Application Questions

How do you define interdisciplinary? – For example is doing biology and physics suitable or does it need to involve AI too?
It must be interdisciplinary across AI and Chemistry.
How important is a publishing track record? If the proposed funding application team have no track record of publishing together would we still be encouraged to apply for the current funding round, or will you be expecting that collaborating teams will have a proven track record of outputs?

No, we don’t expect the group to have even existed beforehand, so we don’t require a pre-existing long term collaboration. We want to see a reasonable track record of the individuals, and evidence that the group has collaboration plans in place. For example, if you work in the same institution then we can assume you will be able to get together, but if not briefly detail your collaboration plans. However, we also don’t exclude pre-existing teams, if existing collaborations already exist and want to apply that’s also fine.

Is it a problem if the application doesn’t include an industrial partner?

Industrial partners are not required. It is completely fine if the bid is across multiple academic partners. The main important collaboration element we’re looking for is that it’s interdisciplinary and demonstrates both cutting edge artificial intelligence and chemical discovery.

Are there any restrictions on who can apply for the funding grant – must the applicant hold a permanent/open contract with the institute they are at?

In line with EPSRC rules, a PI with a fixed term contract is fine as long as it is beyond the duration of the proposal length.

Can someone be part of more than one application to this funding call?

It is perfectly possible to be involved in more than one application as long as you provide a solid justification on both applications of your time commitments, so that if more than one application did get funded it would be clear that they could afford the time on both.

For user organisational approval, are you expecting someone in particular? E.g. Dean of School, Associate Dean of Research, or Head of Department?

The main thing that this person will be signing off is finance, as it is important that whoever signs it off is happy with the financial side of things, as successful applicants will of course have to provide the 20% as per FEC rules. We recommend whoever typically signs off EPSRC applications, or failing that the head of the lead department of the collaboration.

Do we have to comply with the exact types of AI listed in your teams?

You don’t have to comply exactly with these types of AI we just want to see that you are using both cutting edge AI and Chemical Discovery as part of your planned application.

What do you have in mind for “How will the project help grow and sustain the AI3SD Network+?

With regards to helping and sustaining the network, we are looking for you to demonstrate how the potential impact of the project aligns with the AI3SD Vision. We are looking for ideas where the pilot projects we fund can then grow into bigger projects and successful applicants would ideally use the results of their pilot projects to apply for future funding after their initial project has finished.

Can we write an application that has both high level chemistry and AI terminology in it? Will it be seen by both chemists and experts in AI? Or do we need to use non-expert-type terminology to describe the chemical problem we plan to investigate?

Your application will be reviewed by both high level chemistry and AI experts, so you can use expert language in both fields, but make it accessible so that it can be understood at a high level by reviewers from different disciplines.

Can images be embedded within the application form?

Yes – if you want to use images as part of your application that is fine.

The “background IP” section mentions Southampton. Are we supposed to address that precise question? Or is the section really more general than that?

This is a general section to stay if you are using any pre-existing IP.

Can you make any of the successful applications available so we can see the structure?

One of our applicants has shared some of the text of their project, this can be found here. Although we want to point out that there is no “winning structure” as each of the three funded projects were different, and they were assessed using all the criteria including relevance to the call, novelty of AI and Chemistry, impact, sustainability, quality of application etc.

What are the themes of the call?
  • Novel Machine Learning for Chemical and Materials discovery.
  • Novel Active Learning AI in the Chemical Science.
  • New AI based methods for Scientific Discovery in Chemistry.

Financial Questions

Are we allowed to use money for competitions or prizes?

In principle, yes. There are some restrictions within EPSRC rules, but if you want to run a hackathon and give out prizes or provide subsistence / accommodation that should be fine. If you are unsure, talk to us, and if we are unsure we will go back to our EPSRC representatives to clarify the rules.

Do you have any idea how much you intend to spend this round (We are on round 2)?

We have £300,000 to give out for funding calls for the 3 years. We have already run one funding call and funded 3 projects. For this round we are looking to fund around 4 projects, potentially 5 depending on costs.

Do you look more favourably if it’s a lower spend?

Ask for what you need. There’s no point in saying you can do something but not asking for enough money, but equally only ask for what you need. If you can get matching funding from somewhere else that is great.

