Leadership commission – call for proposals

Developing a leadership commission for physics across the UK and Ireland.


How do we strengthen the UK and Ireland’s existing excellence in research and ensure the systems and infrastructure are in place to fully realise its potential to change the world?

The UK and Ireland have some of the best physics departments, university groups and start-ups in the world. But we need to take a more strategic view to ensure this capability is effectively translated into greater economic growth and societal benefit.

To become the science and innovation superpowers we believe they can be, the UK and Ireland need to further strengthen fundamental research, create the next generation of facilities and put in place wider infrastructure to align the complex system – of finance, government, academia, research and innovation organisations, and business – that impacts on the innovation process from fundamental research through to exploitation.

We at the IOP have worked for many years to improve individual parts of this system. We are focused on skills, increasing participation in physics, increasing public awareness, lobbying government, supporting SMEs, and facilitating research and the exchange of knowledge.

But for the ambition of our strategy, ‘Unlocking the Future’, to be fully met, we need to go further, and work to improve the operation of the system as a whole.

Our vision is of the whole physics ecosystem working better together, thriving as individual components but also combining to create more than the sum of its parts.

We want to see increased investment, jobs and growth across the physics sector, but with a particular focus on emerging physics technologies such as photonics, quantum, cleantech and meditech, and the convergence with AI, upon which the future fourth industrial revolution innovations will be based.

A leadership commission

We believe there is a role for a commission, working across the physics community, to lead on this system-wide thinking and ensure the key ingredients are in place right through the innovation process:

  • setting a common purpose and ensuring coordination across the physics ecosystem;
  • providing foresight on discovery frontiers and opportunities to drive long-term investment;
  • identifying physics emerging technologies and planning exploitation;
  • ensuring an inclusive workforce, skilled in fundamental science, research and development (R&D) and business innovation;
  • enhancing translation pathways that can pull through technologies;
  • ensuring effective investment and fiscal frameworks to incentivise R&D and innovation;
  • accelerating scale-up manufacturing and commercialisation, and enhancing routes to global markets.

The commission will bring together public and private sectors to provide strategic leadership, foster learning and develop a unified voice across the physics community.

Its work will guide policies to optimise conditions for the UK and Ireland to realise the potential of emerging technologies, which will transform our economies and tackle some of the great challenges facing the world.

What we’re looking for

We want to work with a consortium of partners who will develop the commission. The successful consortium will need to have the ambition, experience, connections and authority to bring together governments, universities, research and innovation organisations, business, and funding and finance organisations.

The scope of this work is the UK and Ireland. That could mean a single commission for both territories or a separate one for each. Proposals need to consider how both economies are best served.

How to apply

Please submit a Concept Note using our standard form.

Submit your proposal by: 5 February 2021.

We will review proposals on the above date and decide if the Call will remain open.

Following initial concept notes, those who are invited will be required to provide a full proposal containing a budget based on anticipated costs. All costs should be detailed within the project template provided with the full proposal. The IOP will assess proposed budgets based on a consideration of likely impact, quality and value for money.

Costs eligible for funding include: staff time, travel and subsistence, equipment and marketing. View further information on eligible and ineligible costs on the Financing page.

Funding requests can be for any amount above £100,000. All consortiums should be able to bring some co-funding or in-kind support to the proposal.

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