UCL Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering


Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE): Open Call for “Inspiration” Grants

14 July 2021

call image

Open Call for “Inspiration” Grants

This is a call for “Inspiration” Grants to initiate new collaborative research projects between the UCL Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering, UK-based academic researchers, and industry.

Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering

Sustainable energy and increased energy efficiency, clean water, atom-selective and robust chemical transformations: these are some of the grand challenges requiring breakthrough solutions that are both economically and environmentally acceptable. The vision of the Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE) – one of five “Frontier Engineering” Research Centres funded by EPSRC – is that nature can provide valuable guidance in finding radically different and potentially transformative solutions to these, and other, major challenges.

The Centre takes a nature-inspired engineering approach, which goes beyond mimicry or traditional “biomimetics”, that aims to reveal underlying fundamental mechanisms in the natural world that can be applied in a broader context to solve similar problems in engineering. Its research is organized into three themes, each defined according to three ubiquitous natural mechanisms. They are: (T1) Hierarchical Transport Networks; (T2) Force Balancing; (T3) Dynamic Self-Organisation; and, (T4) Ecosystems, Control & Modularity.

The Centre is highly interdisciplinary, and brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines, from Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, to Materials Science, Computer Science, Architecture and Healthcare Engineering. In seeking to address practical engineering challenges, the Centre places a firm emphasis on partnership and collaboration. Researchers at the Centre are already engaged with an international network of leading academic and industrial partners.

CNIE “Inspiration” Grants

The aim of the Centre’s “Inspiration Grants” is to encourage collaboration and engagement between CNIE’s researchers, leading researchers across the UK, and industry. The wider aim is to grow the Centre’s engagement and outreach, further validate and promote nature-inspired approaches to engineering, and initiate new nature-inspired research projects tackling key industrial and environmental challenges.

Funding is now available to grant 2 research projects (“Inspiration” Grants), on the EPSRC “Frontier Engineering: Progression Grant”, each either  5 or 6  months in duration (see funding outline below), which initiate new research collaborations in line with the vision of the Centre, and provide the basis for larger research programmes. The key requirements of the scheme are as follows:

  • Projects should fully align to the vision of the Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering.
  • The project team should consist of at least one investigator from UCL and one or more investigators from another university in the UK and/or one or more industrial partner;
  • Research collaborations are expected to be new ones and grants cannot be used to support or extend existing work;
  • Projects should have a duration of 5 or 6 months;
  • All postdoctoral researchers supported should be based and employed at UCL. However, they are encouraged to spend periods of time at the project’s partner institutions as part of the project;
  • All postdoctoral researchers should have a visa in place to work in the UK.
  • Funding is available to support a postdoctoral researcher’s salary at either;
    Grade 7 / Spinal Point 29, to a maximum cost of £25,976.97, for 6 months
    Grade 7 / Spinal Point 35, to a maximum cost of £24,150.36 for 5 months.

In both cases, there is also funding available to support reasonable travel at £500 maximum and consumables costs at £1,500 maximum, in support of the collaboration.
Note that the Centre is unable to provide funding for items of equipment. The required amount of travel and consumables funding required should be included in the proposal.

  • At the end of the projects, project teams are expected to continue their collaboration through, for example, applications to national and European funding bodies;
  • A progress report must be submitted at the project with details of any key outputs and funding secured as result of the grant;
  • Successful project teams will be expected to engage with the Centre and present their research at future CNIE events;
  • The Centre must be acknowledged on all publications and outreach activities (the CNIE logo will be shared at the start of the grant);
  • All awards should start within at most 2-3 months, once the grant has been awarded.

    How to apply

Applications should be submitted by a permanent academic member of staff at UCL. Applicants should submit a four-page proposal (Arial font size 11, 2cm margins all around), which outlines:

  • The title of the proposed project;
  • The names of the individuals, departments and institutions involved;
  • The track record of the researchers involved;
  • An outline of the proposed project in terms of background, aims & objectives, and programme & methodology;
  • The potential short and long term social, economic and environmental impacts of the proposed research in terms of addressing key engineering challenges;
  • Future plans for sustaining the collaboration beyond the period of the grant;
  • A summary of the resources requested in terms of salary level (grade and UCL spine point) of the researcher to be employed and the travel & subsistence costs required;
  • Details of any additional financial contributions to the project from partners or other sources (cash or in-kind).

Deadline for receipt of applications is 5pm on Wednesday 28th July 2021.
Documents should be submitted in PDF format, by email, to

Review process

Proposals will be reviewed by CNIE committee members and members of the Centre’s Advisory Board. The following review criteria used will be used to shortlist applications:

  • Fit to the remit of the Centre
  • Fit to the aims of the call
  • Track record of the project team
  • Quality of the research, including novelty and methodology used
  • Planning & resources
  • Potential for impact
  • Future plans

For further information about the call, please contact us at cnie.admin@ucl.ac.uk.
Further information about the Centre can be found here: http://www.natureinspiredengineering.org.uk