The EPSRC digital economy theme, working in partnership with the manufacturing the future theme, aims to support five ‘NetworkPlus’ grants to stimulate development of digital economy research and communities. Each funded NetworkPlus must address only one of the digital economy theme five priority areas which reflect the theme’s long-term strategic goals:
- beyond a data driven economy
- content creation and consumption
- equitable digital society
- sustainable digital society
- trust, identity, privacy and security.
Find out more about the digital economy theme research priority areas (EPSRC).
Find out more about the manufacturing the future theme priority areas (EPSRC).
Each proposal must explain the fit to the chosen digital economy theme priority area and demonstrate evidence of how they will connect with on-going excellent research in the UK to grow and develop the network. There is no requirement for the proposal to align with manufacturing the future theme priority areas.
We recognise that each of the digital economy priority areas are very broad with many challenges. We expect each NetworkPlus to broadly cover the whole of one priority area, helping to catalyse change by bringing new people together to co-create new ideas that lead to future research projects or innovations. The NetworkPlus will not be able to solve all the research challenges within the area, but it will enable a step change in the way academia, industry, users, policy makers and other stakeholders engage and interact.
The digital economy NetworkPlus investments will aim to bring together relevant research disciplines and stakeholders of the interdisciplinary digital economy communities in order to:
- build new communities or create new links between different existing communities
- bring focus to the relevant research area, identifying research challenges, opportunities, and priorities
- improve knowledge exchange
- support initial testing of new ideas and kick-start new collaborations
- grow the areas of research for the benefit of the UK
- facilitate impact and advance policy.
The NetworkPlus investments can undertake a variety of activities including workshops, events, feasibility studies, secondments, and horizon scanning. It is essential that user engagement is considered in the wider network membership. Applicants are encouraged to tailor their activities to the needs of the area and to be innovative in their approach.
Network activities should be UK-wide and should involve a broad range of disciplines and non-academic stakeholders from relevant sectors such as:
- creative industries
- financial services.
It is essential to involve expertise in computer science, engineering or mathematical sciences. It is expected that other relevant disciplines such as manufacturing, social sciences, economics, arts and humanities, as well as non-academic stakeholders, will be involved in order to provide the expertise required to co-create and implement novel, people-centred digital technology solutions which incorporate legal and ethical considerations.
Ultimately, the NetworkPluses must identify ambitious ‘real-world’ challenges within their priority areas which require a multidisciplinary approach and form an agenda for future research in the area.
NetworkPlus proposals should complement current research activities and existing networks and may build on new opportunities highlighted by previous networking activities.
For more information about the portfolio and strategies of EPSRC and the digital economy theme see our website:
Additional grant conditions (AGCs)
In addition to the standard term and conditions for grants, successful applicants will be required to fulfill the following additional grant conditions. Please ensure that this is resourced for accordingly in the application.
Fixed start date – trust, identity, privacy, security NetworkPlus only
Notwithstanding RGC 5.2 starting procedures, this grant has a fixed start date of 1 June 2023 if aligning with trust, identity, privacy, security priority area. Expenditure may be incurred prior to the start of the grant and be subsequently charged to the grant, provided that it does not precede the date of the offer letter.
Community network expectations
This grant is awarded on the understanding that the project will undertake a wider networking role with the research and user community outside its membership. This may involve coordination of activities such as meetings, workshops or seminars on behalf of EPSRC. A dedicated website must be set up within six months of the start of the grant and regularly maintained to provide a resource for engagement with the wider community.
This grant is expected to further develop the network, including its academic and user (such as policy, business, non-governmental organisations) membership, throughout the period of funding in order to maximise its impact on a wide range of disciplines. As part of the grant networks must identify ambitious ‘real-world’ challenges, which require a multidisciplinary approach and form an agenda for future research in the area.
User engagement strategy
You must develop and execute a strategy for engaging with potential users of the research funded in the project. This strategy should be reviewed and updated regularly as part of the formal management and reporting process agreed for this grant.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
In addition to RGC 3.4, you are expected to prepare a full equality, diversity and inclusion plan for the duration of this grant to demonstrate best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the lifetime of this funding award. This must be recorded through the grant reporting process.
Project officer appointment
We will nominate a member of EPSRC staff (the project officer) who will be your primary point of contact. The project officer will ensure that the project is being run in accordance with the terms and conditions and in line with financial due diligence. The project officer(s) should have access to all documentation of governance and reporting bodies, in so far as it relates to the administration and application of the grant. As funding administrators, all UKRI staff have agreed to maintain the confidentiality required by all parties involved in EPSRC funded research.
