Developing quantum technologies for fundamental physics

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Apply for funding to apply, or adapt, quantum technologies to fundamental physics questions.

You and your institution must be eligible for UKRI funding.

Your project could aim to:

  • complement projects already funded by the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics (QTFP) programme
  • include discovery research with the potential to develop into a larger project
  • encourage early career researchers to develop their own research interest in this new field.

If you’re currently funded by a QTFP grant, you can only use this funding to support your existing project.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £500,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

This opportunity is open to all individuals and organisations eligible for UKRI funding.

Eligible institutions include:

  • UK higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • research council institutes (RCIs), including the national laboratories
  • independent research organisations (IROs) and
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Check if you and your institution are eligible for UKRI funding

You can only be an investigator on one proposal submitted to this opportunity, as either principal or co-investigator.

There are slightly different document requirements for those who are currently part of a Quantum Technology for Fundamental Physics (QTFP) funded consortium. These differences are highlighted in ‘how to apply’.

Those who are currently part of a QTFP funded project (either a principal investigator, co-investigator or a lead or component proposal) can only apply for research to support their currently funded project.

What we're looking for

This funding opportunity aims to support the development of quantum technologies for fundamental physics and complement the existing portfolio of QTFP grants.

This is through either:

  • new projects, awarded to investigators who are not already part of a funded QTFP consortium grant
  • funding for supplementary work to an existing QTFP grant.

Your project could aim to:

  • exploit quantum technologies developments and apply them to the fundamental physics questions being explored by the existing projects (quantum projects launched to solve the universe’s mysteries)
  • test and develop potential quantum technologies for fundamental physics and encourage high-risk discovery research, which could have the potential to develop into a large project if future funding were to be made available
  • encourage early career researchers to develop their own research interest in this new field.

Scope

Eligible applications must either apply, or adapt, quantum technologies to fundamental physics questions.

‘Fundamental physics’ covers:

  • quantum science
  • astronomy, particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • nuclear physics.

This includes topics such as, but not limited to:

  • search for dark matter
  • macroscopic quantum effects
  • quantum simulators
  • searches for violations of fundamental symmetries of nature
  • gravitational effects
  • quantum observatory
  • neutrino mass studies.

‘Quantum technologies’ includes, but is not limited:

  • quantum computing and simulation
  • quantum sensing and timing
  • quantum imaging
  • quantum communication
  • quantum components.

Projects should be a maximum of 24 months in duration

It is expected that all funded projects will show how quantum technologies will enhance or enable their research area of interest. This may include technological development or use of existing quantum technologies.

Funding priority will be given to scientific experiments of the highest importance and impact using a range of different strategic technologies. No prioritisation will be given for proposals that focus on topics in the above list.

Funding available

The total funding available is up to £6 million. The exact split between currently funded and new projects is not defined and will depend on the panel’s assessment of the proposals. STFC would expect to support individual projects with a full economic cost of up to £500,000

For current QTFP funded projects, the funding applied for across the currently funded QTFP consortium should not be greater than the maximum allowable award (up to £500,000 full economic cost).

STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost of the proposals.

No funds are available for researchers or organisations based outside the UK.

All normal funding levels (80% full economic cost) and matched capital resource apply to the programme.

Finances for STFC labs

Finances that are associated with the STFC labs should be separated from those of the UK research organisations. This is best done by submitting joint proposals with lead and non-lead organisations. There is no specific condition on who should be the lead organisation. This is entirely up to the project team and how the project is designed.

It is mandatory for the non-lead application to submit a completed Je-S proposal form. This form will not include all the sections which are available to the lead. It is most important to complete the sections on finances.

Equipment

Applications for capital equipment may be included.

Individual items of equipment between £10,000 and £400,000 can be included on proposals if:

  • the equipment is essential to the proposed research
  • no appropriate alternative provision can be accessed.

For the latest terms and conditions, please see STFC guidance on equipment.

How to apply

Je-S submissions

All proposals should be submitted online using the Joint Electronic Submissions system (Je-S). The login screen has links to tutorials and system help.

When applying, please ensure the following details are entered correctly so your application reaches the correct council and the correct opportunity. Providing incorrect details at this stage could result in your application not being considered for this opportunity.

When applying select:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call title: Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics Grant call 2021

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. After completing the application you must ‘submit document’, which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Applicants should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date. STFC must receive your full proposal application by 16:00 on Tuesday 9 November.

Je-S documents

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They must be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or similar-sized sans serif typeface.

Case for support

This document is mandatory.

