Funded by EPSRC, this scheme aims to improve equality, communications and collaboration between those working in the field of whole systems energy.

The Fund is helping to develop best practice around networking, fostering better representation of UK capacity in whole systems energy research, encouraging fresh voices and building new working relationships within the community.

The Research Councils currently invest £775m in an extensive portfolio of energy research. This research covers a wide range of disciplines and questions, including engineering, natural science and social science. A key aim has been to support interdisciplinary research that addresses real-world energy challenges. There has also been an increasing emphasis on research that explores important connections between technical, social, environmental and policy dimensions of energy systems.

This 'whole systems' component of the portfolio includes £31m of investments, including funding for a series of large research groups and centres, including UKERC, WholeSEM, iGov, CESI and CREDS.

Despite the increasing attention paid to interdisciplinarity and whole systems research within the UKRI portfolio, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) have identified the need for further action to ensure that a whole systems approach is more clearly reflected in the portfolio as a whole.

There is a need for those conducting detailed research on a particular technology - or within a particular discipline (e.g. sociology, engineering or materials science) - to take into account more fully how their research relates to the whole energy system. Equally, whole systems energy research (e.g. energy systems modelling or research on energy governance) could make better use of insights from more specific research.

The Fund provides support for projects to develop connections across interdisciplinary and disciplinary research and with industry and policy makers. There must be demonstrable impact on whole systems energy research and/or uptake of science/evidence for energy system transformation. The project proposed cannot benefit only an individual, or a single institution, or a specific discipline. The Fund aims to support networking activities that are collaborative and cohesive.

One criterion of the fund is that applications must explicitly address gender diversity in the UK energy sector. UKERC research has shown that women are significantly underrepresented in EPSRC grant applications for energy projects. Despite the gender imbalance across the programme, our research shows there is no shortage of qualified female academics in UK energy research. Successful applications directly address this issue.

A second criterion of the fund is that applications must bring new, diverse voices to the table. Applications to the Fund must demonstrate that they move beyond ‘business as usual’ approaches, submitting ideas that tackle the geographical and/or social imbalances found in energy research in the UK.