The successful applicant will lead the establishment and delivery of a flagship UK national clean maritime research hub, made up of a consortium of research organisations.
The UK government has set a 2050 net zero target across the economy. Decarbonising the maritime sector is vital to achieving this, with domestic shipping alone emitting more greenhouse gas emissions than buses and rail combined. The transition to net zero also represents a crucial opportunity to bring economic benefits to industries and local communities across the UK.
In March 2022, DfT launched the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) programme, which is delivering a suite of interventions aimed at addressing different barriers to maritime decarbonisation across a range of technology-readiness levels (TRL).
As part of this, EPSRC is partnering with UK SHORE to invest £7.4 million to support the establishment of a single flagship UK national clean maritime research hub. The successful applicant will establish a hub made up of an interdisciplinary consortium of leading UK research organisations, such as universities, to address low TRL research challenges in clean maritime. This will build the UK’s capacity and research critical mass in maritime decarbonisation.
The opportunity will directly deliver against UK SHORE’s objectives and EPSRC’s Engineering Net Zero priority ambitions, by taking a systems approach to supporting the development and implementation of clean maritime solutions. The hub will address research challenges in:
- low and zero-emission fuels, energy sources and vessel technologies for the maritime sector
- land side infrastructure required to enable the uptake of low and zero-emission fuels, energy sources and vessel technologies by the maritime sector
- the role of energy efficiency solutions in facilitating the uptake of low and zero-emission fuels, energy sources and vessel technologies by the maritime sector
It is fundamental to the success of the hub that it provides a focus for the UK clean maritime community. The hub should work in close partnership with businesses, government departments, the third sector and civic organisations throughout the UK to tackle research challenges, drive the transfer of knowledge and raise match-funding. The hub should be co-delivered with stakeholders and users to address critical issues where further research and innovation is required.
This funding opportunity is separate to and distinct from the EPSRC-DfT ‘Net Zero Transport for a Resilient Future hub’, which is focusing on climate adaption and mitigation solutions for the transport system across different modes.
As part of its activities, the hub should expect to:
- conduct research that supports the sector to develop clean maritime solutions
- facilitate academic, industrial, and civic stakeholder knowledge exchange and networking
- support capacity building and skills development in the clean maritime research community across all career stages
- deliver papers with policy recommendations for the clean maritime sector for DfT and wider UK government to consider
- support a flexible fund focusing on fundamental and applied research, networking, and engagement
The hub’s core focus should be the delivery of a series of research work-packages led by academics. The research should focus on the fundamental science research needs of the maritime sector aimed at enabling the sector to develop and commercialise clean maritime solutions in the long term.
This hub will discover and develop cross-cutting solutions related to the following cross-sector research challenges:
- low and zero-emission fuels, energy sources and vessel technologies for maritime. Examples include, but are not limited to, research challenges such as:
- optimum use of low-emission hydrogen, hydrogen derived fuels, electrofuels, synthetic fuels and nuclear
- optimum use of transition fuels
- vessel propulsion and auxiliary engines, for example battery, fuel cell and internal combustions
- improved resistance, hydrodynamic and propulsion systems
- low carbon energy storage and management
- enabling technologies such as motors, drives, sensors, and power electronics
- refit of existing vessels with green maritime propulsion
- novel sources of low-contention organic carbon for maritime fuel production, including algal aquaculture
- land-side infrastructure to support the uptake of low and zero-emission fuels, energy sources and vessel technologies by the maritime sector. Examples include, but are not limited to, research challenges such as:
- transportation, storage, shoreside fuelling and bunkering of alternative maritime fuels
- systems thinking about the demand for alternative fuels and the interaction with the wider energy system and other modes
- charging infrastructure and management
- shoreside power solutions, such as enabling docked vessels to turn off their conventional power supply for ancillary systems
- physical connections to shoreside power or alternative fuels, including fuelling lines
- shoreside renewable energy generation at the port to supply vessels
- circular design in maintenance and operation that may allow us to adapt existing assets to future needs
- low carbon fuel production
- the role of energy efficiency solutions in facilitating the uptake of low and zero-emission fuels, energy sources and vessel technologies. Examples include, but are not limited to, research challenges such as:
- the role of lighter and stronger materials in reducing energy demand
- adapting operating patterns or models to change and to facilitate use of future fuels and energy
- reducing emissions in the construction of ships and boats through improved manufacturing and design
- hydrodynamically efficient vessels
- reducing lifecycle emissions, identifying best practice, and supporting performance improvement, including Whole-Life Carbon Assessment (WLCA)
The hub should consider cross-sector synergies. The successful grant will be expected to secure substantial leveraged match funding (financial and in-kind), and routes to accessing continued support throughout the lifetime of the grant should be detailed.
