Equality, diversity and inclusion in the energy research community

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Apply to build a community within energy research focused on:

  • equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)
  • accessibility.

You must have the ambition to make real changes.

To apply you must be working at a UK organisation eligible for UKRI funding. Your project must be interdisciplinary.

Your team must have experience of researching:

  • energy, as part of engineering or the physical, geological, biological or social sciences
  • EDI in an applied context.

Your project’s full economic cost can be up to £1.25 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

We will fund your project for three to four years.

Who can apply

This is a Network Plus grant and is open to researchers at:

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

A Network Plus grant is a network grant with an added budget for funding feasibility-style and small scale research projects. Read about EPSRC network grants.

Check if your organisation is eligible for funding.

The principal investigator must currently be doing one of the following:

  • working within the energy community with a track record of working on EDI projects
  • working on EDI related research with a track record of working on promoting positive research culture.

We would welcome a diverse set of investigators to provide energy and EDI links across the remit of UKRI. The role of each co-investigator should be carefully justified. No more than eight co-investigators should be included in the application.

We strongly encourage more junior academics and those with non-traditional backgrounds to apply.

Individuals may only appear as an investigator on one application.

Individuals based in non-UK countries that can contribute to the Network Plus can be involved in the grant as project partners, members of the management or advisory boards, and so on. However, they are not eligible to be investigators.

Inclusion of project partners in the application is encouraged, to demonstrate the relationships that the network will develop and wider community engagement with the proposed activity.

You can apply as a primary investigator if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of these criteria:

  • hold a permanent contract at the submitting research organisation, in a role at or above lecturer level or equivalent
  • hold a fixed-term contract at the submitting research organisation:
    • in a role at or above lecturer level or equivalent
    • that extends beyond the duration of the proposed research project
    • where the host research organisation is prepared to offer support commensurate with that afforded to a permanent employee.

Fellowship holders can apply providing they have a permanent contract or their contract extends beyond the duration of the proposed research project (same rules as above) if they:

  • hold a UKRI, 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.

Find out more about individual eligibility for EPSRC grants.

We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI or any other funder.

This funding opportunity is subject to our policy on repeatedly unsuccessful submissions. 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.

Read the EPSRC repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy.

What we're looking for

The academic energy research community has a key role to play in facilitating the growth and development of the wider clean energy sector. To best serve the interests of all stakeholders and benefit the broadest audience, a Network Plus funded through this opportunity will need to include the insights, ideas and experiences of the most diverse set of voices possible.

Working towards a diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible research community will contribute to a more varied and better-informed research programme. In turn, this will contribute to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society.

EPSRC recognises that there is much work going on in this space across the energy sector, in both academia and industry. However, this work is often disconnected across the energy research landscape.

This funding opportunity is therefore for a single Network Plus grant on EDI in the energy community in order to promote cohesion across the research community.

Network aims

This Network Plus should aim to establish a new interdisciplinary community of energy researchers, focused on EDI and with links across the academic remit.

In particular, this community is expected to include researchers from relevant areas of the social sciences, in order to facilitate delivery of maximum impact.

Network Plus grants should be national in reach and the leadership team should represent a new collaboration. In particular, the Network Plus should seek to establish relationships with relevant UKRI investments and institutes across the energy research landscape, as well as other appropriate stakeholders across both academia and industry.

The Network Plus should involve contributors with a wide range of experience and expertise. For the current funding opportunity, it is expected that, in addition to stakeholders from across the energy sector, particular emphasis will be placed on establishing relevant EDI-specific relationships.

Stakeholders that a Network Plus may be expected to engage with across the energy and EDI communities include, but are not limited to:

  • large UKRI grants, investments and institutes in the energy remit
  • key experts in social sciences whose research focuses on relevant areas of EDI
  • government: local, regional and national as appropriate
  • organisations that bring together or represent the interests of under-represented groups or demographics
  • industrial stakeholders and interested parties within the energy remit.

We expect the Network Plus to facilitate the development of new collaborative interdisciplinary research proposals focused on EDI issues within the energy research community.

The Network Plus investment will aim to bring together relevant research disciplines and stakeholders of interdisciplinary communities in order to:

  • build new communities or create new links between different existing communities
  • bring focus to the relevant areas: identifying challenges, opportunities and priorities
  • improve knowledge exchange
  • support initial testing of new ideas and kick-start new collaborations
  • grow the areas of research and application of good practice for the benefit of the UK
  • facilitate impact and advance policy.

Network Plus consortia 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 be innovative in their approach.

Ultimately, the Network Plus must identify and disseminate ambitious ‘real-world’ challenges and activities with which the energy research community can engage to improve its own equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

EPSRC expects:

  • an interdisciplinary approach to be taken with social science expertise embedded in all aspects of the grant
  • consultation and co-creation with individuals holding relevant lived-experience to be part of the Network Plus and its research programme.

Community network expectations

This grant is awarded on the understanding that, in addition to the core research programme, 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.

