Applying for Resource Only Strategic Equipment: Guidance for applicants

Scope of Scheme

EPSRC provides funding to procure new equipment through multiple routes to enable researchers to access the equipment they require to deliver high quality research. EPSRC can also provide support to improve access to existing equipment in order to maximise its usage. We would welcome approaches to enable the better sharing items of existing capital equipment via the Resource Only Strategic Equipment scheme. It is expected that awards will provide seed/invest-to-save funding to initiate increased use and sustainability of the equipment.

It is not anticipated that more funding through this specific route will be needed after the first application and clear plans for sustainability must be articulated in the proposal. Further applications to support sharing of the same item(s) of equipment will not be accepted

The equipment may be EPSRC-funded but could also have been entirely funded from other sources, however the research enabled by the equipment must be within EPSRC remit Proposals for this type of support will be assessed alongside proposals for items of equipment and address similar assessment criteria.

Applications must be invited by the relevant EPSRC Theme Lead. Applications that have not been pre-approved will be rejected.

Recent successful bids to the Maximising existing equipment sharing in physical sciences open invitation

Outline Submission Deadline (By 16:00)

Outline panel date

Provisional interview panel date

Tuesday 3 December

January 2020

June/July 2019

Wednesday 6 May 2020

May/June 2020

November 2020

Wednesday 2 September 2020

September 2020

March 2021

Pre-Outline Stage

Application invited by EPSRC theme lead after discussion with the relevant theme contact.

Outline Stage

Two-page outline business case for resource submitted to EPSRC through Je-S. The outline business case is assessed against the published assessment criteria by an internal EPSRC outline panel. Outlines will be assessed alongside requests for Strategic Equipment.

EPSRC either invites a full business case as a separate proposal though Je-S or does not invite a full business case.

Full Proposal Stage

Full business cases are assessed by a postal peer review stage. Unsupportive reviews lead to the full business case being rejected prior to panel. If supportive reviews are received these are shared with the applicant and the applicant can provide a two-page PI response.

Panel Stage - Assessed by the Strategic Equipment Panel (at the same meeting as equipment bids). The Strategic Equipment Panel provide a rank-ordered list and advise on whether the resource request should be funded. EPSRC reserve the right to invite applicants to interview on a case by case basis depending on the scale and nature of the proposal. 

Applicants must only apply for funding which will ensure wider sharing of equipment in order to maximise usage. If EPSRC has already provided funding to use an item of equipment through a research grant, the reasons why the current funding does not allow the equipment to be used to its maximum must be articulated.

Examples of support that can be requested include (but are not limited to) increased technician time; additional roles to provide training and/or research services not previously available; pump-priming funds; improved booking software; and improved advertisement of capabilities. Funds can be used at a number of levels: departmental, faculty/school, institution, regional, or national.

Funding via this scheme should provide additional underpinning infrastructure and/or staff support that improves current use of equipment. Applicants will be required to demonstrate the added value of the funds for increasing equipment usage, and the strategic demand for this.

Capital costs are not eligible on this scheme (i.e. items of equipment over £10K).

Funding for research projects cannot not be requested via this mechanism; as a consequence EPSRC does not normally expect to see postdoctoral researcher effort requested as part of these proposals.

Funding cannot be requested to replace existing support (e.g. current staff costs for time assigned to the equipment), maintenance and service contracts costs, or capital costs. It is expected that awards will provide seed funding to initiate increased use.

Proposals must be for a maximum duration of two years (unless agreed otherwise with the head of Theme) and should show a clear plan for sustainability after the two year period.

Resource Only Strategic Equipment proposals can only be submitted when invited by the relevant EPSRC Theme lead therefore you must discuss your potential application with the most appropriate Equipment contact prior to submitting an outline. Applicants should discuss the equipment to be shared, the research supported by the equipment and an idea of the resource levels required. Applicants should articulate a brief strategic case for why the resource request is needed (see Strategic Case section in the Business Case below).

Please include a covering letter with the application, confirming that the submission has been invited by the relevant Theme, detailing with whom the proposal was discussed.

