Support the development of research software engineering

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Apply for funding for activities to support the development of research software engineering in the UK.

You must be either:

  • a researcher or research software engineer (RSE) at an eligible research organisation
  • an employee of an eligible public sector research establishment.

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

There are two funding streams to apply for. The full economic cost of your project can be up to:

  • £500,000 for the Core Knowledge Integration programme
  • £170,000 for awards to develop training and skills activities for RSE knowledge integration.

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

You can apply if you are a researcher or RSE equivalent at:

  • a higher education institution
  • a research institute
  • an independent research organisation accredited by UKRI
  • an eligible public sector research establishment.

Check if your institution is eligible for research and innovation funding.

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an EPSRC grant.

Applicants across the UK research landscape are invited to apply to this opportunity. We are particularly keen to attract applicants from a diverse set of institutions and backgrounds.

Submissions to this opportunity will count towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

This funding opportunity is designed to:

  • design and provide a long-term strategy for the training and development of the existing RSE community with HPC and exascale skills required to develop, support and maintain software and algorithms required for high performance computing and exascale development to facilitate high-quality science
  • develop a training curriculum for the RSE community with respect to their continued professional development
  • design and deliver activities to grow the established RSE community to attract new entrants
  • design and deliver activities to enable greater collaboration and transfer of skills in both directions between academic and industrial research sectors
  • design a sustainable long-term career path for RSEs.

This opportunity will build upon the information and recommendations provided in the RSE Knowledge Integration Landscape Review. This is written by members of the ExCALIBUR design and development working groups and details the current RSE landscape and the skills required to meet the challenges of the growing demand for HPC and exascale expertise.

There are two streams of funding available:

  • a single award to fund one proposal to deliver the full breadth of activities detailed above
  • multiple smaller awards to create and deliver individual specific training opportunities, hackathons, workshops, bootcamps and so on.

The focus of this opportunity is to support the development and growth in the UK RSE community to meet the future demand for HPC and exascale skills as we approach the exascale era.

Engagement and collaboration with currently funded projects and consideration of how to engage with those yet to be funded by the ExCALIBUR programme is a requirement for proposals.

Read further details on the ExCALIBUR programme.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate how they would collaborate with both researchers and businesses or industry.

Funding can be requested for:

  • the design and delivery of a focused training programme aimed at RSEs to address the future training requirements (both HPC and exascale) of the existing RSE community and to attract new entrants to the role
  • individual training activities to meet the identified HPC and exascale skills gaps as detailed in the RSE Knowledge Integration Landscape Review (a variety of different training models may be proposed, including postgraduate study, workshops, hackathons and bootcamps)
  • the development of a strategy for the long-term career development of RSEs.

EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals that do not sufficiently demonstrate the contribution of the proposed activities to enable research within UKRI’s remit.

ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinators

Knowledge exchange (KE) is a vital component in achieving the objectives of the ExCALIBUR programme. It will ensure integration across the programme activities where researchers are developing software and algorithms in preparation for future Exascale systems. Additionally, connections are required with potential beneficiaries in academia, public sector research establishments (PSREs) and industry to contribute to these designs and the dissemination of outcomes.

Only applicants to the Core Knowledge Integration Programme need to identify in their proposal a co-investigator or researcher co-investigator who will have responsibility for ExCALIBUR KE, to ensure interaction with the ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinators already in post working across the ExCALIBUR programme.

The ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinator’s role is to:

  • identify opportunities for knowledge exchange within their project, with other ExCALIBUR programme projects and with other relevant national and international projects
  • identify opportunities for knowledge exchange to develop and maintain a two-way flow of engagement and dissemination with industry and relevant national and international research communities
  • collaborate with other ExCALIBUR knowledge exchange coordinators as a network to deliver the programme’s knowledge dissemination strategy.

Funding available

One award of up to £500,000 is available to fund a core knowledge integration programme for a duration of up to three years at 80% full economic cost. Costs may include:

  • researcher time
  • staff time
  • consumables.