The grant will also be expected to liaise with the large investments funded through the UKRI Energy Programme.

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

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.

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.

Flexible funds

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.

Funding available

The EPSRC Energy and Decarbonisation theme wishes to support one Network Plus investment. Up to £1 million of EPSRC funding is available, and EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. The full economic cost of individual proposals is therefore limited to £1.25 million. The award will be for a project of between 36 and 48 months duration.

Directly allocated costs

Funding requested under the directly allocated cost heading may include investigators’ salaries. The principal investigator and up to eight co-investigators can request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent on setting up and leading the Network Plus.

The salary costs of Network Plus participants should not be included in the proposal and we would not expect these individuals to be co-investigators. Please note that individuals listed as principal investigators and co-investigators can only be included on one bid.

Directly incurred costs

Funding requested under the directly incurred cost heading may include the following elements.

Travel and subsistence: enabling members of the Network Plus 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 Network Plus. Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the network’s output can also be included. At minimum, EPSRC expects the inclusion of a suitably qualified full-time project manager to be costed for.

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.

Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about the range of activities that could support the delivery of the Network Plus’ objectives.

Research activity to support the research strategy developed within the Network Plus. Funds can be requested for:

  • travel and subsistence
  • 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 criteria. It is the principal investigator’s responsibility to provide ongoing 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 Plus’ activities and should be co-created and collaborative in nature.

Other funding

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 and so on
  • 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 exceptions to this are:

  • 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 can receive small amounts of funding from the grant, such as for travel and subsistence to attend project meetings.

These will need to be requested by the PI and will need to be fully justified.

The project partner cannot receive any other funds from the grant, such as travel and subsistence.

Responsible innovation

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.

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.

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

How to apply

Applicants should ensure they are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. You should prepare and submit your proposal using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

When adding a new proposal, you should go to documents, select New Document, then select:

  • ‘create new document’
  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • on the project details page, you should select the ‘ED&I in the Energy Research Community Network Plus’ funding opportunity.

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 4 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 A4 sides each only for named postdoctoral 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), and visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form: no page limit
  • host organisation letter of support: two pages
  • EDI action plan covering the grants’ internal EDI plans: two pages, to be uploaded as an ‘additional document’ in Je-S
  • cover letter: optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review.

Your case for support should cover:

  • the track record of the core Network Plus team (two pages). This should include evidence of relevant experience and expertise the applicant team has in running networks or activities requiring comprehensive management
  • how the proposed Network Plus aligns with the potential for increasing equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the energy research community
  • the scientific and social basis for the Network Plus, including in the context of current and previous international research and data in the field
  • details of the initial membership of the Network Plus. Do not give details of individual potential members
  • scientific, technological and management benefits and any additional benefits over the work of existing researchers or networks. Targets and performance indicators should be given that allow the project to be evaluated at its end in the longer term
  • details of proposed activities
  • details of plans for the feasibility studies funds, including the commissioning and on-going governance to ensure correct usage and reporting
  • plans to disseminate the Network Plus’ outputs
  • potential for collaboration within the Network Plus and how this might lead to support for new research in emerging fields
  • plans for self-sufficiency beyond the end of the project.

Your host organisation letter of support should include:

  • recognition of the fact that the host organisation will be responsible for administering the grant for these national networks on behalf of all Network Plus partners and members
  • details of specific support that will be given to the applicant team (including investigators, management team and administrators) in managing the Network Plus budget, commissioning the funds and ongoing governance to ensure correct usage and accountability.

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 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 completing ethical information in the Je-S form. EPSRC guidance can be found under additional information.

How we will assess your application

Any proposals that do not fit the remit of the funding opportunity will be rejected prior to peer review assessment.  Please note that the proposals must be focused on EDI work and include communities within the remit of EPSRC-funded energy research.

Network Plus proposals will be evaluated with respect to the assessment criteria by an expert panel, and all invited for interview. Following submission and prior to interview, the proposals will be blind-reviewed by assigned panel members to assess their quality and fit to the funding opportunity criteria.

Assessment of the team’s track record and host institution support will be undertaken after the blind review stage. Interviews will be held in February 2022.

The principal investigator should attend, along with up to two other members of the project team, which may include project partners in addition to investigators. The proposals will be ranked by the panel and if the highest-ranking proposal is of sufficient quality it will be recommended for funding.

A funding decision is expected by the end of February 2022.

In the event of this opportunity being sufficiently oversubscribed as to be unmanageable through the above process, EPSRC reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

Assessment criteria: call specific criteria

Fit to call (primary)

Making reference to:

  • strength of alignment to energy-research community challenges where equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility research and interventions can have the biggest impact
  • potential to stimulate the development of emerging research areas and build research collaborations
  • potential to identify ambitious ‘real world’ research challenges within each identified theme of the Network Plus between users and academia
  • potential for the Network Plus to advance the UK’s capabilities in delivering a diverse, equal and inclusive academic energy community, leading to the highest quality of responsible research
  • extent to which the proposal demonstrates the potential to lead by example in its approach to EDI within the grant management and membership
  • extent to which the Network Plus complements other UK funded research activities and existing networks in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC or ESRC portfolios
  • sustainability of the activity after the lifetime of the grant.

