Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: STFC Horizons Programme: investigating solutions for net zero

Apply for funding for early development of promising technologies and solutions. These must support achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions.

The science, technology, applications and expertise must originate from the STFC core science programme or STFC facilities and laboratories.

The principal investigator must be from an STFC-funded department or STFC facility or lab.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £200,000. We will fund 80% of this.

Your project can last up to 18 months.

Who can apply

The proposal must be submitted by a researcher (the principle investigator). They must be an employee of a research organisation that is eligible for UKRI grants, for example:

  • a higher education institute
  • a recognised academic analogue, such as an institute funded by other research councils
  • another organisation eligible to apply for funding.

Only academic partners may request funding.

Proposals for projects must clearly and briefly demonstrate that the science, technology, applications and expertise involved originated from the STFC core science programme or the STFC national facilities and laboratories.

In order to be eligible, proposed activities must include a principle investigator from an STFC-funded department at an eligible research organisation or from an STFC lab or facility.

For further information, applicants should refer to the STFC research grants handbook guidance on eligibility.

What we're looking for

Activities that will be funded include the following.

Reviews and feasibility studies

These must identify the potential application of STFC-funded science, technology, applications and expertise to the net zero priority.

They will provide additional ‘landscape intelligence’ related to the STFC community’s capabilities to address the net zero thematic priority.

Proof of concept or demonstration projects

These must use STFC-funded science, technology, applications and expertise applied to the net zero priority.

Proof of concept projects should aim to bring existing technologies and expertise to a level where their relevance will be more easily appreciated and taken up by end‐users with a view to attracting the next stage of funding.

Proposals should clearly state the added‐value and leverage that the funding would bring.

Equipment purchases

There is no capital budget for this call and proposals should not include requests for funds for equipment purchases in excess of £10,000 (inclusive of VAT).

How to apply

Je-S submissions

All proposals should be submitted online using the Joint Electronic Submissions system (Je-S). The login screen has links to tutorials and system help.

In the event of any queries relating to the Je-S system, please contact the Je-S helpdesk.


When applying, please ensure the following details are entered correctly so your application reaches the correct council and the correct opportunity. Providing incorrect details at this stage could result in your application not being considered for this opportunity.

In Je-S, select:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: Futures
  • call title: STFC horizons (open) call

Please prefix the title of your application with ‘net-zero’.

In advance of submitting a proposal to this call through Je-S, we ask that you contact our team inbox at the earliest opportunity to express your interest.


Please provide a short summary of the proposed project, including funds to be requested (approximate figures). We will be able to advise you as to whether the project fits within the remit of the call.

Proposal documents

You should attach the following documents to your application:

  • Je-S pro forma
  • case for support (maximum six pages)
  • project partners’ letter of support (where relevant, up to three attachments)
  • data management plan
  • Gantt chart
  • covering letter (optional, this will not be seen by external reviewers or panel)
  • other (any document uploaded under “other” will not be seen by external reviewers or the panel).

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later. When you submit the application, it will first go to your host organisation for review. Please allow sufficient time for this.

See our general guidance for more details on requesting costs on a proposal, including fund headings (STFC).

Finances for STFC labs

Finances that are associated with the STFC labs should be separated from those of the UK research organisations. This is best done by submitting joint proposals with lead and non-lead organisations.

There is no specific condition on who should be the lead organisation. This is entirely up to the project team and how the project is designed.

It is mandatory for the non-lead application to submit a completed Je-S proposal form. This form will not include all the sections which are available to the lead. It is most important to complete the sections on finances.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed by external reviewers and then reviewed by an independent panel made up of experts in the field.

Applicants can nominate one reviewer, via Je-S, who is not a current or previous collaborator, friend or family member, or based at your host institution. However, it is not guaranteed that the nominated reviewer will be used.

You will have the opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments before the panel meeting.

Your application will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • alignment with STFC capabilities and evidence of the unique contributions that STFC’s laboratories, facilities and external research communities can make to the proposed activity. Where there is clear evidence of STFC capability, additional alignment to shared interests and priorities across UKRI or to known government department priorities is particularly welcomed
  • potential scale of impact
  • opportunities for follow-on funding beyond STFC (pump-priming viability and suggested progression of your proposed research beyond potential funding from the STFC Horizons Programme) and evidence for the investment being good value for money for STFC.

Project quality, including:

  • whether the need for the project has been clearly established, and potential for future impact, through a clearly demonstrated ‘pull’ from end-users of research
  • excellence, novelty and appropriateness of the proposed activities
  • suitability of the applicants and partners
  • strength of user involvement.

We are expecting peer review decisions to be communicated to the applicants in September 2021, so projects can start by November to December 2021.

Contact details

Isabella Panovic, Senior Programme Manager


Kamalam Vanninathan, Programme Manager


STFC Horizons Programme team inbox


Additional info

The STFC horizons programme (previously ‘solutions to 21st century challenges’) aims to proactively build and support collaborations between:

  • STFC
  • UKRI
  • external partners.

This is so that our community is an active partner in strategically selected, multidisciplinary programmes.

The programme will address targeted priority areas, around which STFC’s capabilities can be strategically applied, in partnership with UKRI and external partners.

STFC horizons programme funding is intended to provide pump-priming opportunities that support the STFC community’s capacity to contribute in targeted priority areas, or proof-of-concept funds that allow focused development of promising concepts in the targeted priority areas.

Find out more about the STFC horizons programme.

Supporting documents

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