2018 CDT Exercise - Frequently Asked Questions
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Q. Does the start date have to be either 1 April or 1 October 2019?
A. No, these are the limits and dates between these are acceptable. The first cohort will start in the academic year 2019/20 so the duration of the grant must cover the academic years 2019/20 through to end 2026/27 (the final year for cohort 5) - this is 8 years. Applicants must decide how to make best use the extra 6 months. If starting 1 April 2019, applicants are reminded that this may mean the grant finishes at the same time as the funded period for cohort 5 students. It is up to applicants to manage such a risk.
The duration of each CDT must be 102 months (8.5 years)
Q. Can bids change priority areas between the outline and full proposal stages?
A. Applicants shouldn't substantially change the direction/vision of the Centre, the content should match the outline, although there may be additional relevance. However, it is up to applicants to make the case for how the outcome of the priority area will be achieved. Consider the priority area descriptions as written.
Q. For remit, applicants have been asked to focus on the challenges rather than the disciplines involved. What is meant by this?
A. The remit of a CDT will consider both the taught element student's receive and the research training provided by the Centre through the student research projects. For the latter, as with research proposals, the application of knowledge from a discipline does not necessarily mean that the novelty of the research lies within that discipline. If the work from a discipline is established and the novelty is in its application for example, then it is the field of application that will determine the remit. This could be a different discipline/field or the research challenge/question could straddle disciplines. We therefore ask that applicants clearly articulate the challenges and research questions that are being addressed.
Q. With regard to proposals being at least 50% within EPSRC's remit or 50% AI in scope, how will you assess this for each application?
A. As above, when you make your case you need to explain what the novel challenges are. You should consider what the challenges are and why this is in EPSRC's space or relevant to Artificial Intelligence. CDT applications need to consider both the vision of the centre, the basis of the student training, and the likely research projects that will be undertaken. We are happy to answer questions. We also have a remit query group.
Q. How do we ensure CDT Directors can support the CDT appropriately?
A. It is important that the CDT has the appropriate leadership and that institutions think about the need for the Director to have the appropriate skills, support and time to deliver training through an investment of this size. It will be for the applicant team to decide how best to appropriately support the CDT. For example, applicants may wish to provide separate roles for the lead scientific 'advisor', the CDT director/s, and the CDT manager.
Q. Can investigators be on multiple bids?
A. The investigators listed on a grant should represent the core team who will deliver the CDT. It is acceptable for investigators to be part of more than one bid. However, should all of those bids be successful we would expect that person to have the capacity to meet the commitments set out in each. It is therefore up to the university and individual to ensure they are not being over-committed.
Q. Internationalisation is mentioned in the outline. Is it still important for the full proposal call?
A. Yes it is still important. You need to make the case.
Q. Does the duration of support per student have to be four years?
A. Yes. It is up to the institutions whether this is delivered through a 1+3 model or a four-year integrated doctoral programme but each student must receive four years of training. The exception would be where provision has been made for a student to be part-time. We would expect them to be supported for the same level of effort over the duration of their studies as any other student in the cohort.
Q. It has been stipulated that there should be a minimum cohort size of 10 per year but we have been told previously that a total of 50 across the five cohorts is fine - why is this different?
A. We generally expect cohorts to be minimum of 10 students, which would be an even distribution of students. In exceptional circumstances and with strong justification, small variations are possible. However, the constraints of the spend profile mean we cannot allow significant numbers of Centres to start with small cohorts with larger cohorts at the end (e.g. 5 in cohorts one and two with 20 in cohort 50).
Q: How will different qualifications be considered?
A: UKRI expects to continue its support of a range of CDT type. It is up to the applicants to consider what student experience is most appropriate for the skills being developed, and what qualifications will be offered. We welcome equally, centres that offer only one type of doctoral award such as PhD or EngD, or a mixture, providing it is appropriate for the students. Some qualifications require particular criteria to be met and it is the applicant's responsibility to ensure individual student experiences are designed in a way that students can meet these. Applicants should justify the qualifications on offer in the context of the assessment criteria for the call.
Q. The call says “Students should undertake a formal, assessable programme of taught coursework”. Do students need to sit exams and receive formal qualifications for these elements?
