Engineering priority areas

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

Advanced materials engineering (early and established career stages)

Advanced materials are instrumental to the development of multiple industrial sectors that have the potential to generate long-term economic growth and jobs for the UK. The importance of this field of research has been recognised through recent strategic investments in infrastructure and skills, as well as EPSRC’s Fellowship for Growth call in late 2013, which recognised a number of leading academics who are building UK leadership in advanced materials engineering. Building on these successes, EPSRC encourages Fellowship applications to undertake adventurous engineering research aimed at:

  1. reducing lead times to product development through greater understanding of materials properties and processing challenges; and/or
  2. the sustainable design and use, re-use, reduction and/or replacement of materials in existing and new products.

Applications are welcome across the breadth of materials engineering – including theoretical studies, modelling and simulation – provided that they fall within the scope specified above and add value to EPSRC’s existing portfolio of research.

We particularly wish to encourage applications focussed on the understanding, modelling and processing of metals and alloys, and/or applications that have been co-created with users of research to address targeted applications or societal challenges. Candidates are encouraged to use the flexibility within the Fellowship framework to provide exposure to the requirements of, and develop connections with, user organisations.

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.

Engineering for Sustainability and Resilience (early and established career stages)

This fellowship area is intended to enable UK engineering researchers to engage with the grand challenges of sustainability and resilience, and to undertake truly adventurous engineering research to further these agendas.  Applications are welcomed from across the breadth of the engineering community, and should address either or both of sustainability and resilience through the performance of novel engineering research.

This area encompasses a wide range of engineering approaches to tackling sustainability and/or resilience; for example applicants might aim to design new sustainable and/or resilient processes or infrastructures, or alternatively to adapt or ‘retro-fit’ the status quo in order to ensure future sustainability and resilienceAll applicants to this area must clearly articulate how their proposed research will address issues around sustainability and/or resilience, and how it aligns to strategic drivers in these areas. Applicants should aim to articulate their long-term view and the transformational potential of their research, avoiding short-term solutions or incremental change.

Research in this area must focus on novel and fundamental engineering approaches or the application of existing engineering methods in totally new ways. Applicants should aim to put their research into the wider context, considering its impacts on public policies, business models, product design, and the environment; however research focussing solely on policy change, business model innovation, or ecological challenges will not be accepted in this area. Candidates are strongly encouraged to use the flexibility of the fellowship scheme to engage with users and policy makers, to ensure that their novel engineering solutions are put into practice, and that their research has a genuine impact on the sustainability and resilience agenda.

Sustainability is broadly defined as not being harmful to the environment or depleting resources. From the point of view of engineering research, Sustainability could include, but is not limited to:

  • Appropriate design, alteration and use to ensure infrastructures or processes are sustainable through lifetime assessment, including extension of lifetime
  • Reduced lifetime costs with respect to materials, water use, energy and environmental considerations
  • Reducing inputs, limiting waste, minimising energy usage, recycling, or avoiding material depletion
  • Technological approaches to reducing the over-engineering of infrastructures, materials, and processes

Resilience is broadly defined as the ability to cope with change, to anticipate and adapt to disruptions and events. From the point of view of engineering research, Resilience could include, but is not limited to:

  • Infrastructures which are resilient to extreme conditions, disasters or change of use
  • Materials for extreme environments
  • Chemical processes and systems with increased lifetimes, or improved process safety and control.
  • Resilience of interrelated transport infrastructures, including resilience to network perturbation.
  • Future proofing and prediction of future risks for infrastructures 

Control engineering (early and established career stages)

EPSRC would like to invite fellowship applications in Control Engineering. Applications are invited across the wide range of distinct control design methodologies (optimisation based controller design, adaptive control, and so on), but also in a range of challenging applications across the remit of EPSRC including but not exclusive to control of active vehicle suspension, robotics and autonomous systems, manufacturing, building automation, critical infrastructures like transportation systems, water networks, healthcare technologies and other systems that interact with technological system and so on). Where there is potential for impact and advancement in academic knowledge, EPSRC would like to encourage the transfer of control engineering knowledge across application areas and domains.

