Resource only strategic equipment - EPSRC

Scope of scheme

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) provides funding to procure new equipment through multiple routes, to enable researchers to access the equipment they require to deliver high quality research.

EPSRC can also provide support to improve access to existing equipment in order to maximise its usage. We welcome approaches to enable the better sharing of existing capital equipment through the resource-only strategic equipment scheme.

It is expected that awards will provide seed or invest-to-save funding to initiate increased use and sustainability of the equipment.

It is not expected that more funding through this specific route will be needed after the first application. Clear plans for sustainability must be articulated in the proposal.

Further applications to support sharing of the same item or items of equipment will not be accepted.

The equipment may be funded by EPSRC but could also have been entirely funded from other sources. However the research enabled by the equipment must be within the EPSRC remit. Proposals for this type of support will be assessed alongside proposals for items of equipment and using similar assessment criteria.

Applications must be invited by the relevant EPSRC theme lead. Applications that have not been pre-approved will be rejected.

Process overview

Outline stage

A two-page outline proposal can be submitted to EPSRC at any time through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. The outline proposals are batched and then assessed against the published assessment criteria by the internal EPSRC outline panel. The outline panel meets about three times a year.

EPSRC either invites a full proposal as a separate proposal through Je-S or does not invite a full proposal. Successful applicants will have at least seven weeks to prepare their application.

Full proposal stage

Full proposals are assessed by a postal peer review stage. Unsupportive reviews may lead to the proposal being rejected prior to the panel. If supportive reviews are received these are shared with the applicant and the applicant can provide a two-page Principal Investigator (PI) response.

Interview stage

Interviews with the external strategic equipment panel are held up to three times a year. The strategic equipment panel provides a rank-ordered list based on the published assessment criteria and advises on whether the equipment should be funded.

The process from submission of an outline through to a decision on a full application takes approximately eight to nine months.

Process in detail

What you can apply for

Applicants must only apply for funding which will ensure wider sharing of equipment in order to maximise usage.

If EPSRC has already provided funding to use an item of equipment through a research grant, you must explain the reasons why the current funding has not been enough to allow full use of the equipment.”

The kinds of support that can be requested include (but are not limited to):

  • increased technician time
  • additional roles to provide training and/or research services not previously available
  • pump-priming funds
  • improved booking software
  • improved advertisement of capabilities.

Funds can be used at departmental, faculty or school, institution, regional, or national level.

Funding through this scheme should provide additional underpinning infrastructure and/or staff support that improves current use of equipment. Applicants will be required to demonstrate the added value of the funds for increasing equipment usage and the strategic demand for this.

Costs not eligible for funding

Capital costs (items of equipment over £10,000) are not eligible on this scheme.

Funding for research projects cannot be requested through this scheme. As a consequence EPSRC does not normally expect to see postdoctoral researcher effort requested as part of these proposals.

Funding cannot be requested to replace:

  • existing support (for example current staff costs for time assigned to the equipment)
  • maintenance and service contracts costs
  • capital costs.

It is expected that awards will provide seed funding to initiate increased use.

Duration

Proposals must be for a maximum duration of two years (unless agreed otherwise with the head of theme) and should show a clear plan for sustainability after the two year period.

Pre-outline stage

Resource-only strategic equipment proposals can only be submitted when invited by the relevant EPSRC theme lead.

You must discuss your potential application with the most appropriate equipment contact before submitting an outline. Applicants should discuss:

  • the equipment to be shared
  • the research supported by the equipment
  • an idea of the resource levels required.

Applicants should articulate a brief strategic case for why the resource request is needed.

Outline stage

Include a covering letter with the application, confirming that the submission has been invited by the relevant theme lead, detailing who the proposal was discussed with.

Applicants should submit a two page outline application demonstrating:

  • the added value to the research community of increasing the availability of the item or items of equipment
  • demand for the increase
  • that the investment will be additional to current provision

The attachment type should be case for support.

The following information must be included and laid out in the following order:

1. PI name

Name of the principal investigator (PI).

2. Host institution

Name of the host institution.

3. Item or items

Name and specific models (if relevant) of the equipment to be shared.

4. Description

Very briefly describe the item or suite of equipment and its primary functions.

