Rationale | Funding | Assessment | Criteria | Application Process | FAQs



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 the RCUK Energy Strategy Fellowship.

Despite the increasing attention paid to interdisciplinarity and whole systems research within the RCUK 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 applicants 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.

Gender Balance and Diversity

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 should 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.


We are currently accepting proposals for up to £60,000 of funding at 80% fEC. Please note that UK Research Council funding requires a 20% contribution from the lead institution.

Applications will be accepted up to 5pm, Tuesday 29th May, with applicants notified by the end of June.


Anonymised applications will be assessed by a panel at UKERC Headquarters and ranked according to:

  • how they meet the Whole Systems Networking Fund criteria (see below)
  • how they complement the current portfolio of funded projects
  • where UKERC Headquarters can add value

The decision on which projects to fund will be agreed with the Steering Group, which is composed of members of the energy research community, independent of UKERC Headquarters.


Proposals must attempt to address each of the criteria listed below.

  1. Gender: RCUK Energy Programme grant applications and awards fall short of representing UK capacity in the space. Each project must female-led, or explicitly address how they will ensure at least 50% participation of women.
  2. Impact for whole systems energy research, uptake of science or evidence for energy system transformation: the activity cannot benefit a single individual, institution or even a specific discipline. Networking activities must be collaborative and cohesive.
  3. New voices: whether aimed at, or proposed by, early career researchers or bringing institutions together that have little previous interaction; the project must bring new, diverse voices to the table.
  4. Not business as usual: the project must demonstrate that it would not likely have happened without the funding.
  5. Measures of Success: the project proposers must be able to identify clear indicators to measure the success of the project.

Application Process

Applications must be submitted online. The form should take no more than an hour to complete, and the questions are viewable in advance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to be an academic institution to apply?

The funding can be awarded to organisations outside of academia, as long as the project meets the required criteria. If you are an organisation that would not normally be eligible to hold UKRI funds, please contact us to discuss this further. For academic applications, partners from stakeholder groups outside of academia are strongly encouraged.

Who can lead on projects?

A key aim of the Fund is to encourage applications from early career researchers and people who have not previously engaged in whole systems energy research. Project leads and project partners do not need to be academics; implementation can be led by any member of staff that can effectively do so.

What is the role of UKERC Headquarters?

UKERC Headquarters will provide support throughout the duration of the funding cycle. This support includes encouraging applications from leaders within the community, as well as new voices, and identifying projects that would benefit from the Fund. During implementation UKERC HQ will provide mentoring and communications support to help increase the impact of the projects.

Will secondments be funded?

A secondment aimed at increasing the understanding of gender in solving energy access issues at DFID, for example, seems to fit quite nicely within the confines of the criteria.  On the other hand, a secondment to bring an engineer into an econometric modelling team might have little value for the larger community, and would not be eligible for funding.

Can the funding be used for travel?

It is unlikely that travel alone will fulfil the criteria.

Are international aspects excluded?

Whilst the lead institution must be UK based, whole systems challenges are international by nature, and there is no reason to exclude international partners or comparative opportunities.

Can the Fund be used to for primary research?

Researcher time can be covered by the Fund, as long as it can be justified in relation to the criteria. One of the goals of the Fund is to allow projects a testing bed before going for larger amounts of funding, which would justify research time. As long as the proposed project fits the criteria it will be considered.

What can the 20% contribution from the host organisation include?

We are following ESPRC funding rules for directly incurred and indirectly incurred costs. Find out more about these costs here. It is possible to use the fund to cover staff time.

Is the £60k figure 80% of the full economic cost (fEC)?

The £60k figure is 80% fEC, so projects can be for up to £75k once the 20% contribution from the host institution is factored in.

Should costs be submitted taking inflation into account?

Yes, it would be best for you to factor inflation in to your submission.

What are the projected timelines for the Fund?

All projects must be completed before April 2019. Due to the tight timeline - allowing for the decision-making and contracting processes - projects should ideally be for no more than 6-8 months duration.

Is it possible to be part of more than one proposal?

Yes, applicants can be part of more than one proposal.

Do you ask for the justification of resources in the application?

We do not ask for a breakdown of funds at the application stage, but will request this information if the application is successful.

Must gender balance be addressed at team level?

The gender-balance criterion could be met at project team level or at project participant level. In the application you will need to explicitly address how you will achieve this.

Can work be undertaken part-time?

Yes, decisions regarding staff time are at the discretion of the project leaders.