Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UK Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Regional Centre: 2022

Start application

Apply for funding to achieve the objectives of the UK SKA Regional Centre (UKSRC) strategy, enabling the highest return from the UK investment in the SKA project.

The goal of this opportunity is to identify a single consortium to undertake the work.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £8,625,000 (resource) for three years (£2,875,000 per year). STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

You can request additional capital of £300,000 for three years (at 100% of the full economic cost).

Projects must start between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023.

Who can apply

You must adhere to STFC’s eligibility criteria.

STFC’s remit covers:

  • astronomy
  • particle physics
  • nuclear physics
  • research infrastructure (for associated technology development)
  • knowledge exchange.

Three types of organisation are eligible to receive grants.

We ask that principal applicants and co-applicants meet certain eligibility criteria.

Check if you’re eligible for funding.

What we're looking for

The aim of the UK SKA Regional Centre (SRC) open funding opportunity is to invite proposals from consortia to deliver the objectives of the UKSRC strategy.

The goal of this opportunity is to identify a single consortium to undertake the work.

The scope of the proposal will encompass the UK’s SRC efforts, which will contribute to the SRCNet, as well as deliver on the priorities and needs of the UK community.

The proposal will demonstrate the delivery of UKSRC’s strategy vision, which is for the SRC network (SRCNet) to meet the needs of the UK science community, providing seamless access to SKA data and support, and enabling UK scientists to lead exploitation.

The proposal will aim to maximise the return to the UK through a contribution to the SRCNet at a level commensurate with the UK’s leading role in the project, and to deliver a UKSRC node, enabling the UK to maximise scientific return and drive innovation in data science.

The UKSRC node will form a key component of the SRCNet. It should help deliver the major SRCNet functionalities identified within the SKA SRC white paper (PDF, 406KB).

It will be compliant with the SRC global architecture and standards, whilst providing local operational infrastructure commensurate with the scientific needs of the UK SKA community.

Your proposal should be clear and concise and cover the full request for support, including an explicit analysis of costs, risks and benefits.

Grants should commence no sooner than 1 October 2022 and no later than 31 March 2023.

Proposals should justify your requested start date.

Case for support

Guidance on the contents of the case for support include the following information.

Aims and objectives

The intended outputs and outcomes of the project should be stated clearly, so that the success or failure of the project can easily be determined at the end of the funded period.

Project description

The scope of the project should be described, setting out the key work areas and international landscape. Highlight what will be delivered and on what timescale.

Strategic fit and relevance

You must include a science case summary stating the main science goals and objectives of the UK SKA community in terms of the STFC particle physics, particle astrophysics, astronomy and nuclear physics (PPAN) science themes.

Awareness and context

Describe the current status of related activity nationally and worldwide and how this proposal builds on the previous work.

Justify the proposed start dates of the grants and include how responsibilities are to be shared among the collaborators, both within the UK and internationally.

The proposal will promote strong community engagement throughout the project. Explain how the project will have a strong supportive user base among the relevant community both in the UK and internationally.

Track record

Describe the proponents track record in this field. A list of UK participants should be provided with justification for STFC support. Explain why the consortium is the best or most appropriate to carry out this project.

Project management

The management and reporting structure of the project should be outlined. This will include the setting up of a project office.

Information should be given about the way in which the project is to be led and managed. This must describe the following information.

Project organisation and participants

Provide a project structure diagram and organogram identifying key individuals or bodies (for example, programme board, Project Manager, Community Director) and reporting lines.

Arrangements should be described to enable project progress and performance to be managed effectively. The key stakeholders in the project should be identified

Project monitoring and reporting

The proposal should define the methods to be used for progress reporting and control. The plan includes frequency and attendance for progress meetings, the acceptance process for key deliverables and milestones, and the frequency and content of progress reports

Work breakdown structure (WBS)

Setting out the key work-packages together with a description of the key deliverables and tasks required to deliver them. The WBS should be broken down sufficiently to allow key work-packages and activities within the project to be understood.

Scheduling and resourcing

Milestones and deliverables should be defined in sufficient detail so that it is clear when they have been met and be sufficiently frequent to enable effective monitoring of the project.

Risk management

A risk register must be provided. The management of risks must be described.

Finance

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £8,625,000 (resource) for three years (£2,875,000 per year). STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

It is expected that STFC IRIS (the digital research infrastructure for STFC science and a coordination body that organises the sharing of resources and expertise across STFC and is preparing STFC for integration into UKRI-wide infrastructure) will provide capital and operational costs for computing, storage, system support and data centre expenses.