A. Students need to undertake training that is assessed in some way. It is up to the universities to decide what this assessment should consist of and this decision may be influenced by whether the training is forming part of a formal Master qualification, or credits towards a qualification, and the quality assurance processes of the partners. It would be acceptable to have training which is assessed purely through marked coursework, purely through examinations (for example, to assess students' understanding of the coursework at the end of a taught programme), or a mixture of these.
Q. You mentioned ORBIT was commissioned - is this a minimum standard for RI training?
A. ORBIT is a commissioned activity related to Responsible Innovation in the ICT community. As such, it is not widely known of by the broader community. ORBIT have resources which can be useful for any bid and we wanted to highlight it as it was an EPSRC funded activity.
It is entirely optional whether applicants engage with the ORBIT material, or the ORBIT team/activity. It does not constitute a minimum acceptable standard. Applicants need to make the case for what level of training and consideration of RI is appropriate for their individual centre and demonstrate how this is being provided. We encourage applicants to fully consider what is appropriate for their centre and not simply involve ORBIT to 'tick off' the RI requirement.
Q. How should I reflect collaboration with a national institute in my proposal?
There are a number of national institutes in engineering and physical sciences which have been established by EPSRC on behalf of UKRI, in many cases working with other funding bodies. These include These include The Alan Turing Institute, the Sir Henry Royce Institute, the Faraday Institution, the Rosalind Franklin Institute and the UK the UK Collaboratorium on Infrastructure and Cities. These institutes may be able to offer some support for your CDT students, playing a coordinating role across a number of Centres in complementary areas. The type of support will vary according to the nature of the institute and where it is at in terms of its establishment. In some cases institutes have identified lead contacts for CDTs. If you feel that a connection with one of the Institutes would be beneficial to your Centre please contact the people listed below. They will be able to advise you on what level of funding could be included in your proposal. Any funding for collaboration with these institutes this should be included in the centre delivery costs.
- The Alan Turing Institute - Ben Murton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The Sir Henry Royce Institute - David Stanley (David.Stanley@royce.ac.uk)
- The Faraday Institution - Matt Howard (email@example.com)
- The Rosalind Franklin Institute - Tim Venables (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Your case for collaboration with an institute should be reflected in an attached collaborator letter as well as outlined in the case for support. Where the institute will benefit financially and this is known at the outset this should be one of the non-project partner letters.
Q. Will the same reviewers and interview panels be used for both the EPSRC CDT and AI CDT proposals and how will reviewers be selected?
A. The full proposal call will be run using the same process but assessment and funding decisions with be made separately. Some AI bids will be "led" by other Councils in terms of peer review.
Reviewers - proposals will be sent to expert reviewers for comment. Input on who these reviewers should be will be sought from colleagues across both EPSRC and the other UKRI Councils as appropriate to the application and the topic/vision of the centre, regardless of whether the application is for the EPSRC or AI CDT investment.
Interview panels - There will be separate interview panels for the AI CDT bids but these will run in parallel with the EPSRC CDT interviews using the same process and assessment approach. It is expected that all panel members will be briefed together in a plenary session before they separate into the individual panels.
Q. Will the panel or reviewers see the outline application?
A. No. The assessment criteria are different for the full proposal stage. It should also be noted that issues/requirements described in the main outline call document (particular sections 1-6), such as enhanced training, are still relevant and important to consider as part of the centre design.
Q. So information contained in the outline proposal can/should be repeated in the full bid?
A. Yes, where the information is relevant to the full proposal assessment criteria
Q. Are individuals from unsuccessful outline proposals going to be approached to provide reviewer comments? There is a concern that they would have a conflict of interest
A. We expect that they will not be approached in the first instance but we will not prevent them from being approached. We rely on all reviewers to declare if they have a conflict. Some will feel unable to separate the outcome of their own bid from the review of another and we would expect them to decline the invitation in this case. Others will consider the wider context and importance of students being trained in CDTs relevant to their field/community and review objectively on this basis to ensure students receive the best training.
International reviewers will be approached to provide a good balance.
Q. How will you sift proposals to see who gets invited to interview?
A. Portfolio managers will make decisions based on the reviewer comments, applying the same process that we apply to research grants. However, we will tend to invite most bids.
