Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Explore the requirements of exascale software for UK science

Apply for funding to explore emerging exascale software and algorithms requirements for UK science.

You can be from any area of the UK research community. You do not need to be a researcher working within EPSRC’s remit.

Up to 5 conveners will be funded for 18 months. Projects must start on 1 June 2023.

EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost of your project, which can be up to £500,000 including indexation costs.

This funding is through the Exascale Computing: Algorithms and Infrastructures Benefiting UK Research (ExCALIBUR) programme, which is part of the Strategic Priorities Fund.

Who can apply

You can apply if you are a researcher or research software engineer equivalent at a higher education institution, research institute, or independent research organisation accredited by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

You can also apply if you are employed at an eligible public sector research establishment. Read the guidance on institutional eligibility.

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least 1 of the bullets below:

  • 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 this grant.

Applicants across the UKRI remit are invited to apply to this opportunity, with a specific interest in domain experts, mathematicians, computer scientists and users of software and algorithms.

Applicants can collaborate with researchers, businesses, nationally or internationally to support their approach for this award.

Submissions to this opportunity will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

Grants must start by 1 June 2023.

What we're looking for

Scope

This funding opportunity has been developed following feedback from representatives from each research council, the ExCALIBUR Steering Committee and the BBSRC-MRC Supercomputing Taskforce.

This opportunity will fund up to 5 ‘emerging requirements convenors’ to deliver the aims of the emerging requirements tranche within the ExCALIBUR programme. Conveners are expected to achieve the following aims:

  • identify and assess requirements for scientific codes at exascale in a community that will pioneer the uptake of this technology
  • champion the potential of exascale software and algorithms within your community
  • drive the importance of training and skills to prepare for faster and powerful supercomputers of the mid-20s and demonstrate the community’s needs
  • translate the developments of ExCALIBUR projects in a community appropriate way to inform engagement
  • lead 2-way knowledge exchange between ExCALIBUR projects and your chosen community, sharing the developments within the programme and the requirements for future codes

The purpose of this opportunity is to provide support and a means for communities to prepare themselves for developments in exascale software and algorithms beyond those disciplines currently participating in the ExCALIBUR programme. See the additional information section for activities currently funded.

Specifically, broadening awareness of current and potential users of scientific codes bases to the potential that exascale software and algorithms will have on science and research in the UK. These areas include computational biomedicine, climate and earth sciences to digital humanities and social sciences or computational biology. See the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Science case for Supercomputing for examples of these areas.

Applicants to this opportunity can select one of the following predetermined disciplines or propose a discipline not listed that has a community seeking to prepare for the developments taking place in scientific code:

  • bioimaging
  • biomolecular and biophysical simulation
  • data-intensive bioscience
  • genomics or genetics
  • large scale data management representatives
  • medical imaging
  • multi-scale biology
  • omics
  • structural biology
  • systems biology

Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary proposals and project teams are encouraged to apply to this opportunity. A letter of support from a representative or group from the chosen community should show their support of your approach and willingness to participate in proposed activities.

To ensure training and skills are considered across the entire programme, ExCALIBUR projects must consider how training and upskilling of researchers, research software engineers or industry will be supported to prepare for faster software and architecture. This is a route for applicants to this opportunity to make connections with existing projects.

Applicants must engage with 1 or more of the funded ExCALIBUR projects as part of their proposal and a letter of support must be provided by the group to evidence this:

Find out more about these activities on the ExCALIBUR website and under additional information.

If access is required to the ExCALIBUR testbeds, contact should be made via the Hardware and Enabling Software Group.

Knowledge exchange

Knowledge exchange is a vital component of achieving the objectives of the ExCALIBUR programme. It will ensure integration across the programme activities where researchers are developing software and algorithms in preparation for future exascale systems.

Additionally, connections are required with potential beneficiaries in academia, public sector research establishments (PSREs) and industry to allow their contributions and participation in disseminating the output and outcomes beyond the programme members.

