Establish an international network in quantum technologies

Your proposal must be at least 50% within the remit of the EPSRC quantum technologies theme.

Your project can last from 18 months to three years. It must start by 14 February 2022.

EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. You can include costs associated with establishing virtual mechanisms and tools for networks.

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
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Read the guidance on eligible institutions.

You can apply if you are resident in the UK and meet at least one of the bullets 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.

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

What we're looking for

This funding opportunity aims to ensure the UK is at the forefront of world-leading collaborations in quantum technologies by forming new international networks.

There is no defined partner country list for the opportunity, nor a limit to the number of countries involved within a given network.

Each proposal must demonstrate:

  • evidence of potential for the network to advance the UK’s capabilities in an emerging area of quantum technologies
  • a clear rationale for the selection of network participants and partner country or countries
  • a plan for effective international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information. Please refer to the guidance on trusted research from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI)
  • coverage of expertise and skills in order to achieve the network’s stated aims
  • the ability to enable virtual collaboration.

Successful networks should achieve collaborative international partnerships that draw on global talent and skills to tackle major research problems in new and innovative ways. Participants from a range of organisations, including from industry, are encouraged so that there is appropriate coverage of the expertise and skills needed. However, there is no formal requirement to include industry partners.

Networks are expected to lead to new, collaborative and often multidisciplinary research, and some may develop into virtual centres of excellence, providing critical mass of expertise in quantum technologies.

Therefore, it is generally expected that a network will form a new collaboration. An existing collaboration could only be considered for this opportunity if it demonstrated a significant change in purpose, scope or membership, and provided it aligned with all other aims of the opportunity.

Networks must have one lead organisation, but you may work closely with other organisations. Parent-child applications are possible.

More detail can be found in the:

Network members

There is no formal limit to the number of participants in a network. A network does not need to specify all named participants from the outset. This is to ensure that there is flexibility once a project is underway to react to the changing research landscape, capitalise on advances in understanding or react to changing business needs.

The network must have at least one international participant and the primary aim must be to develop a prosperous international collaboration.

Scope

The research and capability enabled by these networks must focus on quantum technologies.

Quantum technologies are those that involve the creation, control and manipulation of sensitive and fragile quantum effects within single systems.

Although many current and future technologies are described by quantum theory, the focus of this funding opportunity is on expanding capabilities focused on the direct exploitation of quantum phenomena such as superposition or entanglement to enable disruptive impacts in security, precision, sensitivity, accuracy or speed of sensing.

This includes:

  • quantum computing and simulation
  • quantum sensing and timing
  • quantum imaging
  • quantum communication
  • quantum components
  • cross-cutting quantum proposals.

Proposals must be at least 50% within the remit of the EPSRC quantum technologies theme.

Research in the area of ‘quantum technologies for fundamental physics’ is out of the scope of this opportunity. Instead, please contact georgina.freeman@stfc.ukri.org.

Find out more about EPSRC’s quantum technologies portfolio.

EPSRC has not set a limit on the number of proposals that can be submitted by a single organisation. However, as this scheme will fund only the highest quality applications, we would encourage organisations to focus their efforts on an appropriate, relatively small number of high-quality applications in order to improve their success rates.

To this end, we expect organisations to employ fair and transparent processes to select and support proposals for application.

Project partners

A collaborating organisation who has an integral role in the network and is providing a contribution of a specified value (in-kind or cash contribution) must be listed as a project partner. Project partners cannot receive funding directly from the grant, such as travel and subsistence.

Funding available

The total funding available is £5,000,000.

Under full economic costing there is no limit on the amount of funding that can be applied for, but all costs must be fully justified. Typical network grants rarely exceed £500,000. Anything above this would need significant justification.

This funding can cover investigator salary costs for the time spent on:

  • setting up and managing the network
  • travel and subsistence
  • workshops
  • administrative support.

EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost of proposals, with the research organisation funding the remaining 20%.

Additional funding, for example, contributions from industrial members is encouraged, and details should be included in the proposal.

