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17ALERT: Mid-Range Equipment Initiative

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Call status: Closed
Previous call: 26 June 2017 - 14 September 2017

Summary

We are inviting applications from eligible researchers to purchase items of research equipment via the 17ALERT call. This call is the second activity in what is anticipated to be a multi-year commitment to mid-range equipment.

Background

Advanced research equipment and the development of capability in its creative use is a key component in maintaining the competitiveness of the UK research base. The RCUK Strategic Framework for Capital Investment ‘Investing for growth: Capital Infrastructure for the 21st Century’ explains the important roles of acquiring state-of-the-art equipment into the science base, and the rapid development of people skilled in its use.

The capital equipment budget for this call is approximately £10 million.

Applications for mid-range equipment costing over £200,000 including VAT must enhance the capability of the UK research base in areas of science in our remit. Applications will typically be from groups of researchers in one or more eligible institutions, for instrumentation to be deployed on a multi-project/multi-use basis.

Consideration of the broader impact the purchase of the equipment will enable is an essential part of the assessment process and should be addressed accordingly in the application.

Scope

This is a capital funding call; awards will only fund the purchase of equipment and limited installation costs. No resource or other associated costs may be requested, and funding for the costs of research using the equipment should be found through other project funding. Consequently, in order to ensure sustainable equipment usage, applicants need to demonstrate their potential for obtaining continued support, for example via a track record of successful competitive grant funding, or through host institution commitments.

We encourage:

  • applications for equipment that is widely used and underpins capability in the priority areas in our refreshed Strategic Plan (although the call is open to all scientific areas within our remit)
  • applications that seek to pioneer the use of emerging advanced research technology
  • applications that seek to utilise equipment in novel applications.

Our strategic plan recognises that 'biological discovery is increasingly being driven by ground-breaking technologies, such as high-throughput genomic and proteomic analysis and next generation biological imaging, that generate massive and complex datasets'.

To support these technologies, requests for pipelines of associated technologies (for example automated high-throughput platforms or workflows) will be supported where they come together to form a connected whole, and where the total cost is over £200,000 including VAT. In order for multiple items of equipment to be considered, they must be physically co-located and connected, whereby the sample is processed through multiple experimental steps with minimal or no human intervention and results are available at the end of the pipeline. Using individual pieces of equipment sequentially during the process of an experiment is not covered by this definition. Please note that support for multiple items of equipment that could be funded individually or in clusters on research project grants are not eligible and will be rejected.

Computing infrastructure proposals should address a need for resources (such as cloud or high-performance computing installations) for large-scale data analysis, for example genome assembly, metagenomics and real-time image analysis that build on existing BBSRC investment and funded research activity. Computing equipment may also be requested in support of advanced research technologies where the scale of the data generated will necessitate significant new computing/data management resources (the total cost of the equipment must be over £200,000 including VAT).

Applications may seek the costs of initial service maintenance contracts, where these can be purchased upfront as part of a package with the relevant equipment. If these are required, they should be itemised as part of the requested equipment costs and must be fully justified. Costs of service maintenance contracts will not be paid beyond the end date of any successful awards.

Effective and efficient use of research equipment and instrumentation is dependent on trained staff, particularly where equipment will be available to multiple users. The application must set out the arrangements for the technical support of the equipment and the professional development of the individuals involved, including access to training and sustainability of the technical staff in question. Commitments to staff posts for the running and maintenance of the equipment, as well as for the training of users (where applicable), should be provided in the form of host institution contribution(s). Provision of staff, support and training will form part of the assessment criteria. BBSRC may establish a network of such staff for the consideration of professional development issues and relevant individuals would be expected to participate.

Value for money will be an important factor in assessment. Consequently, whilst contributions from the host institution(s) and/or other external sources are not mandatory, they are strongly encouraged and should be directed towards commitments to staff posts for the running and maintenance of the equipment, as well as for the training of users (where applicable).

In accordance with the Wakeham recommendations to maximize the use of equipment and to encourage sharing (see: RCUK: Efficiency 2011-15: Ensuring Excellence with Impact), the arrangements for managing access to the equipment and the prioritisation of its use should be fully described. Award holders will be expected to put arrangements in place for providing advice and support to others wishing to assess the potential of the technology for their own research.

Collaboration and the extension of access to the instrumentation to industry and public sector users that would enhance the potential impact of research is encouraged, and any arrangements for this should be explained in the application.

Where more than one instrument of a similar type or application is funded through the 17ALERT call, or where a range of capabilities is established that are applicable to the same research field, we may expect grant holders to operate within a network to share expertise and coordinate access.

Applicants are asked to provide details of the institutional environment into which the equipment will be integrated (for example existing facilities and related equipment, housing, technical and scientific support staff, plans for on-going management and maintenance of equipment).

Multidisciplinary applications, spanning the remits of more than one research council, may be considered if the majority of the research in which the equipment will be utilised falls within our remit (see related links). Applications where the majority of the research falls outside of our remit will be rejected.

Applicants uncertain whether the science in their proposal is within our remit must contact us before submission. If an application contains components of proposed research that fall outside of our remit, we may seek the advice of other councils as part of the assessment process.

Eligibility

17ALERT is open to institutions and researchers normally eligible to apply to BBSRC managed-mode calls; this includes BBSRC approved HEIs, strategically funded institutes and Independent Research Organisations (IROs).

  • Categories of eligible organisations can be found in section three of our grants guide (see downloads)
  • A list of IROs can be found in the RCUK eligibility guidance (see external links).