The ExCALIBUR programme has a network of knowledge exchange coordinators that represent each project. This network meets monthly to share progress made, provide updates on project level activities as well as developing and designing activities that can be delivered on behalf of the programme.

Your project should identify a member of the investigator team as the knowledge exchange coordinator who will attend and contribute to this network. This role can be shared by the principal investigator, a co-investigator or research co-investigator or held by an investigator solely. Applicants should decide how this role would be best resourced for their project.

Flexible funds can be requested to contribute to programme level knowledge exchange and to respond to opportunities for knowledge exchange over the duration of the grant. These funds should be managed and administered by the principal investigator and knowledge exchange coordinator.

Expectations for this role include, but are not limited to:

  • identify opportunities for knowledge exchange within their project, with other ExCALIBUR programme projects, and with other relevant national and international groups
  • identify opportunities for knowledge exchange to develop and maintain a 2-way flow of engagement and dissemination with industry and relevant national and international research communities
  • develop a plan to increase the awareness of the proposed project and the ExCALIBUR programme. The plan should include a rationale for the flexible funds requested to support this and timescales to accomplish this
  • collaborate with other ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinator’s as a network to deliver the programme level activities or events

These expectations were given to all ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinators. It is an opportunity for emerging requirements conveners and their teams to establish connections with these projects as you gather the requirements of your community and initiate knowledge exchange.

A separate plan for knowledge exchange is not required as the role is compliments the purpose of this funding opportunity, instead your proposal should embed these expectations into your plans.

Project deliverables and outputs

Applicants to this opportunity, will be funded to act as conveners within their communities and to support development of connections between the chosen community and the breakthroughs of other ExCALIBUR funded projects.

Your proposal should demonstrate understanding of your community’s readiness to engage with exascale software and algorithms. You should provide a tailored engagement plan and rationale for engagement that considers the current and future needs of your community moving towards large scale computing and software. This includes recognising the range of requirements for software and training within your community.

Your proposal should demonstrate how you intend to foster connections with a minimum of 1 ExCALIBUR project initially that has relevance to your intended engagement plan and community. This connection could include but is not limited to participation in an event, activity, co-design of an engagement activity, being part of the investigator team or involvement in benchmarking of software.

The application should include time for the team to familiarise themselves with the progress underway in ExCALIBUR and demonstrate your approach to translate this within the chosen community and gain community buy-in. As an example, this could result in, an agreed set of terminology to ease communication between the different areas of expertise or principles to be used for multi and interdisciplinary working, so as not to alienate users, researchers across communities.

Conveners and their team should consider the good practice, they wish to implement to ensure an inclusive environment for those participating in the project directly or indirectly, for example, attendance at an event or ease of access to resources respectively.

At the completion of the grant, the following outputs must be submitted to the ExCALIBUR programme team contacts and made available on the ExCALIBUR programme website with a digital object identifier:

  • a community report, that is the result of engagement activities that have taken place. This should define the potential use cases, describe challenges and the expected benefit exascale software and algorithms will bring to these disciplines
  • a complimentary roadmap that identifies current and potential users of exascale software and algorithms in the chosen field, the milestones required to prepare them for utilising this technology and training needs. The roadmap should also highlight opportunities or quick wins to advance readiness for impending software and algorithm improvements

The authors of these outputs should consider that audience will not be solely academic and will include new and existing users of software within industry, UKRI, PSREs and government departments. As such, inclusion of an executive summary, a glossary would be beneficial, and the document should be uploaded to a repository such as Zenodo.

