Building responsible neurotechnology research capability

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Apply for funding to develop a research network for neurotechnology.

You must be:

  • based in the UK
  • eligible for EPSRC funding.

Your network is expected to:

  • help form new interdisciplinary research communities
  • promote responsible research and address ethical issues in neurotechnology
  • set a research agenda and fund small feasibility studies.

The full economic cost of the networks can be up to £7.5 million. EPSRC and MRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost, up to £6 million.

Your network can include up to five investigators:

  • the principal investigator
  • up to four co-investigators.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply.

Research grants are open to:

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

Check if your organisation is eligible for funding.

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

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation at a level equivalent to lecturer or above
  • 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 may submit unlimited outlines but you will only be able to submit one full proposal (as principal investigator or co-investigator) during the 12-month restricted period.

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

There can be up to five investigators:

  • the principal investigator
  • up to four co-investigators.

The eligibility for investigators and co-investigators is the same as for other proposals to EPSRC and can include clinical staff.

Find out more about eligibility of investigators for EPSRC funding.

What we're looking for

EPSRC, in partnership with MRC, invites proposals for ‘network plus’ grants that build capability for responsible research across the breadth of neuro-technologies.

EPSRC and MRC are looking for a balanced portfolio of networks which will lead to new collaborations, aiming to form new interdisciplinary research communities, involving a group with a range of expertise and experience, and demonstrating the added value EPSRC and MRC funding would bring in this area.

Network scope

The research focus of the networks will be supported by EPSRC and MRC and will draw significantly on:

  • engineering
  • physical sciences
  • information and communications technologies
  • mathematical sciences.

We are particularly encouraging activities which target health needs.

The networks will lead to new collaborations, excellent research proposals and inform ideas for future research themes. They will provide a foundation for addressing ethical questions and addressing future research within the framework of responsible innovation.

Applicants should also consider public, patient involvement and engagement and how this may be integrated into the network. For more information, see the EPSRC impact and translation toolkit.

To be successful, there needs to be a clear vision, understanding of the wider context, and demonstration of the added value arising from the network. It would also be helpful to set the research focus in an international context.

Networks will be expected to set a collaborative research agenda and fund small scale proof of concept studies and other relevant activities flexibly over the lifetime of the grant in line with their central vision.

We expect the funded networks to be collaborative and not competitive, that is, they should work together where appropriate (for example, joint events). The networks should cover a range of approaches and aspects of neuro-technologies. We would welcome plans to address the potential for UK-wide activities across the breadth of neuro-technologies.

Network members

Proposals may include up to five investigators (one principal investigator and up to four co-investigators) and this core group should reflect the people setting up and leading the network. We appreciate there will be a wider group who advise on or participate in the network.

The role of the network is to nurture research ideas between its members and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to a broader community. Networks are encouraged to work with a range of project partners and collaborators.

The networks should aim to bring together interdisciplinary experts with leading capabilities in underpinning research areas to explore significant research opportunities that enable the full potential of neurotechnology. This includes experts in areas such as:

  • medical imaging
  • bioelectronic medicines
  • brain-computer interfaces
  • materials sciences
  • modelling
  • manufacturing
  • engineering
  • machine interfacing
  • neural prosthetics
  • bioethics
  • clinical sciences
  • fundamental research.

Neurotechnologies are also expected to raise new ethical questions and the networks will build research communities that can address these questions.

Project partners

A project partner is an organisation with an integral role in the proposed network. Project partners cannot receive funding from the grant. A letter of support is required from each project partner to outline their contribution. There are no restrictions regarding other collaborating organisations.

Funding available

Up to £6 million will be available to fund networks for up to three years at 80% full economic cost. We expect to fund three to six networks to build the UK community, build future capacity and inform the strategy for neurotechnology development.

Proposals can seek costs of building interdisciplinary research communities including but not limited to:

  • investigator salaries
  • travel and subsistence
  • organisations of different types of workshops or engagement events
  • summer schools
  • part-time coordinators
  • administrative support
  • feasibility studies and small-scale research studies.

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

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.

Applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible research and innovation.

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

Trusted Research website (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure)

How to apply

Expression of interest

Before submitting a full proposal, you must submit a mandatory ‘expression of interest’ by 8 October 2021

This will inform a decision about whether an expert panel is needed to recommend which proposals will proceed to interview.

Submit your expression of interest (SmartSurvey)

Full proposal

Proposals will be submitted via the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). When applying, please select as follows:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard research
  • call: SI Neurotech NetworkPlus.

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. Applicants should 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 25 November 2021 16:00.

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 sides each) for named:
    • post-doctoral 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)
    • visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form (no page limit), EPSRC guidance on project partners letter of support
    • in exceptional circumstances EPSRC will accept up to three letters of support which do not meet the requirements for project partner letters of support host organisation letter of support (two pages)
  • technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance (no page limit)
  • cover letter summarising the organisations currently involved with the network, to aid with identifying conflicts of interest (optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review).

