Tagged / strategic

NERC – New cut-off for ideas for strategic research

NERC invites the environmental science community to submit new ideas for strategic research.

NERC is seeking ideas for research challenges that should be priorities for strategic research investment through strategic programme areas and highlight topics. NERC would welcome ideas from both researchers and those who use environmental science research.

As stated in a previous announcement, ideas for new highlight topics should be submitted by 15 May 2018. Ideas for new strategic programme areas should be submitted by 6 September 2018.

Guidance to explain what they are looking for, how to submit ideas, and how NERC staff can help, can be found on the call for ideas for strategic research page.

2017 saw the fourth cut-off for ideas for strategic programme areas and a summary of the ideas received is also available on the call page. NERC’s Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) reviewed the ideas and used a number of them to generate the proposals for strategic programme areas that were selected for scoping by NERC’s Science Board:

  • Earth system plastics
  • transforming fractures – exploration of the deep-ocean highways
  • reducing uncertainty in climate sensitivity due to clouds.

All submitters of ideas received by NERC will receive feedback, and there are no restrictions on resubmission of ideas that have not been used to develop potential investments in previous years.

NERC encourages ideas from all parts of the environmental science community and NERC staff are available to discuss potential ideas and provide advice. If you have any queries on the process, or would like advice on a potential idea, please contact them at in the first instance, and they will put you in touch with a NERC colleague who can help.

EPSRC seeks applicants for strategic advisory bodies

EPSRC logoThe Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is welcoming applications for membership of its strategic advisory bodies.

Applicants are sought from academia, industry and other stakeholders to advise the organisation on research and training strategy as members of the Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs). As well as the standard vacancies, EPSRC is looking to appoint non-academic members to each SAT team from business, industry, third sector or government organisations, whose role is focused on managing the use of academic research to deliver innovation, economic growth or societal change.

The recruitment process for SAT applications is open until 16.00hrs on Friday, 04 August, 2017. Applications will be through an online form (see below).

Appointments for SAT members will begin on Monday, 01 January, 2018, and will run for three years, with the possibility of an extension for up to a further three years. SAT members are paid a fee for each activity they are involved in, and are reimbursed for travel and subsistence expenses when attending meetings.

Commenting on what SAT membership entails, Dr Ruth Mallors-Ray OBE, Chief Operating Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute and current Chair of EPSRC‘s Engineering SAT, said: A SAT member is an individual who, whilst a specialist in one area, is able to see beyond that specialism and act as an independent contributor to the work of the EPSRC. A SAT member listens to the work of EPSRC and then offers challenges or insights to the process of the work.

The SAT member often looks at the recommendations of EPSRC or the strategies of EPSRC and asks questions such as: how have you arrived at this recommendation? Have you been universal in your application of approach, so that the outcomes and recommendations have been arrived at through research, analysis and evidence gathering? A SAT member needs to be open to broader consensus across strategic thinking for EPSRC.


EPSRC seeks strategic advisers

epsrcW86The EPSRC is re-opening its search for applications to join two of our Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs). The SATs seeking further applications are:

  • Manufacturing the Future
    • Automotive – Industry Member
    • Food – Sustainability/Processing
    • Digital Manufacturing
    • New Industrial Systems
    • Chemistry/Biochemistry with a focus on manufacturing research challenges
  • Research Infrastructure – Capital
    • Industrial Facilities user
    • Person experienced in Managing Institutional/Regional Facilities

Following the internal shortlisting process, they have judged that these vacancies would benefit from a wider pool of applicants. To apply, please fill in an application form by 21 October. If you have applied previously in this round, please do not re-apply.

For more information and contact details please see the vacancies page.

EPSRC is committed to a policy of equal opportunities. Appointments to the Strategic Advisory Teams are made on merit. However, they are keen to obtain greater diversity in SAT membership. Applications from women, those with a disability and members of minority ethnic groups, who are currently under-represented on the SATs, are therefore especially welcome.

EPSRC seeking advisory team members

EPSRC_logoEPSRC is seeking applications from industrialists, academics and individuals working in the third sector and government organisations to join Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs), across the range of EPSRC‘s Themes.

They are looking for suitable individuals to guide and advise as theme experts across a range of EPSRC‘s current key themes. They seek the widest participation: you can be full-time or part-time, on sabbatical or a career break, academic or researcher, based in academe, industry, the third sector or government organisation.

Further information and terms of reference can be found on the EPSRC website. Further information on the Energy SAC and the Digital Economy PAB can be found on the RCUK website.

Please visit the Strategic Advisory Boards Membership page for further information on vacancies and how to apply. The closing date is 01 July 2016.

NERC scopes new areas for strategic research

nerc-logo-50thNERC will scope three new areas for potential large-scale strategic research investments over spring 2016:

  • fundamental ecological research for sustainable resource exploitation in the deep ocean
  • Southern Ocean’s role in the Earth system
  • subsurface-surface coupled processes associated with UK unconventional hydrocarbon extraction.

