21st Century Challenge Networks

No current calls

STFC provides funding to create new multidisciplinary research communities at the STFC 21st Challenge interface which are focused on addressing user needs, including those of Government departments, Government agencies, industry and other academic communities. Three types of Networks are funded, depending on the stage of development of the community: Standard Network, Network+ and Extended Network+.

The aims of Standard Networks are to:

  • Support interactions between STFC-funded researchers and appropriate science, technology, industry and end-user groups to build interdisciplinary communities at the interface between STFC science and 21st Century Challenge areas
     
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing and identify priority user-needs that STFC science could have a role in addressing
     
  • Create new multidisciplinary project teams to develop proposals to seek funding for projects addressing the 21st Century Challenges

Network+ and Extended Network have the same aims as Standard Networks but additionally aim to:

  • Network+
     
    • Demonstrate STFC-funded capability to address 21st Century Challenges and de-risking of concepts to facilitate applications for next-stage funding
       
  • Extended Network+
     
    • Maximise the impact of earlier Standard Network or Network+ activities
       
    • Further demonstrate STFC-funded capability to address 21st Challenges and de-risking of concepts to facilitate applications for next-stage funding

Key facts

Networks awarded in 2016

STFC Food Network+

The STFC Food security Network+ brings together food researchers with STFC researchers and facilities to tackle food security challenges with the aims of:

  • Building an inclusive, dynamic, multidisciplinary network of researchers focused on innovative ways to use the skills and facilities funded by STFC.

  • Kickstarting multidisciplinary collaborations and research projects working towards sustainable food systems both in the UK and developing countries.

  • Enhancing the impact of STFC/food multidisciplinary collaborations by encouraging co-design with the non-academic sector.


  • PI: Professor Sarah Bridle
  • Institute: University of Manchester
  • Funded Amount: £363,968

Networks awarded in 2015

Advanced Radiotherapy Network+

The Network+ in Advanced Radiotherapy is aimed at creating a paradigm shift in the way in which radiotherapy research is undertaken and will create a pipeline, which directly translates into patient benefit and quality of life. It will catalyse new multidisciplinary partnerships between the clinical and STFC communities and provide radical and innovative solutions, which draw on the strengths and knowledge of the individual disciplines and weave them together to transcend traditional discipline boundaries, with the sum being greater than the constituent parts.

  • PI: Professor Karen Kirkby
  • Institute: The University of Manchester
  • Funded Amount: £914,987

Nuclear Data Network+

The Network+ will establish a strong connection between academia, industrial partners, national labs, regulators and UK representatives on international nuclear data committees in order to facilitate the measurement, analysis and dissemination of industrial nuclear data. Industrial nuclear data are defined as those data that underpin the safety and economics of industrial nuclear operations and processes. The Network+ will respond to the nuclear data needs of industry, particularly as new reactor technologies are developed. The Network+ will provide support for small scale and scoping projects as well as travel and opportunities for secondment for students and early-career researchers. It will facilitate UK involvement in the international experimental nuclear data effort.

  • PI: Dr Gavin Smith
  • Institute: The University of Manchester
  • Funded Amount: £883,755

Nuclear Security Sciences Network

The Nuclear Security Science Network 'NuSec' promotes research and technology in Nuclear Security, with an emphasis on radiological detection techniques and systems. The Network is open to all Academic, Industrial and Government scientists and engineers working in Nuclear Security, and acts as a forum to encourage collaboration, networking and capability for all stakeholders.

The network will: run a regular programme of Workshops and Stakeholder Events which are open to all members of the nuclear security research community, industrial stakeholders, and government agency staff; promote funding opportunities in Nuclear Security Science, which will include internal network competitions for small scale proof-of-concept funds and also larger external funding opportunities.