Submission guidance

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.

Read the EPSRC advice on writing proposals.

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.

Read further guidance on the ethical information section of the Je-S form.

EPSRC guidance can be found under ‘additional information’.

How we will assess your application

The application process for this funding opportunity includes an expression of interest followed by a single phase for full proposals.

Depending on the number of expressions, there may be an expert panel to advise on the proposals that should continue to interview in the week of 21 February 2022.

Shortlisting criteria

If needed, the shortlisting will be according to the following criteria:

  • alignment to the funding opportunity
  • quality of the strategic case for the research focus
  • potential for building capability.

Interview criteria

Value added by the network

What will this network enable that would not be possible otherwise?

Building the research community

Including:

  • engagement with relevant research disciplines and focus on new neurotechnologies
  • collaboration with healthcare professionals and other users of research
  • plans for wider engagement and inclusiveness
  • appropriateness of proposed network activities.

Research focus

Including:

  • the quality of the case for the research focus for the network in neurotechnology and fit with the portfolio of research funded by EPSRC and MRC
  • how the network will identify research challenges and the contribution the network will make towards addressing the challenge(s)
  • how network activities allow generation of ideas and new research questions
  • how the network will help the relevant research communities to identify and address ethical questions arising from the research focus.

Management and planning

Including:

  • management of feasibility funding and appropriateness of plans, including how the network will develop and promote responsible innovation as part of the assessment criteria
  • suitability of the management team and expertise of core network members
  • appropriateness of resources and effectiveness of management structure
  • plans for sustainability after the lifetime of the grant.

Impact

Including:

  • how the network will embed principles of co-creation and translation in research
  • appropriateness of plans to accelerate impact
  • appropriateness of dissemination plans.

Contact details

Ask a question about 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

Staffed Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm and Fridays 8.30am to 4.30pm (excluding bank holidays and other holidays).

Ask about this funding opportunity

Email: healthcare@epsrc.ukri.org

Get support finding partners

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) exists to connect innovators with new partners and opportunities.

If you would like support finding project partners, contact Dr Charlie Winkworth-Smith who leads KTN’s Neurotechnology Innovation Network.

Email: charlie.winkworth-smith@ktn-uk.org.

Additional info

Webinar

A webinar about the neurotechnology networkplus funding opportunity will be held on 15 September 2021 between 10:00 and 12:00.

Attendance to this event is not mandatory and is not a prerequisite for submitting to the funding opportunity.

Register for the webinar (SmartSurvey)

Potential attendees may include, but are not limited to:

  • researchers
  • clinicians
  • clinical scientists
  • research focused allied health professionals
  • industry
  • patient acceptance researchers
  • medical ethicists
  • policy researchers.

The purpose of the webinar is to provide:

  • information on the scope of the funding opportunity
  • information about networks and network activities
  • an opportunity to ask questions about the funding opportunity.

Details of how to join the webinar and an agenda will be sent to the participants when they register.

Please note that parts of the webinar may be recorded. Presentations from the event will also be published on this page.

Opportunity aims and background on neurotechnology

The aims of the funding opportunity are to stimulate debate, exchange of ideas and collaborations between researchers and stakeholders, taking advantage of the UK’s leading strengths and capabilities in this space to unlock the possibilities of neurotechnology ranging from new therapies, to improvement in cognition

Neurotechnology refers to electronic devices which interact directly with the human nervous system. These may be intrusive, directly interfacing with the neural network, or non-intrusive, including wearables or external medical devices that stimulate, decode, or otherwise communicate with nerve signals.

Neurotechnology could transform medicine, potentially overtaking pharmaceuticals in efficacy in several areas, such as mental health and depression.

Beyond medicine, interfaces offer benefits that are as unimaginable today as the smartphone was a few decades ago:

  • better health
  • better memory
  • better concentration
  • healthier ageing
  • a more collaborative world.

The application of neurotechnology has the potential to revolutionise medical treatment, our understanding of our biology and how humanity interfaces with machines and each other.

Neurotechnology can improve the quality of life and healthcare of people who suffer from debilitating neurological conditions, including brain injuries or brain damage, neurodegenerative diseases, and other mental health disorders.

Potential future challenges may include, but are not limited to:

  • implants or external stimulation devices for hard to treat neurological and mental health conditions
  • devices that enable people with paralysis to walk again
  • direct brain-to-brain communication, whether simple impulses or complex thoughts
  • non-medical applications such external brain stimulation devices used to boost memory or concentration
  • technological development of advanced neural interface devices could include biocompatibility, high bandwidth, wireless connectivity or power, miniaturisation, and portability
  • wearables and implantables for medical use in clinical settings.

Supporting documents

Submit your expression of interest (SmartSurvey)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 228KB)

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