Outcomes

The ExCALIBUR programme anticipates the following outcomes for this activity:

  • increased representation of disciplines within UKRI remit that are contributing to ExCALIBUR which will provide direction for future software developments that will enable science capability within the UK
  • communities who are informed and engaged with the developments underway within exascale software and algorithms in the UK and understand their requirements for software and training
  • ExCALIBUR Use Cases, Cross-cutting Research, Hardware and Enabling Software group and RSE Knowledge Integration projects and software development have been influenced and by their engagement with the conveners and domain communities

Funding available

£2.5 million is available to fund up to 5 projects for a duration of 18 months at 80% full economic cost. Applicants can request up to £500,000 (including indexation), costs can include:

  • investigator time
  • staff time
  • facilitator
  • science writer

Up to 5% of the total funds requested for the project can be costed as flexible funds to support knowledge exchange and knowledge integration activities.

Funding must be spent within the financial years identified in the grant profile. If the grant holder anticipates underspend, they must inform the EPSRC project officer as soon as possible.

Equipment over £10,000 in value (including VAT) is not available through this opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading.

Find out more about equipment funding.

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. Therefore applicants 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 information and advice on how to get 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:

We recommend you start your application early.

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

Submitting your application

You must complete an expression of interest via SmartSurvey by 15 February 2023 at 4:00pm prior to submitting a full proposal to this opportunity.

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 7 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: SPF SI Emerging Requirements.

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: ‘standard proposal’
  • scheme: ‘standard research’
  • call: ‘SPF SI Emerging Requirements’

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 21 February 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.

Attachments

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted:

  • case for support: (8 A4 pages, including 2 on your track record and 6 on the scientific case. Please see the ‘case for support’ section below for more information on this)
  • workplan: 1 page
  • justification of resources: 2 pages
  • CVs: up to 2 A4 sides each only for named post-doctoral staff, researcher- co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time) and visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form: no page limit (please see the ‘letters of support’ section below for further information)
  • technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring 1 in the Je-S guidance: no page limit
  • cover letter: optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review

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.

Case for support

Your case for support should include 2 pages on your track record and 6 on the scientific case.

The scientific part of your case should include the following information:

  • a detailed description of why community was selected, their current software practises (to provide a baseline for the need of this proposal, the scale of the community, evidence of their state of readiness to utilise improved software, algorithms and architectures
  • awareness of frequent collaborators nationally and/or internationally should be provided
  • description of your vision and principles to lead the community and your team to advance their readiness for the software development occurring; describe how the roles within the team will support this endeavour. This should include plans for community report and roadmap to be completed during the grant
  • a framework for community engagement activities, requirement gathering, writing of report and roadmap that will allow community participation at relevant stages. This should consider the target audiences you seek to engage with and where relevant, should build upon, not duplicate previous engagement carried out in this space
  • identify the challenge(s) that will initiate engagement activities, and how the proposed approach will contribute to address these and deliver the aims and objectives of this opportunity
  • the timeliness and importance of the proposed activities, gathering of requirements, community development and the potential for leverage or collaborative activity
  • explain how you will work with other ExCALIBUR projects and the knowledge exchange network to underpin your plans for engagement activities and translation between domains
  • this section should include a reference to the research council(s) that the community would typically align to

Letters of support

In addition to project partner letter of support, applicants should provide the following:

  • a letter of support must be provided by a minimum of one of the ExCALIBUR funded grants outlining the commitment to collaborate and interact with the applicant if funded
  • a letter of support from a community representative or group that highlights the need for this project and their intention to participate in activities if the proposal is successful

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

This is an ExCALIBUR funding opportunity, EPSRC is delivering the assessment of this opportunity on the behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) therefore applicants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with EPSRC assessment processes.

EPSRC will consult with other the research councils to ensure that the expert interview will contain relevant expertise to assess proposals across UKRI remit.

This opportunity will go through a 2-stage assessment process.

Stage 1: expression of interest

Applicants must complete the expression of interest via SmartSurvey prior to submitting a full proposal. This will not be assessed but will enable EPSRC (on the behalf of the research councils) to estimate demand for the opportunity, appropriately plan for the expert interview panel and confirm eligibility for the opportunity.