Is there an upper limit on investigators?

No – although be aware that there is obviously a cap on how much you can apply for, so you need to be able to justify how you are spending the money. As long as it is justifiable and realistic it should be fine.

How is it envisaged the 80% of the supporting fund be consumed? Are these scenarios allowable: On the salary to support the researcher partaking in the research, and to support consultant time on advising the project progression?

The finance can be portioned out as necessary to fit the project provided it is properly justified, for example:

  • XX amount on one person because this will pay their salary during the project as they will be on it full time.
  • XX amount on travel expenses to meet with industry partner etc.
Can the award be used to fund equipment?

No equipment is allowable under this grant. We note that items under £10k are not considered equipment but consumables. In line with EPSRC rules, we do not allow for standard computers/laptops as they should be provided by universities from the indirect and associated costs of the grants. However, we do allow the upgrade costs for computers/laptops if specific high spec ones are needed to run experiments on. So this is allowed if it is a computer with specific high end capabilities to enable the experiments, rather than someone’s regular work laptop/desktop. Make sure this is properly justified in the proposal.

What is the maximum amount of funding we can apply for?

Individual projects can request up to £40,000 funding (total spend up to £50,000 as per FEC 80%).  Applicants will be awarded 80% of the full cost, and the institution receiving the award is responsible for the remaining 20%.  These arrangements reflect the standard EPSRC funding conditions.

Is there an ideal financial structure we should be aiming for?

We aren’t looking for anything specific. Typically we would expect that a large amount would be spent on staff to conduct the research, and then the rest split between travel/consumables/workshops etc. as you see fit.  Please ensure you justify your financial allocations.

What if we spend less money on staff, can we expense a generous travel budget to bring in academics from other countries to run workshops?

We have a separate budget for running workshops, so you would potentially be better off writing to us to ask us if we are interested in jointly co-ordinating a workshop.

Staffing Questions

Based on previous experience it is hard to find perfect candidate for 6 months, especially from overseas as visas take a while? Can we use different Postdocs part time who are already working on other projects, and in that nature extend the project time?

We do have time constraints – part time would be ok but only for 3 months. Or, you could try and extend other grants or find multiple people to make up the project (e.g. 2 postdocs). We expect the types of people who would be looking at this grant would be a graduate and wants a short job, or a postdoc who could be extended by 6 months.

It is ideal to hire a Research Assistant or Postdoc as staff on these grants – is there an upper limit?

There is no set upper limit, apart from our requirement that the pilot project not being longer than 6 months. Salary wise EPSRC put a limit of 37.5 hrs a week that can be claimed on their grants, so if applications justify having a postdoc or RA full time on the project within the £50, 000 limit of overall costs set there shouldn’t be a problem. We expect universities to have a process in place to monitor the time claimed by any Investigator/Postdoc/RA to ensure that no more than 100% of FTE is claimed as salary for any individual across all proposals funded by the Research Councils. It will be up to the applicants to make the case for Peer Review what is the optimal use of funds to achieve their proposed research.

Final year PhD students can work 20 hours a week, can they be included on these grants?

We cannot pay for PhD students to do their PhD, however we can pay for them to do secondments or to be Research Assistants on projects that aren’t related to their PhD.

What stages of PhD student are allowed?

It is not possible to pay for PhD stipend or fees from these grants. If a PhD student is seconded as a junior research placement and their PhD suspended during this period that may be possible but would depend on the rules at the individual university as many institutions would then require the secondment to be in an area unrelated to their PhD research.

Collaborator & Project Partner Questions

Is there a mechanism for collaboration within the Network? If we are looking for people to collaborate with or for named researchers how can the Network help with that?

We have a specific Collaborators Page where you can sign up as a collaborator and find other collaborators. Additionally, if you are looking for something specific, get in touch with our Network Coordinator Dr. Samantha Kanza and send her an email. She will then send out to the mailing list asking if anyone is interested in your project.

Are there restrictions on which companies can apply to be collaborators? E.g. from the UK?

No, as we are primarily giving money to the main applicant who will be an academic institution, therefore if they wish to collaborate with international companies that is fine.

