Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Network to drive digital sustainability and a circular economy

Funding to establish and lead a collaborative research and innovation Network Plus bringing together digital technology, materials, circular economy and broader research and stakeholder communities to drive greater digital sustainability and a circular economy, accelerate impact, build skills and undertake horizon-scanning activities.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £2.5 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the FEC, up to £2 million.

The project duration should be 36 months.

Who can apply

This opportunity is for applicants who can bring together digital technology, materials, circular economy and broader research and stakeholder communities to drive greater digital sustainability and a circular economy.

Who is eligible to apply

EPSRC standard eligibility rules apply. For full details, visit EPSRC’s eligibility page.

Before applying for funding, check the eligibility of your organisation.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service. For full details, visit eligibility as an individual.

Your application should demonstrate that the team combines different areas of expertise and experience as appropriate to lead the Network Plus and achieve the stated outcomes, including community engagement, leadership and driving impact.

Individuals based in non-UK countries can be involved in the grant as visiting researchers, project partners, or members of advisory boards. However, they are not eligible to be project leads or co-leads, with the exception of individuals based at Norwegian institutions, who are eligible to be co-leads.

Who is not eligible to apply

You may be involved in no more than one application submitted to this funding opportunity.

International applicants

Under the UKRI and Research Council of Norway Money Follows Cooperation agreement a project co-lead (international) (previously co-investigator) can be based in a Norwegian institution.


We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI or any other funder.

Find out more about EPSRC’s resubmissions policy.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for


This funding opportunity aims to fund one Network Plus to build collaboration and knowledge exchange across research and stakeholder communities to:

  • lead to a step change in the sustainability and circularity of digital and communication technologies
  • and realise the potential of the digital revolution to enable a circular economy across sectors

In this context, digital and communication technologies are considered to include software and hardware, and relate to ICT materials, components and products as well as the systems they form. The digital revolution is wide-reaching, and in the context of the circular economy encompasses the use of data, digital tools and models, as well as the implementation of new technologies including, but not limited to, software, simulation, machine learning, automation and sensing. Although the potential for transformation is substantial, digital technologies are not without an environmental cost. The Network Plus should embed consideration of the environmental trade-offs in the research agenda.

We expect the Network Plus to drive progress in these areas by bringing together communities spanning academia, industry, policy, and others with expertise in:

  • information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • circular economy (CE)
  • materials science and engineering
  • any other relevant areas across the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) remit and more broadly, as appropriate

The Network Plus must establish themselves as leaders in the area, driving the development of a collaborative and diverse community and supporting new high quality collaborative research.

As part of a broader EPSRC investment in the area, including up to £12 million funded through the ‘Research for a digitally enabled circular economy and sustainable digital technologies’ opportunity, the Network Plus will deliver significant impact for the UK, supporting our engineering net zero and digital futures priority ambitions.

Through our engineering net zero priority we aim to deliver systems approaches and solutions to:

  • use the Earth’s resources as efficiently as possible
  • eliminate pollution and contributions to landfill
  • help deliver a sustainable zero carbon future

Through our digital futures priority, we aim to deliver digital software and hardware tools or solutions that:

  • enable a resilient, environmentally sustainable and secure by design digital future for the UK
  • enable positive economic impact for the UK


The Network Plus should deliver:

  • leadership of diverse and inclusive interdisciplinary research communities (both new and existing) across academia, policy and industry
  • new connections between relevant communities and projects, including the related ‘Research for a digitally enabled circular economy and sustainable digital technologies’ funding opportunity to accelerate knowledge transfer and the realisation of near and longer term impacts (economic, social and environmental)
  • an increase in research projects and collaborations at the ICT, materials and CE interfaces and beyond
  • greater community capacity and capability to embed circular and sustainable considerations across broad ICT, materials, CE and other relevant research and innovation communities over the short, medium and longer term. This includes the consideration of the need for new methods, tools and approaches, wider use of existing ones, and the training and skills required to support a growing research community
  • evidenced assessments of research and innovation opportunities and the support and pathways needed to drive world leading research and innovation and deliver significant impact in these areas. This should include a 10-year vision for the interfacing areas, with identified and prioritised research and community challenges. Assessments should be co-created by the research and stakeholder communities, considering policy, research, research infrastructure and skills, identifying challenges, opportunities, and priorities to deliver against national and global priorities
  • support for the identification and realisation of new research ideas to drive digital sustainability and a digitally enabled circular economy across sectors