The notification at the end of the SmartSurvey is the only acknowledgement applicants will receive to continue to submit a full proposal. Research offices will be informed of submission of expression of interest if details have provided by the applicant.

Stage 2: expert interview panel

Full proposals will be assessed by an expert interview panel. The panel membership is expected to comprise multidisciplinary academics, public sector research establishment (PSRE) representatives, industrial and international expertise. The panel members will act as postal peer reviewers to provide applicants with the right to reply. Applicants should expect to receive their principal investigator response by:

  • principal investigator response sent out: weeks beginning 20 March 2023
  • principal investigator response submission: weeks beginning 5 April 2023

Applicants will be invited to an expert interview, the principal investigator and up to 2 others identified on the proposal will be invited to the attend the interview. Full guidance will to be sent to candidates prior to the interview.

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

Assessment criteria

Opportunity specific criteria

Fit to opportunity

Community ambassador (primary):

  • give evidence of a profile or emerging profile within their research community for research excellence
  • demonstrate how they would act as an ambassador and advocate for their chosen discipline

Thought leadership (primary):

  • demonstrate that they have experience in successfully leading multi-disciplinary research activities, (including meaningfully engaging with research communities outside their own discipline for the design of their research)

Knowledge exchange (secondary):

  • plan for integration and exchange of knowledge across the programme and the dissemination of knowledge with academia, PSREs and industry
  • identified opportunities and barriers to knowledge exchange within the programme and external beneficiaries and routes to mitigate these

Standard criteria

Quality (primary) the research excellence, referring to:

  • a proposed plan to engage researchers and users in community to facilitate their understanding and build an interest in exascale software and algorithms
  • a high-quality proposed programme of networking and engagement activities across their user community that will inform the eventual community report and roadmap

National importance (secondary major) how the research:

  • contributes to or helps maintain the health of other disciplines contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges or contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry(s)
  • meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the UKRI portfolio

Resources and management (secondary), the effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, referring to:

  • any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation
  • evidence that the requested resources and approach to management are appropriate with respect to the activities of the proposed work

Applicant and partnerships (secondary), the ability to deliver the proposed project, referring to:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant(s)
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators

Feedback

Feedback will consist of outcomes published on Grants on the Web, responses at principal investigator response stage from the expert panel and feedback from the expert interview panel. There will be no feedback from the expression of interest stage.

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

Elizabeth Bent, Research Infrastructure

Email: elizabeth.bent@epsrc.ukri.org

Michael James, Research Infrastructure

Email: michael.james@epsrc.ukri.org

Research Infrastructure inbox

Email: researchinfrastructure@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘emerging requirements call’ 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

The ExCALIBUR programme

ExCALIBUR is a £45.7 million Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme led by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to harness the power of exascale high performance computing (HPC).

Radical changes to supercomputer architectures are on the horizon. The current simulation codes, that much of UK science relies on, are designed for current supercomputer architectures. These codes will, at best, not be able to fully exploit the power that the supercomputers of the mid-2020s will deliver; at worst, they will run slower on those machines than they do now.

Future computers will be more energy efficient and so the longer we rely on the current approach, the more expensive the solution will be. Therefore, it is essential that we invest now in redesigning those simulation codes so that they perform well on the future generations of supercomputers.

ExCALIBUR will be delivered over 5 years and will meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to redesign the high-priority simulation codes to fully harness the power of future supercomputers across scientific and engineering applications.

It will achieve this by bringing together an unprecedented range of UK domain experts, mathematicians and computational scientists who will identify common issues and opportunities in the high-priority simulation codes and focus their combined scientific expertise and resources to accelerate toward interdisciplinary solutions.