Q. Will the interviews definitely be held week beginning 5 November 2018?
A. Yes, this is the expectation and we will be inviting panel members imminently.
Q. With regard to the panel composition - will areas be split based on priority areas?
A. Apart from a separation of the AI and EPSRC investments, we are still determining the panel structure though similar proposals will be grouped together. At the outline stage we didn't take a priority based approach (or a theme-based approach). We have to be cognisant that there are a number of open stream proposals that need to be considered without being disadvantaged by the panel structure. We will need to think about how to best compose panels in terms of the applications and panel membership to support a robust competitive process.
Q. Will the membership of the panels draw from the outline panel members?
A. We will look to reuse some people if possible but it will not be all, and may not be reflected in all interview panels. In addition to academics and 'user' representatives in the relevant topics, we will also be looking to include generalists with knowledge of training and/or the HEI sector, and to draw from the international community. You should make sure you are able to pitch your proposal to a generalist audience.
Q. Interview questions - will these be made public?
A. No. The questions will be based on the assessment criteria
Q. For the EPSRC CDT call, are you anticipating a 70/30 split between priority area and open streams? Is this reflected in the proportion of outlines?
A. This proportion was not reached at the outline stage. However, a number of open stream applications have proceeded to the next stage. Applicants should continue to make the case for their bids regardless of stream. All proposals will be assessed using the same assessment criteria and proposals in the open stream will not be disadvantaged.
Q. Is there going to be any co-funding from any other Research Councils?
A. Based on the outlines, we have flagged proposals to other Councils. All full proposals with potential interest to other Councils will be sent to them for consideration. They will confirm whether or not co-fund will be offered on a case-by-case basis. The presence or absence of co-funding will not impact on the assessment of proposals. This individual consideration is in addition to commitments we already have e.g. NERC's investment in renewable energy CDTs.
Q. Applicants have identified a crossover with another Research Council. Should they highlight this?
A. Applicants should include details in the cover letter which won't be seen by peer review. Institutions can also contact the remit query group or email the CDT mailbox. For the AI call we have spoken to other Research Councils already about potential co-funding.
Q. With regard to cross council remit, will applicants find out if their proposals were being considered by another Research Council co-funding?
A. No, not during the peer review process. This is similar to what happens with research proposals too. Applicants will be informed if successful.
Q. UKRI only wanted one, overall value at the outline stage for the cost to UKRI. What does UKRI want for the full applications?
A. The call document (section 4.3B) has recently been updated (version 3.0) to provide more specific information on completion of the Je-S form. The two funding headings within the 'Summary of Resources' Je-S table should correspond to the UKRI values in the cost table as per the guidance. The overall UKRI contribution must be within 10% of the outline figure. The costs to other partners need to be included as part of the cost table as set out in the call document.
Q. After the 2013 EPSRC CDT interviews there was an effort to reduce costs before funds were awarded? How likely is it to happen this time around?
A. We will try to avoid this. Institutions should use the original costs which were requested in the outline application and peer reviewed as far as possible. The 10% cost allowance is to accommodate genuine cost increases from suppliers (such as changes in facility access fees) between the submission of the outline and full applications. It should not be used to add in further activities or increase the amount of studentship money requested from UKRI. Significant cost inflation compared to the outline stage increases the likelihood that negotiations prior to grant awards will be required.
Q. Are universities allowed funding for start-up costs?
A. Start-up costs will only be considered for new centres and we will not fund refurbishment costs. If existing centres wish to request some resources to evolve training courses for example, these should be fully justified within the coordination/delivery costs and not captured in the start-up costs cell of the cost table.
Q. You previously said existing centres should cost less. If the costs are fully justified - is this okay?
A. Yes but you need to justify costs. The statement in the call is focusing on start-up costs, not the whole centre costs. We wouldn't expect "renewal" bids to need significant support regarding designing courses for example.
Q. For existing centres, some costs for the new application are already covered by the existing grant. How do we reflect the commitment to the new centre and take account of this existing investment?
A. If there is overlap between previous grants, institutions should add on costs for the extra years only. Applicants are free to emphasise the cross over, perhaps as part of the Justification of Resources, if it risks the commitment to the new centre looking less than they will be in reality.
