Securing funding from external agencies such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is a critical step in the career progression of junior academics in the UK.
The EPSRC is the largest funder of research and training in engineering and physical sciences, and its funding can provide early-career researchers (ECR) with the necessary resources to build their research portfolios and establish themselves as independent researchers.
However, soliciting funding from the EPSRC can be a challenging process, particularly for junior academics who will have limited experience in writing research proposals.
Stories of constant rejections from funders, alongside a busy ‘day-job’ of teaching and administration, can make the prospect of achieving external grant income quite daunting.
What follows is a 10-step strategy for Early Career Researchers that will help you stack the odds in your favour for successfully acquiring research council finding.
Step 1. Start early
You should start thinking about your research proposal and funding application as early as possible in your career.
Early career fellowships and grants are available from the EPSRC and other funding bodies, which provide you with the necessary resources and time to develop your research ideas, establishing you as an independent researcher.
Step 2. Identify the right call
The EPSRC runs a variety of funding schemes, each with its own priorities and requirements.
You should identify the most suitable funding scheme for your research idea by checking the EPSRC website for current funding calls and reading the guidance notes carefully.
Step 3. Develop a strong research idea
A strong research idea is essential to securing funding from EPSRC.
Your research idea must be:
And it should outline the research objectives, methodology and potential impact. The research idea should also demonstrate how the research aligns with EPSRC’s priorities and addresses societal challenges.
Step 4. Engage with the EPSRC
It’s vital that you engage with the EPSRC throughout the application process.
You can attend EPSRC events and workshops to learn more about the funding process and the priorities of the council. You can also contact EPSRC staff for advice and feedback on your research proposal.
Step 5. Build a strong research team
A strong research team can increase the chances of securing funding from EPSRC.
Networking is key and you should collaborate with researchers from other institutions or disciplines to add value to their research. You should also consider involving industry partners or end-users to demonstrate the potential impact of your research.
Step 6. Develop a clear pathway to impact
Communicating the usefulness to society is an important part of a good research proposal.
You should provide a clear pathway to impact and explain how your research will create economic, social, or environmental impact. You should also consider the potential risks and barriers to impact and develop strategies to overcome them.
Step 7. Provide evidence of track record and potential
You will need to provide evidence of your research track record and potential as an independent researcher.
This could include publications, conference presentations, and any other relevant research outputs. Don’t forget to highlight any relevant training or professional development you have undertaken.
Step 8. Seek feedback
You should seek feedback on their research proposal from colleagues and mentors.
Speak to other researchers who have already been successful in soliciting funding. Listen to their accounts and learn from their mistakes. You can also contact EPSRC staff for advice and feedback on their research proposal.
Step 9. Write a clear and concise proposal
All the work up to this point will prepare you to write a clear and concise research proposal.
Try and read other proposals produced by those in your network. You should also ensure that the your proposal meets the eligibility criteria and formatting requirements of the funding scheme.
Step 10. Adhere to EPSRC principles
EPSRC has a set of principles that researchers should adhere to when conducting research, including open access to research data, research integrity, and responsible innovation.
You must demonstrate your commitment to these principles in your research proposal.
In conclusion, securing funding from the EPSRC can be a challenging process, but by following this 10 step strategy, you can significantly increase your chances of success.
Starting early, developing a strong research idea, building a strong research team, and engaging with EPSRC can all help you to secure the funding you need to establish yourself as an independent researcher.