additional info' section.
  • 25 July 2023
    Webinar date updated from week commencing 7 August 2023 to 9 August 2023. Webinar registration link added to the 'Additional info' section.

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