Applications that include principal or co-investigators who are not eligible to apply for funding, and/or from ineligible organisations will be rejected.

A research organisation may submit more than one application; however there is a limit on the number of applications from an investigator or consortium. Details of limitations are in the call guidance.

How to apply

This call is closed to application.

Applicants should refer to the call guidance (see application downloads below).

Applications must be submitted using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system by 14 September 2017, 16:00.

  • Applicants should select:
    • Council: BBSRC
    • Document Type: Standard Proposal
    • Scheme: Standard
    • Call/Type/Mode: 17ALERT Mid-range equipment initiative.

Application downloads (for reference only)

17ALERT: Mid-Range Equipment Initiative - guidance notes (PDF 166KB)

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Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed by a multidisciplinary panel of experts, including representatives drawn from the BBSRC Pool of Experts. External reviewers will not be used and applicants are therefore not required to nominate reviewers.

The following assessment criteria will apply:

  1. The scientific quality and strategic relevance of the proposed research to be conducted using the equipment.
  2. The impact of the investment, including the research enabled, the benefit to or involvement of a wider user community, and/or the anticipated extent of usage.
  3. The arrangements for the management and support of the equipment and in particular the arrangements to secure the expertise in its operation and to provide access to the equipment and expertise in its use.
  4. Provision for staff development, training and sustainability for staff employed to operate and manage the equipment.
  5. The contribution the investment will make to the physical research infrastructure in the applicant institution(s) and in the UK (for example how the equipment will complement related infrastructure and equipment) and the broader environment in which the equipment will be placed (for example lab space, technical support, scientific expertise, data management plans).
  6. The track record of the applicants (including both research excellence and the level of previous and/or existing Research Councils support).
  7. Cost effectiveness, in particular the value of non-BBSRC contributions and the credibility of the financial and management proposals.
  8. Consideration will also be given to any ethical and societal issues that may be raised by the proposal.

Scoring of proposals will be in two parts:

  • A combined numeric score according to our standard scoring definitions for scientific excellence, strategic relevance and track record
  • An implementation score consisting of a red/amber/yellow/green rating for the cross-cutting criteria around impact, management and support, staff development, contribution to physical environment and cost effectiveness.

Both scores will have a minimum threshold and proposals scoring below the threshold on either score will not be discussed in detail at the meeting.

Funding arrangements

The capital equipment budget for 17ALERT is approximately £10 million. Applications may seek the following only:

  • Under the ‘Directly Incurred Equipment’ heading only, the costs of capital equipment over £200,000 including VAT, including one off costs such as initial service/maintenance contracts, and excluding any discounts and/or institutional or external contributions.

No other costs are eligible under this call. Any applications submitted with costs in any other heading other than ‘Directly Incurred Equipment’ will be rejected without consultation.

In accordance with the Wakeham guidelines, up to 100% of the capital cost of the equipment may be sought from BBSRC where the equipment is an enhancement to national capability and operated on a basis that maximises its utilisation and accessibility. Contributions to the capital cost from the institution or other external sources which provide gearing to the BBSRC investment sought are encouraged, however we will need to see clear evidence that appropriate arrangements are in place for the running and maintenance of the equipment, as well as for the training of users (where applicable), and would prefer that institutional commitments be directed towards staff posts to fulfil these aspects. These could be through the use of existing staff or new appointments and should be provided in the form of host institution contribution(s). There will be no resource funding available under this call.

Awards will be announced early 2018 and grants must start by 1 May 2018. The maximum permissible duration for a proposal is 12 months and no extensions will be considered under any circumstances.

Applicants should discuss this condition with their relevant procurement and finance officers prior to submission, particularly bearing in mind the EU requirements for competitive tender. Prospective applicants for whom the expenditure appears impossible (for example because the equipment may require an export license or involves lengthy customisation or construction times) must contact us (see contacts below) before submitting an application.

Exclusions

The 17ALERT call is for capital funding only; there will be no resource funding under this call.

Proposals must not exceed 12 months in duration.

17ALERT is intended to support multi-use, mid-range equipment acquisitions. Applications for single-user or single-project instruments, requests for contributions to very large facilities, or for buildings and other types of infrastructure are not in scope and will be rejected.

The 17ALERT call is not intended to support development of new technologies. Support for multiple items of equipment that could be funded individually or in clusters on research project grants (where they do not form part of a pipeline/automation platform) are not eligible and will be rejected.

17ALERT is also not intended to support the establishment of generic computing platforms (for example high performance computing clusters) whose intended uses largely extend beyond research areas that are within our remit.

The purpose of the 17ALERT call is to support the purchase of research equipment; “software as infrastructure” proposals that develop software packages are outside the scope of the call.

All applications outside the scope of the call will be rejected.

Frequently asked questions

A list of frequently asked questions will be generated and updated as required. Please consult the FAQ (see application downloads above) before submitting a question via email to the contacts below.

Timetable

Call opens 26 June 2017
Application deadline 14 September 2017, 16:00
Panel meeting 12-13 December 2017
Start date 1 May 2018

Contacts

Please provide as much information as possible in your email to ensure a rapid response.

Je-S system queries

For queries using Je-S, the helpdesk can be contacted Monday to Thursday 08:30-17:00 and Fridays 08:30-16:30 UK time (excluding bank holidays and other holidays) by email: jeshelp@rcuk.ac.uk or tel: 01793 444164 (out of hours please leave a voicemail message).

Please provide:

  • Your name, organisation and user ID
  • Date and time
  • Which part of the form or system you were working on
  • The nature of the problem.

Related calls: multidisciplinary national capabilities research facilities research technologies