Summary of the Last Delivery Plan (2011 – 2015)

2011 - Shaping Capability

Over the past ten years EPSRC has been working with the research community to understand the challenges and requirements of its portfolio, specifically in light of international trends and emerging research areas. In 2011 we mapped our portfolio to 115 research areas and EPSRC Council articulated its goal for the Shaping Capability strategy: “EPSRC will shape the research base to ensure it delivers high quality research for the UK both now and in the future. Our research portfolio will be focused on the strategic needs of the nation”.

With the support and advice of our Strategic Advisory Teams, input from our Strategic Advisory Network and agreement from our Council, we designated a relative funding trajectory for each research area within our portfolio. These trajectories stated whether we intend to 'grow', 'maintain' or 'reduce' a research area as a proportion of the total EPSRC portfolio, indicating the overall trend we anticipated. These trajectories were underpinned by a narrative ‘research area rationale’ which detailed our future strategy and were published on our website.

To support this strategy we evolved our peer review process with input from an experienced group of panel members, panel chairs, Strategic Advisory Team members, Strategic Advisory Network members and Council members. The changes included introducing a new assessment criterion; national importance and increasing our panel introducers from two to three.

2014 – Monitoring the Portfolio

We constantly monitor our portfolio and mid-way through the last Delivery Plan (in 2014) we began the; Monitoring Portfolio Evolution (MPE) exercise to measure the progress towards the published trajectories and strategies.

In partnership with the Strategic Advisory Teams we developed sixteen action plans based on the following criteria:

  1. An area has moved along a trajectory we did not expect, for example, a grow area has reduced or an area has grown or reduced further than expected.
  2. An area where the desired strategy is not being achieved for example, capacity concerns, or there has been no increase in industrial or multi-disciplinary connectivity.
  3. An area where the funding environment has changed for example, 8 great technologies or industrial strategy investment.

The action plans were public documents and the aim was to develop a joint approach between the EPSRC Themes and their Strategic Advisory Team members.  These action plans were also an important input into developing our research area strategies for the 2016-2020 Delivery Plan.

Our Portfolio Continually Evolves

Research progresses continually therefore it is important that our strategy is flexible and responds to changes in the UK research landscape. Over the last five years we have responded to an evolving portfolio for example, by creating two new research areas (Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing and Quantum Device, Components and Systems) and revising one reduce area to a maintain (Speech Technology).

2014 – Balancing Capability

In October 2014 the EPSRC Council reaffirmed its commitment to the Strategic Plan which included renaming Shaping Capability to Balancing Capability, to more accurately reflect the aspirations of our strategy.

2016 – Refreshing the Research Area strategies

Shaping Capability, as it was, is a long-term strategy and our strategies will remain in place over the current Delivery Plan period (2016-2020). Therefore, as we approached the end of the last Delivery Plan period (in 2015) it was vital to have a thorough understanding of how the portfolio has changed since 2011 and subsequently, what our future aspirations are for the next Delivery Plan period.

EPSRC plays a unique national role through engagement and knowledge of the engineering and physical sciences portfolio, and one part of this knowledge includes the funded EPSRC portfolio and relative trends. The research area trends table outlines for the entire EPSRC portfolio, the proportion of the portfolio for each research area per year between April 2011 and April 2015. The table excludes training grants and the following research area: Other.

It is important to note however, that decisions have not been made on the basis of this quantitative analysis alone and EPSRC Themes considered other evidence as described in ‘The Decision Making Criteria’ and 'Our evidence base'.