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Call 1: Responsible engineering

There is a need to reconsider how we develop TIDAL technologies and design services to reduce abandonment, waste, and carbon emissions while increasing accessibility, usability and affordability through design thinking, and enabling reuse, recycling and reprocessing of products and materials. Our first funding call will be for projects in the Responsible Engineering theme.

About this call

Responsible Engineering combines sustainability and care of the planet with development of next generation Assistive Technologies (AT). We aim to:

  • Reduce abandonment
  • Reduce waste
  • Reduce carbon emissions 
  • Increase accessibility, usability and affordability through design thinking

Our responsible engineering theme combines sustainability and care of the planet with development of next generation AT. COVID-19 has demonstrated the global interdependencies of current healthcare products and services, and has revealed the fragility of global supply chains. We were unable to provide services effectively during the pandemic. Additionally, we know AT abandonment is a problem which affects users – they lose confidence, money, time and opportunity due to poor fit of product to need. This abandonment also affects the planet. Currently, the carbon footprint associated with the waste of inappropriately prescribed and/or poorly supported AT is difficult to estimate, but rejection rates across sectors are high e.g. 80% for hearing aids and 13% for prosthetics.

Without AT, people are excluded, isolated and locked in poverty, making health problems worse and economically and socially marginalising people. Despite healthy levels of innovation, we still lack equitable AT provision globally, and NHS services lack resources. One of the most critical shortages is in personnel – there are simply too few clinicians able to prescribe and aid people in choice of AT.

Meeting user needs currently relies on services that require costly face-to-face appointments plus the carbon cost of travel and inconvenience to users. Current services must be able to scale sustainably to face the climate emergency and comply with UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

A problem of this scale cannot be solved by simply increasing the volume of current activity, rather it requires a coordinated focusing of research, user, clinician, and industry efforts into transformative methods that can address the problems currently limiting the value of AT to the user.

Potential approaches include better matching of AT to users, better targeted online support, and timely identification and reuse, repurposing, and recycling of redundant or rejected AT. Digitally prescribed and supported AT has the additional potential to reduce the travel associated with providing AT.

What kinds of projects do we want to fund?

We are funded by EPSRC, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, so the kinds of projects we are looking to fund are engineering and physical sciences projects that fall within in the remit of what EPSRC fund. We are looking to fund projects that are at an early research stage rather than a commercialisation or implementation stage; technologies at low TRL (Technology Readiness Level) probably TRL 2 or 3, so just beyond the initial idea. 

We want fundamentally research-driven ideas that will then enable a shift in the design of a particular design or service.  We are looking for projects that will facilitate a transformation - ideas that will produce a step change. 

Projects should have a multi-disciplinary, co-creation approach. This is very important. There should be involvement of industry, stakeholders, service providers, service users, clinicians etc. as appropriate to your project. 

Projects should be deliverable for around £60k. The idea is to fund a few months of research to prove enough to allow you to apply for much bigger funding.

We are particularly keen to fund proposals that demonstrate clear plans for how the work will lead to a full proposal to be submitted to a UK funder at a future time. 

Applications led by early career academics/researchers are particularly encouraged.

Lead applicants must qualify for EPSRC funding.

Process for applications and funding

Agenda Setting and Collaboration workshop

  • We are holding an Agenda Setting and Collaboration workshop on 27th and 28th April 2022 for people who may be interested in submitting an application. 
  • The aim is to introduce responsible engineering, discuss its potential application to Assistive Technologies, and seed potential collaborations. 
  • You do not have to attend in order to submit an application.
  • You will find information about how to register on the workshop page
  • If you have accessibility requirements or other requirements to enable you to participate in the workshop, please let us know by 12th April 2022  either on the registration form or by emailing TIDAL@ucl.ac.uk

Submission, review and selection of proposals for funding

  • Proposals will be peer reviewed by at least 2 reviewers representing different perspectives: academic and/or business and/or AT user. Applicants will be given the ability to respond to reviewer comments before funding decisions are made by the Steering Committee and TIDAL N+ team.
  • We expect at least one proposal to be developed and funded for each theme. Our aim is to fund two.
  • Full details of the call and application process can be found in the Information for Applicants and FAQs below.

Interested?

Full details of the workshops and how to register.

 

Key dates

  • The draft timetable for the Responsible Engineering funding call is as follows. 
  • Dates for the agenda setting workshop, collaboration workshop, and deadlines for submitting expressions of interest and full proposals are confirmed.
  • Other dates may change but we aim to keep as close to this timetable as possible. 
  • We will make any fuRther updates to the timetable on the website.
  • Where there are differences between the dates on the website and dates in the Information for Applicants, assume that the dates on the website are the most up to date:  

27th April 2022  - Agenda-setting workshop 10am to midday online.

28th April 2022 - Collaboration workshop 10am to midday online.

12th May 2022  5pm BST - Deadline for expressions of interest to be submitted.

9th June 2022 5pm BST - Deadline for full proposals to be submitted.

10th June to 30th June 2022 - Review of proposals.

w/c  12th July 2022 - Reviewers' comments sent to applicants + notification of whether or not they have been shortlisted

w/c 22nd July 2022 - Deadline for applicants to respond to reviewers' comments.

19th September 2022 - Panel makes final decisions on which projects to fund.

23rd September (latest) - Applicants informed of panel decision.

October 2022 to December 2022 - Contracting process.

January 2023 - Projects begin. (They may begin earlier or later depending on how long contracting takes. A project can begin as soon as the contract with UCL has been signed by the lead applicant’s institution.)