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07/01/2019 - AI3SD Funding Call #1

posted 6 Dec 2018, 03:47 by Samantha Kanza   [ updated 2 Aug 2019, 03:58 ]
NB: This funding call has now closed and 3 successful projects have been selected for funding (pending contract negotiations):
  • Predicting the Activity of Drug Candidates where there is No Target. Principal Investigator. Professor Matthew Todd, Lead Institution: UCL, Project Partners: Auromind, ExScientia & Intellegens.
  • 'Next-next' Generation Quantum DNA Sequencing with Chemical Surface Design and Capsule Nets. Principal Investigator: Professor Tim Albrecht, Lead Institution: University of Birmingham, Project Partner: City, University of London.
  • Deep Learning enhanced quantum chemistry: Pushing the limits of Materials Discovery. Principal Investigator: Dr Reinhard J. Maurer, Lead Institution: University of Warwick, Project Partners: University of Strathclyde & Carnegie Mellon University.

We are pleased to announce our first AI3SD funding call, which will focus on the theme of Chemical Discovery.  

The following priority areas are: 
  • Novel aspects of AI and Drug Discovery
  • Machine Learning and AI Reasoning for Chemical Discovery
  • AI for Chemical Assemblies, Nanoscience
  • AI, Molecular Topology and Property Prediction
  • Synergies between AI and Simulations
The Key dates are as follows: 
  • 7th January – Announce Call on Website 
  • 22nd January - “Network Town Meeting” at the SCI (Eventbrite Link)
  • 18th February - Application Deadline (application forms must be sent to Samantha Kanza the Network+ Coordinator at before Midnight on the 18th)
  • 21st March – Formal Call Announce (After AB Meeting)
Please read the Guidance Document carefully before filling in the Application Form (both files can be downloaded from this page below). The Terms and Conditions can be found in our AI3SD Network+ Award Agreement

Please note: Individual projects can request up to £40,000 funding (total spend up to £50,000 as per FEC 80%). Applicants will be awarded 80% of the full cost, and the institution receiving the award is responsible for the remaining 20%. 

If you have any questions please contact our Network+ Coordinator Dr Samantha Kanza on

Below are some general points of advice and an FAQ with questions taken from our Town Meeting on the 22nd January:

A few Key Points 
  • The Call and the Network+
    • This call and indeed the network stretches across computing, mathematical sciences, AI and the chemistry and physics areas, chemicals and materials discovery and so is looking to bring together researchers from industry and academia in these wide range of domains.  
  • Applications:  
    • Non traditional applicants who are eligible (detailed on the EPSRC Website) are very welcome  
    • When you put down a finance contact, please make sure to put down someone you have actually spoken to and who has approved your numbers. Similarly the sign off from your institution means that your overall institutional approval includes approving your finance proposals.  
    • It is ideal to have specific people organised to work on the project you are proposing if you are successful, so we know someone is already lined up.  
  • Obligations 
    • There will be administrative obligations. You will need to keep in contact with Dr Samantha Kanza (The Network+ Coordinator) and keep her/the Network+ up to date with your progress (e.g. via a website/blog/reports).  
    • Recipients of the funding MUST produce a report at the end of the project, or you cannot get the funding.  
    • We hope that recipients of the funding will attend our Network+ Events, in particular the big Network+ Conference at the end of November this year.  
  • Publicity 
    • We understand that writing a technical report may be more in line with the project, so we may arrange a journalist to talk to you to produce a report that is easier to disseminate to non expert audiences. 
    • We will disseminate about your projects and link to publications on our website.  
  • Ethics applications 
    • If you are conducting any studies that involve humans and or personal data then you must obtain ethics approval. If you cannot obtain them through your own institution, please  let us know and we can see if we can do it through the Southampton ethics board.  

1. The information says that the invoices need to come in with a month after finishing, does the report have to come in then as well? 
Ideally yes we are looking for the report to come in at that time as well. We are expecting a report that details what you have done on the project, which you can potentially pull together from your progress blog posts or reports. We are not expecting the problem to be solved, but the project should demonstrate an achievement and tell the story of the project work. We are hoping that these pilot projects will lead to you applying for further grant applications, which we are happy to help with / back. You may want to consider videos to go with this!  

2. Are we allowed to use money for competitions or prizes? 
In principal yes. There are some restrictions within EPSRC rules but if you want to run a hackathon and give our prizes or provide subsistence / accommodation that should be fine. If you are unsure, talk to us, and if we are unsure we will go back to our EPSRC representatives to clarify the rules.  