Up to £170,000 is available for up to four awards for a duration of up to three years at 80% full economic cost. Costs may include:

  • researcher time
  • staff time
  • consumables.

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

For more information on equipment funding, please see EPSRC’s equipment page.

International collaborators

Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for guidance on how to get the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

How to apply

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. You should prepare and submit your proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

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

  • ‘create new document’
  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • ‘SPF ExCALIBUR RSE Knowledge Integration Phase Two’ on the project details page.

After completing the application, you must ‘submit document’ which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the call closing date

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 2 December 2021.

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

  • case for support: eight pages (two on your track record and six on the scientific case)
  • workplan: one page
  • justification of resources: two pages
  • CVs: up to two A4 sides each, only for named postdoctoral staff, researcher co-investigators (research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time), and visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form: no page limit
  • cover letter: optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

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.

Guidance on completing ethical information on the Je-S form.

EPSRC guidance can be found under ‘additional information’.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

This opportunity will go through a one-stage assessment process. There will be no postal peer review stage for proposals submitted to this call. An expert prioritisation panel will assess all proposals submitted to this call.

The expert panel is expected to comprise a multidisciplinary membership of academics, industrial representatives and international expertise.

Applicants will be provided with comments from the expert panel providing them with a right to reply. The right to reply will be included in the panel documentation.

The key dates for applicants’ right to reply are:

  • request for principal investigator response: 26 January 2022
  • principal investigator response deadline: 3 February 2022.

Proposals will then be assessed at an expert prioritisation panel meeting resulting in a rank ordered list.

In the event of this opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, EPSRC reserve the right to modify the assessment process.

Assessment criteria

The standard criteria below will primarily be addressed by the expert prioritisation panel, whilst opportunity criteria will be assessed at the expert interview panel. Further guidance will be provided to applicants invited to interview.

Standard criteria

Quality (primary) the quality of the research excellence enabled, making reference to:

  • the novelty, relationship to the ExCALIBUR programme, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • the originality, relevance, and effectiveness of the training approach to address the training needs identified and to support RSEs and the wider research community to accelerate research impact
  • the contribution of RSE knowledge integration to the delivery of the ExCALIBUR programme’s ‘investing in people’ pillar
  • the suitability of the proposed methods and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

National importance (secondary major), how the proposed activities:

  • contribute to the skills development and growth of the UK’s software development community (both in HPC and exascale), including active engagement with the ExCALIBUR programme
  • address a clear and timely need within the relevant research communities that builds upon the current ExCALIBUR funded approaches and has potential to leverage complementary ExCALIBUR projects
  • complement other ExCALIBUR research funding and fit the overall programme aims and objectives, including evidence of current and proposed future collaborative work.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary), the ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • 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
  • evidence that the requested resources and approach to management are appropriate with respect to the activities of the proposed work.

Opportunity specific criteria

Fit to opportunity:

  • alignment of the programme to the aims and objectives of the opportunity
  • the Core Knowledge Integration Programme: a coherent programme of activities covering all aims and objectives of the opportunity.

Feedback

Feedback from the panel will be provided (in addition to Grants on the Web).

Guidance for reviewers

EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers.

Guidance for reviewing EPSRC standard grants.

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.

Ask a question about this opportunity

For any further specific opportunity information please contact:

Sarah King: sarah.king@epsrc.ukri.org

Elizabeth Bent: elizabeth.bent@epsrc.ukri.org

Research infrastructure inbox: researchinfrastructure@epsrc.ukri.org

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times: Je-S opening times

Additional info

Background

This funding opportunity is designed to deliver on the ‘Investing in People’ pillar of the ExCALIBUR programme.

RSEs are integral members of research teams who work alongside researchers co-designing scalable, robust, verifiable and maintainable software to deliver research impact. RSEs work across almost all the UKRI research base from cosmology to digital archiving.

At present a subset of RSEs work in the domain of high performance computing (HPC). With the imminent arrival of the next generation of supercomputers the demand for RSEs with the expertise to meet the challenges of new programming paradigms along with novel and heterogeneous architectures has never been greater. Highly skilled RSEs will be required across both academia and industry to exploit these advances.

