Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply for funding from ExCALIBUR H&ES?

We expect that proposals will be led by UK universities or public sector research establishments.

What exactly is a testbed?

We are generally expecting testbeds to be a combination of novel hardware and supporting software, and the people to help ExCALIBUR working groups and the wider research community to exploit them.

What testbeds has the programme already supported?

Please see our testbeds page for details of the testbeds that the programme has already supported.

What is ExCALIBUR and what are the ExCALIBUR working groups?

Please see our ExCALIBUR page for more information about the ExCALIBUR initiative. Details of ExCALIBUR working groups are available from UKRI’s Grants on the Web site.

What is enabling software?

Enabling software includes digital research infrastructure such as libraries, toolkits, compilers, debuggers and schedulers. This software enables applications written by researchers to use the hardware.

Who can be a partner on an ExCALIBUR H&ES case for support?

There are no restrictions on who you can partner with, however funds can normally only be disbursed to UK based organisations. We are particularly keen to see collaborations with ExCALIBUR working groups and technology providers.

What kind of collaborations do you anticipate?

We expect that ExCALIBUR H&ES projects will generally include Research Software Engineering (RSE) effort, and that the people in these roles will work closely with the ExCALIBUR working groups that aim to make use of the testbeds. We are also keen to see deep engagement with technology providers on next generation hardware and software such as pre-release and pre-commercial hardware and developer tools.

What can I request funding for in my case for support?

ExCALIBUR H&ES is only able to fund capital expenditure, however this can include bought-out staff time to work on your project. We expect that this will typically be RSE or Research Operations (ResOps) effort.

What staffing elements can I include in my case for support?

We would generally expect staff effort for projects ExCALIBUR H&ES funds to be in one or more of the following areas:

  • Systems - setting up the testbed - making sure the test bed can operate
  • Research Operations (ResOps) is the adoption of the DevOps toolchain to support research purposes. It is a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). It aims to shorten the systems development life cycle and provide continuous delivery with high software quality. Making sure the testbed functions as specced and can be adapted
  • Research Software Engineering (RSE) - creating or adapting enabling software for the testbed so that it can function as a testbed

In order to ask for funding for people you therefore have to be very clear what the testbed is for and what it is testing/developing. We expect projects to include an element of RSE effort, which will form the link between the H&ES project and ExCALIBUR working groups wishing to make use of the testbed.

Where possible we would encourage applicants to buy out time of existing staff members rather than aiming to create new fixed term posts, as experience has shown that the latter can be difficult to recruit and retain staff for. This is a model that a number of universities have now used successfully to build up a critical mass of in-house Research Software Engineering expertise. Applicants then have discretion in how they choose how to backfill for the staff who will be working on the project.

Can I claim for staff time to supervise people working on the project?

No - because this is a capital only project, spend is limited to software, hardware and bought-out contractor effort to create digital assets. Staff time for supervision can be a contribution from your institution.

What is the timeframe for my grant if my case for support is successful?

Grants will be awarded for the following financial (tax) year, so for example awards from the September 2020 call will go live in April 2021.

Who will issue the grant?

The grant will be issued by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

What percentage of my project budget will H&ES support?

The grant from H&ES will cover 100% of your project budget, but see the notes above about what is in scope for the programme.

How can I submit a proposal?

We will be running a series of open calls through the lifetime of the ExCALIBUR H&ES project. The first of these runs from September 14th 2020 to October 19th 2020. You can only submit a proposal during the open call period.

Who do I send my case for support to?

Please send your completed case for support template to the ExCALIBUR H&ES programme office. You are welcome to contact the programme office for formative feedback before submission.

Proposal Process

On the 19th October, you should ONLY submit the Completed Case for Support

If your proposal is accepted and an award agreed, it is at that stage you will be asked to prepare and submit a Je-S form, for formal consideration by the H&ES Delivery Board and UKRI.

If you submit a Je-S form on the 19th October, it will end up being rejected because it has nowhere to go and we will not be releasing Je-S Call details until the award stage. This will affect your Institution’s grant submission success rate.

What does the review process for submissions look like?

The proposals received during each open call period will be reviewed by an panel with academic and industry expertise. You will receive written feedback on your proposal, and may be invited to present your case for support to the panel. You may be invited to revise and resubmit your proposal in response to panel feedback.

How will the ExCALIBUR H&ES grant be awarded?

Grants will be issued through UKRI in the normal manner. At the point where the final project details and budget have been agreed for a successful submission, you will be required to document via Je-S so that a grant letter can be issued.

Who will have access to the testbeds that ExCALIBUR H&ES creates?

ExCALIBUR projects will have priority access. Testbeds will also be made available to the wider UKRI community and UK public sector research establishments.

What are the expectations around testbed availability?

ExCALIBUR H&ES testbeds will be highly experimental and we do not expect them to be operated on a service footing.

What will the resource allocation process be for ExCALIBUR H&ES testbeds?

This will depend to a large extent on the nature and scope of the testbed projects, and may vary from one testbed to another.

How will people use the testbeds?

In most cases we expect testbeds to be remotely accessible via ssh and similar protocols, using SAFE and/or UK Access Management Federation authentication.

What if I am aiming to work on something which is highly sensitive and need the details to be kept secret?

We expect that some projects will be wholly or partly sensitive, e.g. including pre-commercial components for which non-disclosure agreements are likely to apply. Please contact the ExCALIBUR H&ES programme office to discuss, if required.

What support will ExCALIBUR H&ES be able to provide for my project?

As part of the ExCALIBUR H&ES programme we will be working with technology partners and funded projects to provide training opportunities for the research community. ExCALIBUR H&ES also has some dedicated Research Software Engineering effort, which is focussed on benchmarking at Exascale.

Get in touch

If you have any queries or require further information please do get in touch with the Hardware & Enabling Software programme co-directors Prof Simon McIntosh-Smith (University of Bristol) and Revd Dr Jeremy Yates (University College London), and our Project Manager Martin Hamilton (UCL) via our programme office. We are happy to discuss and provide formative feedback on draft proposals before they are submitted.

Get in touch