The Network Plus could achieve these deliverables by:

  • facilitating knowledge exchange across programmes and driving progress in cross-cutting areas, improving cross-disciplinary understanding and facilitating application of the state of the art between different areas of research
  • building and supporting connections between research and non-academic stakeholders to drive greater co-creation of problems and solutions and identifying realistic translation pathways
  • run small funding opportunities to support high-risk projects, new collaborations, feasibility studies or impact acceleration activities. These could be used to support the associated research grant holders or broader members of the community
  • convene workshops and events to enable collaboration, horizon-scanning and generation of new ideas

This list is not exhaustive, and the successful network is not obliged to do all the above. Applicants are encouraged to tailor their activities to the needs of the area and to be innovative in their approach.


The proposed Network Plus must fit primarily within EPSRC’s remit, bringing together research and accelerating impact from research across EPSRC. However, we also welcome and encourage the involvement of researchers and expertise from other relevant disciplines across the remit of UKRI and more broadly, including, for example, social and environmental sciences. Workstreams should be co-created with appropriately interdisciplinary collaborators and non-academic stakeholders who can provide further understanding of the contextual factors that influence the systems at the interfaces of ICT, CE, advanced materials, engineering and beyond.

The Network Plus should also bring together the projects funded through the ‘Research for a digitally enabled circular economy and sustainable digital technologies’ funding opportunity. This may include, for example:

  • hosting an annual showcase meeting to bring together all funded projects
  • including investigators from at least one of the funded projects as members of the Network Plus advisory board
  • acting as an advocate for the funded projects within the wider research community
  • considering funded projects to be core stakeholders, and including them in all relevant networking activities

User engagement

We encourage you to engage with research users in the conception and implementation of the network to maximise impact where appropriate. These can include:

  • academia
  • industry
  • small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • third sector
  • end users
  • policymakers
  • research institutes
  • other sectors as appropriate

Systems approach

A whole systems approach enables the development of solutions and innovations that are more impactful while minimising and mitigating unintended consequences. It is a discovery process combining quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding and managing technological systems alongside broader economic, environmental, social, political and behavioural considerations, taking into account complex interactions. A shift to a more circular economy provides an opportunity for the UK to achieve more sustainable and clean economic growth and prosperity. However, implementing it within the current UK system may not always be the most appropriate approach.

The Network Plus must embed a systems approach within its own work, but also across its members and communities. An embedded and informed systems approach enables consideration of the trade-offs, risks and mitigations associated with different approaches. Upskilling the wider community on systems thinking and expertise should be a considered part of the Network Plus proposal.

Environmental sustainability

UKRI’s environmental sustainability strategy lays out our ambition to actively lead environmental sustainability across our sectors. 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. This 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.

Environmental sustainability is a broad term but 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 a circular economy

EPSRC (on behalf of UKRI) expects the Network Plus to embed careful consideration of environmental sustainability within its own work, but also across its members and communities.

The Network Plus should ensure that environmental impact and mitigation of the proposed and programme operations, as well as any associated project outputs and outcomes, is considered. The Network Plus must also seek opportunities to influence others and leave a legacy of environmental sustainability within the broader operations of their academic and industry partners.


The duration of this award is 36 months.

Funding available

The FEC of your project can be up to £2.5 million.

We will fund 80% of the FEC.

Eligible costs

Project lead and co-leads’ salaries

These should be requested under the directly allocated cost heading.

The project lead and co-leads can request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent on setting up and leading the Network Plus.

Funding requested under the directly incurred cost heading may include:

Travel and subsistence

Travel and subsistence enabling members of the Network Plus to meet to exchange ideas and expertise. This may include:

  • travel within the UK
  • visits by or to experts overseas
  • travel and subsistence costs to support secondments

Where possible collaborators should meet their own travel costs.

Administrative support

A sufficient level of administrative support should be requested to ensure the coordination, management, and smooth running of the Network Plus.

You are expected to employ a dedicated grant manager as a core member of the team, with relevant experience and costed at the appropriate grade.

Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the network’s output can also be included.

