Engineering Fellowship Priority Areas

Engineering offers fellowships within the following priority research areas, please see below for descriptions of these areas.

Robotics and autonomous systems (with ICT theme) (postdoctoral, early and established career stages)

Robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) are interactive, cognitive and interconnected tools that perform useful tasks in the real world. These systems have varying levels of decision-making autonomy and will be part of our response to encourage national prosperity. This includes the development of more effective interventions in health and social care; safe and efficient transport on land, sea and air; productive manufacturing; and secure energy through a well-maintained and resilient infrastructure.

EPSRC wishes to support fellows working on the demonstration of RAS technologies in real situations and the basic research that will underpin advancements across the field.

Therefore, this priority area covers the engineering elements in the design and testing of robotics and autonomy. This may include novel research in control engineering or new materials for such a system, artificial intelligence, image and vision computing, human computer interaction, natural language processing and real time communications networking.

EPSRC has made substantial investments in this area, with capital and doctoral student funding across the UK to support and strengthen research. This fellowship priority area recognizes the critical importance of complementing this and other investments by building the UK’s capabilities through support for talented people who will lead in the area of Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Through our fellowship support EPSRC will mobilise talent and stimulate career progression along the career path across the Post-doctoral, Early and Established career stages.

In the case of applicants at the Post-doctoral career stage, exceptional candidates with independent research ideas, and the potential to lead, inspire and influence are sought. For Post-doctoral and Early Career Fellowships, EPSRC would like to encourage an element of research training as well as active research. This could be explored through the use of secondments from the host university to other research centres of excellence both within and beyond the UK in the chosen specialty.

Critical to this will be support for leading academics to push the RAS agenda forward, to make new collaborations, to source wider research expertise, to overcome technical and regulatory barriers, to engage with the public to better inform about the topic and counter hype, and to engage with industry partners who will utilise these technologies.

All RAS fellows must show consideration of the following points in their application:

  • Consider the impact of their research and address possible barriers to market adoption and implementation.
  • Create public awareness and engagement in the issues surrounding RAS deployment. Reflect on EPSRC’s recently published Responsible Innovation framework and integrate appropriate working approaches into their fellowship application.

It is recommended that those wishing to apply for a RAS Fellowship contact the Robotics portfolio manager to confirm that your project idea is within remit.

Synthetic biology (Postdoctoral fellowships)

Synthetic biology concerns the application of engineering tools and principles to the design and manufacture of biologically based parts, devices and systems that do not exist in the natural world, as well as the redesign of existing, natural biological systems. It is a rapidly developing technology with the potential to be transformational in a large number of application areas which address a diverse range of important socioeconomic challenges, eg Healthcare, Industrial Biotechnology, Novel Materials, New Computational Substrates, Bio-fuels/Energy, Bio-remediation/Clean Water, and Manufacturing.

The recently published A Synthetic Biology Roadmap for the UK (PDF 1.1MB) highlighted the importance of a skilled, energised and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community. The EPSRC will contribute to building this community by making available research fellowships to the very best researchers seeking to establish themselves and advance the new engineering discipline of synthetic biology. In particular we are looking to support fellows who adopt an interdisciplinary approach and are interested in developing synthetic biology methods based on rigorous engineering strategies. Therefore applicants should be thinking about biological systems in new ways - as ones that can be engineered to perform specific functions or new tasks. This will involve combining engineering expertise in new and novel ways with biological knowledge in order to make biological systems easier to engineer. Included here is the design and construction of synthetic cell-like structures, highly complex biological systems and biologically inspired artificial processes for example photosynthesis, Nitrogen fixation. There is no requisite requirement that researchers focus on any specific application(s), however in line with other engineering disciplines we strongly encourage researchers to consider the likely and practical end use of their proposed research.

Applicants should consider the importance of early stage dialogue with relevant stakeholders (those potentially interested in or affected by the research) on the science, legal, economic and ethical issues of their research. Engagement of this type with industry and/or the general public is widely recognised as being crucial to the success and acceptance of this new technology. Therefore, researchers are expected to establish, as appropriate, the collaborations and request the resources needed to support these activities.

To be considered against this opportunity proposals must be focused on addressing the engineering challenges of delivering synthetic biology as a mature technology.

Early and Established Career

Fellowship applications are welcome across the Engineering theme.