These potential ‘strategic programme areas’ (SPAs) have emerged from the ideas process for strategic research, where NERC captures and builds on ideas for excellent strategic science coming directly from the environmental science community.  2015 saw the second cut-offs for ideas for strategic research, with 21 ideas received for SPAs.

NERC’s Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) reviewed the ideas and used a number of them to generate the proposals for SPAs that were considered by NERC’s Science Board.  NERC will shortly publish open calls for community members to join the SPA scoping groups, which will develop full cases for assessment and funding decisions in summer 2016.

They do not expect to be able to fund all three potential SPAs, and any potential SPA must meet NERC’s criteria for a strategic programme, so it is possible that none of these three potential SPAs will result in funded programmes.  Open announcements of opportunity for research proposals will follow, for any strategic programme that is approved.

Wellcome Trust aims to increase spend to £5 billion over next 5 years

strategy - SMThe Wellcome Trust aims to invest £5 billion over the next five years to improve health, as it launches a new strategic framework focussed on advancing the best ideas in science and research, seizing opportunities as they arise and taking advantage of our independence to drive reform.

This marks another step forward for Wellcome, the world’s second highest spending charitable foundation, which has invested £6 billion over the last ten years and £11 billion since it began in 1936.

Wellcome’s new framework consists of three complementary approaches across science, research and engagement with society:

  • Advancing Ideas. Wellcome will continue to respond to great ideas and inspired thinking that address the fundamental health challenges of our time. Last year we unveiled our new funding framework to enhance our ability to support excellent research in the UK and worldwide.
  • Seizing opportunities. Wellcome brings ideas together to make a big difference, providing intensive support that creates real change. We identify times when our concerted intervention can accelerate progress towards better health.
  • Driving reform. Wellcome changes ways of working so more ideas can flourish, leading by example and campaigning for wider reform. Our record in areas like open access to research results, public engagement, and research careers has earned us the credibility to challenge ways of working, and to propose better alternatives.

The success of Wellcome’s £18 billion investments portfolio, which funds all of their work and is managed by an in-house team, has already given them the independence and resources to support such transformative work as the sequencing and understanding of the human genome, research that established front-line drugs for malaria, and Wellcome Collection, their free venue that explores medicine, life and the arts.

“The Wellcome Trust has a long-standing record in science and research of which we are very proud,” says Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust. “We are able to build on that legacy with an increased commitment to supporting people and teams with great ideas in basic science and applied research, social science and the humanities, which will remain at the core of our work. But we can now also bring additional focus to some of the biggest health challenges of our time. We responded swiftly to Ebola but there are other serious issues where we believe that we can help bring about change for the better.”

Their priorities will evolve as new challenges arise, drawing on insights from a rich history of achievement and a network of experts from different disciplines around the world. Their initial priorities include:

  • Drug-resistant infection. Growing resistance to antibiotics and other drugs threatens many of the benefits of modern medicine. Wellcome will explore how best to use and protect the treatments we have, and to encourage the development of new ones.
  • Vaccination. Too many lives are still lost to diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, mostly in low and middle-income countries. Wellcome will investigate how best to stimulate research, technology development and policy to address this critical unmet need.
  • Our Planet, Our Health. Human health is intimately linked to the environment in which we live. Wellcome will build understanding of how global food systems and urbanisation connect to health, improving the evidence base for public policy.
  • Science education. An appreciation of science, for the future scientist or the informed citizen, begins with learning in school and beyond. Wellcome will help give young people an engaging, relevant and inspiring science education.

Wellcome’s new Chair, Eliza Manningham-Buller, says: “It is an exciting time to be assuming the chair of the Trust. The organisation has a great record of achievement, working with others to improve human health. We now have the means to develop even higher ambitions. The long-term funding of discovery science will remain at the core of what we do but we are also determined to act quickly when we see other opportunities to make a real difference to health.”

View the full details of the Wellcome Trust’s Strategic Framework.wellcometrust_logo

NERC Call for ideas for strategic programme areas

nerc-logo-50thNERC is inviting the environmental science community to submit new ideas for strategic research. NERC is seeking ideas for research challenges that should be priorities for strategic research investment through either highlight topics or strategic programme areas. NERC would welcome ideas from both researchers and those who use environmental science research.

Ideas for strategic programme areas should be submitted by 21 September 2015. Ideas for highlight topics should be submitted by 19 October 2015.

New guidance is available to explain what they are looking for, and how to submit ideas. The Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) will use these ideas to develop proposals for new highlight topics or strategic programme areas.

