Further details of our Flexible Fund awards call are now available, including a recording of the introductory webinar in September and Q&A from researchers.
We are pleased to announce the CREDS Early Career Researchers Flexible Fund
As part of the CREDS award, we have a Flexible Fund, which we intend to use to fill research gaps and develop research capacity. This call is the first use of the Flexible Fund. It seeks to develop research capacity and support innovative research. It is restricted to supporting projects led by early career researchers, i.e. people active in energy research in the UK who have not previously led a project with funding exceeding £100k.
For details of eligibility, see page five of the full call document (pdf, 9 pages). Please note: updated 14 November 2019.
Projects may be of any size up to £200k (80% Full Economic Costs) and may be of any duration provide they conclude by 31stMarch 2023.
Call type: Single Stage Full proposals
- Closing date: 17th December 2019
- Funding Available: Up to £1 million of funding (at 80% Full Economic Costs) is available for this call. The maximum for a single project is £200k (80% Full Economic Costs). There is a streamlined procedure for small projects of less than £20k.
- How to apply: This is a single stage process, open only to applicants who have not previously held an energy research grant exceeding £100k in size.
- Assessment Process: Full proposals will be reviewed by an independent panel.
- Guidance issued: 25 July 2019
- Webinar support: 26 September 2019
- Deadline for full bids: 17 December 2019
- Panel meeting: 2 March 2020
- Earliest start date: 1 April 2020
Supporting webinar – recording
The Q&A below comes from questions posed at the webinar, some of the responses may provide additional information and reassurance.
Partners & PIs
We are putting in a bid with researchers from 3 universities. If successful bidders will join the CREDS consortium for 5 years, does this apply to all universities or only to the lead applicant?
Funding will be allocated to each partner university individually. It means that each partner institution needs to be able to sign our collaboration agreement (which is a standard format). There may be exceptions if some of the work is sub-contracted.
All academic partners would be part of the CREDS consortium, and would be invited to attend our whole centre meetings (WCMs). At these meetings, we encourage researchers to develop good dialogues and collaboration.
What is the policy if I was funded and after few months I want to move to other institute?
No problem to carry the funding over if the move is within the UK university system. It would be very difficult to make this work if the move was to a university outside the UK, or to a non-academic role.
Can we have a Co-I who is not an early career researcher?
Yes. However, the Co-I who is the ECR needs to be running the project in practice and have the larger number of hours allocated to the work. However, we understand that some institutions will not permit ECRs to be PIs, so that’s why we have provisions to allow for this.
Would there be an issue if the ECR PI was allocated the majority of staff costs i.e. the PI didn’t have staff but carried out all the research themselves?
That would be fine, if that was the best way to conduct the research. Definitely ok for the PI to have a lot of their time to on the project.
Could multiple proposals from the same investigator(s) be funded?
Individuals can be named on/submit more than one proposal. However, no individual could be awarded funding for more than 100% of their time.
International partners and collaboration
Does funding cover international collaborators? Can the investigator costs cover hours for colleagues in non-UK universities?
This call is subject to EPSRC rules on international funding, so we cannot provide funding to non-UK universities. It is possible to sub-contract work to anyone, but this partner would not be a full research participant. Your finance colleagues should be able to explain the implications of this.
Given that this funding call is intended for early career researchers, how important of a role will ‘international collaboration’ play in your judgment?
This is an issue for CREDS as a whole: our objectives relate to the UK – because of our funding – but our transformational research will be of international quality. So, some level of engagement and contact with people in other countries would be appropriate. Also note that we have a CREDS international visitor programme that may be able to support this, which could be a way of building links into your proposal.
Can expenses for international collaborators be included, e.g. for travel to workshops?
Yes, reasonable travel and subsistence costs for attendance at workshops may be included, including for overseas participants.
Could you elaborate more about the CREDS international programme?
The deadline for applications for the first CREDS visitors: international programme (VIP) has just passed, but we will be running the programme again next year. This is part of our equality, diversity and inclusion work, and we are encouraging people from communities who are currently under-represented in energy research to apply. People from anywhere in the world are welcome to apply to collaborate with CREDS researchers.
Any CREDS VIP application would be separate and judged accordingly. If someone was applying in order to be part of a successful flexible fund proposal, then clearly they would be in a particularly strong position.
What to include in your proposal
Are you envisioning consortium-based proposals? Can you say anything about the pros and cons of a sole-individual bid versus a group bid, e.g. the career development value of each approach?
We deliberately chose not to express a preference. The reviewers will be looking at the quality of the proposal and team assembled to deliver it. There are strengths and weaknesses for each approach, so there will have to be a balance: what works best for your proposal? The reviewers will want to see this thinking in your bids.
This may be an issue to pick up in the mentoring circle we have proposed.
