Early Career Forum in Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Research

Closing date
4:00pm on 26 October 2023
Number of positions
Length of term
Three years
Time commitment
Three days per year with occasional contact in between for specific topics or issues
Sift panel date
November 2023
Outcomes communicated date
December 2023

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is seeking applications from early career academics to join the Early Career Forum in Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Research for a three-year term.

We are looking to recruit 11 new members in this exercise. Application is by expression of interest, submitted via the Engagement Hub survey.

Eligibility follows standard EPSRC rules for research grants and is limited to UK higher education institutions. A brief institutional statement of support is required.

Who we’re looking for

This opportunity is available to early career academics. To recognise the range of career paths in manufacturing, there is no specific definition of ‘early career’, however, applicants should demonstrate why they consider it appropriate to describe themselves as such. This forms part of the assessment criteria outlined in the ‘how we’ll assess your application’ section.

Some indicators that an individual might be considered early career are given below. These are not exhaustive or definitive, but may help applicants to decide whether this is the right opportunity for them, and to explain why they would consider themselves to be early career.

The panel may also refer to these indicators, but will be encouraged to take a broad view when assessing whether an applicant is at a suitable point in their career.

The indicators are:

  • the applicant is in the process of establishing or has newly established their research independence and their research team (established leaders of research groups would not be suitable for this opportunity)
  • the applicant has aspirations to leadership within their research community or some experience of community leadership, but may not have a significant track record of community leadership at a national level
  • the applicant has a good awareness of the international and strategic context of their research and is starting to show evidence of recognition in the community

We are keen to see diversity in forum membership, in terms of gender, race, disability and other protected characteristics, and we welcome applications from candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Find out about EPSRC’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion.

This opportunity is open to full-time and part-time academic staff and fellowship holders, according to the normal eligibility rules for EPSRC funding.

In this opportunity, EPSRC will only accept applications from UK higher education institutions. For information on the eligibility of individuals to receive EPSRC funding, see the EPSRC funding guide: eligibility as an individual.

Individuals interested in applying for this opportunity who are unsure of their eligibility should contact EPSRC (see contacts in the ‘further information’ section).

Submissions to this opportunity will not affect an applicant’s status under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What you’ll be doing

EPSRC seeks expressions of interest for the refresh of the membership of the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Early Career Forum (see ‘the scope and what we’re doing’ section).

EPSRC is looking to appoint 11 new members of the forum. Applicants should have a strong focus on advancing the UK’s international reputation in manufacturing research. Applicants should be open to developing interdisciplinary research agendas, help with two-way communication between EPSRC and the early career manufacturing research community, and have an interest in participating in research policy development.

Members of the Early Career Forum will have the opportunity to interact with other early career academics from across the breadth of engineering and the physical sciences, forming new professional networks that may generate future innovative research programmes.

Forum members will also have targeted opportunities to participate in EPSRC strategic advisory activities, interact with senior staff of EPSRC-funded large grants, including the EPSRC future manufacturing hubs, and will receive insight into, and practical advice relating to, UK funding body policy and practice.

Members appointed via this process will form the seventh cohort of the forum. Their membership period is expected to run from winter 2023 to winter 2026.


Manufacturing and the Circular Economy research is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing upon the whole breadth of EPSRC-supported research and beyond. There are, for example, strong overlaps with the biological and social sciences.

The challenge for EPSRC’s Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme is to create, capture and accelerate the benefits of groundbreaking research for the benefit of UK. The vision is a sustainable, resilient, thriving and productive UK-wide manufacturing sector and a truly circular economy.

To this end, Manufacturing and the Circular Economy interacts widely with academia and industry via advisory bodies and staff within strategic large investments, membership of cross-industry, academia and governmental committees, and discussions with professional societies and networks.

The future international reputation of the UK in manufacturing research rests upon the early career academics of today. They will generate new and sustainable manufacturing processes, technologies and systems at the interfaces of traditional mathematical, scientific and engineering disciplines.

Such individuals will define, by virtue of their excellent research track records and strong professional connections, the intellectual and practical merit of UK manufacturing research on the international stage.

A shift to a more circular economy provides an opportunity for the UK to achieve more sustainable and clean economic growth and prosperity. As such, we particularly encourage systems thinking across the research landscape by placing their research in the context of the wider system (technological, economic, social, cultural, and environmental) in which the impact would be realised.

Applicants will need to take a systems approach to enable consideration of the trade-offs, risks and mitigations associated with different approaches, using tools and approaches such as life cycle analysis and impact assessments where appropriate. These aspects should inform and influence your research direction now and in the future.

The Early Career Forum in Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Research seeks to identify individuals near the start of their academic research career who may have the characteristics required to become such international leaders of the future.

EPSRC desires that members of the forum will take a lead in defining and developing what ‘research excellence’ means within the context of UK manufacturing and the circular economy research.

Forum activities

The forum is a long-term initiative with an evolving membership base. The activities of the forum are influenced by the wishes and ideas of the membership, who are expected to participate in organising events. Members will have access to a range of tailored events and opportunities, which have previously included:

  • networking and idea-sharing with all other Early Career Forum members
  • discussions, networking and mentoring opportunities with senior academics and industrialists from the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme and beyond
  • insight and mentoring into EPSRC processes and procedures, including various EPSRC grant awards and the associated peer review processes
  • developing working relationships with EPSRC
  • joint sessions with the EPSRC Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Strategic Advisory Team

Further information about current membership and ongoing activities of the Early Career Forum can be found on the Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research website and at: Manufacturing the future theme.

