Aims of the fund

Funded by EPSRC, the Whole Systems Networking Fund 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.

Energy funding in the UK

The Research Councils currently invest £775m in an extensive portfolio of energy research, encompassing a wide range of disciplines, 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.

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.

Project requirements

The fund supports projects that are collaborative and cohesive, developing connections across interdisciplinary and disciplinary research and with industry and policy makers. The awarded projects bring new, diverse voices to the table and are moving beyond ‘business as usual’ approaches, tackling some of the geographical and/or social imbalances found in energy research in the UK.

Successful projects also 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. 

The fund is now closed to applications, read about the successful projects below.