Programme Grants – assessment criteria for the outline stage

Programme Grant outlines are assessed against the following criteria:

Track record and international benchmarking

Programme Grants are designed to give flexible funding for world-leading researchers and applicants must demonstrate that the team embody the ‘best-with-best’ principle. The track record and current international standing of the main researchers must be articulated. This benchmarking may include research grant funding (both EPSRC and non-EPSRC sources) but it needs to be illustrative in context. Just listing the number of esteem factors is not sufficient; evidence needs to be provided to allow the team to be judged in an international context.

The principal investigator (PI) should demonstrate his/her leadership qualities and must be able to present evidence of the ability to manage a Programme Grant, for example with a track record of managing large single research programmes of similar complexity.

If the team members already have their own Programme Grants or are Co-Investigators on other Programme Grants then please explain why they need to be on this one and how they have the time to contribute to this.

Vision and ambition

The overall research programme vision and ambition should be articulated in one to two sentences. The vision should be an ambitious target of what the team aim to achieve during the grant. Applicants must also detail the individual research challenges underpinning the vision and the current state of the art. Please state how your research programme is an ambitious, transformative approach to addressing a global research challenge.

The vision must also be timely and answer the questions: why does this research need to be funded in the current or subsequent financial year?

Added value

The added value of funding the research through the Programme Grant scheme should be stated. What will Programme Grant funding enable the team to do that other EPSRC schemes will not? Why would this funding be different from multiple, concurrent standard research grants?

Although the notion of ‘critical mass’ and bringing together a large interdisciplinary team is important the applicants must carefully avoid basing their argument purely on scale. It is self-evident that with more resources more research can be done. Applicants need to explain what funding through this scheme would enable that an equal amount of funding through standard mode, or other schemes, wouldn’t.

Inter-relation of research projects

Briefly outline the research projects and how they relate to each other. It is often useful to demonstrate this via a diagram.

Applicants must give enough detail of the individual research challenges underpinning the vision to clearly demonstrate where the scientific novelty and challenge lies and must explain what the synergies and inter-dependencies are that would make the component parts of the project inviable independent projects.

National importance

Describe the National Importance of the research. Describe the extent to which, over the long term, for example 10-50 years, the research proposed:

  • contributes to, or helps maintain the health of other research disciplines, contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges, contributes to current or future UK economic success and/or enables future development of key emerging industry(s)
  • meets national strategic needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading research activity (including areas of niche capability)
  • fits with and complements other UK research already funded in the area or related areas, including the relationship to the EPSRC portfolio and our stated strategy set out in 'Our Portfolio'.

Applicants should indicate how their research relates to EPSRC's research areas and strategies (many projects will be relevant to more than one EPSRC research area) and complements EPSRC's current portfolio. Include information on where a successful research programme would position the UK in the global research landscape - who are the international leaders in the area? Information on EPSRC's current grant portfolio is available through the EPSRC's Grants on the Web (GoW). Programme Grants already supported by EPSRC can also be found in the funded grants section.

The definition of National Importance and further details can be found at preparing new proposals to include National Importance.

Management and monitoring

Provide plans for the management and monitoring of the proposed Programme Grant. Include the management structure, roles of the different people/groups, a risk management strategy and how the flexibility of resources will be managed. The strategy for obtaining independent external advice should also be described, noting that at a minimum it is a requirement to hold an annual independent advisory board meeting. Indicate if you wish to apply for creativity@home funding and how this links to the proposed management structure.

Funding for Creativity@Home may be sought as part of the resources package. Creativity@home is aimed specifically at leading researchers in receipt of a large award - such as Programme Grants, and aims to help you make the best use of the flexibility you have been given throughout your award. For more information please see the Creativity@Home webpage.


Account for the resources requested including the percentage of time dedicated to managing the project and the time the principal and co-investigators will dedicate to the project. Describe the role of each of the co-investigators. Please note: the proposal needs to be costed fully at the outline stage, as if successful, we would expect the total cost of the full proposal to be within 10% of that requested in the outline proposal.


Give details of your strategy to ensure that the potential impact of the research outputs is maximised. The definition of impact and further details can be found in impact - guidance for applicants.