Nanotechnology Grand Challenges: Solutions for the
Carbon Capture and Utilisation
Closing date for outline proposals: 5 August 2009
This call invites proposals for large-scale interdisciplinary, integrated projects to provide
nanotechnology solutions for the environment. Specifically we are seeking proposals that
address the contribution which nanotechnology can make to Carbon Capture and
Utilisation. Applications addressing carbon utilisation or capture from the free
atmosphere are particularly encouraged.
Funding in these areas will be provided through a two stage process. This call is for the
first stage only. Subject to the quality of the proposals received, up to £5 million is
available for this call, which is expected to support 3 to 4 projects. Additional funding
from ESRC will be available for high quality social science research that is embedded in
This document contains the following information:
Scope of the Call
Format of outline proposals
Restrictions and other information for applicants
Guidance for reviewers
As a major element of the Cross Council programme Nanoscience through Engineering to
Application, EPSRC is leading on a series of Grand Challenge Calls, addressing societal
and/or economic issues where nanotechnology can make a unique and significant
contribution. From the outset, each Grand Challenge will be an integrated,
interdisciplinary activity encompassing basic and applied research that will move the
technology towards the point where it can actually be deployed, whilst addressing the
societal and economic issues within projects.
The first Grand Challenge call was in the energy domain, focussing on the harvesting of
solar energy, the second Grand Challenge call was in healthcare, and focussed on the
targeted delivery of therapeutic agents and healthcare diagnostics. The focus of this
third Grand Challenge call is on environmental solutions, specifically
nanotechnologies for carbon capture and utilisation.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is recognised as a global priority and one in which
the UK aspires to take a lead. The UK has therefore set an ambitious target to reduce
CO2 emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Carbon capture, storage and utilisation
have been identified as important intervention mechanisms by the International Panel on
The Research Councils’ Energy Programme has recently supported a substantial number
of new projects in carbon capture related to power stations and, where appropriate,
proposals should ensure therefore that they are distinct from and build on this existing
The scope for this call has been developed through a process of consultation and
stakeholder engagement. This included a Town Meeting held on the 6th March 2009, a
web based consultation, and discussions between Research Councils and other
3. Scope of the Call
Proposals which follow an integrated approach towards the application of nanotechnology
solutions for carbon capture and utilisation are invited. Applications addressing carbon
utilisation or capture from the free atmosphere are particularly encouraged.
Consistent with our Grand Challenge ethos, proposals should build on existing strengths
and expertise and offer significant improvements in performance over current
technologies. These improvements should be challenging, quantifiable and achievable,
and should be clearly stated in the proposal. Successful proposals should include the
A clear statement of the environmental problem that needs to be solved (in
specific rather than general terms) and the novel contribution nanotechnology
can make to this;
Demonstrate that the technology being developed will have an economic or
societal impact within the UK;
A clearly demonstrated understanding of the current international state of the
art and how this proposal would advance the area;
Involve an interdisciplinary team with all the skills and expertise required to
take the technology forward to its application. This may include demonstrated
translational experience in the environmental area and the bringing together
of materials and environmental scientists, process engineers and end users.
This should also include the engagement of robust and integrated social
science elements to the proposal, as appropriate;
Application of nanotechnology solutions for the environment through a project
incorporating significant novelty in engineering, or physical sciences,
integrated with relevant environmental science and incorporating appropriate
social and economic aspects to the project. In particular, a detailed
economic case for the deployment of the nanotechnology and its
associated systems should be part of the deliverables at the end of
Involve from the outset potential end users of the research from relevant
Provide a clearly laid out plan for taking the technology being developed
towards its application (this should include an implementation plan that
addresses the ownership of Intellectual Property, see stage gate process
A commitment to responsible nanotechnologies innovation.
Applicants should note that they will be required to show where the technology they
propose to develop will add value over current or alternative environmental solutions,
where these exist (e.g. in terms of improving process efficiencies or reducing costs).
Proposals should clearly demonstrate a route to application and how the proposed
research will overcome any technological barriers standing in the way of application.
Applicants should note that a network is planned to be in place to coordinate the work
across the Carbon Capture and Storage consortia funded through the Research Councils'
Energy Programme. The aim of this network is to further develop the research
community, to ensure that information across the teams is shared and to increase
stakeholder involvement. Projects funded through this call will be required to be
involved, and play an active role, in the network.
