Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future: full stage

Apply for funding to establish a large-scale, multidisciplinary research hub in support of manufacturing, environmental sustainability and net zero.

You may only submit a full proposal if you have been invited by EPSRC after submitting a successful application at the outline stage.

Projects should address major, long-term challenges facing manufacturing industries.

We will fund two projects. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost of each project up to £12 million.

Funding for each project will be awarded over seven years.

Who can apply

This is the second stage of this opportunity. You may only submit a full proposal if you have been invited by EPSRC, after submitting a successful application at the outline stage.

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

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

Check if your institution is eligible for funding.

You can apply if you are a resident in the UK and meet at least one of the conditions 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.

Co-investigators may be added to the full proposal who were not on the outline proposal, where this would add complementary expertise, as long as it does not constitute a significant change to the vision or programme of work presented in the outline proposal.

Submissions to this funding opportunity count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy. If you are currently restricted under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy, you may only submit one full proposal as principal investigator or co-investigator during the 12-month restricted period.

The EPSRC resubmissions policy applies to this opportunity. If your application is unsuccessful, you may not resubmit the same proposal to a future opportunity.

What we're looking for

This opportunity is stage two of a two-stage assessment process. Your full proposal should:

  • include full details of your proposed research, including the scientific, technical, and methodological aspects
  • be essentially the same idea presented in your outline proposal, but with additional detail. It should not be a completely new idea or introduce significant new approaches, themes, or research areas. Co-investigators may be added to the proposal at this stage, where this would add complementary expertise, provided this does not constitute a significant change to the vision or programme of work.

Scope

Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future will deliver a programme of innovative research in the engineering and physical sciences, related to the challenges in commercialising early-stage research and manufacturing.

The hubs will feature high quality, multidisciplinary research, strong engagement with relevant manufacturing industries, and will take a leadership role in their national network.

In particular, they will demonstrate a cross-cutting and embedded approach to environmental sustainability, and promote active equality, diversity and inclusion action planning and delivery.

Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future will complement and refresh EPSRC’s existing portfolio of future manufacturing research hubs and contribute to delivering EPSRC’s strategic priorities, which could include:

  • artificial intelligence
  • resilient digital technologies
  • transformative health and healthcare
  • creative engineering and manufacturing solutions.

Defining ‘hubs’

Hubs are expected to deliver:

  • high quality, multidisciplinary research
  • a strong ethos of skills development for staff
  • efficient management of hub operations
  • a clear path to realising impact.

Hubs will be leaders within the landscape, driving forward the national manufacturing research agenda in their area and connecting with other players in the community, including users, policymakers and other public investments. For example, catapults, other hubs and EPSRC investments.

The hub and spoke model will be used, with the lead institution responsible for the core management and running of the hub and surrounding academic and industrial ‘spokes’ inputting specific expertise in areas that complement those from the lead institution.

The hub is expected to deliver added value (be more than the sum of its parts) by demonstrating strong connectivity between all hub partners and offering additional facilities, training and development than what is already provided by individual institutions.

Hub partnerships and impact should span all scales, building on the successes of previous similar investments to deliver impact in regional economies while also playing a national role in an international context.

In line with the government’s levelling up agenda, hubs should bring together the right people and organisations from places across the UK, to tackle the challenges relevant to their chosen research area.

Objectives

The objectives are to:

  • deliver a programme of high quality, multidisciplinary research related to the challenges in commercialising early-stage research and manufacturing
  • create strategic advantage and drive forward the national manufacturing research agenda in a particular area, as leaders within the landscape
  • centre and embed environmental sustainability throughout hub aims, objectives, operations and research outcomes, considering the context of each hub’s specific research area
  • engage with diverse and relevant partners to ensure that research is co-created and co-delivered with users
  • embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within hub operations and activities by developing and delivering an EDI action plan, led by the hub EDI lead, which takes into account the specific EDI context and challenges within the hub’s research area and community.

Research challenges

This opportunity is to support innovative research programmes in the engineering and physical sciences, related to the challenges in commercialising early-stage research within manufacturing.

The hub research programmes should:

  • draw on advances in underlying science and technology
  • focus on the design and development of new and existing manufacturing processes, systems and networks
  • explicitly consider the pathway to manufacture, including production scale up and integration within the wider industrial system.

