EPSRC New Investigator Award

As you may have heard the EPSRC are replacing their First Grant initiative with a New Investigator Award. Read on to find out what this means for you. If you are in the midst of a First Grant application don’t panic! You have two options. If you’re very nearly finished then you can choose to submit your application as a First Grant before 24th July, sit back and keep your fingers crossed. If, however, your proposal won’t be fully crafted before 24th July then you’ll need to refocus your application towards the New Investigator Award. We’ll tell you how in this blog.

Don’t lose all your hard work

Most importantly make sure you save everything you have put on the Je-S system as First Grant applications that have not been submitted after 16:00 (BST) on Monday 24 July 2017 will no longer be available. Get in touch with your Research Support Office if you need help with this.

Key Changes

  • The New Investigator Award will “remove time based eligibility criteria, ensuring support for researchers who are new to leading research applications.” This is a huge change. In contrast, First Grants had to be submitted within 36 months of your first academic lecturing appointment in a UK university and also be within 10 years of completing a PhD. So, the new scheme adds in a formal level of flexibility for those who have had a different pattern of academic experience but still are in the process of establishing themselves within the research field .
  • Removal of the financial value and the duration caps. This change means that New Investigator Awards won’t have to be completed within 2 years and there won’t be a cap of £125,000. This is designed to improve the ambition of the research proposals submitted, so it seems that this is a go ahead to dream a little bigger and plan to travel a little further on your research road map. Currently, it’s not clear if there will be a soft cap on funding, but eligibility criteria focuses on the level of staff time requested being “commensurate with a self-contained project at the start of a research group, e.g. Up to 1-3 PDRA years.”
  • Encourage a greater degree of university support to aid career development. This is an important aspect in terms of re-phrasing your First Grant application. Previously reviewers were asked to comment on ‘how appropriate the level of support from the university’ was. As assessment was made of this as a secondary criterion. This announcement seems to demonstrate a strengthening of this criterion for the New Investigator Award, particularly in respect of the impact on career progression. This is an important change in terms of amending your First Grant application as this element must be built into your application. We have a range of support mechanisms available to support you to optimise your proposal.
  • Encourage panels to recommend invited resubmission and give feedback to support this more often than they would for standard grant applications. This is the biggest change from the First Grant system, which was a one-shot game and seems to be a step in recognising that for many academics, this will be their first attempt at developing a grant application.

The EPSRC have said they will continue to draw on input from advisory teams and universities to monitor and evaluate progress of the scheme, so there may be more changes to come.

Finally, don’t forget though, the new Award is still designed as a scheme for early career academics in the process of setting up their first research group. So if you’ve already had a significant grant (usually defined as those which included PDRA time, capital equipment or were in excess of £100,000) then you need to be looking elsewhere.

For more information on how to address these changes, or any other advice regarding funding applications please Contact Us.