Business and Balancing Capability

What is Balancing Capability?

Balancing Capability is one of EPSRC’s three Corporate Strategies and is an important part of managing our portfolio of research investments. The strategy aligns our portfolio to areas of UK strength and national importance.

Our portfolio comprises 111 research areas each with their own focus and strategy as described in their rationales. These rationales were developed during 2016 in partnership with the academic community and wider stakeholders including businesses. They communicate our desired outcomes for the research area in terms of research, training, facilities and working with stakeholders, in addition to how they relate to the four Prosperity Outcomes (Productive, Connected, Resilient and Healthy Nation) of our Delivery Plan. These Outcomes, and the Ambitions within them, provide a framework for businesses to engage with our Delivery Plan.

In order to help digest the large volume of textual information each rationale will have visual icons to help summarise the research area strategies. For example, you will be able to filter against which strategies focus on interacting with business .

To ensure transparency, we have assigned trajectories for each research area indicating whether we intend to grow, maintain, or reduce the current funding level as a proportion of the entire portfolio. We will continue to support high quality research irrespective of a research area’s trajectory; however, businesses should consider how they might contribute towards achieving a research area’s strategy. This is best considered when preparing a proposal in partnership with academia, and reviewed throughout the lifetime of the grant.

The rationales are dynamic documents that will be updated throughout our current Delivery Plan period (2016-2020) and take into consideration any major shifts in the wider research and innovation ecosystem. They are a knowledge resource to aid the community to consider how their research proposal may contribute towards one or more research area’s desired outcomes.

Why do we have 111 research areas?

EPSRC has a wide-ranging remit and to enable us to classify research, gather key performance indicators and measure progress, we have divided our portfolio into manageable areas.

Research does not happen in silos; as such, we recognize that proposals do not always fall solely into one defined area. The research that we fund can and does contribute to the strategy of one or many research areas. We have demonstrated these connections for each research area on the rationale pages. Likewise, research may also cut across research council remits; our rationales reflect this and provide a steer on the key challenges in those areas.

What does Balancing Capability mean for business?

Businesses have a key role in supporting the research strategies through co-creating research alongside our world leading academic base. Businesses can influence at the heart of research to strengthen the capability of the research base, accelerate translation and support training, leading to long-term prosperity for the UK.

Businesses can work with researchers in multiple ways to achieve our desired outcomes across our portfolio. For example, businesses may provide:

  • Access to business-owned research facilities or financial support towards equipment
  • Technical assistance to accelerate research impact within the business and/or wider sector
  • Clear descriptions of the business need where fundamental research could transform business and sector capability giving the UK a competitive edge. Co-constructing research proposals with the research base would ensure that research focuses on the key challenges within your sector. 
  • A nurturing environment for secondments by academic staff, students or post-doctoral research assistants in order to advance their career and provide a mutual benefit to your organisation
  • Financial support for PhD students
  • Access to data and other proprietary information

Introducing a reduce trajectory on a research area does not mean that we will not support high quality research in this area. We continue to encourage businesses to work closely with academic partners to deliver research programs that conduct excellent research and contribute towards the overall strategy for that area.

If you have questions about how the Balancing Capability strategy affects the way you work with academia do not hesitate to contact us.




EPSRC terminology


  • Grow: The research areas' share of the whole EPSRC portfolio is projected to increase. This may be via appropriate strategic interventions and/or community-led activity.
  • Maintain: Active monitoring and intervention may be necessary. In many instances the focus of the research area may need to change, not the share of the portfolio.
  • Reduce: Areas where there is scope to reduce the share of the portfolio without adversely impacting upon the achievement of the vision and goals overall. This includes a strategy for change in the rationale that protects excellence and encourages and supports the refreshing of research agendas.