3. How do you define interdisciplinary? - For example is doing biology and physics suitable or does it need to involve AI too? 
It must be interdisciplinary across AI and Chemistry.  

4. Is there an upper limit on investigators 
No – although be aware that there is obviously a cap on how much you can apply for, so you need to be able to justify how you are spending the money, but as long as it is justifiable and realistic it should be fine.  

5. Do you have any idea how much you intend to spend this round? 
We have £300,000 to give out for  funding calls for the 3 years (and we are planning to run 2 more after this). For this round we are looking to fund 3 or 4 projects, with a look to spend slightly higher on rounds but ultimately depends on the applications.  

6. Do you look more favourably if it’s a lower spend? 
Ask for what you need. There's no point in saying you can do something but not asking for enough money, but equally only ask for what you need. If you can get matching funding from somewhere else that is great.  

7. How flexible is the starting date?  
Ideally, we like people to start as soon as possible, latest by July 1st (including time to get the Network+ Award Agreement in place). We can be moderately flexible, for example if you have someone lined up but they can’t start for another month, but for example if they couldn’t start for another 6 months that wouldn't be viable.  

8. Based on previous experience it is hard to find perfect candidate for 6 months, especially from overseas as visas take a while. Can we use different postdocs part time who are already working on other projects and in that nature extend the project time? 
We have constraints for time wise – part time would be ok but only for 3 months then. Or you could try and extend other grants or find multiple people to make up the project. (e.g. 2 postdocs). We expect the types of people who would be looking at this grant would be a graduate coming to the end and wants a short job or a postdoc who could be extended by 6 months.  

9. Final year PHD students can work 20 hours a week, can they be included on these grants? 
We cannot pay for PhD students to do their PhD, however we can pay for them to do secondments or to be research assistants on projects that aren’t related to their PhD.  

10. Ideal to have research assistant or post doc to do this – is there any upper limit? 
There is no set upper limit, apart from our requirement that the pilot project not being longer than 6 months.  Salary wise EPSRC put a limit of 37.5 hrs a week that can be claimed on their grants. So if applications justify having a postdoc or RA full time on the project within the £50, 000 limit of overall costs set there shouldn’t be a problem.  We expect universities to have a process in place to monitor the time claimed by any Investigator/Postdoc/RA to ensure that no more than 100% of FTE is claimed as salary for any individual across all proposals funded by the Research Councils. It will be up to the applicants to make the case for Peer Review what is the optimal use of funds to achieve their proposed research. 

11. Are there restrictions on what companies can apply to be collaborators? E.g. from the UK? 
No, as we are primarily giving money to the main applicant who will be an academic institution, therefore if they wish to collaborate with international companies that is fine.  

12. How important is a publishing track record? If the proposed funding application team have no track record of publishing together would we still be encouraged to apply for the current funding round, or will you be expecting that collaborating teams will have a proven track record of outputs? 
No, we don’t expect the group to have even existed beforehand, so we don’t require a pre-existing long term collaboration. We want to see a reasonable track record of the indeviduals, and evidence that the group has collaboration plans in place. For example, if you work in the same institution then we can assume you will be able to get together, but if not briefly detail your collaboration plans. However, we also don’t exclude pre-existing teams, if existing collaborations already exist and want to apply that’s also fine.  

13. Are there any plans for future calls to bring in social scientists?  
Not specifically for the calls. We are planning to run some Philosophy of science and Ethics Workshops (AI for Science for Good), but there won’t be specific calls as this falls outside our remit. However, applications can include social scientists, as the EPSRC guidelines state that 50% of the research must be within EPSRC guidelines but that means that the other 50% can be in other areas. If you can justify why you need these aspects then it is fine to include them.   

14. Is there a mechanism for collaboration within the Network+? 
Yes, we are planning to set up a collaborators page on the website so people can list their details and find other collaborators. We will be sending out emails about this in due course.  

15. If we are planning an Industry collaboration of in kind support instead of financial – where does this go in application. Would it need a high level sign off? 
In an application there should be a statement of providing in-kind support (e.g. expertise or data etc). This only requires a high-level comment, rather than an official sign off. For all collaborations we ask that a collaboration agreement is put in place and we just need to be aware that this exists when the contracts are setup.  

16. Can the award be used to fund equipment?
Unfortunately the fund cannot be used towards equipment.

17. Can Catapult Centres be involved in these funding applications?
Catapult Centres cannot be the primary applicant, as they do not currently meet the Research Councils’ eligibility criteria for Independent Research Organisations as they have been established by the public sector as detailed in the Research Councils' joint statement on eligibility. However, they can be collaborators or contractors on proposals. 

