Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Sustainable manufacturing

To apply for this opportunity, you must have been invited to submit a full proposal.

Apply for funding to research technologies and processes for sustainable manufacturing. This should focus on areas within EPSRC’s Manufacturing the Future theme.

You must be a UK resident based at an eligible research organisation. You can be at any career stage.

Your proposal must address at least one of these manufacturing research challenges:

  • resource efficiency and multi-level optimisation, to reduce manufacturing resource use to just the amount required
  • design and manufacturing for a more circular economy, including re-use, repair, disassembly and remanufacture
  • more efficient recycling and recovery of products and materials, to retain value in the manufacturing system.

Your submission counts towards the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

Who can apply

Only applicants who were successful from the outline stage and have been invited to submit a full proposal can apply.

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

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • NHS bodies with research capacity
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of the criteria below:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level or equivalent
  • 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.

If you are currently restricted under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy, you will only be able to submit one full proposal (as principal investigator or co-investigator) during the 12-month restricted period.

Find out more about the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy (EPSRC website).

What we're looking for


Proposals should target any current or future manufacturing system that can deliver product function with maximum material recovery.

Proposals must address at least one of these three key manufacturing research challenges:

  • resource efficiency and multi-level optimisation, to reduce manufacturing resource use to just the amount required
  • design and manufacturing for a more circular economy including re-use, repair, disassembly and remanufacture
  • more efficient recycling and recovery of products and materials, to retain value in the manufacturing system.

This funding opportunity will fund a portfolio of novel research that addresses one or more of the above, whilst building new capabilities and processes.

Proposals must lie within the remit (minimum 50%) of the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme.

To fit within the remit, your research must focus on one or both of these:

  • new research into technologies and processes that support sustainable manufacturing
  • the design or operation of such manufacturing technologies or processes.

Proposals deemed by EPSRC to lie outside this remit or the scope of the funding opportunity may be rejected without reference to peer review.

In either case, it must be clear how the research to be conducted supports the vision of sustainable manufacturing.

A number of broader economic, social and environmental challenges may also arise when considering the development of sustainable manufacturing processes. Proposals that focus primarily on addressing these challenges will fall outside the remit of the EPSRC manufacturing the future theme and therefore the scope of the funding opportunity.

However, applicants are encouraged to consider any broader, multidisciplinary challenges relevant to their project and to demonstrate in their application that their research vision supports these considerations.

Inclusion of project partners is encouraged, although not a formal requirement of this funding opportunity. All applicants are however encouraged to think more broadly about industrial engagement, including building in plans to engage with a range of relevant manufacturing companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), throughout the project.

A user engagement strategy describing this approach must be submitted as part of the full proposal, and the appropriateness of this will be assessed under the ‘applicant and partnerships’ criterion.

Full proposals should not differ significantly from the associated outline proposal. EPSRC reserves the right to reject, without reference to peer review, any proposals where this advice has not been followed.

Funding available

Funding is available for projects up to 36 months in duration.

Grant size is expected to be in line with usual standard research grants and must be within 10% of the total amount indicated at the outline stage. Applicants intending to request a particularly large grant (more than £2 million) are strongly advised to contact EPSRC in advance of submission to discuss this.

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

Find out more about equipment funding (EPSRC website).

How to apply

This document relates to the submission of full proposals. This is only open to successful candidates from the outline stage.

Although proposals may be multi-institutional, only one application form should be submitted for each bid.

Full proposals invited following a successful outline stage must have the ‘related grant’ field completed in Je-S. Please use the option ‘successful outline’.

Applicants should ensure they 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 system (Je-S).

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

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • on the project details page, select: Sustainable manufacturing call full proposals.

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.

Allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 15 July 2021.


As well as the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) application form, the following documents must be submitted.

Case for support (full proposal stage)

  • eight pages
  • mandatory.
  • comprising up to two A4 sides for a track record, and six A4 sides describing proposed research and its context.


  • one page
  • mandatory
  • should be illustrated with a simple diagrammatic work plan, such as a programme evaluation and review technique (PERT) or Gantt chart.

Justification for resources

  • two pages
  • mandatory.

Cover letter

  • no page limit
  • optional.


  • two pages each
  • for named and visiting researchers, and researcher co-investigators only.

Project partner letters of support

  • no page limits
  • must be included from all named project partners
  • must be on headed paper and be signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission date.

Letters of support

  • no page limits
  • optional
  • in exceptional circumstances a maximum of three letters can be submitted

Technical assessment

  • no page limit
  • optional
  • for the use of a major facility, where applicable.

User engagement strategy (type: additional document)

  • two pages
  • mandatory.

Successful applicants will be required to develop and execute a strategy for engaging with potential users of the research funded in the project (resources for this activity can be requested but must be justified in the application).

An initial version of this strategy should be submitted as a two-page document as part of the full proposal stage. This strategy should be reviewed and updated regularly as part of the formal management of the grant.

The strategy should cover:

  • how and when potential users have been or will be identified
  • what form the engagement will take
  • what steps will be taken to ensure that outputs of the research are made available to potential users
  • suitable metrics for determining the success of the strategy in delivering value to users.