Proposals must be for a duration between 18 to 36 months and must start before 14 February 2022

You can find further EPSRC guidance on funding through networks and best practice.

Investigators’ salaries

Under full economic costing, principal investigators can request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent on setting up and managing the network. Requests can also be made, if appropriate, for one co-investigator to assist in the management of the network. The salary costs of network participants should not be included in the proposal and we would not expect these individuals to be co-investigators.

Travel and subsistence

Enabling members to meet to exchange ideas and expertise and to visit each other’s laboratories. This may include visits by or to experts overseas. Where possible industrial collaborators should meet their own travel costs.

Workshops

Costs requested should meet the EPSRC guidance for network workshops.

Administrative support

Funding for administrative support can be requested to help in the coordination of the network. Funding may also be requested for the running costs of communication and also for additional equipment, such as PCs and web servers. Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the network output can also be included.

Virtual collaboration

Costs associated with establishing virtual mechanisms and tools for networks can be covered by the grant. Examples include:

  • salary time and resources for virtual centre coordinators
  • access to virtual collaboration software
  • hosting virtual workshops, webinars and sandpits
  • training for staff in virtual working.

Students

Both UK-based and overseas doctoral students are permitted to participate in network activities, however, UK-based students cannot be supported by funding from the grant. Overseas students can be supported for travel and subsistence only. It is expected that any students would be active participants and not using the network simply for training purposes.

Equipment

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.

For more information, please EPSRC guidance on equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote 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. Therefore applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

COVID-19 impacts

We acknowledge that it is difficult for anyone to determine the future impacts of COVID-19 while the pandemic continues to evolve. Your application should be based on the information available at the point of submission. If applicable, the known application specific impacts of COVID-19 should be accounted for.

Where known impacts have occurred, these should be highlighted in the application, including the assumptions or information at the point of submission. In the case of international travel for network activities, for example, appropriate resources should be requested to support plans to enable a degree of virtual collaboration.

Do not include contingency plans for the potential impacts of COVID-19. Reviewers will receive instructions to assume that changes that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, post-submission, will be resolved and complications related to COVID-19 should not affect their scores.

Where an application is successful, any changes in circumstances that affect the proposal will be managed as a post-award issue.

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: network.

On the project details page you should select ‘Quantum Technology Call for International Networks’.

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 16:00 on 30 September.

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 any named network participant who is not a project partner, or a principal or co-investigator
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form (no page limit), EPSRC guidance on project partners letter of support
  • technical assessments for facilities listed as requiring one in the Je-S guidance (no page limit)
  • cover letter (optional attachment, no page limit, not seen by peer review).

Overseas costs

Overseas costs include all costs incurred by non-UK organisations, including travel and subsistence and other directly incurred costs.

Information must be entered into Je-S under the ‘Other Directly Incurred’ cost heading, using this exact format in the description box:

‘Organisation; Country; Cost Category; Cost Description’

Further information on directly incurred costs (EPSRC).

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

Assessment process

Any proposals that do not fit the remit of the opportunity will be rejected prior to peer review. Please note that the proposal must be at least 50% within the remit of the EPSRC quantum technologies theme.

Proposals will be assessed against the assessment criteria by postal peer review. If reviews are sufficiently supportive, proposals will be prioritised by a panel of experts resulting in a single rank ordered list. The highest ranked applications will be recommended for funding. A funding decision is expected by the end of January 2022.

Specific assessment criteria

Fit (primary)

Potential for the network to:

  • advance the UK’s capabilities in quantum technologies
  • stimulate the development of emerging research areas
  • build international collaborations.

Appropriateness of network participant and partner country selection, for example, by demonstrating:

  • complementarity to other activities in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme
  • a history of engagement with the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme
  • how the partnership will bring prosperity to the UK.

Suitability of approach to collaboration with regards to protection of sensitive research, personal information or intellectual property.