18. Is it a problem if the application doesn't include an industrial partner?
Industrial partners are not required. it is completely fine if the bid is across multiple academic partners. The main important collaboration element we’re looking for is that it’s interdisciplinary and demonstrates both cutting edge artificial intelligence and chemical discovery.

19. Are there any restrictions on who can apply for the funding grant - must the applicant hold a permanent/open contract with the institute they are at?
In line with EPSRC rules, a PI with a fixed term contract is fine as long as it is beyond the duration of the proposal length.

20. Can someone be part of more than one application to this funding call?
It is perfectly possible to be involved in more than one application as long as you provide a solid justification on both applications of your time commitments, so that if more than one application did get funded it would be clear that they could afford the time on both.

21. For user organisational approval, are you expecting someone in particular? E.g. Dean of School, Associate Dean of Research, or Head of Department?
The main thing that this person will be signing off is finance, as it is important that whoever signs it off is happy with the financial side of things, as successful applicants will of course have to provide the 20% as per FEC rules. We recommend whoever typically signs off EPSRC applications, or failing that the head of the lead department of the collaboration. 

22. If we name a partner in the application does he necessarily have to be a beneficiary to the project? Would a letter of support from a company mentioning that this proof-of-concept project is to their interest and would like to explore this idea in the future be a positive thing for the review panel to see?
The partner doesn’t necessarily have to be a beneficiary, letters of support are always good as it shows that companies are also interested in what you are proposing

23. As an ECR, would applying to this funding call make me ineligible for applying at a later date to the first investigator award of the EPSRC?
As this will be for a relatively small grant (£50k) this will not make the ECR ineligible for the New Investigator Award scheme at EPSRC. 

24. Do we have to comply with the exact types of AI listed in your teams?
You don’t have to comply exactly with these types of AI we just want to see that you are using both cutting edge AI and Chemical Discovery as part of your planned application.

25. What do you have in mind for “How will the project help grow and sustain the AI3SD Network+? “
With regards to helping and sustaining the network, we are looking for you to demonstrate how the potential impact of the project aligns with the AI3SD Vision. We are looking for ideas where the pilot projects we fund can then grow into bigger projects and successful applicants would ideally use the results of their pilot projects to apply for future funding after their initial project has finished. 

26. Can we write an application that has both high level chemistry and Ai terminology in it? Will it be seen by both chemists and experts in AI? Or do we need to use non-expert-type terminology to describe the chemical problem we plan to investigate?
Your application will be reviewed by both high level chemistry and AI experts so it is absolutely find to use expert language in both fields.

27. Can images be embedded within the application form?
Yes - if you want to use images as part of your application that is fine. 

28. With regards to industrial/academic in-kind support.  The call asks for up to £10K coming from the institution, what percentage of the £10K can be part of the in-kind contribution?
It’s not exactly the case of £10K from an institution. You apply for what you feel you need financially for this project (up to 50K) and then for that total, 80% of the money will be provided by AI3SD and the last 20% will be made up from the applying institution. This is working in line with the EPSRC FEC 80%. Individual projects can request up to £40,000 funding (total spend up to £50,000 as per FEC 80%). Applicants will be awarded 80% of the full cost, and the institution receiving the award is responsible for the remaining 20%. When invoices are submitted they should be for 80% of the full cost and a statement should also be submitted showing the full cost. Please note equipment purchase costs are ineligible. For further details on costing’s and overheads see EPSRC’s Full Economic Costing (FEC) Guides:

29. How it envisaged the 80% of the supporting fund be consumed?  Are these scenarios allowable: on the salary to support the researcher par-taking in the research and to support consultant time on advising the project progression?
The finance can be portioned out as necessary to fit the project provided it is properly justified. E.g x amount on one person because this will pay their salary during the project as they will be on it full time…X amount on travel expenses to meet with industry partner etc

30. "The background IP" section mentions Southampton. Are we supposed to address that precise question? Or is the section really more general than that?
This is a general section to stay if you are using any pre-existing IP.

31. Can an industrial partner be in receipt of any funds?
A Project Partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include in-kind or cash contributions such as expertise, staff time, use of facilities, etc. Project Partners cannot receive funding directly from the grant; the only exception to this is where a Project Partner is providing services or equipment that will go through a formal procurement process audited by the host research organisation. The Project Partner cannot receive any other funds from the grant, such as travel and subsistence’
Samantha Kanza,
2 Aug 2019, 03:56
Samantha Kanza,
2 Aug 2019, 03:56