Energy research has been the big winner under the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s controversial shaping capabilities programme, figures reveal.
In 2011, the EPSRC divided its research portfolio into 113 subjects and announced whether it would grow, maintain or reduce funding levels in each. The policy, now known as “balancing capabilities”, sparked huge controversy amid accusations of insufficient consultation.
Synthetic organic chemists were especially vociferous. Now, an EPSRC analysis reveals that, of all the subjects slated for cuts, their funding has shrunk the most as a proportion of the EPSRC budget: between April 2011 and April 2014, it fell 0.79 percentage points.
But there were bigger losses in three subjects meant to be maintained: built environment (down 1.32 percentage points), sensors and instrumentation (down 1.04), and engineering design (down 0.94). They account for three of 16 “action plans” that the EPSRC unveiled alongside its analysis.
The action plans are for subjects that have moved “along the wrong trajectory”, that face a changed funding environment or that have not met other strategic aims.
Of the 54 subjects that have shrunk, 13 were scheduled to do so, while three were slated to grow. Two of the latter – water engineering as well as radio frequency and microwave devices – have action plans.
Of the 59 that have grown, 14 were scheduled to do so and one was due to reduce.
Energy storage recorded the most spectacular growth: its share of funding rose from 0. per cent to 2.07 per cent, the sixth largest. Energy efficiency also mushroomed, by 1.45 percentage points, becoming the EPSRC’s second largest subject.
The biggest area, accounting for 3.24 per cent of the budget, is now manufacturing technologies, which rose by 0.98 percentage points despite being scheduled to be maintained.
The EPSRC said that its council is “pleased the strategy seems to be bedding in well, with just a light adjustment required in a number of areas”.