Would project mentors (e.g. from the same institution) be useful to include?
Yes, in many cases this would be helpful. Where appropriate – for example bringing in a small amount of expert support – this could be seen as very positive.
There was an emphasis on track record. Does this have to be in energy only?
This is to show that you are well-placed to deliver the work in your proposal, so the track record needs to demonstrate that you have the right skills and experience to do the work. A non-energy background would be fine if you can show how you can use this to bring in new and relevant skills. Tell us why are you and the team you have proposed the best to deliver your proposal. If it helps, many energy researchers haven’t spent their whole careers on energy research.
Do projects need to be based on brand new ideas or could they be a continuation of previous projects?
We are looking for project proposals that are novel. So this could be a continuation of work, but it should represent a significant shift in the work, and not be a simple extension. When submitting your proposal, think about the primary criterion we have set out.
Just wondered whether the letter of support from existing CRED partners might be acceptable.
Eligibility – people, projects, spending
Can the funding be used for recruiting a PhD researcher?
No, PhD positions are explicitly excluded from this call. However, CREDS is active in trying to build other links with PhDs who are doing relevant work.
Do investor costs cover costs for non-academic (i.e. third sector/industry) individuals?
These can be included if the non-academic partner is a sub-contractor. Non-academic partners can also be involved in research projects if they contribute their own resources. Please check EPSRC guidance for more information. Access Je-S information (log in required).
Can we apply for funding for equipment and for a postdoc researcher?
We can fund post-doctoral researchers. We can fund equipment, but there is a limit (£138k). More information is in our written guidance.
Is there a time limit on early career (e.g. years since PhD) and are career breaks factored in?
Researchers are eligible to apply if they have not yet led a £100k-plus energy project. We selected this eligibility criterion in preference to one determined by time since PhD.
What are the conditions for the host institute in terms of hosting a CREDS fellow? Many fellowship schemes require the host institute to offer a permanent position.
This is not a fellowship programme. However, insofar as this would relate to a project PI, the contractual constraints are that your university will need to commit to employing you over duration of the project.
Can projects start after the set dates? Some of us may have funding timing issues i.e. already be allocated to projects.
We would be open to thinking about start dates after 1 October 2020, so long as the work could be concluded before the end of CREDS (March 2023). If there are specific issues, please get in touch.
Would we be advised to include the cost of travel to CREDS meetings as part of the budget for the projects?
Yes, please do. There are three CREDS whole centre meetings (WCMs) per year. Also, don’t forgot to include the costs of meeting up with researchers and stakeholders at other times.
Review process and assessing proposals
How are reviewers for proposals selected? Who will be assessing the bids? For example, we are taking a social science approach, will it be assessed by social scientists or by assessors from a range of backgrounds.
We can only confirm the review process once we know how many applications we get (it will be more complex with a greater number of applications). There will be an academic peer review, and the reviewers will be competent to review the proposals submitted. We will ensure that reviewers will be sympathetic to the ideas and methods contained in the proposals. Note that stakeholders will make up some of the review team, so it is important that proposals are readily comprehensible.
Will there be a process where applicants receive reviewers’ comments and have an opportunity to respond?
We are planning a fairly streamlined process, so we don’t envisage that this will be an option. Proposals need to be clear and to anticipate any questions that might reasonably arise.
Do you anticipate any issues around funding and the line between ‘action’ and ‘research’ which can be a bit fuzzy in some social science approaches e.g. research in collaboration with a community energy project?
This is an interesting question, and we don’t think it should be a problem. Our main criterion is the quality of research, so the proposal need to demonstrate the high quality of the research, including the methodology. We want to encourage the use of different approaches, so we wouldn’t exclude, e.g. action research.
Do you envision a maximum number of smaller projects (<£20k)? Are the larger projects preferred?
Our primary criterion is quality, and we don’t have any preconceptions about the size of projects, and we won’t discriminate based on your choice to submit either a small or large project. We suggest that you focus on choosing whichever is most appropriate for your research proposal.
Topics for proposals
Are you open to interpretation of ‘energy’ (i.e. only focus on renewable energy sector or will solutions to, for example, oil & gas sector will be considered too?)
This call is about energy demand and use. However, this does include how we use renewable and other energy sources, e.g. flexibility to switch between energy sources.
Since you have a separate theme on decarbonising steel, is it acceptable to submit a proposal on energy demand and steel decarbonisation in this call?
It depends if you are proposing something novel. We would be willing to share the scope of work on our new CREDS challenge to help you to develop a distinctive proposal.
Presentation from the webinar
Support during the process
We are also offering proposal writing support through mentoring circles. There is now a waiting list, but please email Sarah Higginson to be include your name.
Banner photo credit: Maia Habegger on Unsplash