  • PI: Professor Paul Sellin
  • Institute: University of Surrey
  • Funded Amount: £223,260

Networks awarded in 2012 pilot round

The Networks funded through the first (2012 pilot) round of the scheme are as follows:

Global Challenge Network in Battery Science and Technology - Extended to February 2018

Modern batteries are one of the transforming technologies of the late 20th century that have revolutionised our lifestyles through the ubiquitous presence of consumer electronics. Future battery applications promise to be even more diverse, ranging from very low power applications in areas such as sensors and biomedicine through to high power technologies that include grid storage and automotive power trains.

The proposed network will bring together key invited members from universities, facilities and industry who share a common interest in the use and development of large-scale facilities to undertake battery research.

  • PI: Dr Paul Shearing
  • Institute: University College of London
  • Funded Amount: £253,671

Environmental Radioactivity Research Network - Extended to March 2018

A variety of complex research challenges must be addressed to: bolster public confidence in the UK's capability to manage the nuclear legacy; to dispose of radioactive waste; and respond effectively to nuclear accidents or security incidents. Key challenges include: geodisposal, Nuclear Decommissioning, Nuclear Incident/Accident.

Env-Rad-Net aims to engage the UK scientific research community to tackle some of these challenges by developing the use of STFC facilities to provide underpinning science. This network will develop and promote the use of STFC facilities in Environmental Radioactivity research within the UK. It will assess the national needs of the community using synchrotron radiation- and neutron- based techniques.

  • PI: Dr Samuel Shaw
  • Institute: Leeds and Manchester
  • Funded Amount: £238,675

Bioinformatics & Environmental 'Omics Network - Ended

The overarching objective of the proposed STFC network is to build bridges between the STFC and NERC scientific communities.

This network will be co-aligned with the establishment of the new NERC Environmental ‘Omics Synthesis Centre (EOS), which has the remit of exploring emerging areas of bioinformatics and environmental ‘omics and their application to environmental problems. The STFC network will complement the NERC EOS and enable critical scientific areas to be explored jointly.

  • PI: Professor Thomas Meagher
  • Institute: Cardiff and St. Andrews
  • Funded Amount: £239,646

Global Challenge Network on Tropospheric Ozone - Ended

Monitoring, modelling and assessing the effects of high ambient levels of tropospheric ozone requires a concerted effort across scientific discipline boundaries. The proposed network will bring together the disparate research communities interested in the measurement of tropospheric ozone relevant to atmospheric chemistry, effects on people, vegetation, materials and ecosystem services, and atmospheric modelling.

  • PI: Dr Stefan Reis
  • Institute: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
  • Funded Amount: £121,994

SpacE weather REsearch Network (SEREN) - securing UK space weather capabilities - Ended

The UK has a wide range of world-class expertise to understand and deal with the problems caused by space weather. This proposal seeks to bring together the scientific research communities and applications communities to discuss how to coordinate UK efforts in particular areas and then to build up a virtual UK Space Weather Centre.

The particular areas of space weather interest will include impacts on power grids, aviation, satellite navigation, and communications and the tracking and operation of spacecraft.

  • PI: Professor Michael Hapgood
  • Institute: STFC and BAS
  • Funded Amount: £271,381

GeoRepNet - A network to address challenges in the establishment and maintenance of geological repositories - Ended

The disposal of waste, including nuclear waste (from the nuclear power industry and other nuclear applications) and carbon dioxide (to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and associated greenhouse warming) constitutes one of the major environmental technical challenges of the 21st Century and has great importance on the national and international level. In the US alone, there is 40,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel and 400,000 cubic metres of high.

Recent research has shown that geological repositories may be suitable ways to dispose of carbon dioxide (carbon capture and storage; CCS), with integrity of carbon dioxide storage in a depleted gas well demonstrated.

The objective of GeoRepNet is to establish a new collaboration that will: bring together a wide diversity of scientists, policy makers and instrument designers to consider and prioritise the key scientific and technical challenges in understanding the geochemical, geophysical and biological processes that influence the establishment, operation and monitoring of geological repositories.

  • PI: Professor Charles Cockell
  • Institute: Edinburgh
  • Funded Amount: £243,775

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000