Q. What are the categories of students and what costs can be requested from UKRI for their support?
A. The number of UKRI CDT and incorporated students should reflect the total number of students being supported by the centre as indicated on the cost table.
CDT students - these are the students who receive at least 50% of their studentship funding from the UKRI CDT grant. Funding towards their studentship costs (up to equivalent of 40 students' costs), and the Centre delivery costs/core training package for these students can be requested.
Incorporated students - These are students who form part of the CDT cohort but don't receive any studentship funding from the UKRI grant (note that students must receive either no studentship funding from the grant or at least 50%). These studentships are nonetheless entirely dependent on the existence of the Centre. For example, a student fully funded by a CDT project partner as part of the additional support required for the call. Although incorporated students cannot receive studentship costs from the grant, funding to support their core training and involvement in the CDT cohort activities can be requested.
Aligned students - these are students funded from a non-CDT grant source whose studentship is not dependent upon the existence of the CDT. Examples could include a student supported on a foreign government scholarship, a charity funded studentship (Cancer Research UK, Wellcome Trust etc.), iCASE students, or a DTP student from any of the UKRI Councils. Aligned students may benefit from CDT activities and training. However, if these training courses or activities will incur additional costs from the inclusion of the aligned student (for example where costs are charged on a per student basis), these extra costs must be funded from the student's own award, not from the CDT grant. Where the activity/training cost is no different if these students attend, the full cost can be covered by the CDT grant.
Q. Which minimum fee and stipend rates should we use?
A. The 2018/19 rates, published on the RCUK website
Q. Can we ask for Master fees?
A. This call will only supports Master's training where this forms part of the broader, doctoral level, research training programme. Therefore, we would not generally expect to support students at rates higher than that for doctoral training. As indicated in the call document, higher rates can be requested if you think you have an exceptional case and you will need to fully justify this to peer review.
UKRI will only pay tuition fees. College and bench fees for example, are not eligible costs.
Q. If the different universities have different tuition fee levels and it is a multi-site bid, how do we represent this?
A. In the 'Student Totals' table of the Je-S form, a line per university should be added and this can reflect fee differences (note that within this table RTSG should added to the fee). In the cost table the 'per student' fee will need to be an average across the sites such that the total studentship costs sought from UKRI matches that on the Je-S form. The lead institution will be responsible for directing the appropriate level of funding across the partnership.
Q. Can studentship costs vary for individual students?
A. Yes. It is expected that either because of variation across sites or a student's project there may be differences on an individual basis. The cost table should reflect the average per student such that the total value of the studentships reflects the full cost across the centre.
Q. Is the 3 year eligibility rule and support for tuition fees still the same?
A. Currently all eligibility and support rules remain the same as for any other training scheme.
Q. Can we request enhanced stipends?
A. Yes. It should be noted that this increases the total cost of the studentships for the Centre so the value of the minimum 20% leverage from non-UKRI sources will also increase.
Q. Can the basic studentship costs be covered 50.50 between the CDT grant and a partner, and the partner also pay a stipend enhancement?
A. No. The stipend enhancement forms part of the studentship costs so they would then be funded at less than 50% from the CDT grant.
Q. If a project partner is willing to fully fund a student for 3 years is this allowed?
A. As students must undertake a four-year programme this would constitute 75% of the studentship costs. The student would not be able to receive the remaining 25% from UKRI. Institutions would need to provide this from another source.
Q. Can a student be supported equally between UKRI and two other partners, such as the university and a company?
A. No. UKRI must fund a minimum of 50% of the total studentship costs, equal support across three partners would be 33% each.
Q. Can a project partner cover the fee and stipend costs with the RTSG funding coming from the CDT grant?
A. Technically yes, though it is unlikely that RTSG on its own would constitute at 50% of the studentship funding for the student.
Q. Can we claim costs if we provide courses within the institution to provide RI training?
A. Yes, provided that these costs are not normally covered by the tuition fee.
Q. Are costs connected with internal training courses eligible?
A. Not if these training courses are normally paid for through a student's tuition fee.
Q. For taught elements, can T&S costs for multi-site bids be included?
A. Multi-site CDTs should consider how students can get the best training experience, the justification for having a multi-site CDT, and how the cohort-based model will be managed across sites. Centres are also encouraged to consider how/if remote learning would be appropriate for the aims of the centre and the level of travel that can be reasonably expected of students. Any T&S costs that are requested from institutions will need to be fully justify.