The successful hub will also deliver a flexible fund that can support the aims of the hub and respond to emerging agendas, engagement and networking of stakeholders. The expectation is that some of these small projects will lead to applications for further support from appropriate funding bodies.
Capacity building and skills
There is an expectation on the hub to deliver skills outputs, support capacity and capability growth in the clean maritime UK research community. The hub should actively support career development across all career stages in the clean maritime sector. A key focus should be on early career researchers, including provision of targeted flexible funding opportunities.
Suggested activities that the hub could include, but are not limited to, running summer schools, secondments between academia, industry and government, policy internships or fellowships, joint conferences and papers.
Knowledge exchange and engagement
A critical feature of the hub will be its ability to tackle the most pressing needs of businesses, UK government departments, and policymakers across the UK to secure both UK commercial advantage and policy objectives. This will ensure effective 2-way engagement, and information and knowledge exchange between all related investments and hubs to accelerate research and development.
The hub will engage across the diverse maritime landscape, including with DfT and the maritime industry, stakeholders and with appropriate bodies. It will facilitate cross sectorial and interdisciplinary networking, knowledge exchange, engagement, and dissemination activities across academic, industrial, and civic stakeholders in the sector, through shared research projects and networking events, such as an annual assembly.
The hub must develop partnerships to tackle cross-sectoral issues, provide research leadership and facilitate the development of the next generation of clean maritime researchers, innovators, policymakers and end-users. The hub is expected to engage proactively with other major complementary investments looking at clean maritime, decarbonisation, transport and energy research and innovation landscape. They are also expected to engage with any relevant research and innovation investments made by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), DfT and other public funders, including innovation investments funded by Innovate UK.
In the hub governance procedures, advice from users must be appropriately used in the hub decision-making strategy to help grow user engagement including securing leveraged funding and increasing the numbers of users involved. To evidence your partnerships, you are asked to include a user engagement strategy in your full proposals.
The hub is expected to take an open and inclusive approach and to grow and evolve over the lifetime of the grant. To reflect this, it is expected that the leadership team should develop a flexible approach to the research agenda and priorities of the programme beyond the first 12 months of the hub to account for changes in the landscape, emerging opportunities, and industrial sector priorities.
The hub should be viewed as a resource for the maritime sector and policymakers to understand the most effective policy and industry activities to overcome barriers to maritime decarbonisation and take advantage of its opportunities. The hub is expected to demonstrate the UK’s position as a global leader in mitigating climate change and striving toward net zero.
The hub is expected to establish leadership of the research agenda within this area, interfacing with and working in partnership with industry, policymakers, and government departments to deliver the research activities to support the delivery of the clean maritime sector and to provide the research advice and evidence for policy input and development. This includes drawing from and supporting regional innovation and wider policy objectives, as appropriate.
The hub should actively engage regularly with DfT and sector stakeholders to understand policy requirements and respond by developing papers with evidence-based policy recommendations as required on an ongoing basis during the hub’s lifetime. The hub should also support knowledge exchange with relevant stakeholders on a regular basis.