You will need to articulate the hub’s strategy at each stage of the value chain (discovery, understand, integrate or adapt, demonstration and deploy).

We welcome applications focusing on diverse research areas and diverse sectors, and we expect all hubs to integrate environmental sustainability at all stages of the research and innovation process. By this, we do not mean that hub research must focus on sustainable manufacturing as a research area, but instead we expect hubs to:

  • embed environmental sustainability in all aspects of the hub, ensuring that environmental impact and mitigation is considered at all stages of the research lifecycle and throughout the lifetime of the hub
  • identify the major challenges relating to environmental sustainability in the chosen research area and integrate these as part of the hub research programme. You should consider ambitious challenges that may be at a lower technology readiness level but will support a step change in future sustainability, as well as how to improve and embed sustainability in technology that is closer to commercialisation
  • demonstrate leadership in environmental sustainability by carrying out hub operations in an environmentally sustainable way, with consideration of how to minimise the negative environmental impact of running the hub. You should seek opportunities to influence others and leave a legacy of environmental sustainability within the broader operations of your academic and industry partners.

Sustainability may be used to cover three broad areas: social, economic and environmental. While hubs may wish to consider some aspects of social and economic sustainability as part of their programme, this is not the focus of this funding opportunity.

Environmental sustainability may include consideration of such broad areas as:

  • reducing carbon emissions
  • protecting and enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity
  • waste or pollution elimination
  • resource efficiency and circular economy.

Environmental sustainability is complex and there are often conflicting drivers.

Hubs will need to take a whole systems approach to enable consideration of the trade-offs, risks and mitigations associated with different approaches and ensure research outcomes are used to support industry and government partners to make informed choices and mitigate unintended consequences.

We will not fund

We are seeking to refresh and complement our existing future manufacturing hubs portfolio. Therefore, we will not fund two hubs in the same research area, or in an area of research where there is an existing EPSRC future manufacturing hub ending after 31 March 2023.

Proposals must demonstrably lie primarily within the remit of EPSRC and must be within the scope of this funding opportunity. Any proposals that EPSRC deems out of remit or scope may be rejected without reference to peer review.

Industrial engagement

EPSRC expects a hub director to have a track-record of collaborating with users, and for the hub proposals to demonstrate cash and in-kind support from relevant and diverse sectors.

We expect that throughout the lifetime of the hub, the number of project partners will increase and cash or in-kind contributions will rise to a level similar to the EPSRC funding contribution.

To ensure that research outcomes from the hubs can be maximally exploited by industry, we are looking for clear evidence of genuine, substantive partnerships, with co-creation and co-delivery of projects and activities, in addition to financial contributions.

The strategy for engaging with industry should include plans to engage with a new and emerging range of relevant manufacturing companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, throughout the lifetime of the hub. If funded, you will be expected to implement your user engagement strategy and continue to review it regularly. However, as the user engagement strategy document was assessed at stage one, you do not need to include it within your full proposal.

In the hub governance procedures, advice from users must be appropriately used in the hub decision-making strategy to grow user engagement in terms of funding and numbers of users.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

As leaders in the community, hubs 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 your own environment and developing a strategy to address these, with reference to EPSRC’s published expectations for EDI.

You must ensure that you request appropriate resources to develop and deliver your EDI strategy effectively. This must include at least one costed staff post with responsibility for EDI (the hub EDI lead).

EPSRC does not specify any particular full-time equivalent, salary level or career stage for this post. Hubs may decide what is most appropriate for their programme, whilst giving due consideration to flexible working.

Hubs should include information and full costings on EDI resources (including the mandatory costed staff post for the EDI lead and any other resources (for example, mentoring schemes, training, workshops and data exercises) in the justification of resources.

Funding available

We will fund two projects. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost of each project up to £12 million.

Grants are expected to be awarded with a start date of 1 April 2023, with a possible slippage of up to six months.

This opportunity is intended to be the first in a series of planned opportunities for manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future over the coming years.

The total costs requested must be within 10% of the total indicated in your outline application but costs within individual fund headings may vary by more than this. The total EPSRC contribution may not exceed £12 million.