The aim of this process is to capture and build on ideas for excellent strategic science coming directly from the environmental science community. NERC first asked for ideas for strategic research last year, and 150 ideas were received by the cut-off date of 31 August 2014. NERC would like to thank all those who submitted ideas at that time. The ideas spanned all three of NERC’s strategic challenges (benefitting from natural resources, resilience to environmental hazards and managing environmental change) and covered a broad range of environmental science disciplines. Ideas were received from research and user communities, and from individuals and groups.

EPSRC revises its Strategic Plan

EPSRC’s Strategic Plan 2015 sets out the direction of their policy for at least the next five years.

This up-dated Strategic Plan has been developed following input from their partners and communities. It recognises external influences including the international research landscape, global economic situation and government strategies. EPSRC have said that it will allow them to continue to deliver the world-leading science and engineering research and skills to sustain UK innovation.

Changes to MRC strategic skills priorities

Following completion of a review of MRC’s strategic skills priorities, the revised priority list has now been published on their website along with a report of the skills survey outcomes.

The review has brought a refocus of the early career Skills Development Fellowships (previously Strategic Skills Fellowships) and will support training in two main areas:

– Development of Quantitative Expertise: covering mathematics, statistics, computation and informatics applicable to any biomedical or health related data sources, from molecular to population level.

– Development of Expertise at the Social Science interface: with a focus on areas of health economics and/or mixed methods research.

Applicants can either be seeking to move from a quantitative/economics/mixed methods background to biomedical research or can have a background in biomedical sciences and be seeking to develop skills in one of the priority areas.  All proposals must include development of new expertise and skills in the areas described above.  Eligible applicants would normally be in the early years of post-doctoral research or seeking a clear change of discipline to one of the priority areas.  Pre-doctoral applicants or those ready to transition to independence will be redirected to other MRC support mechanisms.

The next deadline for this competition is 16th June 2015.  For further details, deadlines and how to apply, please visit the pages here: http://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/fellowships/skills-development-fellowships/ .  If you have any specific MRC queries, please contact the team at fellows@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

If you wish to apply to this scheme then please contact the RKEO Funding Development Team in the first instance.

EPSRC are seeking new members for Strategic Advisory Bodies

The EPSRC is seeking applications from industrialists, academics and individuals working in the third sector and government organisations to join Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs), across the range of EPSRC’s Themes.

In addition, EPSRC, on behalf of partner Research Councils, is seeking applications for the RCUK Energy Theme’s Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Digital Economy Theme’s Programme Advisory Board (PAB).

Strategic Advisory Teams exist to provide Theme Leaders at EPSRC with strategic advice that will assist them to develop, implement and modify plans. The Energy SAC and Digital Economy PAB perform the same function for the respective cross-Research Council Programmes. These bodies consist of up to 16 members, depending on the needs of the Theme / Programme. They are devised as a flexible resource, enabling Theme Leaders to obtain the advice they need in a timely manner, drawing on a range of perspectives from across our key stakeholder groups. Further information and terms of reference for SATs can be found on the EPSRC website. Further information on the Energy SAC and the Digital Economy PAB can be found on the RCUK website.

Role and person specification

SAT Members are drawn from EPSRC’s stakeholder groupings. SAC and PAB members are also drawn from these groups, as well as the stakeholder groupings of other relevant Research Councils. Members of all strategic advisory bodies are expected to bring a broad strategic view to bear and to act as ‘generous generalists’, advising across the breadth of EPSRC’s portfolio and the portfolios of other Councils where appropriate.

Members are not required to act as representatives of their own organisation, research area or sector.

The specific requirements sought are:


  • Credibility in the relevant research communities, including academe or the user base.
  • Ability to take a strategic overview of research and skills needs relevant to the Theme.
  • An understanding of the international context within which the Theme sits.
  • Ability to work flexibly in a team and adapt to new ways of working, using both domain expertise and wider cross-disciplinary perspectives.
  • Appreciation of ethical issues and the need for responsible innovation in the conduct of research.
  • Preparedness to challenge EPSRC policies (and those of other Research Councils where appropriate) in a constructive way.
  • Willingness to help with two-way communication between EPSRC (and other Research Councils where appropriate) and the research community.
  • Willingness to devote sufficient time to the role.

As part of this exercise, a Chair for each SAT / SAC / PAB will also be identified. The specific requirements for the Chair are:


  • Experience of working with EPSRC or other Research Councils, normally through an advisory body.
  • Experience of chairing meetings
  • Ability to ensure that all SAT / SAC / PAB member views are heard, the recorded advice is representative of the views expressed and that all present have discharged their roles appropriately.
  • Knowledge of EPSRC’s corporate strategies and policies.


Each Theme’s Strategic Advisory Body meets at least two times per year. Additionally, they hold conferences to bring Strategic Advisory Bodies from all Themes together. SAT / SAC / PAB members may also be asked to take part in other EPSRC business (or that of other Councils as appropriate), including but not limited to workshops, advisory groups for specific activities and peer-review prioritisation panels.

Further information

The vacancies can be found here and the selection and appointment process can be found here.