Call for Proposals

We are about to open the call for proposals for our Whole Systems Networking Fund (WSNF).

We have £400,000 of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding to allocate to up to 10 projects via grants that range in value from £10,000-£60,000. The call theme is ‘advancing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in energy research’ which can be adhered to in several ways, for example through research topics, project partners, stakeholders involved, beneficiaries or activities conducted.

We are interested in funding projects with creative, non-traditional outputs that include well-developed engagement and networking activities.

Applications will open on 27 January 2022. Please check this webpage as detailed guidance on how to apply will be uploaded on that date.

 

Testimonials

Below are statements from successful awardees of the previous round of the WSNF, including links to their projects. You can read the full report that outlines all projects here.

“It was one of the best enablers in my career. It allowed me to connect with local and national stakeholders and made me recognisable in my research field. I am now often invited to present at events and conferences, which is partially thanks to my WSNF project. The fund supported Early Career Researchers, meaning I was able to become a Principal Investigator for my first research project, which is quite difficult for people on fixed-term contracts. In the end, I was promoted by my university, and I believe the WSNF project greatly helped with this…funds in typical research projects are very limited for networking events and communications. This project, on the contrary, was focused on networking activities and therefore allowed us to engage with local stakeholders, find new connections wider afield and generate many ideas for future studies. Even years after, I am still receiving feedback from stakeholders on how they were able to connect with each other and launch new projects and collaborations of their own.” – Inna Vorushylo, Ulster University, Zero-in on NI Heat

“As an ECR, to have led a project as PI means that my CV is now stronger. The WSNF also allowed me to expand my research focus, develop new networks and publish a high-profile research summary document. It was particularly helpful that the funding was greater than many ECR funds and could cover staff time. This was crucial as many ECR funds are less than £10,000 and don’t include staff costs, so the ability to undertake novel research is severely limited, whereas the funding we got from the WSNF enabled me to lead a team of two part-time staff. It was also helpful to have the support of UKERC when engaging with our stakeholders and to promote the project through UKERC’s networks.” – Jess Britton, University of Edinburgh, Power Shift

“The grant to fund the Solar Commission produced a novel and important policy document praised by firms in solar. Many women were involved in its production and this will hopefully encourage more women to participate in solar. These outcomes have been important for my career and will hopefully help others.” – Alison Walker, University of Bath, The Solar Commission

 

Background

In addition to our research programme, UKERC has a wider role to convene, engage and support the UK energy research community. One of the ways we do that is by promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), building career skills and aiding cohesion. The WSNF was created to help us achieve this.

It first ran in UKERC Phase 3 (2014-2019) with the aim of increasing EDI in energy research, placing particular emphasis on improving gender balance as women are significantly underrepresented in grant applications for energy projects. It also created opportunities for Early Career Researchers (ECRs). You can read more about the previous round of the WSNF here.

Although gender imbalance persists, there are also many other groups that fall outside the scope of traditional energy research. Therefore, the WSNF in Phase 4 (2019-2024) will address diversity more broadly by creating opportunities for the inclusion of all characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010, as well as ‘diversity of circumstance’; by this, we mean different career stages, UK nations, geographic locations, academic disciplines and types of institution.

We want to broaden both the people and institutions we engage with, connect new partners that have not worked together before and amplify fresh voices in the conversation around our future energy system. Therefore, the aims of the WSNF in Phase 4 are to:

  • Improve EDI across the energy research space
  • Widen participation to share experience across disciplines and the four UK nations
  • Undertake collaborative research with non-academic partners to investigate policy-relevant challenges that could be solved through a whole systems approach
  • Offer career enhancement opportunities for ECRs

Throughout 2021, UKERC HQ conducted a range of activities to consult the wider community on how best to use the fund. We would like to thank everyone who took part for their views, which have been key to shaping the WSNF process.

 

Management

The fund is managed by UKERC’s HQ team, primarily by our Engagement Officer Amber Sawyer.

However, direction for the fund has been provided by an independent Steering Group composed of 18 members that represent a range of disciplines, career paths and career stages within whole systems energy research. They bring expertise from government, academia, industry and the third sector. The Steering Group advises UKERC HQ on priorities for the fund and is responsible for the final selection of successful projects.