Organisation of activities

Funding can be requested for costs involved in running activities such as:

  • networking events
  • expert working groups
  • debates
  • online discussion forums
  • lectures
  • seminars
  • problem-solving workshops
  • flexible funds to distribute small-scale funding for projects or feasibility studies to enable cross-disciplinary, foresight, speculative or risky early-stage research, or other projects
  • other activities

You are encouraged to think creatively about the range of activities that could support the delivery of the Network Plus goals. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your proposed activities with us ahead of submission.

Flexible funds

Research is outside of the Network Plus scope. However, flexible funding can be requested to commission feasibility studies or similar small level projects (but not to demonstrator phase or beyond technology readiness level (TRL) 4). These funds must be distributed externally to the grant.

Flexible funds can be allocated to researchers at any organisation currently eligible for EPSRC funding. You will need to think carefully about how any budget for external distribution will be commissioned, and how you will ensure processes for the allocation of funds are fair and transparent.

Please note that any activities commissioned by the Network Plus using the flexible funds will be restricted to EPSRC current research organisation eligibility but will not be bound by standard EPSRC investigator eligibility criterion. It is the project lead’s responsibility to ensure ongoing governance to ensure correct usage and accountability of the funds. We would expect some examples of the types of projects at the application stage, but the research challenges are expected to evolve throughout the Network Plus lifetime and should be co-created and collaborative in nature.

The sum awarded under the heading of ‘flexible funds’ can include both directly incurred and directly allocated expenditure. These funds must be reported on the final expenditure statement (FES) as awarded on the offer letter and a breakdown of the expenditure must be submitted along with the FES. Flexible funds are funded at 80% FEC by EPSRC.


Funds cannot be requested to support the Network Plus to carry out research-related activities itself. These should be sought through the normal mechanisms or commissioned via open competition using flexible funds.

Appropriately skilled individuals may be costed to conduct and analyse horizon scanning activities to meet the aims and objectives of the Network Plus.

Other activities

Funding can also be requested for:

  • activities to identify and disseminate key research challenges in the area, such as horizon-scanning studies
  • activities to generate new research projects in the area, such as sandpits
  • activities to facilitate impact and advance policy, such as reports, websites and briefings
  • secondment support, including scoping of potential opportunities, travel and subsistence, and other appropriate costs
  • activities to support career development and training
  • activities to connect users, industry and other stakeholders with the research base
  • communication costs and for additional equipment such as personal computers and webservers
  • equipment to support networking, events and communication
  • other projects as appropriate for the Network Plus


Equipment over £10,000 is not available through this funding opportunity. We will not be funding laboratory or research equipment for this funding opportunity. We will only support equipment to facilitate communication, networking and events. We welcome innovative and creative thought.

Project partners

Project partners are expected to provide contributions to the delivery of the project and should not therefore be seeking to claim funds from UKRI. However, where there are specific circumstances where project partners do require funding for minor costs such as travel and subsistence, this will usually be paid at 80% FEC. These costs should be outlined and fully justified in the proposal and will be subject to peer review.

Where the project needs work to be undertaken that is more significant and includes costs other than travel and subsistence, then the project partner may also need to be included as a subcontractor. Any subcontracting costs must be fully justified and will be subject to peer review, as well as the procurement rules of the host organisation.

What we will fund

  • innovative workstreams and activities
  • community building and networking activities
  • appropriate administrative support
  • flexible funds

What we will not fund

The Network Plus is not expected to carry out research itself. Flexible funds may be used to externally commission small-scale research activities

Additional conditions

The Network Plus funding will be subject to the following additional conditions, in addition to our standard terms:

Grant is part of a wider funding programme

This grant forms part of a consortium of funded research alongside the grants funded through the ‘Research for a digitally enabled circular economy and sustainable digital technologies’ funding opportunity.

Investigators and researchers associated with this grant are expected to promote the aims of the associated research grants and be advocates for the research community.

Community network expectations

This grant is awarded on the understanding that the project will undertake a wider networking role with the research and user community outside its membership. This may involve coordination of activities such as meetings, workshops or seminars on behalf of EPSRC. A dedicated website must be set up within six months of the start of the grant and regularly maintained to provide a resource for engagement with the wider community.

This grant is expected to further develop the network, including its academic and user (such as policy, business, non-governmental organisations) membership, throughout the period of funding in order to maximise its impact on a wide range of disciplines. As part of the grant networks must identify ambitious ‘real-world’ challenges, which require a multidisciplinary approach and form an agenda for future research in the area.