Therefore, these need not be requested in this proposal. However, the requirement from IRIS should be referenced.

Separate to the IRIS support, a small portion of capital can be made available to support activities that meet the remit of this opportunity if the need is demonstrated.

This capital request should be approximately £100,000 per year (cost to STFC), at approximately £300,000 total, and should cover items, such as network connectivity, where there is no provision in the current planned IRIS support.

Projects must start between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023.

You should include a narration of the financial request.

The total cost of the project to STFC must be shown, including the following information.  

Staff resource plans

Staff resource plans that should include a brief description of the activity staff will undertake and the need for each post. Resource tables should specify the staff category, and the fraction of the time they will spend on the project or work package.

Associated costs

All costs associated with the proposal must be justified, with the exception of university estates and indirects. An explanation for all costs requested on the Je-S form must be given in the case for support.

Each directly incurred post must be given a name or, for unnamed posts, a unique number (for example, RA1, RA2.).

Working allowance

Working allowance which is used to cope with the uncertainties that occur in all projects, such as increased cost of materials, complexity of design and manufacture of components.

It can be calculated in a number of ways and should take account of the project risks and their mitigation.

There should be a reasonable chance (for example, greater than 75%) that the project can be completed within the budget of the base cost plus the working allowance, it is awarded as part of the grant at announcement (at 100%).

Contingency

Contingency which should not be requested on the Je-S form.

It is for the unexpected things that can occur within a project and which could not reasonably be predicted, the cost of which is likely to be over and above that covered by the working margin.

It should be calculated on the basis of an understanding of the risks of the project and there should be a high expectation that the project can be completed without the use of contingency.

Contingency will only be released on the approval of the STFC Executive after it has considered advice from the STFC Oversight Committee or project board and explored the possibilities of de-scoping the project.

Demonstrator cases

You must include a set of demonstrator cases with particular relevance to the scientific interests and requirements of the UK community, complete with timelines, that define the user requirements (for example, what the researchers do) for working through these demonstrator cases.

There should be six to eight of these and each should be no more than one page long. These should encompass the UK Science Communities research interests. They will be used to test the proto-SRCs technical functions and efficacy.

Impact

Describe those activities that will be undertaken to support outreach and public engagement activities. Include how the potential impacts of the work, including knowledge exchange, will be realised. You should list relevant publications and references.

Financial tables

All details relating to the funding opportunity costs can be found in the grants handbook.

STFC template finance tables should be completed for each institute and work package.

Awards will be for three years and finance tables should be completed for this duration.

The cost to STFC (80% of the full economic cost) should be shown in the case for support.

STFC laboratory costs should be shown as 100% in the case for support. No overheads will be attracted.

Inflation (for example, indexation) should be included for STFC labs. Inflation should not be included for universities. Grant costs will be indexed by STFC, using the rates extant at the time.

Je-S forms

Je-S forms should also be completed and match the funding requested in the case for support.

Guidance and information on completing the Je-S form can be found under ‘Applying for a grant’ in the STFC grants handbook.

Data management plan

You are required to provide a data management plan. Further information can be found in the grants research handbook.

How to apply

You must apply by using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

The funding opportunity will close on Je-S at 16:00 on 28 July 2022 and it will not be possible to submit to the opportunity after this time.

You should leave enough time for your proposal to pass through the organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

STFC abs will not submit a Je-S form but their request will be included in the submitted case for support. This screen also has links to tutorials and system help.

You should use the Je-S form for standard grants and should apply for a grant of three years duration.

Applicants should select:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard (FEC)
  • call: SKA Regional Centre 2022
  • peer review preference: other.

For queries relating to the Je-S system, please contact the Je-S helpdesk directly by emailing jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Additional documents

In addition to the online application form, which must be submitted through the Je-S system, the following documents should be uploaded and classified correctly as attachments to the Je-S proposal:

  • case for support
  • financial tables (to be included as an annex to the case for support)
  • data management plan.

The length of the proposal should not exceed 50 pages, excluding annexes. The proposal should be written in Arial (or equivalent) 12 point font with a minimum of two cm margins around each page.

How we will assess your application

A review panel will be convened by the STFC Programmes Directorate to provide assurance that the proposals are achievable within the costs and schedule proposed and will recommend an award to the Programmes Directorate.