Q: What capital can be requested on this call?
A: No capital funding is available through this call.
Q. How does the underwriting work?
A. Each centre needs to support at least 50 students. UKRI will only pay to support the studentship costs of up to 40 of these. A number of CDTs will be expecting project partners to commit to providing some/all of the costs equivalent to at least 10 studentships. Recognising that many companies can only give firm commitments for the first few cohorts, UKRI expects that the university will make up the shortfall to meet the minimum cohort should a partner pull out later on. It only applies to the minimum cohort so the underwriting only concerns the proportion of the 50 students not supported by UKRI. In our experience the vast majority of Centres are successful in achieving the minimum commitments.
Q. How do we capture the difference between actual university contributions and the required underwriting of the minimum cohort? For example, a university is going to contribute 5 students with another 5 coming from project partners to meet the minimum 50 students (40 sought from UKRI).
A. These 10 students constitute the minimum additional students required and therefore the project partner contribution must be underwritten by the university. The cost table should capture the situation you expect, should all go as planned - the contribution of the university for 5 students should be captured under the HEI cost table lines, and the other 5 under the project partner lines. The institutions may wish to use the Host Organisational Statement to recognise the additional commitment they are underwriting but this is up to the applicants/institutions.
Q. If in-kind contributions cannot be captured in the cost table there will be a discrepancy in capturing investigators time/staff salary costs for existing staff depending on who is funded this. Is that fair?
A. This issue was raised at the town meeting. The issue being these costs be sought from UKRI which would mean they would be in the cost table, while is supported by the other partners they would not. Following discussions we have adjusted our position of not allowing any in-kind contributions to be included on the cost table. We have recently amended the call document (version 3.0) to address this specific issue - making a single exception in which these salary costs for existing staff in specific CDT roles can be included. Please refer to Annex 1 of the updated call document for more information.
Q. Can the additional costs of supporting international students be considered as part of the minimum leverage requirements?
A. No, contributions towards the minimum leverage requirements will be considered to be contributions towards eligible EPSRC costs. International fees will therefore not count.
Q. Can international 'incorporated' students be supported?
A. Yes. Incorporated students are those CDT students who are not receiving some of their studentship money from the CDT grant. The residency-based eligibility for UKRI will not apply. International fees can be charged where associated with these students. However, students must not be charged any part of their fee, including the international 'top-up', nor should they bear any responsibility for finding a funder to pay the fee (including any international element) on their behalf.
Q. Do incorporated students have to meet the UKRI eligibility rules?
A. We expect that the experience and the opportunities available to incorporated students are the same as for the CDT students supported from the UKRI CDT grant. The terms and conditions for UKRI students apply to them (e.g. sickness, parental leave etc.) including all the eligibility criteria except the eligibility specifically based on residency.
Q. How can we use the EPSRC's eligibility flexibility?
A. Across the EPSRC training grants awarded to an institution (excluding NPIF), up to 10% of the student starts may be those students who do not meet the residency eligibility criteria for UKRI grants i.e. EU students who would have received a fees-only award in other circumstances, or international students. This 10% is an average across academic years and training grants so small fluctuations are permissible. No international fees can be charged in relation to these students. The fee must be discounted to the home fee. Students must not be charged any part of their fee. It is also not permissible for an international top-up to be charged to a third party (or the grant).
Students supported as part of this 10% must receive a 'full' award. This is to say that the student must receive support for all of the studentship costs not a 'fees-only' award. These studentship costs can be split between EPSRC and the institution or a third party, providing that EPSRC's support is not less than 50% of the total studentship (i.e. 50:50 matched funding).
Q. We will be utilising DTP funding from another Council. How do we include this?
A. As the support is another UKRI funding source it cannot be considered as part of the minimum leverage requirements and this funding must not be included on the cost table. Such plans should be mentioned as part of the Host Organisational Statement.
If you are drawing from the training grants of more than one Council to support an individual student, the minimum that can be drawn from each Council is 50% of the studentship costs. Therefore a student must be either 100% funded from one, or 50:50 across two (not 70:30 for example).
