Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Investigate high-priority use cases for exascale software: phase two

Apply for funding to investigate high priority use cases for future supercomputers.

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

You must be based at an institution eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

Your project must be two years in length. It must start on 1 December 2022.

We will fund up to four projects. Your project will be funded at 80% of the full economic cost.

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

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

You must be based at an institution eligible for UKRI funding. This includes:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Guidance on institutional eligibility.

You can apply if you are a resident in the UK and meet at least one of the eligibility criteria 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 an EPSRC grant.

What we're looking for

ExCALIBUR is a UK research programme that aims to deliver the next generation of high-performance simulation software for the highest-priority fields in UK research.

Running until March 2025, it is redesigning high priority computer codes and algorithms to meet the demands of both advancing technology and UK research.

The purpose of this funding opportunity

This is a UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund open funding opportunity. Its aim is to identify and develop a high priority use case that contributes to the delivery of the objectives of the ExCALIBUR programme.

We are looking for projects which will research methodologies to redesign the use cases for supercomputers of the near future and beyond.

You will be expected to engage with the ExCALIBUR programme ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group to discuss access to their facilities. Engagement and collaboration with other projects funded by the ExCALIBUR programme is a requirement for all proposals.

The project will need to begin by 1 December 2022.

This is the second phase of ExCALIBUR high priority use case funding. The first phase included 10 Design and Development Working Groups (DDWGs) which were funded in 2020 to identify and investigate a high priority exascale software use case.

Following this, three high priority use case grants were funded in 2021. You can find the funded grants on the ExCALIBUR webpage.

Find out more on the ExCALIBUR website.

Successful projects will look to engage in collaborations with other projects within the ExCALIBUR programme.

Collaborations are expected throughout the programme to develop approaches to common computational elements that have relevance to multiple codes and applications.

Applicants should evidence current and future collaborations with other research institutes, industry and international outfits.

Phase two project objectives

The ExCALIBUR programme is built around four fundamental pillars that describe the principles that guide the development of its research. The pillars are designed to ensure that the outcomes are future proofed against the constantly evolving landscape of hardware design.

Your project will need to capture the principles of the four pillars, to redesign the use cases for supercomputers of the near future and beyond.

The four pillars are:

  • 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 research software engineer (RSE) career development driven by forward-looking scientific software design.

This funding opportunity will assess the proposed high priority use case through a two stage process and the assessment criteria detailed in the ‘how we will assess your application’ section.

Your application should highlight how the current work will be a foundation for the proposed future work, emphasising the benefits of the continuity of funding in this area.

Characteristics of high priority use case

A high priority use case for exascale software development is defined by the ExCALIBUR programme.

It is described as ‘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’.

This definition is accepted by the ExCALIBUR Programme Board and Steering Committee.

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.

Funding opportunity scope

High priority use case aims

This funding opportunity is aimed towards applicants with the capacity to produce a developed proposal which incorporates the four ExCALIBUR pillars and delivers the following:

  • a high priority use case for exascale software
  • active knowledge dissemination strategy for the communities that the use case serves
  • active outreach and engagement with the ExCALIBUR programme including collaborating with cross-cutting, RSE funded projects and the ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group.

A key criterion for the selection of use cases is the impact across the breakthrough research areas where the UK is world-leading, as described above, and their user base.

By choosing a use case that both enables strategically important research and provides lessons that can be applied to other codes or fields, the programme will maximise the impact across the scientific modelling and simulations communities.

Collaboration with industry and internationally is encouraged for this funding opportunity. You should engage with the ExCALIBUR Hardware and Enabling Software Group or the EPSRC team for information on facilities which are available.

Project deliverables and outputs

Your project should conduct a mixture of simulation code design and development, and community building activities that will engage relevant computational and user communities.

The high priority use case is a core tranche within ExCALIBUR, and your project is expected to contain:

Strategy

Your project should include a strategic research agenda that clearly articulates:

  • research challenges to be overcome
  • opportunities
  • key risks and mitigations.

It should set out a detailed approach to addressing these to enable development of exascale-ready software by the mid-2020s.