Stage gate process
Funding in this call will be provided through a two stage process; towards the end of
those projects funded in the first stage it is the Research Councils’ and Technology
Strategy Board’s intention to provide substantial further funding to those projects that
offer the greatest promise of addressing the stated societal environmental problem,
thereby producing a measurable impact. This second stage will be aimed at taking
technology developed in this first stage towards its application in an environmental
solution. This will be a competitive process where only half of the projects funded in the
first stage might proceed into the second stage.
Projects must start by 1 May 2010 and last for 3 years. They should result in credible
candidate technologies for further development in stage 2, as may be demonstrated by
significant involvement by an end user, or the ability to attract collaborative funding.
Projects which are successful in securing funding at this stage will receive substantial
funding for a further 3 years. At the end of the second stage of funding, there is an
expectation that the technology will be at a stage where it would be able to attract
finance from other sources to allow the project to meet its environmental aim.
It is expected that all projects will make use of well integrated, interdisciplinary teams to
achieve their objectives and they will be assessed on this basis.
This call is for the first stage only. Subject to the quality of the proposals received,
up to £5 million is available for this call, which is expected to support 3 to 4 projects. It is
our intention that a similar sum will be allocated towards further funding of the most
successful project or projects in the second stage. In this way the EPSRC aims to
increase funding for the project or projects that continue into Stage 2.
Standard eligibility rules for targeted funding apply to applicants and organisations, as
specified in the EPSRC Funding Guide.
The EPSRC Funding Guide is available at:
A full list of organisations currently eligible to apply to the EPSRC can be found at the
following link: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/eligibility.htm
Any organisation that is not on the list but that wishes to apply should contact the Je-S
Helpdesk as early as possible in the application process.
5. Application Procedure
A two phase process will be used for this call: an Outline Proposal stage, followed by a
Full Proposal stage. Outline proposals will be considered by a panel against the
assessment criteria; (see section 7) those rated most highly will be invited to submit a
full proposal. It is our intention to invite no more than twice as many full proposals as we
expect to fund. Decisions will be communicated to applicants by the 7th September 2009.
You should submit your outline proposal using the Research Councils’ Joint electronic
Submission (Je-S) System (https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk/). When adding a new proposal, you
should select Council ‘EPSRC’, document type 'Outline Proposal' and the ‘Outlines’
Scheme. On the Project Details page you should select the ‘Nanotechnology Grand
Challenge - Environment’ Call.
Although both single and multi-institutional bids are invited; proposals must be
submitted on one common Je-S proposal form even if they are multi-
Details of Research Organisations registered to use Je-S are available from
Note that clicking 'submit document' on your proposal form in Je-S initially submits the
proposal to your host organisation's administration, not to EPSRC. Please remember to
allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your
proposal to them and the Call closing date. EPSRC must receive your application by
4 pm on 5 August 2009.
Guidance on the types of support that may be sought and advice on the completion of
the research proposal forms are given on the EPSRC website
(http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/ResearchFunding/HowToApply/default.htm) which should be
consulted when preparing all proposals.
6. Assessment Procedure
The overall assessment procedure is a two phase process, an Outline Proposal stage and
a Full Proposal stage. Only applicants who are successful at the Outline Proposal stage
will be invited to submit at the Full Proposal stage. Successful applicants will be sent
specific information on how to apply.
Outline Proposals will be considered by an Outline Proposal panel in August 2009.
Full proposals will be sent to anonymous peer reviewers for their comments. Those full
proposals which receive sufficiently supportive reviewer comments will be considered by
a Full Proposal panel. It is expected that the Full Proposal panel meeting will be held at
the beginning of March 2010 and that decisions will be available mid March 2010. The
deadline for full proposals invited through the Outline stage will be the 4th November
7. Assessment criteria
The primary criteria for assessment will be, in no particular order of priority:
Fit to the scope of the call;
Quality of the research proposed;
The skills and expertise of the interdisciplinary project team, both in terms of the
track record of individual partners and the overall balance of skills across the
The potential to address a clearly articulated but as yet unmet environmental
need, demonstrating significant added value over alternative technologies. It is
emphasised that there must be a focus on a demonstrably important
environmental problem (as a guideline to timescales, there should be potential to
reach the market within ten years);
Demonstrate that effective management arrangements and planning is in place to
ensure that a multidisciplinary team will move the research towards application;
Secondary criteria to be taken into account:
Genuine user engagement;
The contribution to a balanced portfolio of nanotechnology for the environment
Responsible innovation: applicants will be asked to provide a brief risk register at
full proposal stage only (see section 8. below).
