EPSRC Big Ideas

Big Ideas is EPSRC’s initiative to collect adventurous and exciting ideas from the wider research community. Big Ideas will be ambitious and have the ability to transform the research landscape. Not necessarily driven by scale, we are looking for a level of ambition and transformational potential embedded within the idea.

Big Ideas are those that are hard to achieve, require significant support (financial, people, skills) to make them possible and have ground-breaking impacts (in all forms). Big Ideas also attract public, industry and government enthusiasm and excitement, either by the nature of the science itself or by the potential socio-economic changes it could offer in the future.

EPSRC welcomes submissions across all areas of our portfolio. 

Why Big Ideas?

EPSRC is aiming to have a pipeline of ideas at various stages of development, so that when opportunities arise there are potential research concepts developed and ready. The Big Ideas process is not in itself a call for proposals because there is no dedicated funding aligned to this activity. However, by developing Big Ideas other avenues could be inspired by the idea itself as well as the potential to be part of the pipeline of ideas.

Submitting a Big Idea

The Big Ideas process is designed to support the development of an idea from its original conception into a compelling business case. The initial form has been developed to help you consider the various aspects of a Big Idea, so you can test its robustness before it is submitted. 

In order to submit a Big Idea, individuals need to submit a completed smart survey (an associated guidance document has been created to support this). The guidance document is a live document which will be updated and added to as the process evolves.

What Happens Next?

Submitted ideas will be batched for consideration by an internal panel, who will check for validity and eligibility, taking into account alignment to EPSRC strategies and the broader strategic context. This internal review takes place three times a year.

Ideas that progress will then be considered by EPSRC’s Science, Technology and Engineering Board (SETB), who will select ideas for further development, assessing whether the concept is in line with the Big Ideas aims, and providing advice about its further development. For example, this could involve assigning mentors, redirecting an idea towards other funding routes, or encouraging wider links and facilitated discussions to create a compelling case. By maintaining an overview of, and contributing to, the pipeline of ideas to identify strategic opportunities for additional funding streams, SETB provides assurance to support decision making by the Executive and by EPSRC’s Council

Please be aware that, if prioritised, a Big Idea may require other people to lead and/or be involved in its development; this will be discussed as part of the process of developing an idea further beyond the initial submission. EPSRC may put you in contact with others who have submitted similar ideas in order to develop the idea further, but will seek your permission to do so first. Ideas submitted to EPSRC’s Big Ideas process will be for internal use only. However, to aid their development we may share them, or an appropriate summary, within UKRI and with our strategic advisory bodies.

Contact: bigideas@epsrc.ac.uk

SETB membership

The membership of SETB is drawn from across EPSRC’s stakeholder groups, including both academia and business, and represents a diverse range of expertise and experience in research and innovation.

  • Charlotte Deane - EPSRC Deputy Executive Chair (Chair of SETB)
  • Joe De Sousa - EPSRC Council (AstraZeneca)
  • Nick Jennings - EPSRC Council (Imperial College London)
  • Cameron Alexander - University of Nottingham
  • Paul French - Imperial College London
  • Jane Jiang - University of Huddersfield
  • Leigh Lapworth - Rolls-Royce
  • Jonathan Legh-Smith - BT
  • Adrian Mulholland - University of Bristol
  • Graham Niblo - University of Southampton
  • Susan Rosser - University of Edinburgh
  • m.c. schraefel - University of Southampton
  • Mike Sutton - Lubrizol
  • Phil Taylor - University of Bristol
  • Su Taylor - Queen’s University Belfast