Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter research director

We are pleased to invite applications for an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Manufacturing Made Smarter (MMS) research director.

The research director will work for initial period of five months to:

  • engage with key stakeholders
  • develop a detailed proposal for an MMS Network+.

The research director will ensure that social and economic science insights are accessed across the MMS challenge and wider UK manufacturing sector.

The applicant will have a track record of building effective relationships between academics and businesses and have strong networks in UK manufacturing.

Who can apply

All proposals to this call must be from a researcher based at an eligible UK research organisation.

Find out more about eligible organisations.

The successful candidate should start the five-month development phase before the end of March 2021.

They will be invited to develop a full proposal for a Network+ and submit via the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S) in July 2021. Only the applicant successfully appointed as research director will be invited to submit to this second stage.

The Network+ will run from October 2021 to December 2024.

Joint applications (including job shares) for co-research directors are welcome where a clear split of responsibility is given.

If submitting a joint application, the Je-S application form will require that one of the co-research directors will be listed as principal investigator, the other will need to be listed as co-investigator.

What we're looking for

We are looking for applicants who have a track record of world-leading research and impact within areas relevant to the innovation and diffusion of industrial digital technologies (IDTs) in manufacturing.

They will be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of the needs and demands of the manufacturing sector in the UK, and the ability to engage both industry and academic partners.

They will have a strong commitment to interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches to research, with evidence of having previously drawn together a broad range of perspectives and approaches from across the economic and social sciences, engineering, digital technology and beyond.

A key priority for the MMS research director will be to help the MMS challenge identify the areas where economic and social sciences can make a significant contribution to the innovation and diffusion of IDTs in UK manufacturing.

This will include both identifying resources and insights that are currently underutilised, and working with industry partners and the challenge to identify and solve critical knowledge gaps.

How to apply

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

Proposals must be submitted by the call deadline of 25 November 2020 16.00 (UK time). Electronic acknowledgements will be sent to the principal investigator and submitting organisation.

All proposals must be submitted in English, costed in pounds sterling. Proposals can only be accepted by electronic submission through Je-S.

When applying select:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Research Grants – Strategic (ESSOO74)
  • call/type/mode: ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter Research Director 2020.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed and shortlisted by an independent panel comprising of academics, business representatives and other stakeholders in January 2021.

Shortlisted applicants will then be invited to a final interview panel in February 2021.

The successful applicant will be expected to start in March 2021.

Key assessment criteria include:

  • fit to call scope
  • quality and experience of the applicant in relation to the person specification
  • inclusion of appropriate expertise and resources
  • understanding of how the Network+ will be developed and managed
  • clarity of the give-month delivery plan.

Contact details

Enquiries relating to ESRC research funding rules and proposal procedures should be sent to

Additional info

Supporting documents

The overall aim of the ISCF MMS challenge is to help UK manufacturing become more productive and competitive through the innovation and diffusion of digital technology.

The challenge has a number of specific objectives to which the MMS Research Director and subsequent Network+ will be expected to contribute to directly:

  • increase UK manufacturing sector investment in industrial digitalisation research and development and increase the innovation and diffusion of IDTs
  • increase cross-sector collaboration between UK manufacturing sectors to drive the creation of common digital solutions
  • increase the number of digital technology companies providing solutions for manufacturing industries
  • increase the number of collaborations between small and medium-sized enterprises and larger, more established companies up the value chain
  • increase UK manufacturing and digital manufacturing solution exports.

Find out more about the MMS challenge.

ESRC, with the support of the Innovation Caucus, are hosting an online town hall event on 13 October 2020 for potential applicants.

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