8. Responsible Innovation
EPSRC recognises that in developing a solution for one environmental problem the
potential for the technology to result in other issues, environmental or otherwise, should
be minimised through risk management approaches. Full proposals should be
underpinned by a commitment to responsible nanotechnologies innovation, through the
provision of a brief risk register at Full Proposal stage. This should preferably be in
tabular form and not exceed half a page within the case for support. The risk register
a) Identify any potential environmental, health, societal or other impacts and/or any
ethical concerns that may result from the innovation process (i.e. in both stages of the
stage gate process).
b) Qualitatively provide an appraisal of risk for each identified impact and the level of
uncertainty associated with this (e.g. impact A: low risk, high certainty).
c) Identify who in the project team is accountable for managing any identified risks at
Information within the Risk Register is intended to be used as a tool to inform and
support the applicants and EPSRC, allowing an upstream identification of risk
uncertainties, which can be subsequently managed, e.g. through further research, where
this is thought necessary. This section will also be the subject of reviewer comment by
Full proposal reviewers from the range of relevant disciplines, which include social
science, and such comments will be considered by the Panel, and feedback given to the
applicants and EPSRC.
9. Format of outline proposals
The following information and documentation will need to be submitted in outline
Je-S Outlines application form for the relevant call; the summary section should
contain an overview of the research proposed. All proposals including multi-
institutional bids must be submitted on one common Je-S proposal form.
Outline Case for Support – no more than three pages of A4, addressing the key
assessment criteria as given in section 7.
10. Call schedule
Closing date for submission of outline proposals 5th August 2009
Decisions on outline proposals 7th September 2009
Closing date for submission of full proposals 4th November 2009
Full Proposal panel meeting Mid March 2010
Decisions on proposals End of March 2010
Start date of successful proposals 1 May 2010
Mid term review of Stage 1 proposals November 2011
Invitation to Stage 1 grant holders to apply for Stage 2 End March 2012
Deadline for applications for Stage 2 funding End May 2012
11. Restrictions and other information for applicants
1) All Stage 1 grants must start on 1 May 2010 at the latest and last for 3 years. This
is to enable a fair competition at Stage 2, and to provide continuity of funding to Stage 2
2) 18 months into the Stage 1 grants there will be a workshop and review of these grants
in which all Stage 1 grant holders must participate. It is expected that the format of the
review will be a presentation on progress to a panel. One of the main objectives of this
review will be to provide feedback useful to grant holders in considering how to move on
to Stage 2.
3) 2 years into the Stage 1 grants there will be an opportunity for grant holders to apply
for a further 3 years of funding to enable candidate technologies to be developed to the
stage where they could attract external funding to take them through to application.
4) Stage 1 covers research towards a candidate technology for further development;
stage 2 projects will concern the further development of this technology so that it can
attract the external funding required to take it through to application. Proposals are
therefore expected to have a significant level of involvement from a potential end user
from the outset (although this need not be in the form of a financially contributing
12. Contact details
If you have any queries about this call please contact:
Dr Nicola Goldberg
North Star Avenue
Tel: 01793 444475
Reviewer guidance for the Nanotechnology
Grand Challenge 3: Solutions for the Environment
The following notes are to assist anonymous reviewers when assessing Full Proposals
submitted to EPSRC under this call and should be read in conjunction with the call
In general this assessment should be treated as that for a standard research proposal,
but in addition please bear in mind the following points with regard to these specific
sections of the form:
Fit to the scope of the call – proposals should concern the development of
nanotechnologies for carbon capture and utilisation
Clear focus on a environmental problem that needs to be addressed;
Potential to address an environmental need.
A clearly demonstrated understanding of the current international state of the art,
both in the academic and commercial sectors, by the applicants.
The feasibility of the proposed project.
Responsible innovation: consideration of ethics, environment, health and societal
risks and regulation relating to the project and future market application. The risk
register should be considered in terms of whether it adequately identifies potential
impacts and the level of associated risks.
The involvement of an end user.
The involvement of an interdisciplinary team with all the skills and expertise
required to take the technology forward to its application, which includes
demonstrated translational experience in an environmental situation and the
engagement with social scientists;
A clearly laid out plan for taking the technology being developed towards its
Resources and management
The effectiveness of the management arrangements in ensuring that the project
remains focussed on moving the research towards application and bringing
together an effective interdisciplinary team.