Examples include, but are not limited to:
- the UK’s competitive advantage globally in the decarbonisation of shipping and clean maritime technologies and how the UK can exploit this
- integration of infrastructure and supply chain for different maritime fuel solutions
- green financing for the UK maritime sector to reach net zero by 2050
- green skills and building capacity
- current research evidence around fuels in decarbonising shipping, land-side infrastructure to enable supply and integration with wider systems
Given the commercial interest and needs for this critical area, EPSRC expects the hub to evidence at least £2 million of matched funding (from the private sector and regional and civil bodies) at application stage (at least 20p to every £1 of funding) and rising to at least £10 million of matched funding, over the lifetime of the grant.
To ensure that research outcomes from the hub can be fully exploited by industry and policy at all spatial levels, EPSRC expects to see clear evidence of genuine, substantive partnerships, with co-creation and co-delivery of projects and activities, in addition to financial contributions. The panel will be asked to assess evidence of stakeholder interest and contributions.
The hub will be expected to provide a flexible funding mechanism, intended to support agile research on emerging topics and to encourage the involvement of the wider community, beyond the core academic members, as partners on such projects. The hub should release these funds annually, to support a full portfolio of research activities throughout the hub’s lifetime, amounting to a maximum fund of £1.3 million grant funding over the hub’s duration.
You will need to think carefully about how the flexible fund budget will be commissioned via a robust peer review process, which can be allocated to researchers at other universities, and ensure that the allocation of funds must be fair and transparent and within the framework of the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.
In partnership with the academic and business community, the hub is encouraged to conduct a landscape mapping of research in the clean maritime sector in the first 6 months of the hub, which can be used to identify optimum research areas to focus on via flexible funding.
- the flexible fund will be restricted to EPSRC current research organisation eligibility but will not be bound by standard EPSRC investigator eligibility criterion
- EPSRC encourages the hub to use its landscape mapping report to inform the use of its flexible fund
- EPSRC expects some examples of the types of projects at the application stage, but the research challenges should evolve during the course of the hub
- flexible funds may only be used for activities that may be funded through a standard research grant (for example, not studentships or the kind of student costs that would be funded through a training grant)
- the flexible fund should be clearly listed under the ‘directly incurred’ headings on the application
Governance and management
EPSRC and DfT appointed project officers will expect to be formal participants on the hub steering board. In addition to a standard hub management board, the hub will be required to establish its own independent advisory board.
The hub advisory board will be required to include appropriate industry and policymaker representation, in addition to independent academics. Advice from end users should be considered in the hub strategy development to grow user engagement, including ongoing development of an effective user engagement strategy.
Eligible equipment costs can be included in hub proposals, in addition to the £7.4 million grant funding available, with the intention of supporting access for the UK clean maritime research community to equipment needed to address the pressing technology needs of the clean maritime sector.
The capital infrastructure could be a single item, or a series of items, that combine to form a single asset. This could include, but is not limited to:
- cutting-edge technology that enables new research
- high-specification equipment that improves existing research
Requested capital infrastructure can be between £10,000 to £400,000 in value at 50% full economic cost for a single item, with matched funding, providing there is a sufficient case made for each item and the scale of investment requested. Single items of capital infrastructure over £400,000 are not eligible in this funding opportunity.
Eligible capital equipment does not include equipment that you would expect to find or easily access in a well-funded laboratory. We wish to maximise use of equipment therefore the hub must have in place and justify a mechanism to share the equipment across the hub or nationally as appropriate.
Any capital infrastructure should be received and receipted before March 2025.
Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.
Read more about EPSRC’s approach to equipment funding.
Contribution to place-based agenda
The UK is one of the world’s leading maritime nations, with a critical shipping industry providing 95% of British imports and exports, a globally significant maritime tourism industry, as well as a large maritime business services sector. The transition to net zero represents a crucial opportunity to bring economic benefits to industries and local communities across the UK, building back better.
The maritime sector is very diverse, with different sub-sectors likely to require different technological solutions. Furthermore, regions and ports across the UK face distinct barriers to maritime decarbonisation based on their geographical location, services, and local communities.