The programme objectives have been designed to specifically address the benefits sought:

  • efficiency: the UK’s most important scientific simulation codes will be able to harness the power of the supercomputers of the mid-2020s resulting in an increase in scientific productivity for a given investment
  • capability: capitalising on this efficiency will enable the UK to continue to push the boundaries of science across a wide range of fields delivering transformational change in capability
  • expertise: a new, forward-facing, interdisciplinary approach to research software engineer (RSE) career development will position the next generation of UK software engineers at the cutting-edge of scientific supercomputing

ExCALIBUR is built around 4 pillars:

  • separation of concerns, which is separating the mathematical problem from the computer science implementation
  • co-design, including holistic, collaborative system design by mathematicians, domain scientists and computer scientists
  • data science, covering new workflows to manage and analyse vast volumes of simulation data
  • investing in people, which is interdisciplinary RSE career development driven by forward-looking scientific software design

These pillars describe the fundamental principles that guide the development of research within the ExCALIBUR programme and are designed to ensure that the outcomes are future proofed against the constantly evolving landscape of hardware design.

ExCALIBUR objectives are delivered through five tranches of activity across the UKRI and public sector research establishment communities. These include High Priority Use Cases, Cross-cutting Research, RSE Knowledge Integration and the Hardware and Enabling Software group. This emerging requirements opportunity is the final activity to be delivered in this programme.

Cross-cutting research

The ExCALIBUR programme defines cross-cutting research as: a coordinated approach addressing a known technology or infrastructure issue, which, if resolved, will lead to significant progress across a range of exascale software development challenges.

The themes of the cross-cutting research opportunity were defined following a market engagement event jointly held by the Met Office and EPSRC in November 2020. These themes were included within the 2 opportunities subsequently run and themes were categorised as common approaches and solutions or potential disruptors.

Common approaches or solutions:

  • I/O (input/output) and storage
  • data workflow
  • coupling
  • verification, validation and uncertainty quantification
  • domain specific languages

Potential disruptors:

  • exposing parallelism: parallel-in-time
  • exposing parallelism: task parallelism
  • machine learning: optimising numerical methods and augmenting physically based applications
  • future computing paradigms

The Cross-cutting Research grants are utilising the lessons learnt from the use cases and design and development working groups to address common issues that impact scientific code under development for use at exascale.

RSE Knowledge Integration

Members of the ExCALIBUR programme were commissioned in June 2021 to develop a landscape review that provided an overview of the RSE community landscape within the UK. The review provided recommendations on the future of training and skills requirements for RSEs, identified several training and skills gaps in the current provision and discussed the issues surrounding the long-term career development of RSEs.

As a result of this review, a funding opportunity was launched in September 2021 to deliver against recommendations within the review by supporting the development and growth in the UK RSE community to meet the future demand for HPC and exascale skills as we approach the exascale era.

2 awards were made as a result of this activity, UNIVERSE-HPC, the core grant in this activity which is developing a training curriculum framework and course materials that will support training and education from undergraduate to continuing professional development stages. In addition to this an individual award was made for specific RSE training in algorithms for exascale simulations, which will be delivered through workshops and a summer school.

High Priority Use Cases

A high priority use case for exascale software development as defined by the ExCALIBUR programme is ‘a coordinated range of activities, which aims to develop simulation code with a focus on an application or applications pre-identified by the relevant communities as benefitting from exascale software development’.

A high priority use case for exascale software development has the following characteristics:

  • provides a step-change in simulation performance or provides solutions that are not currently feasible, consistent with the enhanced performance of exascale computing
  • enables high quality, high impact research in multiple areas of strategic importance
  • provides applicable and scalable solutions that can be applied across a range of architectures, including non-exascale systems
  • provides a national and international focal point for the relevant research communities, including the development of partnerships with complementary initiatives in the UK and internationally

There are currently 5 use cases funded within the programme: Weather and Climate Use Case, Fusion Modelling Use, Particles at exascale, Turbulence at exascale and Composable software generation for system-level simulation at exascale. There are 4 further grants due to begin in December 2022.

Additional grant conditions

Grants are awarded under the standard UKRI grant terms and conditions.

Supporting documents

Expression of interest form via SmartSurvey
Equality impact assessment form (PDF, 198KB)

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