Flexible Research Fund

UKERC manages a flexible research fund that will be allocated through a series of open research calls, overseen by an independent Research Committee. Around £3.3 million will be available for the flexible research fund during this phase of UKERC. Three targeted calls are envisaged during 2015 and 2016.

The flexible research fund has a number of objectives, including:

  • To bring a wider range of researchers and disciplines into UKERC’s research programme, including researchers from outside the energy community;
  • To build collaborations between the UKERC research community and other research communities – including other energy researchers, groups and centres;
  • To allow the research programme to develop flexibility in the light of new scientific insights or external developments (e.g. in energy policy);
  • To fill gaps in the UKERC research programme and/or the wider Research Councils Energy Programme; and
  • To scope and develop new research agendas in partnership with funders, the research community and other stakeholders.

Research Fund Round 1

In June 2014, an initial Town Hall Meeting was held at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources in London, to discuss potential priorities for flexible funding. Around forty academics and representatives of other organisations attended the meeting. Based on the outcomes of the Town Meeting and following consultations with the UKERC Research Committee, the focus of the first round of funding was on two areas:

  • Incumbent energy systems and infrastructures
  • Equity and justice in energy systems

The allocation of the first round was completed in December 2015. The successful projects were selected following a competitive two-stage application process. Outline proposals were assessed by UKERC's independent Research Committee. Five of these outlines were selected in each area to move to the full proposal stage. Full proposals were then subject to independent peer review. Recommendations for funding were made on the basis of these reviews by the Resaerch Committee. The successful projects on incumbent energy systems and infrastructure will be led by Dr Bridget Woodman at the University of Exeter and Dr Gavin Killip at the University of Oxford. Those on equity and Justice will be led by Professor Catherine Waddams at UEA and Dr Carolyn Snell at the University of York.

Heat, Incumbency and Transformations (HIT), led by Dr Woodman, will investigate the social and political power of the incumbent heating industry, focusing on gas and heat infrastructure, appliance manufacturers, heat suppliers and major industrial heat users. The project will also explore the impact of these incumbents on UK heat policies and governance, and the implications for a sustainable heat transformation.

Governance of Low-carbon Innovation for Domestic Energy Retrofits (GLIDER), led by Dr Killip, will explore the institutional context and patterns of decision-making among construction firms and organisations in the market for Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) of homes. The project will investigate their role as ‘middle actors’ in influencing technology adoption processes and decisions on projects as well as seeking to shape policy through lobbying.

Equity and Justice in Energy Markets, led by Professor Waddams, will investigate the interactions between retail energy markets and their distributional impacts, focusing on groups which are both particularly vulnerable and previously under researched. Particular emphasis will be placed on SMEs and households in social housing.

Policy Pathways to Justice in Energy Efficiency, led by Dr Snell, will explore some of the key gaps in knowledge regarding justice in energy efficiency policy in the UK. The focus will be on the effect of energy efficiency policies on disabled people and low income families with children. The project will investigate how energy efficiency policies actually affect these groups, and whether policy outcomes are consistent across the UK.

Research Fund Round 2

A second Town Meeting was held at Imperial College in December 2015 in order to determine potential priorities for the second round of the Research Fund. In this instance the discussion built on the priority areas that were identified in the first consultation round. However, there was also an opportunity to suggest additional research areas of questions. The report of that event can be found below:

UKERC Research Fund Town Meeting, December 2015

For further information about the flexible Research Fund please contact Ioanna Ketsopoulou.