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EPSRC interim arrangements for equipment funding

Issue date:
18 May 2011
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In response to the Wakeham Review Research Councils UK (RCUK) published a report Efficiency 2011-15: Ensuring Excellence with Impact detailing plans to drive efficiency in research funding. As a result of the rapidly changing economic climate and the budgets we have available, we have to find substantial savings within our programmes. The Research Councils, together as RCUK, have therefore considered in detail how to implement the efficiency savings recommended in the Wakeham Report as well as achieve the required additional savings whilst ensuring the sustainability of the research base.

Details of the RCUK changes relating to requests for equipment included on proposals submitted to the Research Councils from 1 May 2011 are available on the Efficiency 2011-15: Ensuring Excellence with Impact page of the RCUK website.

New EPSRC processes for funding equipment on proposals submitted from 1st May are currently being developed and further information will be made available as soon as possible.

Impact on proposals submitted prior to 1st May 2011

The scale of the reduction in capital funding, combined with EPSRC’s existing equipment liabilities, means that immediate action needs to be taken to control EPSRC’s capital commitment. EPSRC’s capital budget is insufficient to continue funding equipment under the current arrangements at upcoming panels.

EPSRC has therefore taken the decision to make changes to equipment funding immediately. These interim arrangements are expected to be in place until October 2011. The changes are ONLY to the way in which equipment is funded; there are no changes to the peer review process for proposals submitted prior to 1 May 2011.

The following changes will apply:

  • Proposals will be ranked by peer review panels as written.
  • For individual items of equipment in the £10k-£121,588 (inclusive of VAT) range, the EPSRC contribution will be reduced to 50 per cent of the total cost. If the university can’t provide the other 50 per cent the project can still go ahead provided that it can go ahead without the equipment. EPSRC would not provide any equipment funding in this case.
  • For funded proposals with individual items of equipment over £121,588 (inclusive of VAT), the equipment will go onto a holding list for consideration by a Strategic Equipment Panel. This panel will review the funding of the equipment only; the overall project will not be considered again. The PI will therefore be asked to complete the RCUK 2 page business case outlining the strategic need for the equipment for consideration by the Strategic Equipment Panel. The project itself should only be put on hold if the equipment is so integral to the project that the project cannot go ahead without it. If the equipment is not then approved by the strategic equipment panel, then the project cannot go ahead.
  • Travel funding to help make use of shared equipment located elsewhere will be made available at the discretion of the Head of Programme.
  • If a proposal is above the funding cut off at panel, but does not go ahead due to lack of equipment funding it will not count against demand management.

No immediate action is required on proposals already submitted to EPSRC before 1 May 2011. The proposals will be ranked by peer review panels as usual, on the basis of the standard criteria.

EPSRC will shortly email all applicants with proposals currently in the system to ensure that they are aware of the interim process. For any proposals above the funding cut off including individual items of equipment over £10k, EPSRC will contact the PI after the panel to notify them of required actions.

Strategic Equipment Panel

In parallel to putting into place these interim arrangements for equipment funding, EPSRC is developing a new process for considering equipment on proposals submitted after 1 May 2011. The intention is to make use of this new process for consideration of the business cases for equipment over £121,588 (inclusive of VAT), in order to ensure as much consistency as possible between the interim arrangements for funding equipment and the new process.

Due to the need for immediate action on capital expenditure, it is necessary to implement the interim arrangements before finalising the details of the long term process. EPSRC is working to finalise the long term process as quickly as possible, and will publish details of the Strategic Equipment Panel as soon as they are available.


Susan Morrell