5. Cost

Set out the expected resource cost in pounds sterling (inclusive of VAT). Funding cannot be requested to replace:

  • existing support, for example current staff costs for time assigned to the equipment
  • maintenance and service contracts costs
  • capital costs.

Costs must be as accurate as possible at this stage as they can only vary by 10% more or less than the outline application.

6. Usage

Indicate the following:

  • proportion of equipment time that will be available for use by the group managing the equipment
  • other groups at the same institution
  • researchers at other institutions
  • how this is additional to the current availability.

Indicate how additional users of the equipment will be identified and how all users will be prioritised. Information should be provided on the anticipated demand, indicating the likely main users and where they will be based.

EPSRC is looking to maximise the appropriate usage of equipment, not necessarily share it as widely as possible.

7. Support

Indicate what provision is already in place to support the running and maintenance of the equipment and demonstrate how the requested resource is additional to and distinct from the existing support.

8. Strategic case

Describe the research that is currently enabled by the existing equipment and/or the value added to existing research programmes.

What will the additional resource enable that cannot already be done? Indicate which of the EPSRC’s strategic priorities are met by the research enabled by the equipment and describe how these priorities are met.

Explain how this item of equipment will compliment or enhance regional and/or national research capability. If an equipment roadmap exists for the item of equipment to be supported, explain how this item relates to the roadmap.

9. Ensuring maximum value

Explain how the requested resource fits with other items of equipment, infrastructure and people support already at your university. Indicate how the increased usage will be supported beyond the lifetime of the grant.

10. Contribution from other sources

If additional contributions are being made please provide further details.

Due to the nature of these bids, EPSRC requests that you discuss your planned submission with your university.

Outline assessment process and criteria

An internal sift process will be used to decide which proposals for maximising sharing of equipment EPSRC will invite to submit full cases. The outline panel will be comprised of EPSRC staff only.

Outlines for resource-only proposals will be assessed at the same sift panel as bids for items of strategic equipment.

The assessment criteria at the sift stage is the following:

  • is there evidence that the equipment underpins EPSRC research areas?
  • have the applicants referred to balancing capability strategies, grand challenges or outcomes and explained how this investment will contribute to these priorities?
  • has evidence been provided that the investment is additional to current support?
  • potential usage: is there evidence that there is demand for the equipment and that the investment will result in increased usage, significant efficiencies, and/or greater capacity compared to the current situation?
  • management of access to equipment: what plans are in place to ensure usage will be maximised?
  • resources: are the resources requested from EPSRC justified?

This process is not subject to the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

How to apply to the outline stage

There are no closing dates for the outline stage of the Resource Only Strategic Equipment process. We will batch outlines and hold panel meetings up to three times a year.

Outline proposals can be submitted at any time using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

When adding a new proposal, you should select:

  • council ‘EPSRC’
  • document type ‘Outline Proposal’
  • scheme ‘EPSRC Outline’
  • ‘Equipment Business Case Outline’ call on the project details page.

Note that clicking ‘submit document’ on your proposal form in Je-S initially submits the proposal to your host organisation’s administration, not to EPSRC.

Full proposal stage

Costs can only vary by 10% less or more than the outline application. Please ensure costings at the outline stage are as realistic as possible.

For outline business cases that are successful at the sift panel, EPSRC will invite submission of full proposals for consideration by the strategic equipment panel.

Applicants will be informed of the deadline for submission of the full proposal and will be sent detailed guidance on how to apply. Applicants will be expected to apply to the deadline given. Deferrals to later strategic equipment panels will not be allowed unless there are exceptional circumstances. Applications must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

Full proposals will be sent to expert peer reviewers – one of whom we expect to be nominated by the applicant, though this is not guaranteed. Proposals with sufficiently favourable reviewers’ comments will be assessed by the strategic equipment panel. Those without sufficiently strong support from reviewers will be rejected prior to panel.

Applications reaching panel will be considered on a separate list from equipment business cases for capital funding. Applicants on this list will not necessarily be interviewed, however EPSRC reserves the right to interview candidates on a case by case basis depending on the scale and nature of the proposal.

Full proposal assessment criteria

The assessment criteria that the strategic equipment panel will rank the proposals by.