Standard assessment criteria

Quality (primary)

The research excellence, making reference to the:

  • novelty, relationship to the context, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • ambition, adventure, transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact (reviewers: for multidisciplinary proposals please state which aspects of the proposal you feel qualified to assess).

National importance (secondary major)

How the network:

  • 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 industries
  • complements other UK research funded in the area, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio and other activities within the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary)

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

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicant or applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators.

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:

  • any equipment requested, or the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
  • any resources requested for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation
  • appropriateness of resources requested to support plans to enable virtual collaboration.

Feedback

Feedback will consist of reviewers’ reports. The final rank ordered list will be available on the EPSRC Grants on the Web (GoW) system after applicants are informed.

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal. Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest.

For more information about the reviewer selection process please see the related content links.

Guidance for reviewers

Reviewers are asked to review the opportunity details on this webpage.

For more information about the EPSRC peer review process, read our guidance for reviewers (EPSRC).

Guidance for reviewing network grants (EPSRC).

Contact details

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 about this funding opportunity

Email: quantumtechnologies@epsrc.ukri.org

Ask about quantum technologies for fundamental physics

Georgina Freeman

Email: georgina.freeman@stfc.ukri.org

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

The helpdesk is staffed Monday to Thursday 08:30 to 17:00 and Fridays 08:30 to 16:30 (excluding bank holidays and other holidays).

Additional info

Background

The National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) was established in 2014 to make the UK a global leader in the development and commercialisation of quantum technology, which is set to transform the global society and economy.

The NQTP strategic intent sets out the programme’s ambitions for the next 10 years, including the following overall aims:

  • stimulate market growth, unleash innovation, and grow a thriving ecosystem
  • maintain the UK’s excellence in research and technology
  • build a resilient network of national assets and mutually beneficial international relationships
  • grow, attract and retain talent.

The strategic intent also further sets out the following specific objectives in relation to building international relationships:

  • continue to manage and build the network of facilities and capabilities to meet the needs of the sector and society
  • continue to develop mutually beneficial global partnerships to achieve the programme’s objectives.

EPSRC are a key partner within the NQTP and share the ambition to maintain the UK’s reputation as an excellent place to do research. Find out more about EPSRC’s quantum technology portfolio.

EPSRC and quantum technologies

EPSRC forms an integral part of the international landscape in quantum technologies.

Working with Europe

EPSRC has funded many UK partners in European research consortia through QuantERA and the Quantum Flagship under the Horizon 2020 framework. EPSRC remains a partner in phase two of the QuantERA network through UKRI, with the intention to participate in the next funding opportunity in 2023.

National network

EPSRC funded a national network of four Quantum Technology Hubs through:

  • a £120 million investment in phase one (2014 to 2019)
  • a £94 million investment in phase two (2019 to 2024).

This is to harness the UK’s strengths in quantum science by turning this into strength in quantum technologies.

The Quantum Technology Hubs cultivate strong links with international partners and facilitate collaboration across the breadth of the quantum technology landscape

Funding opportunities

EPSRC continues to deliver opportunities for international collaboration through standard mode, lead agency opportunities and other strategic funding opportunities. You can search for details of these on the UKRI funding finder.

The UK’s role

Significant efforts are being put into developing quantum technologies around the world, resulting in a growing number of:

  • international programmes
  • research groups
  • start-ups
  • industry partners.

Over $10 billion of new public investment has been announced globally since January 2020. Whilst taking a leading position, the UK cannot deliver this new technology in isolation.

The UK is a serious global challenger in the race to realise the biggest quantum innovations based on the successes of the first phase of the programme.

It has achieved success by focusing on quantum technologies and not just quantum science from the outset, and because it builds on excellent research and the existing industrial base.

This focus has set the UK apart from the international competition, but the UK needs to continue moving forward as technological developments gather pace.

This funding opportunity provides a chance to:

  • participate in the most advantageous international research collaborations for the UK
  • grow knowledge from international expertise
  • support international innovation and the development of new products and services
  • protect and advance the successes of the UK through international leadership.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 222KB)

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