It must be up to 10 pages, consisting of:

  • case for support, six pages
  • track record, two pages
  • justification of resources, two pages.

The six page case for support should include the following sections.

Aims and background

Outline the main aims of the proposal and who will benefit from the project. Demonstrate how the project meets the stated aims of the QTFP programme with reference to the assessment criteria.

Describe the current status of the scientific area and the relevance of the project in an international context. Please make clear the benefits to the UK of working in this area and any international links where relevant.

Research programme and work plan

Describe the research programme with detail on specific work packages, assigning responsibility between partners. The summary should provide sufficient detail for referees to assess fully the technical aspects of the proposed project.

Project deliverables

Identify what the direct outputs will be at the end of this grant (please be specific). Projects are expected to show the generation of results or use of quantum technologies within the lifespan of the project.

For current projects, this section should include information on the impact this proposal will have on the current deliverables and the additionality this funding will have on the current project.

Impact

Impact is now a core consideration throughout the grant application process and showing how the applicants will maximise the impact of the proposed research should therefore be intrinsic to the proposal itself in a way that is appropriate to the nature and scope of the project being proposed.

Risk analysis

Applicants should show that they have identified risks and developed alternative strategies to mitigate these. The applicants should consider both technical, programmatic and, where relevant, commercial risks.

Track records of the collaborators involved in the proposal

Two pages.

This should demonstrate to the reviewers that the proposed team has the appropriate expertise and experience to conduct the research. Non-academic partners or collaborators should be considered part of the team.

For current projects, this should include the progress of the project to date and deliverables achieved.

If applicable, state where flexible working or a career break has had an impact on a member of the research team. You do not need to explain the personal circumstances that resulted in the need for this, instead they should describe the impacts on the individuals’ track record and career development.

Justification of resources

Two pages.

State the resources requested by the applicants and provide justification for them. It should explain the necessity of your requested resources to your research project.

Any cross-cutting items should clearly indicate which work packages they are tied to, and how the cost is to be split between the different projects.

Projects are encouraged to ensure management and impact costs are included and justified in the application.

Data management plan

This document is mandatory.

It is anticipated that all applications will produce or collect data during the course of the proposed project. The development of a data management plan as an attachment to the Je-S pro forma is mandatory for all applications.

The plan should be no longer than two pages of A4. The plan, together with any costs associated with it, will be considered and assessed by the panel.

The data management plan should explain how the data will be managed over the lifetime of the project and, where appropriate, preserved for future re‐use.

Applications that do not have a data management plan will not be accepted.

STFC guidance on data management plans

Gantt chart

This document is mandatory.

Include a Gantt chart that sets out your project plan.

Project partner letters of support

Any organisations entered on the Je-S form as project partners. A project partner is an organisation which contributes in cash or in kind to the project, but which is not requesting any money.

They must be:

  • either formal letters of support (on headed paper and signed by a senior member of staff or director), or via email
  • dated within six months of the submission
  • detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and desired outcomes together.

Resources to be provided by any project partners, whether in cash or in-kind contributions, should be clearly identified in the proposal.

Letters of support

Letters of support can be included from other relevant parties not directly involved in the project but who support the objectives, for example, potential end users.

These letters:

  • can be either formal letters of support (on headed paper and signed by a senior member of staff or director), or via email
  • should be dated within six months of submission
  • detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and desired outcomes together.

Cover letter

This document is optional. There is no page limit.

This is not seen by the panel.

Technical assessment

This document is optional. There are no page limits.

For the use of a major facility, where applicable.

Data protection

Grants submitted through Je-S are done so under the Je-S terms and conditions.

Please make sure you have permission from any relevant bodies before submitting any sensitive data. STFC will not be held accountable if data submitted has been done so without the relevant permissions sought.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Full proposals will undergo postal peer review by community members with appropriate expertise including a nominate reviewer.

There will then be the opportunity for applicants to reply to comments made by reviewer before the panel meeting. The reviews, and response from applicants will be assessed by an independent panel and prioritised for funding, which will inform funding decisions.

The ‘principal investigator response’ should be a maximum of two pages. This should be submitted within five working days of receipt.

The recommendations from this panel will be considered by the QTFP Programme Board. The board will make recommendations to STFC based on a portfolio approach. STFC will consider both the rank ordered list and QTFP Programme Board recommendations in making the final funding decisions.

The final funding decisions will be determined by STFC, at which point applicants will be informed of the outcome.

Please note that if demand is high, STFC reserves the right to convene an expert panel to sift uncompetitive full proposals prior to the main panel meeting.