Learn about the costs you can apply for.

Equipment

Funding is available for items of equipment dedicated to the hub, costing up to £400,000 (including VAT). EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Equipment items costing less than £10,000 (including VAT) should be included under ‘other costs’ within the ‘directly incurred’ fund heading.

Items costing between £10,000 (including VAT) and £400,000 (including VAT) should be listed under ‘equipment’ within the ‘directly incurred’ fund heading.

For any single item of equipment costing more than £25,000, three quotations should accompany the proposal. These may be verbal for equipment in the range of £25,000 to £138,000 and must be written for equipment costing more than £138,000. Quotes should include VAT, delivery charges and incorporate any standard academic discounts.

For any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000 a two-page equipment business case must also be included in the proposal documentation.

Equipment funded through this opportunity must be dedicated to the hub and its objectives for the duration of the hub. All equipment must be fully justified in the justification of resources.

Learn more about EPSRC’s approach to equipment funding.

Duration

Funding for each project will be awarded over seven years.

Responsible innovation

You 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 for guidance on getting 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 the Je-S handbook.

We recommend you start your application early.

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

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future: full proposal stage.

This will populate:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: Manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future: full proposal stage.

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 20 October 2022 at 16:00.

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 as attachments:

  • case for support: this is a mandatory attachment and should be eight sides of A4 including:
    • track record (two sides of A4)
    • description of proposed research and its context (six sides of A4)
  • work plan: this is a mandatory attachment and can be up to one side of A4
  • justification of resources: this is a mandatory attachment and should be up to two sides of A4
  • CV for the hub director: this is a mandatory attachment and can be up to two sides of A4. Please do not include CVs for other investigators
  • host organisation statement from the lead research organisation: this is a mandatory attachment and has no page limit. Please do not include host organisation statements from spokes
  • project partner letters of support: this should be included where applicable, for all project partners and has no page limit
  • letters of support: in exceptional circumstances, you can include a maximum of three letters and there is no page limit
  • equipment quotes: this should be included where applicable and has no page limit
  • equipment business case: this attachment is required for any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000, and can be up to two sides of A4
  • technical assessment for the use of a major facility: this should be included where applicable and has no page limit
  • cover letter: this is an optional attachment, is not seen by peer review and has no page limit.

Read EPSRC’s guidance on project partners letter of support.

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

Read our advice on writing proposals for EPSRC funding.

Ethical information

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.

Read guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

How we will assess your application

This is a two-stage assessment process, and this opportunity is stage two.

At stage two, full proposals should include full details of the proposed research.

Full proposals will undergo internal checks by EPSRC staff to ensure they meet the opportunity requirements.

Peer review and interview panel

The full proposals will then undergo postal peer review, where they will be assessed by relevant experts, identified by EPSRC, who will score the proposal against the assessment criteria and provide comments.

When you submit your proposal, you should nominate three reviewers from different organisations with the expertise to review your proposal. We usually select one of your nominations as a reviewer (although this isn’t always possible if we identify a conflict of interest or if your nominated reviewers are unavailable).

You will receive a copy of the reviewer comments and be given the opportunity to provide a written response. We reserve the right to reject proposals at this stage if reviews are unsupportive.

If reviews are supportive, you will be invited to attend an interview panel on 8 February 2023. This is likely to be held virtually, over Zoom, however full logistical details and guidance for applicants will be provided in advance.

The panel will be formed of a mix of industry and academic members, with a range of expertise relevant to manufacturing. We will provide the panel in advance with your full proposal, the reviews and your written response to the reviews.

Up to four people from the hub team may attend the interview and this should include the director and at least one project partner. At the interview, you will be asked to give a short presentation on your hub vision and strategy, followed by a question and answer session with the panel members. The panel will then hold a closed session where they will score your application against the assessment criteria, using evidence from the proposal, reviews, written response to reviews and the interview. They will then produce a rank ordered list of proposals.

We will use the rank ordered list to determine priority for funding. In addition to the recommendations of the panel, EPSRC will consider the wider strategic portfolio of manufacturing hubs when making the funding decision (we will not fund multiple hubs in the same research area).