User engagement strategy

You must develop and execute a strategy for engaging with potential users of the research funded in the project. This strategy should be reviewed and updated regularly as part of the formal management and reporting process agreed for this grant.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

In addition to RGC 3.4, you are expected to prepare a full equality, diversity and inclusion plan for the duration of this grant to demonstrate best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the lifetime of this funding award. This must be recorded through the grant reporting process.

Project officer appointment

We will nominate a member of EPSRC staff (the project officer) who will be your primary point of contact. The project officer will ensure that the project is being run in accordance with the terms and conditions and in line with financial due diligence. The project officer(s) should have access to all documentation of governance and reporting bodies, in so far as it relates to the administration and application of the grant. As funding administrators, all UKRI staff have agreed to maintain the confidentiality required by all parties involved in EPSRC-funded research.

Advisory board appointment

This grant must establish and run an independent advisory board, or equivalent body, to oversee the running of the project and provide advice on the strategic direction and activities of the project. The terms of reference and membership of this group (at least 50% independent membership and an independent chair) should be agreed with EPSRC. The EPSRC project officer will also be expected to attend and participate in advisory board and other appropriate meetings for the duration of the grant.

It is expected the first advisory board meeting will be held within four months of the start date of the project and there will two meetings a year with contact outside of the meeting when appropriate.

Flexible funds

Notwithstanding standard grant condition RGC 4.4, the sum awarded under the heading of ‘flexible funds’ can include both directly incurred and directly allocated expenditure. These funds must be reported on the FES as awarded on the offer letter and a breakdown of the expenditure must be submitted along with the FES. If a breakdown of this expenditure is not received the FESs will be returned. Standard grant conditions apply to all other funds awarded on this grant.

Publicity and branding

In addition to RGC 12.4 publication and acknowledgement of support, you must make reference to EPSRC and UKRI funding and include the UKRI logo and relevant branding on all online or printed materials (including press releases, posters, exhibition materials and other publications) related to activities funded by this grant.

Progress reports

In addition to the requirements set out in RGC 7.4.3, you are responsible for providing annual progress reports against non-financial performance metrics. A detailed list of performance metrics and instructions for reporting will be agreed with the grant holder and advisory board upon commencement of the grant.

Management structure

You should have established an appropriate management structure with clear lines of responsibility and authority to oversee the day-to-day running of the project. This should be in place within six months of the start date of the grant. The terms of reference and management structure, including the project lead, co-leads and senior investigators must be approved by us in advance as must any changes to this structure. The Project Officer will be our main contact with the project, and must receive all meeting minutes of the management committees. We reserve the right to attend any meetings.

Management resourcing

Adequate resourcing to support an appropriate management structure, as specified in the funding opportunity documentation, should be costed within the grant. This includes employing a grant manager on the grant.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the UKRI Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply:

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the ‘How to apply’ section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.


We must receive your application by 4:00pm UK time on Thursday 29 February 2024.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Personal data

Processing personal data

EPSRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your Funding Service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

EPSRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity online.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.


Word count: maximum 550

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • context
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • project co-lead (international) (PcL)
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

Application questions

Vision and approach

Word count: 10

What are you hoping to achieve with and how will you deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

For the Vision, explain how your proposed work:

  • aligns strategically to the funding opportunity aims and scope
  • demonstrates a coherent strategic vision and establishes clear outcomes for the Network Plus
  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment

Within the Vision section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be
  • identify key communities and future network members

For the Approach, explain how you have designed your work so that it:

  • will deliver against the expectations outlined in the funding opportunity
  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the Approach section we also expect you to:

  • explain how you will identify key opportunities for future research, innovation and growth in the relevant sectors, support knowledge transfer and accelerate impacts (economic, social and environmental)
  • identify and embed clear, realistic and proportionate routes to enable environmental, economic and societal impact, from the network and support wider investments to do the same
  • provide clear plans for:
    • networking with relevant communities and stakeholders including how you will support and build equitable, diverse, inclusive and accessible communities
    • building links between government and policy stakeholders and academic communities, supporting two-way communication and collaboration
    • utilising flexible funds to commission feasibility studies or other activities, if relevant
    • engagement with the cohort of other investments made under the ‘Research for a digitally enabled circular economy and sustainable digital technologies’ funding opportunity as well as other key investments in the broader funding landscape
    • management of all relevant work packages, including a dedicated grant manager with appropriate expertise as a core member of the team
  • provide a project plan including milestones and timelines in the form of a Gantt chart or similar (additional one-page A4)
  • include a detailed and appropriate plan for how you will acquire and manage data (additional one-page A4)

Create a document that includes your responses to all criteria. The document should not be more than six sides of A4, single spaced in paper in 11-point Arial (or equivalent sans serif font) with margins of at least 2cm. You may include images, graphs, tables. You can have an additional page for a diagrammatic workplan, and an additional page for a data management plan.