In the case of 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 centers of excellence both within and beyond the UK in the chosen specialty.

Synthetic biology (Early and Established career 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.

Particle technology (Early Career and Established Career fellowships only)

This area covers the growth, formation, processing, measurement, characterisation and multi-scale modelling of dry or wet particulate systems and fluid-particle systems. This includes the fundamental understanding of powder flow and particle / particle interaction. There are extensive links to the Complex Fluids and Rheology area where particle laden flows are considered. There is a continuum of knowledge from design through synthesis to scale-up and formulation; a key aim here is to form predictive links between physical properties and particle behaviour during process operations. This area does not cover the novel synthesis routes of, for example, polymer particles - this will be covered under other research areas. Separation processes (eg membranes, filtration) are covered under Process Systems: Components and Integration.

We are looking for fellows who are keen to address the long-term fundamental engineering challenges in this area; however it is expected, where appropriate, that industrial collaborators will be identified and engaged with throughout.

Microsystems (Early Career and Established Career fellowships only)

This research area captures a broad spectrum of underpinning microengineering research aimed at developing a diverse range of novel miniaturised micro-structured devices that include microfluidic, microelectromechanical and microfabricated devices. The research can be of a generic nature, or focused on the development of a specific device targeted at a particular end use. These applications can be found in almost every industrial field including for example medicine, healthcare, environmental monitoring, drug discovery, chemical synthesis, inkjet printing, and information and communication technologies. Applications within the optical and information processing domains are captured by research areas within the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) capability theme and are therefore outside the scope of this area.

We are looking for fellows who are keen to address the long-term fundamental engineering challenges in this area and would also encourage the development of creative and transformative new research ideas.

Software development for novel engineering research (Early Career fellowships only)

As EPSRC invests in the next generation of high performance computing both at national and regional levels, it is essential that our researchers are able to use this provision to its maximum capability in order to undertake excellent research by having software that is of high quality and is reliable and sustainable. We are looking to appoint fellows who have some experience of using and developing software in their chosen field and are looking to widen the use and usability of this software in order to undertake high quality research in Engineering. Innovative approaches to this development, and collaboration nationally, internationally and across disciplines is welcomed.

Novelty must be demonstrated in both software development and in the research that will be enabled, which must be within the remit of Engineering. Applicants to the Engineering theme must demonstrate how their proposals will extend fundamental understanding of engineering principles and lead to innovation in their chosen application areas. We are looking for applications which demonstrate excellent awareness of the impact of software development in the applicant's research area and further afield. The applicant needs to demonstrate the ability to lead the strategy for the development of the chosen software strand and to engage with leaders in the research field(s) who are both users and potential users of high end computing.

Complex fluids and rheology (Early Career and Established Career fellowships only)

This research area covers the characterisation, modelling, formulation and processing of complex fluids such as creams, pastes and emulsions, including understanding the effects of additives. Rheological properties and their measurement is included. The key focus of the area is the effect of the process on the resulting performance of the products. An example application of this area is polymer extrusion. Not included in this area are chemical structure/synthesis, or the fundamental understanding covered by soft matter physics; these aspects are covered by other research areas.

We are looking for fellows who are keen to address the long-term fundamental engineering challenges in this area, however it is expected, where appropriate, that industrial collaborators will be identified and engaged with throughout.

Water engineering (Early Career and Established Career fellowships only)

This research area encompasses design and optimisation of technologies relating to water resource management, treatment and distribution systems, including assessment and control of water quality and engineering research pertaining to the management and treatment of waste water and sewerage, including drainage systems.

We are looking to support fellowships in this area, but would highlight the need for broader thinking and multi-disciplinary working. In line with our strategy for Water Engineering we would also look to support fellows in development of creative and transformative new research ideas.