We expect to contact applicants with the outcome within two weeks of the interview panel meeting. Feedback on your proposal will be in the form of the reviewer reports from the postal peer review stage. You will not receive additional feedback after the interview panel meeting, unless specifically requested by the panel.

Assessment criteria

You should ensure that your proposal fully addresses all the following assessment criteria, taking note of the different weightings.

Quality (primary)

The research excellence of the proposal, making reference to:

  • the novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact. For multidisciplinary proposals, please state which aspects of the proposal you feel qualified to assess.

National importance (secondary major)

How the research:

  • contributes to or helps maintain the health of other disciplines
  • contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges
  • contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry or industries
  • 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 EPSRC portfolio
  • plans for dissemination and knowledge exchange with potential beneficiaries of the research.

Environmental sustainability (secondary major)

The extent to which the hub will embed environmental sustainability within all its activities, including:

  • embedding environmental sustainability in all aspects of the hub, ensuring that environmental impact and mitigation is considered at all stages of the research lifecycle and throughout the lifetime of the hub
  • identifying the major challenges relating to environmental sustainability in the chosen research area and integrating these as part of the hub research programme, including challenges linked to improving current technologies and practices, and more ambitious challenges that could lead to a fundamental rethink of future manufacturing processes, systems and cycles
  • demonstrating leadership in environmental sustainability by carrying out hub operations in an environmentally sustainable way, with consideration of how to minimise the negative environmental impact of running the hub, including seeking opportunities to influence others and leave a legacy of environmental sustainability within the broader operations of all academic and industry partners.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

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

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators.

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:

  • any equipment requested, or the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
  • any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Feedback

Feedback at stage two will be provided in the form of reviewer comments.

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

Laura Totterdell, EPSRC Senior Portfolio Manager

Email: laura.totterdell@epsrc.ukri.org

Naomi South, EPSRC Portfolio Manager

Email: naomi.south@epsrc.ukri.org

Manufacturing team, EPSRC

Email: manufacturingpeerreview@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘Manufacturing hubs’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

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

This opportunity for manufacturing research hubs for a sustainable future builds on the success of previous EPSRC critical mass investments in manufacturing, including:

  • EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres
  • EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing
  • EPSRC future manufacturing hubs.

Learn more about future manufacturing research hubs.

Manufacturing is an essential part of the UK economy. The UK manufacturing sector is diverse, with activities in:

  • aerospace
  • pharmaceuticals
  • chemicals
  • automotive
  • electronics
  • biotechnology
  • food and drink.

The sector needs to be innovative to compete on a global scale, including meeting UK net zero (GOV.UK) targets and addressing United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

EPSRC aims to support this innovation through the research we fund. By ensuring researchers co-create their programmes with industry, we ensure major, long term challenges are addressed and emerging opportunities are captured.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s environmental sustainability strategy lays out our ambition to actively lead environmental sustainability across our sector. This includes a vision to ensure that all major investment and funding decisions we make are directly informed by environmental sustainability, recognising environmental benefits as well as potential for environmental harm.

In alignment with this, UKRI is tackling the challenge of environmental sustainability through our ‘building a green future’ strategic theme, which aims to develop whole systems solutions to improve the health of our environment and deliver net zero, securing prosperity across the whole of the UK.

Our current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy is not sustainable. The world’s consumption of raw materials is set to nearly double by 2060 (OECD) as the global economy expands and living standards rise, placing twice the pressure on the environment. For example, through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and depleted natural capital.

A circular economy keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, and recovering products and materials after use.

More circular use of resources is crucial to achieving net zero carbon emission targets, as well as reducing waste and pollution harmful to biodiversity, and enhancing health and resource security.

It offers the UK significant economic, social and environmental benefits (PDF, 6.26 MB), including:

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
  • 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.

Grant additional conditions

If funded, the UKRI terms and conditions will apply to your grant. In addition to these, additional grant conditions (PDF, 70KB) will be applied. We reserve the right to amend these or add further conditions, up to the point of issuing the grant. Full details of the terms and conditions applying to your award will be listed in the grant offer letter.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 241KB)
Grant additional conditions (PDF, 70KB)

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