Your project strategy should also identify and address a high priority use case for exascale software and developing the foundations for this use case within a community.

Collaborative community development

Your project should do the following:

  • provide evidence that the proposed approach has been developed collaboratively with potential beneficiaries, including co-design with industry where appropriate
  • bring together subject matter experts, RSEs, computational or mathematical scientists, and any other relevant individuals and groups, to design and develop simulation codes for exascale computing that can be applied by a wide range of users in strategically important areas of research
  • deliver knowledge integration across ExCALIBUR projects currently funded and those that will be funded across the duration of the programme
  • establish two-way knowledge exchange with the wider research community, industry and internationally for your chosen theme on the behalf of the programme.

The bottom point should include consideration of how training and upskilling of researchers, RSEs or industry is supported to ensure they are prepared for the potential of faster software and architecture.

Development of simulation code

Your project should demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed approach through proof-of-concept studies and research outputs. Scaling should already be demonstrated at the petascale and relevant software development should already be underway.

Your project should utilise the successes and lessons learnt from the previous ExCALIBUR programme projects to address common issues that impact scientific code under development for use at exascale.

Your project should also produce and develop exascale-ready codes and software relevant to the use case, considering the maintenance and sustainability of this code.

Alignment with the ExCALIBUR programme

Additionally, proposals are expected to show development of a coherent and inclusive community of practice comprising subject matter experts, RSEs, computational or mathematical scientists, and any other relevant individuals and groups.

This should enable effective engagement between the computational research community and research communities that can benefit from exascale computing.

This engagement will form part of the two-way knowledge exchange with the wider research community, both industry and internationally. That is a critical output of all future ExCALIBUR funded projects and a specific criteria for this funding opportunity.

You should consider how you will integrate and optimise your development of scientific code in parallel with the undertakings of the ExCALIBUR cross-cutting projects, and other activities to be funded by the programme.

Knowledge exchange coordinator

Knowledge exchange (KE) 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 contribute to these designs and the dissemination of outcomes.

Therefore, your proposal must include a named co-investigator or research co-investigator who will have the role of a KE coordinator to lead these endeavours.

Flexible funds can be requested to deliver activities to aid KE and will be managed by the principal investigator and KE coordinator.

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

  • identifying opportunities for KE within their project or grant, with other ExCALIBUR programme projects or grants, and with other relevant national and international projects
  • identifying opportunities for KE to develop and maintain a two-way flow of engagement and dissemination with industry and relevant national and international research communities
  • developing a plan to increase the awareness of the proposed activity and the ExCALIBUR programme (the plan should include a rationale of the flexible funds requested to support this and timescales to accomplish this)
  • collaborating with other ExCALIBUR KE coordinators as a network to deliver the programme’s knowledge dissemination strategy.

EPSRC will provide guidance for this role and will create activities and workshops to bring KE coordinators together.

Remit of the ExCALIBUR programme

The ExCALIBUR programme aims to encompass all fields of research within UKRI that can benefit from or advance the development of the UK’s exascale software space.

Changes in computer architectures and how we use them can cause directional shifts both in the technology and the directions of human inquiry that rely on it.

These technological advances, which are themselves evolving, coupled with algorithm and software development, will offer an enormous opportunity to address questions which until now have been beyond our reach.

Examples of the resulting breakthroughs in research areas where the UK is world-leading include (but are not limited to):

  • expanding the frontier of fundamental sciences
  • climate, weather and earth sciences
  • computational biology
  • computational biomedicine
  • engineering and materials
  • digital humanities and social sciences
  • mathematics and science of computation.

See more examples in the UKRI science case for UK supercomputing (PDF, 1,350 KB).

The ExCALIBUR programme partners Met Office and UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) have already funded use case projects in the fusion modelling, and climate, weather and earth sciences research areas.

Links for these projects can be found in the additional resource section.

Additionally, in the most recent UKRI funding opportunity, we funded use case projects in the following areas:

Turbulence at the exascale

The aim of this project is to develop transformative techniques for future-proofing their production simulation software ecosystems dedicated to the study of turbulent flows.