- Students supported 100% from another UKRI source would be considered an 'aligned student'. Reporting should be based on that UKRI funding source.
- If a student is 50:50 CDT: other UKRI source, one of the Councils must be designated as the majority funder for monitoring and information purposes by the institution. They could be recorded as a CDT students. Even if they are reported against the other UKRI funding source, for the purposes of the student's experience, they should be treated as a CDT students and centre delivery costs can be used to support them.
Q. The call mentions duplicated costs - what level of explanation are you looking for in the covering letter?
A. This covers situations where the cost is dependent on the success level, i.e. a university needing one full time project manager whether it was awarded 1 or 4 CDTs. In cases such as this you should fully cost the project manager in each bid, and include something in the cover letter explaining the duplication so that we can make cuts where appropriate. Providing such information should not only avoid over-resourcing (or under resourcing) Centres but also help reduce the need/likelihood of a negation phase prior to grants being awarded.
Q. On the Je-S form, should the student numbers include the incorporated students?
A. No. The call document (section 4.3B) has recently been updated (version 3.0) to provide more specific information on completion of the Je-S form.
However, for Je-S reporting i.e. post award, both the UKRI CDT and incorporated students should be reported as they are all CDT students. For aligned students the need for such reporting will be dependent on where their funding comes from. If they are funded by UKRI then they would be recorded as DTP, iCASE etc. as appropriate, not as a CDT student.
Q. Can you clarify deputy directors vs co-investigators?
A. In terms of the Je-S form, deputy or co- directors will need to be recorded as co-investigators as the system only allows one principle investigator (Training Grant Holder) to be identified. However, we recognise that those in a co- or deputy director capacity will share/support key responsibilities of the director, whilst other co-Is are part of the core management team with other responsibilities. The roles and commitments of team members should be explained as part of the application. Applicants need to convince peer review that the management team will put in sufficient commitment to deliver the aims of the Centre.
Q. Do we need to list potential project supervisors?
A. Applicants need to provide evidence that a suitable pool of supervision exists. This relates to the requirements of the assessment criteria including 'quality of the training approach' which requires evidence of “quality and capacity of the research and training environment, team, supervisors, and facilities”. It is up to the applicants to decide what the strongest evidence of this is, and how best to present it, taking account of the amount of space available in the application and how to make best use of this. Information on supervision should be provided in the Case for Support, they must not be listed as investigators on the Je-S form (unless they are also part of the core management team).
Q. We need to include a track record in the Case for Support. Who should this include and is there a prescribed page allocation like there is for research proposals? Can the track record be embedded?
A. We have not set a strict page allocation within the Case for Support document dedicated to the track record. We have also not defined a certain format for the document. It is up to applicants to decide how to best present their case to peer review. Applicants should consider how much track record for individuals is required in the context of the evidence required for the assessment criteria. A track record for core team members only should be provided.
Q. Letters of support - what are the 3 categories?
A. Regardless of the category, letters will only be accepted where a tangible, demonstrable contribution is being made to the Centre. The categories are.
- Project Partner - from partners specifically contributing to the Centre in some way and not benefitting financially from the grant. Every letter must specify a non-zero, realistic monetary value (i.e. not 0, 1, 2 etc.) to reflect the value of in-kind and cash contributions detailed on the Je-S application form.
- Non-project partner letters - should be used where someone can't be a partner because they will benefit financially from the grant but are nevertheless making a tangible contribution, or for facilities not listed on Je-S. A maximum of three such letters can be provided.
- Host Organisational Statement - One letter per University/Institution involved in the Centre as a core partner should be included (i.e. the institutions of the investigators named on the Je-S form)
- Other academic institutions (whether UK or international) making tangible contributions can be a project partner or non-project partner depending on whether they are receiving money from the grant.
Q. Can project partner letters contain in-kind contributions only?
Q. Do company placements need to be quantified and included in letters of support?
A. It would be advisable to do so as we assume such placements are part of the training the students receive and will provide evidence that the partners are enhancing the students' experience?
Q. Are placements to other institutions allowed?
A. Yes, providing they can be justified. As with placements to other partners, where a placement contributes to a student's thesis we would expect this to form part of their four-year programme. Where it does not, a suspension of the studentship can be applied covering the period of the placement. Please see the UKRI training conditions for the rules on suspensions.