Can we pay to bring someone who is from another UK university but currently in another country over to work as a collaborator?

The standard EPSRC rules apply. Staff at eligible institutions can be paid if the usual EPSRC conditions are met. Visitors employed at overseas institutions may be eligible for their travel and subsistence to be met for a short visit to the UK for the purposes of the project, but this will be be subject to the usual EPSRC rules on funding collaborations and overseas visitors. This would need to be fully justified in the application.

If we are planning an industry collaboration of in-kind support instead of financial – where does this go in the application? Would it need a high level sign off?

In an application there should be a statement of providing in-kind support (e.g. expertise or data etc). This only requires a high-level comment, rather than an official sign off. For all collaborations we ask that a collaboration agreement is put in place and we just need to be aware that this exists when the contracts are setup.

Can Catapult Centres be involved in these funding applications?

Catapult Centres cannot be the primary applicant, as they do not currently meet the Research Councils’ eligibility criteria for Independent Research Organisations as they have been established by the public sector as detailed in the Research Councils’ joint statement on eligibility. However, they can be collaborators or contractors on proposals.

If we name a partner in the application do they necessarily have to be a beneficiary to the project? Would a letter of support from a company mentioning that this proof-of-concept project is to their interest and would like to explore this idea in the future be a positive thing for the review panel to see?

The partner doesn’t necessarily have to be a beneficiary, letters of support are always good as it shows that companies are also interested in what you are proposing.

With regards to industrial/academic in-kind support. The call asks for up to £10K coming from the institution, what percentage of the £10K can be part of the in-kind contribution?

It’s not exactly the case of £10K from an institution. You apply for what you feel you need financially for this project (up to 50K) and then for that total, 80% of the money will be provided by AI3SD and the last 20% will be made up from the applying institution. This is working in line with the EPSRC FEC 80%. Individual projects can request up to £40,000 funding (total spend up to £50,000 as per FEC 80%). Applicants will be awarded 80% of the full cost, and the institution receiving the award is responsible for the remaining 20%. When invoices are submitted they should be for 80% of the full cost and a statement should also be submitted showing the full cost. Please note equipment purchase costs are ineligible. For further details on costing’s and overheads see EPSRC’s Full Economic Costing (FEC) Guides:

Can an industrial partner be in receipt of any funds?

A Project Partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include in-kind or cash contributions such as expertise, staff time, use of facilities, etc. Project Partners cannot receive funding directly from the grant; the only exception to this is where a Project Partner is providing services or equipment that will go through a formal procurement process audited by the host research organisation. The Project Partner cannot receive any other funds from the grant, such as travel and subsistence.

Timing Questions

How flexible is the starting date?

Ideally, we like people to start as soon as possible, latest by 1st May 2020 (including time to get the Network+ Award Agreement in place). We can be moderately flexible, for example if you have someone lined up but they cannot start for another month this would be OK, but if they couldn’t start for another 6 months this would not be viable.

Is it possible to extend projects past 6 months?

We have capped projects at 6 months. However, we are specifically looking for pilot projects that have planned for sustainability and long term impact as well as short term impact, so we are hopeful that at the end of the 6 months the investigators will work with AI3SD to apply for further funding.  We would recommend planning for what is realistic in 6 months that will make a good starting point, and consider where you want to progress with your ideas after that, and we are here to help.

Other Questions

As an ECR, would applying to this funding call make me ineligible for applying at a later date to the first investigator award of the EPSRC?

As this will be for a relatively small grant (£50k) this will not make the ECR ineligible for the New Investigator Award scheme at EPSRC.

What does getting extra help to continue funding applications mean?

We have a range of experts in different domains as part of our Network. We will help you look for appropriate funding avenues, provide advice on your application and point you in the direction of people with the appropriate expertise to help you.

Are there any plans for future calls to bring in social scientists?

Not specifically for the calls. We are planning to run some Philosophy of Science and Ethics Workshops (AI for Science for Good), but there won’t be specific calls as this falls outside our remit. However, applications can include social scientists, as the EPSRC guidelines state that 50% of the research must be within EPSRC guidelines but that means that the other 50% can be in other areas. If you can justify why you need these aspects then it is fine to include them.