Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)


  EPSRC values its interactions with the key learned societies; we believe these interactions provide unique opportunities for EPSRC to deliver against our remit of supporting high quality research, provision of skilled researchers and promoting the public awareness of science, engineering and technology. The learned societies and professional institutions also provide EPSRC with an essential information and advice stream contributing to its policy and programme priority setting. Accordingly EPSRC has worked with many of them to develop formal memoranda of understanding.

  EPSRC works collaboratively with the Royal Society (RS), Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and other learned societies and professional institutions where doing so satisfies the objectives of both organisations. The types of interactions include joint funding of fellowships, joint sponsorship of studies and seminars. Where any EPSRC monies are transferred to these organisations it tends to be that this is an arrangement adopted for administrative purposes only—the funds are used to address EPSRC mission objectives.

  Further details of EPSRC's interactions are indicated in the following sections and financial details are provided in the Annex.


  EPSRC's major interaction with the RS is as a co-sponsor of Industrial Fellowships, a joint venture with the RS, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Rolls Royce. EPSRC is a major sponsor, since it provides us with a particularly effective vehicle for enhancing technology transfer between academia and industry and vice versa. The RS administers the scheme; EPSRC contributes £200k per annum and provides referees. Approximately eight fellowships are awarded a year over two calls (June and December). The awards, which cover salary costs, are held for up to two years and can be either full time or part time.

  EPSRC has recently introduced a new scheme to fund "Research Chairs", with a contribution from the RS, although there has been no expenditure to date.

  EPSRC also works with the RS to advance its objectives in the public awareness of science, engineering and technology. RS, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and EPSRC sponsor an annual series of media and public communications skills training courses at the level of around £5k a year.

  EPSRC's Chief Executive meets annually with counterparts at the RS to review interactions. EPSRC Programme Managers and staff attend a number of events held at the Royal Society. The RS were a non-funding sponsor of the EPSRC International Review of Computer Science.


  EPSRC has strong interactions with the RAEng and together support a number of Chairs and Fellowships to encourage excellence in engineering research:

    —  Two Innovative Manufacturing Research Chairs. Each organisation makes its financial contribution directly to the HEI in question;

    —  Clean Technology Fellowships that aim to enhance the capacity of UK universities to carry out research in new technologies. Ten fellowships were established for a period of five years. RAEng administers the scheme on behalf of both organisations. The expenditure on these finishes in the current financial year;

    —  Over the past year EPSRC and the RAEng have worked together to establish a new Post Doctoral Research Fellowships scheme, which will commence in 2002-03 and over the next five years EPSRC will be contributing about £160k per annum for Post Doctoral Research Fellows.

  In 1999 EPSRC and the RAEng jointly commissioned an international Review into the quality of engineering research in the UK. The review was chaired by the then President of the RAEng, and the administration was shared between both organisations.

  EPSRC also sponsors a number of conferences and events organised by the RAEng where these events can provide us with valuable input to our business planning. We recently held a jointly funded evening meeting to discuss issues facing the engineering research community, majoring on multi-disciplinary working and staff recruitment and retention.

  Bilateral meetings take place every six months, involving EPSRC's Chief Executive, accompanied by the engineering Programme Managers. There are also ongoing working level interactions.


  EPSRC also has formal memoranda of understanding and good working relationships with a number of learned societies and professional institutions that are representative of particular disciplines within EPSRC's remit. EPSRC's Programme Managers meet regularly with the learned societies or Professional Institutions most relevant to their subject areas (such as Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics etc.); on occasions they are accompanied by the Chief Executive. Particular importance is placed on securing comments on EPSRC's draft business plans as part of EPSRC's priority setting and business planning. EPSRC also works in collaboration with relevant learned societies and Professional institutions to stimulate research networks and provide specialist training opportunities or to encourage the public awareness of science, engineering and technology.

  EPSRC is currently undertaking a rolling programme of International Reviews in collaboration with the relevant learned societies to benchmark the standard of research being funded in its portfolio. .

  Some examples of EPSRC's interactions are given below:

4.1  Input to Business planning and priority setting

  EPSRC Programme Managers place particular importance on obtaining inputs to their business plans from the relevant learned societies and professional institutions and in working with them to encourage research in areas of strategic importance. Some examples of the types of interactions are as follows:

    —  annual meeting with the Scientific Affairs Board of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to discuss future plans for EPSRC Programme development, focussing on chemistry and sometimes also the life sciences interface;

    —  the Institute of Physics (IoP) provided advice to the EPSRC commissioned survey "Employers views of postgraduate physicists" and the EPSRC provided input to their survey of career paths of postdoctoral physicists;

    —  the EPSRC Chief Executive and the Mathematics Programme Manager meet annually with representatives (usually the society presidents and three members of their respective councils) of the London Mathematical Society (LMS), Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), Royal Statistical Society (RSS) and the Operational Research Society. EPSRC is invited by the LMS to attend and observe meetings of the LMS Research Committee. The Mathematics Programme Manager and staff meet annually with the executive secretaries of the LMS, IMA & RSS;

    —  EPSRC has an ongoing dialogue with the Institute of Materials, and is represented on the Materials Strategy Committee, Industry and Technology board and other technology committees and science boards.

