Allocation of EPSRC research budget
EPSRC Strategy is developed by Council on the basis of a wide variety of inputs, including internal and external advice. A high level Strategic Plan is agreed and published every four years. A more detailed Delivery Plan is then prepared and agreed by Council setting out how the strategy will be realised. This forms the EPSRC submission into the Government Spending Review, based on which EPSRC receives an overall funding allocation.
Theme Leaders are the senior managers within EPSRC responsible for managing one of the major themes of the EPSRC portfolio. The Theme Leader is responsible for holding the Theme budget and for using it to deliver an effective programme of activity to fulfil the Council strategy relevant to that Theme. In delivering this programme, Theme Leaders work collaboratively in support of multidisciplinary research and training.
Following the Government funding allocation EPSRC Council will determine the budget allocation for each Theme considering input from Theme Leaders and their Strategic Advisory teams (SATs) or equivalent body. Theme Leaders are then responsible for managing their Theme budget as allocated by Council, ensuring that they deliver against the agreed strategy.
Theme leaders must balance the competing calls on the theme budget, retaining a degree of flexibility to meet new or unanticipated needs as they arise. Theme leaders, building on the advice of their SATs and their own understanding of the portfolio, estimate the allocation of funds needed for different activities across the year. The Theme Leader is then responsible for managing the theme budget within the targets agreed by EPSRC Council. Interdisciplinary cross-Research Council Themes led by EPSRC, such as Energy and Digital Economy, engage with their partner Research Councils and others, such as Innovate UK, to help work coherently across disciplines and leverage additional funding.
Theme Leaders use the knowledge and understanding of their portfolio, including historical and projected demand, to estimate the budget needed. The investments across different panels are a function of the quality of the proposals, the level of demand and availability of funds.
Each panel produces a merit rank order of the proposals it has considered, and will have taken all relevant criteria into account in doing so. The final rank-ordered list signed by the chair of the panel becomes a formal record of the output of the panel. The Theme Leader determines the funding cut-off based on the available budget and relative quality guided by peer review comments, and drawing in joint funding from other Themes where appropriate, with the aim of maintaining a broad parity between panels in terms of the quality of research funded.
It is the responsibility of a Theme Leader to develop, if appropriate, a balanced range of managed activities for the Theme. They will do this through engagement with the academic and business community and with the advice of both Council and their own SAT. Managed activities include targeted calls for proposals, but also workshops, events, and visits. Targeted calls can be identified in a variety of ways:
- In response to research or policy opportunities, or structural weaknesses, identified by the researchers and / or users of research
- In response to specific government priorities and policy drivers
- In response to broader EPSRC strategic priorities
- In response to long-term industrially-inspired challenges
- In response to opportunities to work with key national or international partners
- In order to deliver the strategy for that Theme
Once a potential targeted call is identified its scope and remit will be defined and a budget agreed commensurate with the aims and desired scale of activity. The peer review process to be followed will also be determined to best suit the activity, within the stated principles of peer review. All calls include information about how proposals will be assessed.