Understanding, predicting and controlling turbulent flows is of central importance and a limiting factor to a vast range of industries.

Many of the environmental and energy-related issues we face today cannot possibly be tackled without a better understanding of turbulence.

Particles at exascale and investigating the challenge of particle modelling

The properties of materials and molecules are governed by the behaviour of their atoms, which in turn depend on subatomic particles such as electrons and nuclei.

At the opposite length scale, the dynamics of the universe are governed by the movement of celestial bodies and the flow of matter and energy.

Despite the enormous differences in the length and time-scales involved, there are surprising similarities in the methods required to model the micro and macro worlds.

SysGenX (composable software generation for system-level simulation at exascale)

Systems modelled by partial differential equations (PDEs) are ubiquitous in science and engineering. They are used to model problems including:

  • structures
  • fluids
  • materials
  • electromagnetics
  • wave propagation
  • biological systems.

These problems can be in areas as varied as:

  • aerospace
  • image processing
  • medical therapeutics
  • economics.

The vision of this proposal is the development of open, high performance, high productivity software environments and tools for the solution of partial differential equation problems at exascale for tackling these.

This funding opportunity will look to create use cases which encapsulate some of the remaining breakthrough research areas across the UKRI remit.

We encourage projects to apply in the areas of particle physics and artificial intelligence (AI) given UK strengths and the strategic importance of this area for exascale software development.

Funding available

A total of £3 million is available to fund up to four projects for a duration of two years at 80% full economic cost.

Costs should include:

  • flexible funds for KE activities, which are expected to be equivalent to 10% of the total funds requested
  • researcher time
  • consumables
  • technical staff time
  • support staff.

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

For more information on equipment funding, see EPSRC approach to 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. This 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.

International collaboration

If you are planning to include international collaborators on your proposal, you should visit Trusted Research (CPNI).

This will give you information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

How to apply

You must submit an ‘intent to submit’ survey by 31 March 2022 at 16:00 before you can  submit a proposal to this funding opportunity.

SmartSurvey: intent to submit.

You must apply through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select ‘new document’, then select:

  • ‘create new document’
  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard outline
  • call/type/mode: Investigate high-priority use cases for exascale software: phase two.

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

Your host organisation’s administration will then complete the submission process. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date.

If you are currently restricted under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy, you are only able to submit one full proposal (as principal investigator or co-investigator) during the 12 month restricted period.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 12 May 2022.

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.

Completing ethical information on your Je-S application.

EPSRC guidance can be found under ‘additional information’.

What else to include in your application

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

  • case for support (eight A4 pages, including two on your track record and six on the scientific case. Please see further below for more information on this)
  • workplan (one page)
  • justification of resources (two pages)
  • CVs (up to two A4 sides each only for named postdoctoral 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)
  • technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance (no page limit)
  • host organisation letter of support (two pages)
  • 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 two pages on your track record and six on the scientific case.

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

  • a detailed description of how the proposed ‘use case’ contributes to the aims and objectives of this opportunity, and why the proposed ‘use case’ will advance the current state-of-the-art requirements and deliver for the relevant communities
  • the focus area of the proposed use case and the challenge(s) to be addressed, while also including technical details of the approach to the design and development of simulation code(s)
  • the timeliness and importance of the proposed use case and the potential for leverage or collaborative activity
  • description of the planned proof-of-concept activities, approach to community development, and engagement activities.

Further guidance

For advice on writing proposals, see what to include in your proposal.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Your ‘intent to submit’ will not be assessed. It is for monitoring applications only.

Full proposals will be sent to external peer reviewers for their comments. If sufficiently supportive reviewer comments are received, principal investigators will be invited to submit a response to the reviewers’ comments.

Proposals will then be considered and prioritised for funding by an expert interview panel.

For the expert interview panel, the principal investigator and up to two others identified on the proposal will be invited to attend the interview. It is expected that the KE coordinator will participate in this interview.

The principal investigator response to postal peer review is expected to be week beginning 15 August 2022.