Primary

The quality and breadth of the research enabled. Assessors will be asked to comment on:

  • the novelty, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders including users
  • the transformative aspects or potential outcomes that will be enabled
  • the suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

Secondary major

Strategic importance at both an institutional and national level. Assessors will be asked to comment on:

  • how the equipment sought meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique and world-leading activity
  • how the equipment sought complements and enhances regional and/or national research capability, including relationships to the EPSRC equipment and research portfolio
  • the appropriateness of the evidence of strong demand and community need from a diverse and inclusive user base and the evidence that the investment will result in significant efficiencies, increased usage, and/or greater capacity compared to the current situation
  • the appropriateness of the proposed alternative approaches to how the research would be achieved should the equipment not be funded.

Sustainability

Assessors will be asked to comment on how realistic the plans are for:

  • the recovery of running costs (maintenance, repairs, consumables staff time) during and beyond the lifetime of the grant and appropriateness of the charging model
  • support and development of the specialist technical staff beyond the grant period
  • sustaining and evolving a diverse and inclusive user base beyond the lifetime of the grant and any ‘free-at-the-point-of-access’ period.

Secondary

1. Applicant and host institution.

Assessors will be asked to comment on the applicant’s ability to effectively operate the requested equipment, making reference to:

  • the appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
    the balance of skills of the team, including collaborators
  • why the host institution provides the most appropriate location and how use of existing inventory is effectively complemented.
2. Management of the equipment.

Assessors will be asked to comment on the effectiveness of the proposed planning and management, making reference to:

  • the work plan and associated risks
  • plans for prioritising access and maximising usage of the equipment
  • data management and accessibility.
3. Resources.

Assessors will be asked to comment on:

  • the appropriateness and justification of costs for the equipment
    the appropriateness and justification of resource costs (for example staff and maintenance)
  • the appropriateness of any contributions from the host and any collaborators
  • any resources requested for activities to either expand the user base, increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Overview of submission documents for full proposals

Case for support

Maximum length is eight sides of A4.

The case for support should expand on the information already provided in the two-page business case and should address each of the following headings:

  • track record (up to two pages of the maximum of eight)
  • description of the equipment
    research enabled
  • strategic importance including institutional strategy and alternatives
  • sustainability (up to 1.5 pages of the maximum of eight)
  • management of the equipment
  • resources and host institution contributions.

Business case

Maximum length is two sides of A4.

An updated version of the outline business case.

Justification of the resources requested

Maximum length is two sides of A4.

Justification of why the requested costs are required to meet the aims of the application and a description of how the request represents best value for money.

Work plan (up to one side of A4)

Maximum length is one side of A4.

To include details such as:

  • timescales for implementing new processes
  • milestones, for example installations of a new booking system
  • indicative dates for activities to maximise usage.

Statements of support from any project partners (no page limit)

Signed, dated letters on headed paper from each project partner identified detailing the approximate financial contribution from the partner.

Letters of support from key users of the equipment

Maximum of three attachments with no page limit.

Letters that show significant support for the proposal and a clear intention to use the equipment. It is strongly advised to seek letters from a cross-section of key users.

Host organisation statement

A letter from the appropriate authority confirming that the resources requested are additional to current university support and detailing any contributions being made to this application (uploaded as an ‘Additional Document’).

Contacts

If you have any questions about the strategic equipment process or if you are planning a resource only strategic equipment proposal please use the following theme contacts:

Generic questions and submission of draft business cases

EPSRC Equipment Funding

Email: epsrcequipmentfunding@epsrc.ukri.org

Research infrastructure

Tony Chapman
Email: antony.chapman@epsrc.ukri.org

Claire Higlett
Email: claire.higlett@epsrc.ukri.org

Physical sciences

Bharat Pokhrel
Email: bharat.pokhrel@epsrc.ukri.org

Information and communication technologies (ICT)

Maryam Crabbe-Mann
Email: maryam.crabbe-mann@epsrc.ukri.org

Engineering

Maria Calderon Munoz

Email: maria.calderonmunoz@epsrc.ukri.org

Healthcare technologies

Kate Reading
Email: kate.reading@epsrc.ukri.org

Manufacturing

Tochukwu Ajare
Email: tochukwu.ajare@epsrc.ukri.org

Energy

Email: energy@epsrc.ukri.org

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