Applicants should submit a two-page outline application demonstrating the added value to the research community of increasing the availability of the item/s of equipment, demand for the increase, and that the investment will be additional to current provision (attachment type: Case for Support). The following information must be included and laid out in the following order:

  • PI name
  • Host Institution
  • Item/s: Name and specific models (if relevant) of the equipment to be shared
  • Description: Very briefly describe the item/suite of equipment and its primary functions.
  • Cost: Please set out the expected resource cost in pounds sterling (inclusive of value added tax (VAT)). Funding cannot be requested to replace existing support (e.g. current staff costs for time assigned to the equipment), maintenance and service contracts costs, or capital costs. Costs must be as accurate as possible at this stage as they can only vary from the outline application +/-10%.
  • Usage: Indicate the proportion of equipment time that will be available for use by the group managing the equipment, other groups at the same institution, and researchers at other institutions, and how this is additional to the current availability. Indicate how additional users of the equipment will be identified and how all users will be prioritised. Information should be provided on the anticipated demand, indicating the likely main users and where they will be based. EPSRC are looking to maximise the appropriate usage of equipment, not necessarily share it as widely as possible.
  • Support: Please indicate what provision is already in place to support the running and maintenance of the equipment and demonstrate how the requested resource is additional to and distinct from the existing support.
  • Strategic Case: Please describe the research that is currently enabled by the existing equipment and/or the value added to existing research programmes. What will the additional resource enable that cannot already be done? Indicate which of the EPSRC's strategic priorities are met by the research enabled by the equipment and describe how these priorities are met. Explain how this item of equipment will compliment or enhance regional and/or national research capability. If an Equipment Roadmap exists for the item of equipment to be supported, please explain how this item relates to the roadmap.
  • Ensuring Maximum Value: Explain how the requested resource fits with other items of equipment, infrastructure and people support already at your university. Please indicate how the increased usage will be supported beyond the lifetime of the grant.
  • Contribution from Other Sources: If additional contributions are being made please provide further details.

Due to the nature of these bids, EPSRC requests that you discuss your planned submission with your university.

An internal sift process will be used to decide which proposals for maximising sharing of equipment EPSRC will invite to submit full cases. The outline panel will be comprised of EPSRC staff only.

Outlines for resource only proposals will be assessed at the same sift panel as bids for items of Strategic Equipment.

The assessment criteria at the sift stage are:

  • Is there evidence that the equipment underpins an EPSRC research area(s)? Have the applicants referred to balancing capability strategies, grand challenges or outcomes and explained how this investment will contribute to these priorities?
  • Has evidence been provided that the investment is additional to current support?
  • Potential usage: Is there evidence there is demand for the equipment and the investment will result in increased usage, significant efficiencies, and/or greater capacity compared to the current situation?
  • Management of access to equipment: what plans are in place to ensure usage will be maximised?
  • Resources: are the resources requested from EPSRC justified?

This process is not subject to the Repeatedly Unsuccessful Applicants Policy.

Applications should be submitted using the Research Councils' Joint electronic Submission (Je-S) System.

When adding a new proposal, you should select:

  • Council 'EPSRC'
  • Document type 'Outline Proposal'
  • Scheme 'EPSRC Outline'
  • Project Details select 'Equipment Business Case Outline' call.

Note that clicking 'submit document' on your proposal form in Je-S initially submits the proposal to your host organisation's administration, not to EPSRC. Please allow sufficient time for your organisation's submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the call closing date.

EPSRC must receive your application by 16:00 by the deadlines detailed above.

Decisions will be communicated to the PI after the outline panel and will be one of the following:

  • Invite to full business case
  • Resubmission invited - please note only one resubmission of an outline business case will be accepted.
  • Do not invite full business case.

Costs can only vary from the outline application by +/-10%. Please ensure costings at the outline stage are as realistic as possible.

For outline business cases that are successful at the sift panel, EPSRC will invite submission of full proposals for consideration by the Strategic Equipment Panel. Applicants will be informed of the deadline for submission of the full proposal and will be sent detailed guidance on how to apply. Applicants will be expected to apply to the deadline given: deferrals to later Strategic Equipment panels will not be allowed unless there are exceptional circumstances. Applications must be submitted through the Joint electronic Submission (Je-S) System.

