EPSRC Funding Options

Supplementary content information

Four EPSRC staff discuss the funding options available to early career researchers and address common myths around applying for EPSRC funding.

Information correct at time of recording - August 2018.

#EPSRCInsights

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Narrator 1

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Investing in research for discovery and innovation.

Narrator 2

In this podcast, we’re looking at the funding options available for new academics. We’re joined by four members of EPSRC staff who deal with applications on a daily basis.

Nick Cooper (NC)

My name’s Nick Cooper, I’m the Portfolio Manager for Water Engineering and Coastal and Waterway Engineering.

Elaine Massung (EM)

Hi, I’m Elaine Massung and I’m the Portfolio Manager for Robotics in the Engineering team at EPSRC.

Richard Gunn (RG)

My name’s Richard Gunn, I’m Head of Peer Review and Advanced Materials at EPSRC.

Adam Luqmani (AL)

My name is Adam Luqmani, I look after Fundamentals of Computing which includes Theoretical Computer Science, among other things.

Narrator 2

The best initial starting point on the EPSRC website when looking at the available routes for new academics, is to put into the search engine ‘EPSRC funding options flow chart.’ On this webpage is a short video outlining the five steps of the peer review process.

We’re going to start by giving you a broad overview of the options available for new academics, including the New Investigator Award Scheme. This is aimed at people who want to put in their first application as a Principle Investigator. We’ll also go through initial steps and some of the terminology that you may not be familiar with if applying for the first time.

RG

New academics may come across the terminology ‘managed mode calls’ or ‘managed calls,’ and another common phrase that they might hear is ‘responsive mode’, which we now call ‘standard mode applications.’ Broadly speaking, those are the two different types of schemes that we operate. So the ‘managed mode’ or ‘managed calls,’ would be specific time-limited calls in specific subjects that are advertised on our website under the ‘call for proposals’ section. The ‘standard’ or ‘responsive’ mode schemes are open at any point in time, they have regular assessment cycles, and you can submit anything that falls within EPSRC’s remit.

NC

Responsive mode applications are investigator-led and it’s for the researcher to decide which area they want to work in.

EM

When applying for funding at EPSRC, it’s important to remember that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ funding route for new academics. They could come through a standard mode project, however, we actually also have the New Investigator Scheme, which is specifically for people who haven’t applied before. This gives them a chance to be compared against others at a similar career stage. They could also consider coming in for an Early Career Fellowship, but with the caution that it’s only open in certain priority areas, so you do need to check on that before applying.

NC

In order to apply for funding, you have to have an account with the Joint Electronic Submission system and we recommend doing that as soon as possible. A common mistake is people leaving it to the last minute to set this up. In fact, you can reduce the amount of stress in the process by setting up an account as earlier as possible and start to complete the form.

AL

You may find that you already have an account that’s maybe a hangover from your PhD and that’s something that you can update with the new details of your current appointment. But really try and do that as soon as you are starting to think about applying for grants.

NC

Some people don’t recognise the importance of having project partners set up on the Je-S system. This would be an industrial partner or anyone else who’s providing a letter of support or some support for the project that’s being applied for.

RG

When it comes to actually putting the application together, and submitting the proposal through the joint electronic submission system, be aware of the fact that when you hit the submit button, it will go to your research office and not to the research council, so you’ll need to factor that into your timeframe for submitting your proposal.

EM

One of the most important things I tell people is to make sure they check their eligibility before applying, because I really hate having to tell people after they have put so much time, energy and effort into writing an application, that they’re actually not eligible for that particular scheme.

So start off by looking at the website, see what you’re eligible for, speak to your staff at the research office, because they’ll be able to give you a better idea if you are eligible and do feel free to give us a call if something needs to be checked, because you want to make sure that your application has the best chance from the very beginning.

Narrator 2

It’s important to emphasise, that as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) many EPSRC research projects are co-funded with other research councils. Also, a number of schemes have been harmonised across the research councils. Staff at EPSRC come across a number of commonly asked questions and misconceptions surrounding funding options for new academics.

NC

There’s a real myth that you need to already have research council funding in order to apply for further funding from us and, of course, that’s absolutely not the case. It would be very difficult because you wouldn’t be able to get started in the first place.

RG

If you’re an academic at any eligible institution within the UK, then you can apply for any of the research councils’ schemes.

AL

And particularly if you look at our New Investigator Award Scheme, that’s aimed at people who haven’t had research council funding before.

NC

There is a degree to which you need to show track record, but that doesn’t have to be through previous research council funding.

EM

Relevant experience for showing your track record could be, for example, that you’ve worked in industry or you’ve been involved with leading things on charities, NGOs.  Basically anything that you would use in a job application to show that you have experience. Think about things like that, work track record, it’s not just about the funding that you’ve brought in.

RG

We do sometimes hear the myth that Early Career Fellowship Proposals should be treated the same way as standard mode or responsive mode proposals. That’s not actually the case, those schemes have a different assessment process and different assessment criteria.

NC

Fellowships are very much about the person.

AL

There should be aspects of the grant that focus specifically on the leadership and development of the individual.

EM

You need to be considering that when you’re writing the application so that it comes across to reviewers that you’re going to be an advocate, not only for your specific research area, but for engineering and physical sciences as a whole.

NC

This is very different to a standard mode proposal which is solely on the research that is being done and the impact of that research.

AL

Some applicants ask what the difference is between an Early Career Fellowship and New Investigator Awards. New Investigator Awards are aimed at new academics and is a standard scheme which they are able to apply for a research grant to fund a project with maybe a research associate on it.

EM

You’re being compared against others who are at the same career stage as you.

AL

An Early Career Fellowship is aiming more at training up an individual with leadership qualities and development.

EM

It’s open only in certain priority areas. And then, at the panel, it will be against other types of fellowships. We also have post-doc and established career, so it’s up against those two as well. And what I really recommend is that you reach out to the Portfolio Manager who looks after that research area to actually check on remit, because the point of the fellowship is to promote leadership in a given area. We want to make sure that what you’re doing is actually novel research in that area. So, for example, because I’m Robotics Portfolio Manager, just because you have robotics in a project, it doesn’t mean that you’re actually doing novel robotics research.

So, this is the type of thing that I could work with you on to actually determine if it is within the scope of the fellowship.

RG

For both the New Investigator Awards and the fellowship schemes it’s really important to talk to the department that’s going to host you early on, to ensure that they will support you and that they will provide resources that enable you to make a good case for your application.

Narrator 2

That ends this look at funding options for new academics. Other podcasts in this series will be covering aspects of the peer review process, such as the right to reply, and also providing tips on writing a strong application.

Narrator 1

You’ve been listening to a podcast by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Investing in research for discovery and innovation.