The appropriate solution to different barriers will vary due to geographic location and historical constraint. While it will be impossible for the hub to address all these issues, the hub must consist of institutions from multiple UK regions tackling barriers for a variety of sub-sectors and regions.
The hub must engage in a multi-regional manner with local authority or civic stakeholders in meaningful collaboration. While the hub is expected to be an interdisciplinary multi-institutional consortium, there is no prerequisite for them to be in the same area of the UK as their local authority or civic stakeholder collaborators.
Examples (non-exhaustive) of organisations we consider having a civic role:
- enterprise, development, or skills bodies (such as local enterprise partnerships or devolved equivalents)
- local authorities, councils or combined authorities
- growth, city and region deals
- devolved administrations and their agencies (noting projects still need to be focused on clusters or geography sub-national level)
- regional or local industrial bodies
Examples (non-exhaustive) of possible support from civic bodies:
- involvement in hub governance
- access to innovation or knowledge exchange activity
- secondments to or from hub activities or projects
- supporting or facilitating networking and engagement beyond the consortium
- supporting policy development and delivery
- direct adoption of research outputs
- market assessments
We do not consider international bodies to have a civic role. They can however be included as project partners on proposals where it is appropriate to the aims of the scheme and your application.
Monitoring and evaluation
You should ensure that monitoring and evaluation is well-considered from the outset to effectively track the hub’s contribution and impacts across the transportation sector.
The hub will be expected to engage with the monitoring and evaluation regime put in with EPSRC and DfT, including data to assist with supporting the overall evaluation of the government’s investment in maritime decarbonisation through the UK SHORE programme. Detailed guidance will be provided after the awards have been made, and key performance indicators will be agreed with the hub.
The standard expectations for monitoring and evaluation within the hub will include annual reporting requirements, a mid-term review conducted by an independent panel and a post-investment evaluation. There will also be a requirement for the hub to submit a landscape evidence base report at the end of the first year of the investment. A schedule will be agreed upon award.
Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)
As leaders in the community, the hub will be expected to embed EDI in all their activities throughout the lifetime of the hub. If funded, this will include identifying the specific EDI challenges and barriers in their own environment and developing a strategy to address these, with reference to EPSRC’s published expectations for EDI and EDI action plan.
The hub must ensure that they request appropriate resources to develop and deliver their EDI strategy effectively.
DfT and EPSRC will invest up to £7.4 million (80% full economic cost) to fund 1 clean maritime research hub. The full economic cost of your project can be up to £10 million, including indexation.
The hub will be expected to match fund an additional minimum of £10 million (from the private sector, and regional and civic bodies) over the lifetime of the grant.
The team are expected to request the funding required to achieve the objectives and outcomes they have proposed for the hub. This may include, but is not limited to, funding for:
- the principal investigator time to lead the hub, and co-investigators to provide the required interdisciplinary inclusive approach
- staff to support the integration, coordination, knowledge exchange and publication activities of the hub
- research staff and associated consumables
- travel and subsistence
- flexible funding of up to £1.3 million to support agile research on emerging topics and to encourage the involvement of the community beyond the core academic partners
- supporting impact activities (including stakeholder and user engagement, policy engagement and public engagement)
- supporting networking and community building activities, to enable engagement and collaboration across key disciplines and sectors, and with policy officials
- supporting governance, monitoring and evaluation activities
- capital equipment between £10,000 to £400,000 at 50% full economic cost for a single item, providing there is a sufficient case made for the item and scale of investment
Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.
Read more about EPSRC’s approach to equipment funding.
Funding is available for up to 43 months. The hub will have a fixed start date of 1 September 2023 and an end date of 31 March 2027. No extension to the start date can be given. Funding is subject to business case approval.
DfT and EPSRC reserve the right to provide additional funding after March 2027 to extend the lifetime of the hub.
You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research, and personal information.