Advisory board appointment
This grant must establish and run an independent advisory board, or equivalent body, to oversee the running of the project and provide advice on the strategic direction and activities of the project. The terms of reference and membership of this group (at least 50% independent membership and an independent chair) should be agreed with EPSRC. The EPSRC project officer will also be expected to attend and participate in advisory board and other appropriate meetings for the duration of the grant.
It is expected the first advisory board meeting will be held within four months of the start date of the project and there will two meetings a year with contact outside of the meeting when appropriate.
Notwithstanding standard grant condition RGC 4.4, the sum awarded under the heading of ‘flexible funds’ can include both directly incurred and directly allocated expenditure. These funds must be reported on the final expenditure statement (FES) as awarded on the offer letter and a breakdown of the expenditure must be submitted along with the FES. If a breakdown of this expenditure is not received the final expenditure statements will be returned. Standard grant conditions apply to all other funds awarded on this grant.
Publicity and branding
In addition to RGC 12.4 publication and acknowledgement of support, you must make reference to EPSRC and UKRI funding and include the UKRI logo and relevant branding on all online or printed materials (including press releases, posters, exhibition materials and other publications) related to activities funded by this grant.
In addition to the requirements set out in RGC 7.4.3, you are responsible for providing annual progress reports against non-financial performance metrics. A detailed list of performance metrics and instructions for reporting will be agreed with the grant holder and advisory board upon commencement of the grant.
The digital economy theme, working in partnership with the manufacturing the future theme, wishes to support five NetworkPlus investments, and there is up to £13 million available in total (at 80% FEC). An award will be made for between 48-60 months duration.
Funding requested under the directly allocated cost heading may include:
- investigators’ salaries – the PI and up to four Co-Is can request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent on setting up and leading the NetworkPlus. The salary costs of NetworkPlus participants should not be included in the proposal and we would not expect these individuals to be Co-Is. Please note that individuals listed as PIs and Co-Is can only be included on one bid.
Funding requested under the directly incurred cost heading may include:
- travel and subsistence – travel and subsistence enabling members of the NetworkPlus to meet to exchange ideas and expertise. This may include visits by or to experts overseas. This may also include travel and subsistence costs to support secondments. Where possible, collaborators should meet their own travel costs
- administrative support – a sufficient level of administrative support should be requested to ensure the coordination, management and smooth running of the NetworkPlus. Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the network’s output can also be included
- organisation of activities – funding can be requested for costs involved in running activities such as networking events, expert working groups, debates, online discussion forums, lectures, seminars, problem-solving workshops etc. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about the range of activities that could support the delivery of the NetworkPlus goals
- research – research activity to support the research strategy developed within the NetworkPlus. Funds can be requested for PDRA staff, consumables, travel and subsistence and any other costs eligible under ‘directly incurred’ headings. This is likely to include a budget for feasibility studies (but not to demonstrator phase or beyond TRL 4) that can be allocated to researchers at other universities. We expect this to be a nationwide effort involving the best people. Applicants will need to think carefully about how this feasibility studies budget will be commissioned, processes for the allocation of funds must be fair and transparent. Please note that the feasibility funds will be restricted to EPSRC current research organisation eligibility, but will not be bound by standard EPSRC investigator eligibility criterion. It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure on-going governance to ensure correct usage and accountability of the funds. EPSRC would expect some examples of the types of projects at the application stage, but the research challenges should evolve during the course of the network activities and should be co-created and collaborative in nature.
Funding can also be requested for:
- activities to identify and disseminate key research challenges in the area, for example horizon-scanning studies
- activities to facilitate impact and advance policy, such as reports, websites and briefings
- secondment support, including scoping of potential opportunities, travel and subsistence etc.
- activities to support career development
- activities to connect users, industry and other stakeholders with the research base
- communication costs and for additional equipment such as personal computers and web servers
- equipment to support networking, events and communication.
Equipment over £10,000 is not available through this opportunity. We will not be funding laboratory or research equipment for this opportunity. We will only support equipment to facilitate communication, networking and events. We welcome innovative and creative thought.
Please note: project partners cannot receive funding directly from the grant. The only exception to this is where a project partner is providing services or equipment that will go through a formal procurement process audited by the host research organisation. The project partner cannot receive any other funds from the grant, such as travel and subsistence.
EPSRC is fully committed to developing and promoting 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.
Responsible innovation creates spaces and processes to explore innovation and its consequences in an open, inclusive and timely way, going beyond consideration of ethics, public engagement, risk and regulation. Innovation is a collective responsibility, where funders, researchers, interested and affected parties, including the public, all have an important role to play. Applicants are expected to work within the framework for responsible research and innovation (EPSRC).
Applicants should consider responsible innovation throughout the research project, and include, for example, details of anticipatory work and stakeholder inclusion plans in the proposal.