The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK Government's leading funding agency for research and training in engineering and the physical sciences.
EPSRC invests more than £400 million a year in research that contributes to future economic development in the UK and so to improvements in everyone's health, personal well-being and lifestyle. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering.
Support for research via 'responsive mode' (where the research topic is chosen by the researcher and a grant application can be submitted at any time) remains a priority for the EPSRC. It has proved to be a most effective means of harnessing the full creative flair of researchers. Two-thirds of the investment is in responsive mode.
EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research.
Within its wider remit, EPSRC encourages research into all aspects of transport operations and management, including improving transport flow across all modes, scheduling, control and modelling, transport telematics, minimising energy usage and environmental impacts (monitoring and minimisation). Freight logistics falls within the transport agenda. The main themes in rail research include: rail as an important component of an integrated multi-modal transport system; rail engineering encompassing all aspects of the rail system including traction and rolling stock, infrastructure, signalling and control, and operations; and the rail industry as a network, including management, organisation and supply chains, and the inter-operability of the component parts of the rail sector. As well as all forms of land transport, aviation research (e.g., interface with land transport, airports, flight patterns, aircraft operations, reliability and scheduling) is relevant here.
Each sub-programme has its own set of objectives. The key objectives of the Engineering programme are given here as an example. They are:
- Support excellence in engineering research, nurture emerging areas and encourage creativity and adventure
- Promote the exciting opportunities that arise from working across traditional engineering disciplines and between engineering and other areas of science, technology and social sciences
- Support sufficient talented people through engineering research training and beyond to supply the UK's needs
- Provide the equipment needed for top quality research
EPSRC programmes are organised through a number of programme areas: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Innovative Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Environment, Information and Communications Technologies, Materials and the Life Sciences Interface. Transport research can be funded through any of these areas.
Socio-economic themes: research advances in the engineering and physical sciences make important contributions to national life, and EPSRC recognises these by characterising research outcomes under broad socio-economic themes. These are wealth, health, sustainability, energy, climate change, defence, crime prevention and personal security, mobility, leisure and culture.
EPSRC invests over £460 million a year to promote and encourage research and postgraduate training in the physical sciences and engineering, including transport. It operates mainly by investing in research projects in universities; the Council does not have its own research institutes (although this option always remains open). The partnership with universities is much valued, giving the Council access to a continuously replenished talent pool. 35% of research grants in the portfolio currently involve collaborations with industry, and this will be increasing to 50%. Industrial partnerships are greatly valued for the insight, technology and potential exploitation path they offer as well as leverage of funding. The generation of some 500 university spin-out companies in the past decade, based on EPSRC-sponsored research, provides additional evidence for the contribution of the research base to national competitiveness.