Individual membership of the forum will last for approximately three years. EPSRC expects to have around 20 members of the Early Career Forum across the broad portfolio of manufacturing research.

Meetings are run by and hosted by members of the forum, and EPSRC would expect applicants to be willing to actively participate and contribute to the forum’s activities on a regular basis.

Applicants are advised that the Early Career Forum usually meets three times annually, with each meeting running over one to two days. Members are expected to aim to attend a majority of meetings.

EPSRC wishes to invite forum members across the full breadth of the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme. This includes:

  • physicists
  • chemists
  • computer scientists
  • mathematicians
  • manufacturing engineering disciplines
  • process engineering disciplines

Members do not need to have expertise in both manufacturing and circular economy research.

EPSRC explicitly seeks to ensure that at each refresh the forum is constituted with an appropriate balance of membership across academic research areas. Therefore, we would particularly welcome applications from individuals with backgrounds in:

  • engineering design
  • manufacturing operations
  • sustainable manufacturing
  • production manufacturing
  • circular economy technologies
  • digital manufacturing
  • life cycle analysis relevant experience

Find out more about EPSRC’s portfolio and strategies.

Opportunity available

This is not a direct funding opportunity, but rather an expression of interest for membership of the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Early Career Research Forum.

EPSRC will pay some of the forum meeting costs, for example meals. However, successful applicants would generally be expected to fund their own travel and accommodation costs to attend the meetings. Applicants should ensure their host organisation can cover such costs for their attendance.

How to apply

Submitting an application

This is a single-stage assessment process, based around an expression of interest (EoI). Any applications that fail to follow these guidelines will not be considered.

Applicants should submit their applications electronically by 4:00pm on 26 October 2023 using the EoI application form.

Guidance on writing an application

Preparing an EoI

Applicants should complete all sections of the EoI form.

Applicants must address the criteria outlined in the ‘assessment criteria’ section.

Each section may contain up to 1,500 characters.

Preparing a statement of support

All applications must be accompanied by a statement of support on headed paper, written, signed and dated by the applicant’s head of department (or equivalent). This statement of support must explain clearly how the department will support the applicant’s membership of the forum. It must:

  • confirm that the host institution is supportive of the time commitment entered into by the applicant and will ensure that the applicant is provided with travel and subsistence costs as required for meeting attendance
  • confirm that the host institution is prepared to support the applicant to host a meeting of the Early Career Forum during the applicant’s term of membership

This letter will not be seen by the panel, nor used as part of the assessment of the applications. However, applications received without a statement of support, or where the statement of support does not meet the two criteria above, will be rejected.

How we’ll assess your application

Assessment process

An expert external panel will assess the received applications based on the information provided, addressing how well applicants have articulated their fit to the assessment criteria outlined in the ‘assessment criteria’ section.

EPSRC will use the shortlist provided from the panel to decide forum membership using additional factors such as organisation and research area. Please be advised the forum has continuing representation from the following universities on the forum (cohort six):

  • University of Southampton
  • London South Bank University
  • University of Reading (Henley Business School)
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Strathclyde (two continuing members)
  • Loughborough University
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Queen’s University Belfast

We actively encourage applications from people based in all regions and nations of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). Therefore, applications from non-represented universities are particularly welcome.

We would not expect the forum membership to include two members from the same institution and school or department. View a list of current forum members. Those members listed as cohort five will be leaving the forum shortly and will not affect the balance of the forum by institution or research area.

There will be no postal peer review of applications for this forum. EPSRC reserves the right to reject proposals, without reference to the panel, that it deems:

  • being outside the scope of the opportunity (including those outside the remit of the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme, or from ineligible applicants)
  • being wholly beyond the remit of EPSRC
  • do not follow the application guidelines in this document

Successful and unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the panel’s decision shortly after the panel meeting, likely in mid-December 2023. Successful applicants will receive a formal invitation to the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Early Career Forum after the conclusion of the panel meeting, with further details as to upcoming activities.

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

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed on providing demonstrable evidence to address the following selection criteria:

  • fit to the early career specification: evidence that the applicant can reasonably be described as ‘early career’
  • benefit to applicant: having a clear rationale for wishing to join the Early Career Forum in Manufacturing and the Circular Economy Research, including evidence that membership will be of benefit to the applicant’s career in manufacturing or circular economy
  • manufacturing research and research vision: evidence of a track record of research relevant to the scope of the EPSRC Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme, including evidence of how the applicant’s research has had or could have impact in manufacturing
  • evidence of involvement in the manufacturing or circular economy research communities, for example exploring research opportunities, positioning themselves to take up these opportunities, or work to increase the profile of UK manufacturing research
  • networking, influencing, leadership and team-work: evidence of networking, exerting influence and leadership in the applicant’s career to date, being an effective team-player, and a willingness to develop these skills further
  • two-way communications: evidence of excellent communication skills and a willingness to develop these further by facilitating two-way communication between EPSRC and the early career manufacturing or circular economy research communities


Due to the high volume of applications expected for this opportunity, it is not expected that any feedback will be available to applicants unless specifically recommended by the panel.

Further information

Further information about current membership and ongoing activities of the Early Career Forum can be found at the Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research website and at: Manufacturing the future theme.

Contact details

Tochukwu Ajare, Portfolio Manager, Manufacturing and the Circular Economy
Email: tochukwu.ajare@epsrc.ukri.org

Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme inbox
Email: manufacturingandce@epsrc.ukri.org

Useful links

Framework for responsible research and innovation
Research integrity in healthcare technologies: ethics
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Conflicts of interest
Reviewer guidance: standard grants

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 214KB)

Last updated: 11 September 2023

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