The expert interview panel is expected to be week beginning 12 September 2022.

Full guidance will be sent to candidates prior to the interview.

EPSRC reserves the right to alter this process subject to demand, and will inform you of any changes.

Assessment criteria

The criteria below will be addressed by postal peer review and the expert interview panel. Further guidance will be provided to applicants invited to interview.

Quality (primary)

The research excellence of the proposal, making reference to:

  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes for exascale software and algorithms
  • the current and future contribution of the use case to the ExCALIBUR programme’s objective, to deliver research and innovative algorithmic development to harness the power of exascale high performance computing (HPC) according to the four pillars of separation of concerns, co-design, data science and investing in people
  • the contribution and further planned commitment of the proposed high priority use case to building a coherent community of practice comprising subject matter experts, RSEs, computational or mathematical scientists, as well as any other relevant individuals and groups
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

National importance (secondary major)

How the project:

  • contributes to the frontier movement of UK’s software development towards exascale, including active engagement with the ExCALIBUR programme
  • focuses the high priority use case so it addresses a clear and timely need within the relevant research communities that builds upon the current ExCALIBUR funded approaches and has potential to leverage complementary ExCALIBUR projects
  • complements other ExCALIBUR research funded and fit the overall programme aims and objectives including evidence of current and proposed future collaborative work.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

The ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • the balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
  • evidence that the applicants represent the range of expertise required to address the challenge described and that the use case is credible to the wider research community.

Resources and management (secondary)

The effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

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

Assessment criteria specific to the funding opportunity

In addition to the above, you will also be assessed on how your project fits this specific funding opportunity. Reviewers will look at the following areas:

Fit to call (secondary)

The panel and reviewers will look at whether:

  • your project aligns the research programme to the aims and objectives of the funding opportunity
  • appropriate resources have been requested to support community building, responsible innovation or public engagement.

KE (secondary)

The panel and reviewers will look at whether your project has:

  • a plan for integration and exchange of knowledge across the programme and the dissemination of knowledge with academia, public sector research establishments (PSREs) and industry
  • identified opportunities and barriers to knowledge exchange within programme and external beneficiaries and routes to mitigate these.

Feedback

There will be no feedback from the ‘intent to submit’. There is no assessment of this stage.

Feedback on the full proposal is provided by the reviewer’s comments.

For proposals invited to interview, feedback will be provided from the interview. The rank order list information will be published on EPSRC’s Grants on the Web (GoW) system shortly after the interviews have been held.

Guidance for reviewers

Information about the EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers.

Guidance for reviewing standard grants.

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

Billy McGregor, Portfolio Manager

Email: billy.mcgregor@epsrc.ukri.org

Michael James, Portfolio Manager

Email: michael.james@epsrc.ukri.org

For the research infrastructure theme

Email: researchinfrastructure@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Background of the ExCALIBUR programme

ExCALIBUR is a £45.7 million Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme led by the Met Office and UKRI. Its aim is to deliver research and innovative algorithmic development to harness the power of exascale 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 five years and will meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to redesign the high priority simulation codes.

This will 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.

They 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 following benefits.

Efficiency

The UK’s most important scientific simulation codes will be able to harness the power of the supercomputers of the mid-2020s. This will result 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 RSE career development will position the next generation of UK software engineers at the cutting-edge of scientific supercomputing.

ExCALIBUR is built around four pillars. These are:

  • separation of concerns
  • co-design
  • data science
  • investing in people.

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

It will be delivered through six main activities:

  • the redesign of a core set of simulation codes (use cases) chosen to span a wide range of science domains
  • knowledge integration across the programme through widely applicable cross-cutting themes
  • application of learning from these activities to a second wave of use cases
  • exploratory research to identify and develop emerging high-performance algorithms in areas with significant potential impact
  • an interdisciplinary RSE knowledge integration activity
  • an annual capital investment to support the development of novel test beds to enable co-development with industry.

For more information on the other tranches of activities, including the cross cutting themes and RSE knowledge integration, please explore the ExCALIBUR website.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 215KB)
SmartSurvey: intent to submit

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