This requirement has been included in this funding opportunity to reflect the importance of engaging with manufacturing industries as part of realising the benefits of the fundamental research the Manufacturing the Future theme support.

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

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.

Find further guidance on ethical information when completing the Je-S form.

Read the EPSRC guidance on ethics (EPSRC website).

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Proposals will be assessed through postal peer review. Reviewers will be assessing applications against the full proposal assessment criteria provided in the assessment criteria section. Full proposals must be submitted by 15 July 2021 16:00.

Applications that receive sufficient support from reviewers will be taken to a prioritisation panel. The panel will assess proposals against the full proposals assessment criteria and produce a rank ordered list.

The prioritisation panel will take place in November 2021. Funding decisions will be based on the rank-ordered list compiled by the panel and we expect to communicate these in December 2021.

Assessment criteria

Full proposals will be assessed against the following criteria.

Research quality (primary)

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.

National importance (secondary major)

How the research:

  • does one or more of the following:
    • 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.

Fit to call (secondary major criterion)

Alignment of research programme to aims and objectives of funding opportunity.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)


  • the ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:
    • appropriateness of the track record of the applicants
    • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
  • appropriateness of the user engagement strategy and any resources requested for it.

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 will be provided in the form of:

  • reviewer comments on the full proposals
  • information on the panel provided on Grants on the Web.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal.

Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest (EPSRC website).

See more information about the reviewer selection process (EPSRC website).

Guidance for reviewers

When completing your assessment, please use the section marked ‘call specific criteria’ to address the fit to call criterion, as defined in the assessment criteria above.

Read the information about the EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers (EPSRC website).

Read guidance for reviewing standard grants (EPSRC website).

For multi-disciplinary proposals please state which aspects of the proposal you feel qualified to assess.

Contact details

Mr Tochukwu Ajare

Portfolio Manager, Manufacturing the Future theme


Mr Stephen Gilligan

Portfolio Support Manager, Manufacturing the Future theme


Central email inbox


Costings and writing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance. Allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.


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

Additional info


The EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme (MtF) has recently refreshed its research priorities, with input from numerous members of the manufacturing research and innovation community. The topic of ‘sustainability and function’ has emerged as one of the theme’s new research priorities.

In 2018, MtF held a strategic retreat to explore the future manufacturing research and innovation landscape and examine future strategic opportunities.

The outputs were further developed through a series of community engagement activities, forming the basis of the MtF Strategic Priorities workshop, where the suggestion of ‘sustainable radical manufacturing technologies for resource efficiency’ as a priority area for future manufacturing research was made.

This covers design and manufacture of products to deliver the desired:

  • functionality
  • recoverability and zero waste
  • manufacturing technologies
  • design for repair and disassembly for example recycling, upcycling and degradation.

Subsequent discussions with the MtF Strategic Advisory Team (SAT) and input from the Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research (ECF) developed ‘sustainable radical manufacturing technologies for resource efficiency’ into ‘sustainability and function’. It was emphasised that a priority should be placed on advancing manufacturing research in this area.

As part of UKRI Environmental Sustainability Strategy, with the ambition to “embed sustainability in everything we do and achieving net-zero for our carbon emissions by 2040”, this priority should be reflected in all strategic investments. Therefore, a target towards net-zero should be embedded in all projects.

The research projects should be compatible with, or help to achieve, manufacturing technologies, processes and systems that make effective and efficient use of resources, leading to acceptable (even positive) environmental impacts.


The vision of the EPSRC ‘manufacturing the future’ theme is of a prosperous and productive UK, supported by a thriving research and knowledge-led manufacturing base. To enable this, our mission is to create and capture the benefits of basic research for UK manufacturing industries.

One of the theme’s priorities is ‘sustainability and function’: research to enhance understanding of how manufacturing processes, and systems or products, could be designed and manufactured to deliver desired functionality, multi-level optimisation and recoverability. The goal is to increase sustainability in manufacturing, whether via:

  • less resource use
  • less energy consumption
  • lower carbon emissions
  • less waste.

The priority also covers the development and use of tools, theories and methods for analysing or assessing sustainability in relation to manufacturing.

To deliver this priority, the aims of this sustainable manufacturing funding opportunity are to:

  • reduce manufacturing resource use to just the amount required, decreasing reliance on raw materials (especially rare ones)
  • encourage the re-use and integration of products and co-products in from other processes in manufacturing systems
  • design products for greater efficiency throughout their lifecycle, including design for disassembly, repair, recycling or upcycling
  • improve recyclability of products, and recoverability or recovery efficiency of high-value resources, including by reducing product material complexity
  • reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing processes, and the impact of products to the environment throughout their lifecycle and at their end of life.

This funding opportunity will fund a portfolio of novel research that addresses one or more of the above, whilst building new capabilities and processes.

Learn about EPSRC’s portfolio and strategies (EPSRC website).

These are broad aims, and the research scope of this funding opportunity does not encompass all research that contributes to these aims. Rather, we will fund fundamental engineering and physical sciences research into manufacturing technologies and processes which fit the aims of this funding opportunity.

Supporting documents

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