Q. Can we have project partners from overseas?
A. Yes, providing they can be justified.
Q. How do institutions deal with large enterprises who will not support centres before funding outcomes are known?
A. That decision rests with the partners themselves. By not requesting partner commitments at the outline stage it was expected that organisations would be able to offer firmer commitments at the full proposal stage. However, if a potential partner does not wish to engage/commit until the funded CDTs are announced, that is their decision. Partnerships are allowed, and expected, to evolve as required over the lifetime of a CDT so such a decision would not bar them from committing to a Centre in the future.
Q. What do we do if a partner can only make a firm commitment for the first year or two?
A. We recognise that many organisations can only make firm commitments for the first couple of cohorts. Providing that an organisation indicates their intention to continue a commitment (even with a caveat such as 'subject to budget confirmation' or 'subject to continuing strategic alignment'), we would ask applicants to include the expected commitment over the lifetime of the Centre. For example, if a partner is able to commit one student a year definitely for cohorts 1 and 2, and expects to continue this for the remaining three cohorts, we would ask that the commitment to all five cohorts is included. We would hope that even if this particular partner is unable to make the commitment to the later cohorts, future project partners would provide the equivalent support, replacing this commitment. If this is related to commitments for the minimum cohort (50 students), the university would have to underwrite the partners commitment to studentship costs.
Q. How will the contextual information from the project partners work? Particularly for large organisations, they might not have the ability to make these decisions centrally.
A. Organisations with whom EPSRC has a strategic relationship were pre-warned about this approach. The process was well received as it ensured organisations were aware of all commitments made. Partners may split the set of proposals they are partnering on into a maximum of three tiers. However, they use only one or two tiers if they wish, putting all in the same tier for example, indicating that the partner considered all the proposals to match the same verbal description of the tier. There is no limit to the number of proposals that can be placed within one tier. Only one return will be allowed per organisational invitation so as a minimum, the partner contacts detailed on the Je-S form will have to work together to decide how to split the proposals.
Q. Institutions have a list of partner organisation contacts as does EPSRC. How do the lists get joined up?
A. The partners invited to provide contextual information will be determined based on the number of partnerships indicated, not on whether there is an existing strategic relationship with EPSRC or UKRI. Contextual information will be requested by invitation to complete a smart survey on the EPSRC website. This will facilitate the information being shared with panels in a consistent manner. A single invitation to complete the survey will sent to each partner. This will be sent to the individuals named on the Je-S forms of the relevant applications and, where there is one, the EPSRC strategic contact for that partner. Only one survey return per invite will be allowed.
Q. Some companies have a broad company name but various subsidiaries. At what level does EPSRC expect the contextual information to be provided?
A. Still to be determined. Our data does take account of a number of these cases, allowing us to identify organisational groupings. However, a decision will made once the full proposals are submitted.
Q. What if the partner is central government? What is the unit here, and how does that impact Haldane?
A. We would look at it on the level of government departments. Government departments are being asked for their commitment not to make decisions. As with all other partners, this information will be taken together with other evidence of national need and partner commitments/engagement and will considered by peer review in the context of what is appropriate for the Centre and the case made by the applicants. Providing this information doesn't mean a partner will get what they want in terms of their own priorities.
Q. Why won't applicants be informed of their position in the tiers? It appears unfair and not transparent
A. Whilst UKRI will not provide this information to applicants we would like the partner organisations to have this conversation with applicants. The organisations have a verbal description for each tier and we expect that letters of support detail commitments that reflect the tier the application is in. We expect this to lead to better argued letters of support.
Q. Do the contextual information tiers apply to in-kind or cash contributions?
A. Both - the letter of support should marry up with the level of commitment that the panel will see. Whether commitments are cash or in-kind will depend on the nature of the support and what is appropriate for a centre.
Q. Will you be making project partners aware of whether proposals will be AI/not AI?
A. The project partners can already view the successful outlines and the published results are split into the two investments. When requesting contextual information we will be asking partners to take account of all proposals, irrespective of which investment they fall under.