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Vision and Approach’.

Save this document as a single PDF file, no bigger than 8MB. Unless specifically requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply.

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word count: 1,500

Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

The word count for this section is 1,500 words. 1,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.

Added value

Word count: 500

What is the added value that this network will enable that would not be possible otherwise?

What the assessors are looking for in your response:

Demonstrate how the Network Plus will achieve the following:

  • create new interdisciplinary research communities and topics
  • provide a critical mass of researchers with a range of expertise and experience
  • promote mobility between academia, industry and other sectors
  • achieve sustainability of impacts beyond the funding requested

Programme leadership and management

Word count: 500

How have you co-created and designed your research programme to maximise the impact of the Network Plus?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you intend to:

  • manage and monitor the progress of the programme, including consideration of how the flexibility of resources will be managed
  • embed creativity and agility into the plans for the programme in order to respond to a changing landscape
  • develop and progress the careers of all team members, including academic and non-academic staff
  • embed considerations of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at all levels and in all aspects of the programme

Embedding environmental sustainability

Word count: 500

How will you embed environmental sustainability within all the Network Plus activities?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how the proposed Network Plus:

  • will centre and embed environmental sustainability throughout its aims, objectives, operations and research outcomes, and ensure that environmental impact and mitigation is explicitly considered at all stages throughout the lifetime of the Network Plus
  • will influence others and leave a legacy of environmental sustainability within the broader operations of your academic and industry partners, including upskilling the community, where appropriate, to support the embedding of sustainability and circularity across the research and innovation lifecycle

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. The Network Plus 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.

Resources and cost justification

Word count: 1,000

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Justify the application’s more costly resources, in particular:

  • project staff
  • grant manager
  • significant travel for field work or collaboration (but not regular travel between collaborating organisations or to conferences)
  • any consumables beyond typical requirements, or that are required in exceptional quantities

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word count: 500

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations

If you are collecting or using data, identify:

  • any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical considerations and, in particular, strategies to not preclude further reuse of data
  • formal information standards with which your study will comply

Additional sub-questions (to be answered only if appropriate) will be included in the Funding Service. These will ask about numbers and justification about:

  • research involving human participation

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the Funding Service.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Add the following project partner details:

  • the organisation name and address (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • the project partner contact name and email address
  • the type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If a detail is entered incorrectly and you have saved the entry, remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Project partners: letters (or emails) of support

Word count: 10

Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the ‘Project partners’ section.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box, or if you do not have any project partners enter ‘N/A’.

Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance, and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project

Ensure you have prior agreement from project partners so that, if you are offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the contributions template.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Do not provide letters of support from host and project co-leads’ research organisations.

Save letters or emails of support from each partner in a single PDF no bigger than 8MB. Unless specially requested, please do not include any sensitive personal data within the attachment.

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Project partner’.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply. If you do not have any project partners, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.


Word count: 1,000

List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Include all references in this section, not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application.

If linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible.

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.


An expert interview panel will conduct interviews with applicants after which the panel will make a funding recommendation.

We expect interviews to be held in May 2024.

EPSRC will make the final funding decision.


We will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment criteria

The criteria we will assess your application against are:

  • vision of the project, and approach to the project
  • capability of the applicant or applicants and the project team to deliver the project
  • added value of the Network Plus
  • programme leadership and management, including considerations of equality, diversity and inclusion
  • embedding environmental sustainability into the programme management and delivery
  • resources requested to do the project
  • ethical and responsible research and innovation considerations of the project

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UKRI Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact Details

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.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.


Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

You can also find information on submitting an application here: Improving your funding experience.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the Funding Service helpdesk on

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your UKRI Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info


For more information on EPSRC’s understanding of the remit of the three topics in this strategic funding opportunity, visit the following EPSRC web pages:

Funding opportunity background

Information and communication technologies (ICT) underpin almost everything used in modern society. They will continue to shape future economic growth and prosperity and will play a vital role in tackling societal challenges from climate change to healthcare.

ICT is currently built on an unsustainable ‘take-make-dispose’ linear economy. This results in ever increasing amounts of e-waste and misuse of critical raw materials that are essential for many ICT technologies.

The world’s consumption of raw materials is set to nearly double by 2060 due to global economic and living standards factor increases. This impacts the environment two-fold: firstly, via greenhouse gas emissions and secondly, via depleted natural capital. Moreover, energy usage and associated greenhouse gas emissions from ICT technologies are set to double by 2030 (PDF, 398KB).

There is therefore an urgent need to consider a more sustainable approach. Consideration of a circular economy must be embedded across the ICT research and innovation landscape if we are to achieve net zero carbon emission targets, reduce energy usage and e-waste, and ensure resource security. A circular economy keeps resources in use for as long as possible to extract maximum value from them while in use and recovers products and materials after use.

The recent manufacturing and the circular economy engagement activities have reinforced the need to embed designing for circularity and sustainability across the engineering and physical sciences (EPS) landscape including ICT. This also necessitates the integration of relevant advanced materials expertise as the properties needed for delivering complex ICT devices and systems will need to embed designing for circularity.

In addition, digital tools and ICT research and technologies can also accelerate the transition to a circular economy across the research landscape. The circular economy community engagement workshops in March 2022 identified the ICT and materials communities as key stakeholders in delivering a future CE. Similarly, the February 2023 manufacturing and the circular economy engagement activities identified a number of digital and data challenges as priorities. ICT research and technologies can be leveraged to accelerate and enhance the transition to a circular economy in other sectors.

New materials science discoveries will be required to both address the fundamental needs of more sustainable digital systems and for the creation of specialised hardware for digital systems for promoting circular economy. These materials will need the input and insight of expertise from circular economists for these digital approaches to fundamental materials science.

A new interdisciplinary community in this area will also help push forward underlying priorities of chemistry and materials sustainability and digital chemistry. It will build on the proposed work in this area that is addressed through standard mode and continues to underpin the success of the physical science and mathematical powerhouse in contributing to the broader aims of both EPSRC and the UK.

Related UKRI and EPSRC investments

The activity is complementary to other UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and EPSRC-funded projects including:

  • Made Smarter Innovation challenge, which supports the transformation of UK manufacturing by pioneering the development and integration of new and existing industrial digital technologies, including artificial intelligence
  • National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) programme, which focuses on a speciality material flow, delivering research, innovation and the evidence base to move the UK towards a resilient UK circular economy
  • eFutures network, which fosters collaboration across the electronics community within the UK. There has been a recent refocusing of the network to utilising electronics for sustainability and net zero. They have organised several seminars and workshops with this focus, including but not limited to the following:
    • ICT for a Circular Economy
    • Sustainable Materials and Nanodevices
    • Making Electronics Sustainable
    • Electronics for Sustainable Societies conference

This also brings together three of the seven technology families of strength and opportunity highlighted in the UK Innovation Strategy:

  • advanced materials and manufacturing: developing novel materials to elicit new properties and vastly improved performance (including increasing circularity) while incorporating safety and sustainability into material design
  • AI, digital and advanced computing: leveraging AI and data to enable better decision making on whole circular economic systems, balancing trade-offs associated with different approaches and material sources
  • electronics, photonics and quantum: creating novel circular ICT hardware and embedded software that allows products and processes to sense and measure, communicate, be powered have intelligence, be controlled and automated

We have published our equality, diversity and inclusion expectations, with associated resources, to help and support the community in delivering excellent and inclusive research in an excellent, inclusive and accessible research community.

Webinar for potential applicants

If you missed the webinar on 16 November 2023, you can watch a recording via Zoom.

Passcode: q?b*d^6a)

See a copy of the slides.

Read the webinar Q&A.

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Supporting links

Equality Impact Assessment (DOCX, 84KB)


  • 12 January 2024
    Equality Impact Assessment document added
  • 6 November 2023
    Webinar date changed from 'November 2023' to '16 November 2023 11:30am'. Webinar registration link added to the 'Additional info' section.

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