Assessment criteria: standard criteria

Quality (primary)

The research excellence, making reference to:

  • the ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • the suitability of the proposed membership and activities: applicants are encouraged to tailor their activities to the need of the area and be innovative in their approach. Activities should reflect the aims of the opportunity
  • appropriate engagement and dissemination plans to accelerate impact and form an agenda for future research in the area.

National importance (secondary major)

How the research:

  • contributes to, or helps maintain the health of other disciplines contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges or contributes to future UK economic success and development of emerging industry or industries
  • meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading activity
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

The ability to deliver the proposed project, making reference to:

  • track record of the research team in relevant research, leadership and management of complex activities
  • evidence of thought leadership, responding to strategic and policy drivers
  • sufficient administrative support for managing the Network Plus
  • appropriate range of expertise of core Network Plus members
  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant team
  • evidence of user engagement, co-creation and support (financial cash or in-kind) and ability to engage with users
  • evidence of host institution support, specifically focusing on support given to the applicant team in managing the Network Plus budget, commissioning feasibility funds and on-going governance to ensure correct usage and accountability.

Resources and management (secondary)

The effectiveness of the proposed planning and management and whether the requested resources are appropriate and have been fully justified, making reference to:

  • the appropriateness of the requested resources
  • the effectiveness of the proposed management structure and plans
  • appropriateness of the commissioning of funds for feasibility studies and on-going governance to ensure correct usage and accountability
  • appropriate of the requested resources to support community building, responsible innovation and public engagement.

Feedback

If invited to interview, feedback will be provided. When applicants are informed they will be able to read the final rank ordered list on the EPSRC grants on the web system.

Contact details

Ask a question about this funding opportunity

Primary contact: Zaffie Cox

Email: zaffie.cox@epsrc.ukri.org

Secondary contact: Strachan McCormick

Email: strachan.mccormick@epsrc.ukri.org

Ask 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.

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.

Additional info

Background

Working towards a diverse, equitable and inclusive research community will lead to a better-informed research programme. This fact is recognised and embedded across UKRI, with EDI being a core tenet of the corporate plan and, more locally, of EPSRC’s delivery plan.

Both UKRI and EPSRC have central teams to work on strategies and activities in this domain, however it is essential that all parts of the organisation are working to achieve positive change in this space. As such the Energy team has put together an action plan to support and complement the efforts of the centralised UKRI and EPSRC EDI teams.

The Energy theme has identified three core approaches to EDI that are relevant to our practices and spheres of influence. Our three primary spheres of influence are:

  • ensuring the independence of the peer review system and ensuring diverse panels and advisory streams. This includes making sure that we reach and interact with the broadest spectrum of academics and research professionals in the energy space
  • supporting and encouraging positive EDI work in our investments and the wider academic community
  • ensuring that our funded research is responsible and clearly addresses and engages with issues such as energy justice and intersectionality, thereby:
    • promoting responsible innovation
    • ensuring that the views, cultures and realities of many are reflected in both research and policy
    • creating a more equitable and inclusive society.

In discussion with the community on how to support and encourage positive EDI work in the research community, the Energy theme has identified a lack of community-level communication to facilitate community wide conversations and act as a forum for dissemination of good and best practice. In the energy research community more generally it has been noted by many that there is a paucity of data, possibly due to its interdisciplinary nature.

Whilst more recent reports from UKRI and EPSRC on gender and racial diversity in our portfolios have highlighted systemic issues across research and innovation spaces. Organisations such as The Inclusion Group for Equity in Research in STEMM (TIGER in STEMM) continue to raise awareness of shortcomings and issues across the research and sector there is little information that is specific to the highly interdisciplinary energy community.

Previous reports that have been published in this area, such as UKERCs’ ‘Power Shift: How to build Gender Balance in the Energy Research Portfolio’, have had a significant impact on funders and the wider community.

Community members have also highlighted that it is hard to find repositories of good or best practice in the field. Such a repository would help to spread consistent information across the community and make this information more easily accessible for individuals or investments who are looking for help in developing their contributions.

It would also prevent duplication of effort in the creation and dissemination of information and approaches.

The issues raised by the community echo concerns held by the EPSRC Energy theme that there is a lack of both connection and research in this space.

As such, the Energy theme is looking to fund a network with funds for feasibility studies to act as a central catalyst, communication point and support for the energy research community in developing a positive, diverse and inclusive research culture.

EPSRC has funded research in similar areas previously. In 2018, EPSRC funded 11 Inclusion Matters projects, with the aim of accelerate culture change with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion. Summaries of these projects and their key findings can be found on the EPSRC website.

Supporting documents

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