Cash awards aim to cut grant chasing

April 4, 2003

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council announced awards of £28 million to support long-term research this week.

The council's new portfolio partnerships initiative will provide five years of stable funding for top research teams across nine universities that have a proven track record of success.

The council's director of planning and communication, Catherine Coates, told The THES : "This is about alleviating world-leading teams from the burden of repeatedly applying for short-term grants when they have demonstrated considerable success in the past."

The EPSRC chose teams that had accumulated at least £2 million of grants over the past five years. Building up such a large portfolio can mean 20 or 30 research grant applications, and the council is keen to reduce the pressure and bureaucracy, giving researchers more time to pursue their science.

But Ms Coates stressed that the new money came with strings. The research teams will be expected to pursue unusual and adventurous research, employ young staff members who can learn from their expertise, and establish collaborations with industry and other research users.

Ms Coates said: "The thing we hope they will do is take some risks that aren't so easy on small projects."

The funding will be consolidated for the first three years, and the research teams will not be allowed to apply for more money in that time.

In the fourth and fifth years, the funding will decline and teams will be able to re-enter the peer-review system.

Portfolio partnership awards were announced on Wednesday for the universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Surrey, Cambridge, Bristol, Oxford and Imperial College London.

Projects that will be supported by this initiative include the development of new prostheses and therapies for tissue-replacement and regeneration at Leeds, and research into faster, cheaper and more portable computers at Manchester.

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