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 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.
One criterion of the fund is that applications must explicitly address the lack of 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. For example, our research into whole systems funding found that there are currently no active energy research grants at Welsh or Northern Ireland universities. 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. The first review will take place on 15 December 2017 with notifications in mid January. In January, the status of the Networking Fund will be reviewed with support from the Steering Group and the RCUK Energy Programme. It is anticipated that some larger amounts of follow-on funding will be available after the review.
Please note that UK Research Council funding requires a 20% contribution from the lead institution.
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). The final decision on which projects to fund will be made by the Steering Group, composed of members of the energy research community independent of UKERC Headquarters.
Proposals must attempt to address each of the criteria listed below.
- Gender: RCUK Energy Programme grant applications and awards fall short of representing UK capacity in the space. Each project must explicitly address how they will ensure at least 50% participation of women.
- Impact for whole systems energy research and/or uptake of science/evidence for energy system transformation: the activity cannot benefit only an individual, or a single institution or even a specific discipline.Networking activities must be collaborative and cohesive.
- 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.
- Not business as usual: the project must demonstrate that it would not likely have happened without the funding.
- Measures of Success: the project proposers must be able to identify clear indicators to measure the success of the project.
Applications should be submitted online. The next round of applications will open in March/April 2018.
Do you have to be an academic to apply?
No. While the funding must be awarded to an appropriate institution, the implementation can be led by any member of staff that can effectively do so. Furthermore, partners can come from stakeholder groups outside of academia, in fact this is actively encouraged. Please contact us to discuss.
What is the role of UKERC Headquarters?
UKERC Headquarters will be actively promoting and seeking applications for the Fund and will provide support throughout the application process. This support includes encouraging applications from leaders within the community, as well as new voices, and identifying projects that would benefit from the Fund. UKERC Headquarters will run at least two workshops to actively help participants develop successful applications based on the criteria, as well as a webinar where the community can understand the collaboration and cohesion goals behind the Networking Fund.
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 be eligible for more traditional 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.
If I attend a workshop will my project be funded?
The aim of the workshops is to help shape projects that meet basic criteria, resulting in fundable applications. Attending a workshop is not a guarantee that your application will be successful, but it will give you the opportunity to discuss your idea with members of UKERC Headquarters staff involved in the process.
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Whole-systems energy research
The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the RCUK Energy Programme has established the following definition of whole systems energy research:
"Whole-systems energy research aims at a better understanding of the energy landscape, incorporating socio-economic, physical, natural, environmental and biological systems, at all spatial and temporal scales. It addresses complexities, interactions and interdependencies within the landscape, and with other systems. Whole-systems energy research necessarily draws upon a wide range of disciplines and methodologies. It does not demand comprehensive coverage at the level of individual projects, but projects must be aware of and demonstrate this approach."