UKRI launches calls for transformative research projects


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will launch two pilot calls to trial streamlined application processes. The calls, led by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), underline the organisation’s commitment to strengthen best practice and explore innovative new approaches.

UKRI’s objective is to create a stronger research and innovation environment focused on supporting talented people and realising the potential of their work.

UKRI will make it a priority to ensure its systems and processes free researchers and innovators to focus on their work while also reflecting the importance of the impact agenda and supporting the organisation to make the best funding decisions.

As part of this approach it is exploring ways to reduce administration for applicants engaging with UKRI and will identify and pilot new approaches designed to improve the experience of applicants.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “This government is committed to increasing research funding to record levels. But we must revolutionise the way our research system works to make the UK the best place in the world for science and innovation.

“Last month, the Prime Minister announced a major review of research bureaucracy and methods. We are now getting on with the job of freeing up our scientists to do what they do best.”

Paul Gemmill, programme lead for this work across UKRI and Chief Operating Officer of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: “We are seeking to ensure that we make the best possible investment decisions and improve our processes for those in whom we invest so they can focus on creating new knowledge and delivering social, cultural and economic benefits.

“Wherever we find evidence to support improving our processes we will act on it to deliver change.”

The two calls are:

EPSRC New Horizons

EPSRC’s £10 million New Horizons fund will support up to 50 highly transformative research projects across mathematics and the physical sciences.

The projects will be funded via a streamlined process, with a focus on the transformational potential of the research. Applications will be invited up to a value of £200,000, for a duration of two years, without costing required in the application. The proposal paperwork submission will only consist of an anonymous four-page case for support, with a further two pages outlining the team’s ability to deliver. Successful projects will provide detailed costings after a decision has been made. Proposals are welcomed across two broad areas:

  • Novel physical sciences research aimed at new approaches for understanding fundamental Physics, Chemistry and Materials Science, the creation of new experimental approaches and the discovery of new molecules and materials.
  • Novel advances in mathematical sciences research across the breadth of pure and applied mathematics as well as in statistics and operational research.

NERC Pushing the Frontiers of Understanding

The Pushing the Frontiers pilot will support the very best individual researchers in the environmental sciences to push the frontiers of knowledge with ground-breaking, risky, innovative scientific discovery.

NERC £10 million Pushing the Frontiers pilot will fund successful proposals at the level of award to facilitate ground-breaking discovery over a period of three to four years. NERC will fund projects via a streamlined process, with focus on the proposed transformational research (five pages), and the skills and track record of the individual (two pages). Successful proposals will be asked for a justification of resources after a decision has been made. Proposals are welcomed across the environmental science remit.

Full guidance will be available when the calls are published in the coming weeks on the EPSRC and NERC websites.

To read more information, click here.