Nominating reviewers

Each proposal will be assessed by external reviewers, who may be based internationally

All applicants are asked to nominate one reviewer. The applicant’s nominated reviewer should not be:

  • a current or previous collaborator, a personal friend or family member
  • from the home institution of an applicant or a collaborator.

However, it is not guaranteed that the nominated reviewer will be used.

Assessment criteria

Scientific and technical excellence: specific objectives of the project (primary)

This will be assessed on:

  • scientific or technical excellence of the proposal, including the specific objectives of the project
  • feasibility of the proposal, which should demonstrate the ability to produce results or technology advances within the lifetime of the funding.

International competitiveness

This will be assessed on the international relevance of the research, in both European and global arenas.

Contribution to the establishment of a new community

The application must describe how the proposal will contribute to the formation of a new community to exploit quantum technology for fundamental physics. Information should be provided on how the proposed collaboration will form and develop international and national links, including to the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

Leadership, planning and project management

This will be assessed on:

  • the ability for the applicants to deliver within the timeframe of the grant
  • to what extent the requested resources are appropriate and fully justified
  • to what extent the project planning and management (including risk management) is suitable.

Social and economic impact from the proposed research

The assessment looks at to what extent the proposal shows applicants have:

  • identified the potential to deliver economic and societal impact
  • developed the means to achieve impact beyond the project.

Contact details

Ask a question about this funding opportunity

Senior Programme Manager, STFC Programmes Directorate
Email: qtfp@stfc.ukri.org

Get help with your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Get help with 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

Additional info

Background

The National Quantum Technology Programme (NQTP) has made investments in foundational quantum technologies that, following rapid development, have reached a point at which applications in fundamental science areas are now possible.

Recent community interactions, and international developments, have highlighted the requirement for a new interdisciplinary community bringing together STFC and EPSRC funded:

  • physicists
  • quantum scientists
  • quantum technologists.

This is to create an environment in which there is an opportunity for leaps in both knowledge and technology.

Part of this ambition is to position the UK as a world leader in the exploitation of quantum technology for physics applications.

This programme represents an opportunity to build on the UK’s current capabilities in physics and quantum technology and establish a network of practitioners working in this area.

It is envisaged that the programme will widen the uptake of quantum science and quantum technology throughout the science research base. Therefore, further increasing the reach and utilisation of the advances made possible with this technology.

The stated objectives of the QTFP programme include:

  • establish a new community to exploit quantum technology for fundamental physics
  • generate research outputs deemed excellent by international peer review
  • become an active part of the National Quantum Technology Programme (NQTP)
  • create the opportunity in the UK for new patents, new products and start-up companies as a result of developing new or improved equipment that will be needed to support the scientific work programme.

This is the second funding opportunity as part of the programme. Currently funded QTFP projects.

Additional grant conditions

Grants are awarded under the standard UKRI grant terms and conditions. The following extra grant conditions will also apply.

Official start date

Contrary to research grant condition (RGC) 5.2, the ‘official start date’ for this grant must not be later than 1 April 2022, as shown in the Offer Letter, and you may not incur a slippage to this.

Grant extensions

No slippage or grant extensions (beyond exceptional circumstances in line with the Equality Act 2010) will be allowed. We will not be responsible for any cost overrun incurred during the course of this grant. You will be required to make up any shortfall from alternative sources.

Review

In addition to the requirements set out in standard UKRI grant conditions RGC 7.4 Research Monitoring and Evaluation and RGC 7.5 Disclosure and Inspection, we the reserve the right to instigate a review of all or part of the grant at any stage during the lifetime of the award as well as after the grant has finished.

We will give the Grant Holder due notice of the date of any review and will provide details of the Terms of Reference and documentation required.

Reporting

In addition to the requirements set out in the standard UKRI grant condition RGC 7.4 Research Monitoring and Evaluation, you are responsible for providing annual progress reports which include financial and non-financial performance metrics.

The annual report format will be agreed with you upon commencement of the grant.

In accordance with RGC 11 Sanctions, we reserve the right to suspend the grant and withhold further payments if the performance output metrics requested are not provided by the stated deadlines or determined to be of an unacceptable standard by us.

You will be formally notified in writing if a suspension occurs.

Any costs incurred during this period, irrespective of source, will be incurred at risk with subsequent payments being withheld should any discrepancies remain unresolved.

Governance

We will nominate a member of UKRI staff who will be your primary point of contact. This individual 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 our funded research.

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