4.2  Stimulating Research Networks

  EPSRC and the learned societies jointly sponsor or contribute towards a range of conferences, seminars and other activities that are specifically designed to encourage research networks and promote knowledge transfer in areas of mutual interest, for example:

    —  stimulating collaborative activity at the physics/biology interface through a web based bulletin board hosted by the Institute of Physics;

    —  the Institution of Civil Engineers has a contract to organise showcase events to encourage transfer of knowledge from researchers to practitioners;

    —  EPSRC is a member of several web based discussion networks run by the Institution of Electrical Engineers;

    —  the Institute of Physics runs a number of scientific meetings, conferences and policy fora that the EPSRC has jointly sponsored.

    —  EPSRC cosponsors the biennial Materials Congress with the Institute of Materials;

    —  EPSRC is currently working with the Institution of Chemical Engineers to develop a Young Chemical Engineers network.

4.3  International Reviews

  EPSRC is undertaking a major rolling programme of International Reviews to provide international benchmarking of the research activity in the UK in particular disciplines. These reviews are being undertaken in collaboration with the relevant learned societies, and EPSRC funds these at a typical cost of £100,000

    —  The International Review of Physics was jointly commissioned by EPSRC, PPARC, OST, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Astronomical Society. The Institute of Physics provided the secretarial support for the review and the review was funded by EPSRC and PPARC.

    —  The International Review of Computer Science was jointly commissioned by EPSRC with the Institution of Electrical Engineers, who administered the review. The British Computer Society and the Royal Society were non-funding sponsors of the review.

    —  The Royal Society of Chemistry is leading on the organisation of the International Review of Chemistry, which also involves the Chemical Industries Association and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

    —  The Institute of Materials is providing the secretariat for the International Review of Materials, undertaken in March 2002. The Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Academy of Engineering provide nominated representatives for the steering committee for the review.

4.4  Fellowships and the provision of trained researchers

  EPSRC works jointly with a number of learned societies to provide fellowship opportunities, studentships and training for postgraduate researchers within particular topic areas of mutual interest. For example:

    —  EPSRC is working with the Royal Society of Chemistry to fund chairs, fellowships and studentships in Analytical Science. EPSRC and the RSC each fund seven studentships per year. Three new chairs were jointly funded last year, and appointments are currently being made at the Universities of York and Sheffield, and at UMIST. EPSRC is also working with the RSC to award an Advanced Fellowship, with EPSRC prospectively funding a start-up grant for the successful applicant (subject to them being eligible for EPSRC funding).

    —  EPSRC has awarded contracts of £150k to the London Mathematical Society and £120k to the Royal Statistical Society to facilitate the provision and organisation of national/regional instructional taught courses in mathematical and statistical topics as a means of increasing the breadth of training of PhD students.

4.5  Public awareness of science, engineering and technology

  EPSRC works in collaboration with the learned societies to promote public awareness of science, engineering and technology and in particular to enthuse schoolchildren about science and engineering research and to encourage them into research careers.

    —  EPSRC sponsors the Institute of Physics annual secondary schools lecture series at £10k a series. In 2001-02 these related to Optics and in 2002-03 they will cover the physics of music.

    —  EPSRC sponsored the Institution of Chemical Engineers to organise a virtual internet conference on environmental technology.

  In 2002-03 EPSRC is providing £100k sponsorship for the "Faraday Lectures" for schools and the general public across the UK, organised by the Institution of Electrical Engineers and reaching some 40,000 schoolchildren "face to face". A yet larger audience will be reached via satellite and a follow up television programme.

April 2002


Payments to Learned Societies and Professional Institutions
Expenditure (£k)
1999-20002000-01 2001-02
The Royal Society
Contribution to Industrial Fellowships Scheme 200200200
Communication Skills Training Courses5 57
Total205 205207

The Royal Academy of Engineering
Clean Technology Fellowships10 51
Contribution to International Review of Engineering 21
Conference Sponsorship2 22
Research Study: Information Needs of SMEs 13
Total46 73

Other Learned Societies and Professional Institutions
Institute of Materials
International Review of Materials 120
Student Conference Bursaries 3
Conference Sponsorship26 25
IoM Young Members Events2 23
Total28 5148

Institute of Physics
Summer Schools3133 35
International Review of Physics 38
Conference Sponsorship15 34
Public Awareness of Science activities 101010
Total46 8439

London Mathematical Society
Contribution to Short Courses7 3918
Total7 3918

Royal Society of Chemistry
Conference Sponsorship2 57
Total2 57

Institution of Chemical Engineers
Public Awareness of Science Activities 12
Total12 00

Institution of Civil Engineers
Contribution to Conferences 2
Total0 02

Institution of Electrical Engineers
International Review of Computer Science 0117
Contribution to Conferences and Training Schools 08
Total0 8117

Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Sponsorship of Conferences and export meetings 1164
Total1 164

  NOTE:   figures exclude payments for meeting room hire etc by EPSRC on a commercial basis

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Prepared 6 August 2002