Provision for the development of HPC skills within the RSE and research communities

It is acknowledged that many sections of the RSE community do not currently work on software in the HPC domain. However, with the anticipated growth in demand for skills in HPC and beyond it is necessary to enable the existing RSE community to grow their expertise in this domain. The RSE Knowledge Integration Landscape Review identifies a set of skills required for RSEs working in the HPC domain which include:

  • core skills
  • programming skills
  • debugging, performance profiling and optimisation
  • software career skills
  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • application and data workflows.

Provision for the development of exascale skills within the RSE and research communities

The RSE Knowledge Integration Landscape Review highlighted the following areas where skills development was required within the RSE and wider research community:

  • parallel paradigm
  • data and application workflows and their optimisation
  • HPC and artificial intelligence benchmarking of systems, codes and models
  • heterogeneous architecture programming
  • containerisation.

Long term career path development

To ensure the UK research community can effectively exploit the potential of exascale computing, recognition is required of the valuable contribution software engineering focused staff make to research outcomes. A strategy is therefore required to develop a long term career path for these individuals within both national laboratories and institutions.

The ExCALIBUR programme

ExCALIBUR (Harnessing Exascale Computing Algorithms and Infrastructures Benefitting UK Research) is a £45.7 million Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme led by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation to meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to harness the power of exascale HPC.

Radical changes to supercomputer architectures are on the horizon. The current simulation codes, that much of UK science relies on, are designed for current supercomputer architectures. These codes will, at best, not be able to fully exploit the power that the supercomputers of the mid-2020s will deliver; at worst, they will run slower on those machines than they do now.

Future computers will be more energy efficient and so the longer we rely on the current approach, the more expensive the solution will be. Therefore, it is essential that we invest now in redesigning those simulation codes so that they perform well on the future generations of supercomputers.

ExCALIBUR will be delivered over five years and will meet this challenge by delivering research and innovative algorithmic development to redesign the high-priority simulation codes to fully harness the power of future supercomputers across scientific and engineering applications.

It will achieve this by bringing together an unprecedented range of UK domain experts, mathematicians and computational scientists who will identify common issues and opportunities in the high-priority simulation codes and focus their combined scientific expertise and resources to accelerate toward interdisciplinary solutions.

The programme objectives have been designed to specifically address the benefits sought, which are:

  • efficiency: the UK’s most important scientific simulation codes will be able to harness the power of the supercomputers of the mid-2020s, resulting in an increase in scientific productivity for a given investment
  • capability: capitalising on this efficiency will enable the UK to continue to push the boundaries of science across a wide range of fields delivering transformational change in capability
  • expertise: a new, forward-facing, interdisciplinary approach to RSE career development will position the next generation of UK software engineers at the cutting-edge of scientific supercomputing.

ExCALIBUR is built around four pillars:

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

These pillars describe the fundamental principles that guide the development of research within the ExCALIBUR programme and are designed to ensure that the outcomes are future proofed against the constantly evolving landscape of hardware design. It will be delivered through six main activities:

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

Cross-cutting research

The ExCALIBUR programme defines cross-cutting research as: a coordinated approach addressing a known technology or infrastructure issue, which, if resolved, will lead to significant progress across a range of exascale software development challenges.

The themes of the cross-cutting research opportunity were defined following a market engagement event jointly held by the Met Office and EPSRC in November 2020. These themes were included within the two calls subsequently run and themes were categorised as common approaches and solutions or potential disruptors.

Common approaches or solutions:

  • input, output and storage
  • data workflow
  • coupling
  • verification, validation and uncertainty quantification
  • domain specific languages.

Potential disruptors:

  • exposing parallelism: parallel-in-time
  • exposing parallelism: task parallelism
  • machine learning: optimising numerical methods and augmenting physically based applications
  • future computing paradigms.

The grants funded through these calls will utilise the lessons learnt from the use cases and design and development working groups to address common issues that impact scientific code under development for use at Exascale.

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation 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. Therefore applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

Supporting documents

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