The review panel will meet in August or September to review proposals. A decision should be made no later than 30 September 2022.

The panel will comment on the following areas:

  • the strategic value within the STFC programme, including:
    • the scientific and technical importance of the project in respect to meeting the requirements of the SRCNet, UKSRC Node and the UK community
    • the extent to which the UKSRC benefits from or contributes to coherence and linkages with other programmes and facilities
    • the competency, track record and appropriateness of the collaboration to undertake the proposed work
    • the level of scientific standing, UK leadership and return to the UK generated by the proposal
    • the level of engagement with the UK community
  • the alignment to the UKSRC strategy, including:
    • the capability of the proposal to progress towards delivery of the vision and mission of the UKSRC strategy
    • evidence of alignment with global SRC activities
    • the proposed leading role of the UK in the overall development of global network resources for exploitation of SKA data, through participation in the SRCNet
    • the design, delivery, and support of UK resources to exploit SKA data, through hosting a UKSRC
    • engagement with the UK scientific community for full exploitation of SKA and precursor data
    • demonstrator cases and whether they ‘stress’ test the proposed, showing the need of the community and proposed solution
    • delivery of each strategic objective and whether these have been clearly defined
  • the planning and project management, including:
    • the proposed level of project management
    • the proposed Project Office and governance structure
    • scheduling, resourcing and timeliness of the proposed work
    • monitoring and reporting
    • evaluation of the risks (including technical) associated with implementation of the project and appropriateness of the requests for working allowance and contingency
  • the social and economic impact
    • the potential application of the proposal’s technologies in other fields
    • UK industrial engagement
    • the development of transferable skills
    • inspiring young people to value science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and consider STEM careers
    • creating opportunities for two-way interactions between the research community and society.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

George Madden, Head of SKA Project

Email: george.madden@stfc.ukri.org

Kim Burchell, Head of Astronomy Awards

Email: kim.burchell@stfc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

The SKA

The SKA is a global project and will be the largest radio telescope and scientific instrument on the planet.

The observatory will be sited in three countries and continents with the global headquarters in the UK (Jodrell Bank, Manchester) and two telescope sites, one in South Africa and the other in Western Australia.

The UK is the largest contributor to the SKA Project, contributing 15% of the total cost (€2 billion) of construction and initial operations from 2021 to 2030.

The operation of the SKA Observatory (SKAO) assumes the existence of a network of SRCs, one of which will be in the UK.

The SRC network (SRCNet) is required to provide the portal for scientists to access the SKA including provision of computing resources and support to enable the user community to analyse SKA data products.

The future of the project

By 2028, the two telescopes will be moving 2PB per day to the SRCNet with a further estimated 4 to 6PB of advanced data products being produced by users.

It is this huge data movement, processing and curation requirement that requires the SRCNet to be a distributed compute and data facility connected by high-speed networks (100Gbps) and operated by cloud technologies.

The status of the telescopes, construction and deployment sets the SRCNet timeline. By 2025, the SRCNet aims to be operating at 10% capacity and 80% of full functionality.

Proposals

Proposals will work to overcome this big data challenge through contributing to the global SRCNet, at a level commensurate with the UK’s leading role in the project, and to deliver a UKSRC node, enabling the UK to maximise scientific return and drive innovation in data science.

The UKSRC open funding opportunity has been created to enable the greatest possible return to the UK from its investment in the SKA, both scientific and within the data science technical work.

Through adequate community engagement, it is anticipated that the UK Astronomical Community forms a single consortium and submits a single proposal to the opportunity.

The strategy for UK involvement in the SRCNet is captured in the UKSRC strategy. A full case for support (proposal) is invited to deliver the objectives of the UKSRC strategy.

Proposals will request support for an initial three-year period, within a funding envelope of £2.3 million per year (80% FEC) for resource costs (£6.9 million total in resource, cost to STFC).

It is expected that STFC IRIS will provide capital and operational costs for computing, storage, system support and data centre expenses. Therefore, these need not be requested in this proposal. However, the requirement from IRIS should be referenced.

Separate to the IRIS support, a small portion of capital can be made available to support activities that meet the remit of this opportunity if the need is demonstrated.

This capital request should be approximately £100,000 per year (cost to STFC), at approximately £300,000 total, and should cover items, such as network connectivity, where there is no provision in the current planned IRIS support.

Supporting documents

UKSRC strategy (PDF, 103KB)

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