AI call specific
Q. Where is the UKRI AI CDT call on Je-S?
A. UKRI asked EPSRC to administer the call and integrate it into the existing EPSRC CDT process. For administrative purposes only you should submit the proposal to EPSRC as detailed in the call document.
Q. Is the priority area 'Enabling Intelligence' part of the AI call?
A. Yes. We recognise that confusion was caused because this priority formed part of the EPSRC CDT call before the extra AI funding was announced. If an applicant's proposal went to the May outline panels then it is part of the AI investment. For the full proposal stage there are separate call pages/documents for each investment (to minimise confusion at this second stage). The results from the outline stage are published on the corresponding call page. Applicants should check which list they appear on. The process and assessment of proposals will be the same, regardless of which investment an application is being considered under.
Q. Under the UKRI AI call, what is the MRC funding top-up and is this separate money?
A. MRC wished to encourage the involvement of clinicians in some AI CDTs. Recognising that a clinical PhD incurs additional costs, MRC is contributing top-up funding which will cover the difference in cost of a basic studentship and a clinical PhD. This is additional funding being added to the AI CDT investment by MRC specifically for this purpose. Applicants should have flagged in their outline application that they were looking to utilise this. With limited funding available for this element, it is possible that some CDTs will be funded but without the clinical element. It is important that the basic studentship costs and the clinical top-up element are separated in the cost table as per the call guidance.
Q. The AI call has two priority areas. Is there a quota?
A. Coverage across and within the priority area descriptions will be considered as part of the decision making process but there is no quota for the balance between areas.
Having two areas was a pragmatic approach considering the prior announcement of the Enabling Intelligence priority under the EPSRC CDT call. Rather than retract it, for speed, an additional priority (Applications and Implications of AI (AIAI)) was developed cross-Council instead. This new area also enabled UKRI to emphasise the importance and relevance across UKRI's remit and to highlight that the AI investment is not focussed exclusively on EPSRC's remit.
Q. Will the mid-term review be paper based or an on-site evaluation?
A. It is expected this will be largely paper based with an interview process. There are no on-site evaluations planned due to the high resource needed for such an approach.
Q. Are incorporated students able to access the EPSRC doctoral prize?
A. Yes, especially as often is an arbitrary decision by the Centre as to which students are incorporated. We expect incorporated students to be treated with the same training conditions (i.e. the UKRI training conditions and those additional to the CDT grant award) as the students receiving studentship funding from the CDT grant.
Q. If we have initial cohort funding for 60 and we expect to unlock more studentships in the future, can we get the companies to pay for the additional studentships and use centre delivery costs to support them?
A. Yes, if they do not fall under the 'aligned student' category (e.g. an iCASE student). If drawing down delivery costs from the CDT grant to support more students, the applicant team will need to ensure this is not detrimental to the 'original' (60) students e.g. a reduced training experience from that originally proposed in the funding application.
Q: Can CDTs add in more partners during the lifetime?
A: Yes. CDTs need to ensure that they have appropriate expertise and partnership from the start, however it is reasonable that the team/partnerships may need to evolve over the lifetime of the Centre. Appropriate mechanisms should be in place to recognise and manage any changes.
Q. Can students undertake a 'write-up' period?
A. Yes. We recognise that research may not go as planned. However, we would expect that the majority of students would be able to submit within their funded period, taking individual circumstances into account. Projects should be planned in such a way that it is reasonable to anticipate that a student can submit their thesis within their funded period. Centres are reminded that funding periods can be extended to account for a number of issues that may arise during a studentship (e.g. illness) and they should consult the UKRI training conditions.
No costs associated with activity after the end of the funded period may be drawn from the grant e.g. matriculation fees.
Q. Can students submit before the end of their funded period?
A. Yes, but costs cannot be drawn from the grant beyond the quarter within which the submission takes place.
Q. What was the total number of applications received at the outline stage?
A. 438 bids were received in total - 84 (AI), 354 (EPSRC).
Q. Will the coverage of the priority areas from the outline bids be made available in the public domain?
A. No, not based on the outline proposals as circumstances might change, as might our understanding of a bid. While we gave broad indications in the call document, we don't have particular targets for each priority area and we will not be making funding decisions based on success rates by area. Many Centres cover more than one priority.