Full proposals will be sent to expert peer reviewers; one of whom we expect to be nominated by the applicant, though this is not guaranteed. Proposals with sufficiently favourable reviewers' comments will be assessed by the Strategic Equipment panel; those without sufficiently strong support from reviewers will be rejected prior to panel. Applications reaching panel will be considered on a separate list from equipment business cases for capital funding. Applicants on this list will not necessarily be interviewed, however EPSRC reserves the right to interview candidates on a case by case basis depending on the scale and nature of the proposal.

The Strategic Equipment Panel will rank the proposals according to the assessment criteria below:

  • Quality and Breadth of to be enabled (Primary)
    1. The novelty, timeliness and relevance to identified stakeholders including users;
    2. The transformative aspects or potential outcomes that will be enabled?
    3. The suitability of the proposed methodology and the appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.
  • Strategic Importance at both an institutional and national level (Secondary Major)
    1. Meets national needs by establishing or maintaining a unique and/or world leading activity
    2. Complements and enhances regional and/or national research capability, including relationships to the EPSRC equipment and research portfolio.
      Please comment on the appropriateness of:
    3. The evidence of strong demand and community need from a diverse and inclusive user base and  the evidence that the investment will result in significant efficiencies, increased usage, and/or greater capacity compared to the current situation?
    4. The proposed alternative approaches to how the research would be achieved should the equipment not be funded.
  • Sustainability (Secondary Major)
    1. Recovery of running costs (maintenance, repairs, consumables staff time) during and beyond the lifetime of the grant; appropriateness of the charging model;
    2. Support and development of the specialist technical staff beyond the grant period;
    3. Sustaining and evolving a diverse and inclusive user base beyond the lifetime of the grant and any “free-at-the-point-of-access” period.
  • Applicant and Host Institution (Secondary)
    1. Appropriateness of the track record of the applicant(s);
    2. Balance of skills of the team, including collaborators;
    3. Why
  • Management of the Equipment (Secondary)
    • The workplan and associated risks;
    • Plans for prioritising access and maximising usage of the equipment;
    • Data management and accessibility.
  • Resources (Secondary)
    1. Appropriateness and justification of costs for the equipment;
    2. Appropriateness and justification of resource costs (staff, maintenance etc);
    3. Appropriateness of any contributions from the host and any collaborators;
    4. Any resources requested for activities to either expand the user base, increase impact, for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Case for Support (up to 8 sides of A4)

The case for support should expand on the information already provided in the 2 page business case and should address each of the following headings:

  • Track record (up to 2 pages of the max 8):
  • Description of the Equipment
  • Research Enabled
  • Strategic Importance including Institutional Strategy and Alternatives
  • Sustainability (up to 1.5 pages of the max 8)
  • Management of the Equipment
  • Resources and Host Institution Contributions

Business Case (up to 2 sides of A4):

An updated version of the outline business case.

Justification of the resources requested (up to 2 sides of A4):

Justification of why the requested costs are required to meet the aims of the application and a description of how the request represents best value for money.

Work plan (up to 1 side of A4):

To include details such as: timescales for implementing new processes; milestones, e.g. installations of a new booking system; indicative dates for activities to maximise usage.

Statements of support from any project partners (no page limit):

Signed, dated letters on headed paper from each Project Partner identified detailing the approximate financial contribution from the partner.

Letters of support from key users of the equipment (max. 3 attachments, no page limit)

Letters that show significant support for the proposal and a clear intention to use the equipment. It is strongly advised to seek letters from a cross-section of key users.

Host Organisation Statement

A letter from the appropriate authority confirming that the resources requested are additional to current university support and detailing any contribution(s) being made to this application (uploaded as an “Additional Document”).

Contacts

If you have any questions about the Strategic Equipment Process or if you are planning a Resource Only Strategic Equipment proposal please use the following Theme contacts:

Generic questions and submission of draft business cases - EPSRC Equipment Funding

Research Infrastructure - Tony Chapman and Claire Higlett 

Physical Sciences - Sarah Newport and Alex Broomsgrove (01793 444589)

ICT - Maryam Crabbe-Mann

Engineering - James Tarver

Healthcare Technologies - Kate Reading

Manufacturing - Richard Bailey

Energy - Neil Bateman