Definitions of EPSRC Sectors

Sector Grouping

EPSRC underpinning sector code

Description of Sector

Aerospace, Defence and Marine

Aerospace, Defence and Marine

Sector covers many research areas which have interest in other sectors, such as the manufacturing electronics and communication sectors which may have an application in aviation or the broad defence remit of all three forces. Lots of overlap between aerospace and defence, also with defence and marine.

Aerospace: advanced lightweight materials, aerodynamics, aeronautics, systems integration, wireless communications, all aspects of wing production including fuel flow, human interfaces, servicing, operation, flight efficiency, engine design/turbines

Defence: (has overlap with aero & marine): armour, energetic substances, guided systems, propulsion, RF communications, sensors, signal processing, sonar, radar, autonomous vehicles, functional materials, modelling, electronics, power sources, biosensors

Marine: (many from defence also): composite materials, fluid dynamics, surface coatings, comms, power systems.

Creative Industries

Creative Industries

The creative industries are those industries that are based on individual creativity, skill and talent. They are also those that use collective creativity to make ground-breaking advancements across a range of applications.

Multimedia, digital broadcasting, computer and video games, computer graphics, animation, synthetic environments, virtual reality, augmented reality, visualisation and displays, interactive content, video transmission, indexing & retrieval of multimedia, content based image retrieval, avatars, immersive environments.

Film and video, television and radio, advertising, performing arts, publishing, music, design, fashion, architecture.

Electronics, Communications and IT


Network systems, network services and applications, active networks, switching, routing, network infrastructure, IP (internet protocols), IPv6, QoS (quality of Service), system providers, network operators, mobility, network security, billing, bandwidth, wireless technologies, broadband, spectrum, framework, service deployment, infrastructure, wideband, antenna array, smart antennas, cell array, signal propagation, UMTS, CDMA, 3G mobile comms, frequency band, traffic. Pervasive and ubiquitous computing, mobile computing. Web 2.0.


Electronics is pervasive and underpins most other sectors of economic activity (e.g. healthcare, automotive, telecommunications). The sector is a truly global industry, with a broad and complex remit which covers all aspects of electronics manufacture from electronic component production through to the incorporation of these components into the finished goods.

Examples of research areas include:
General: electronics, optoelectronics, photonics, electronics manufacturing, components, devices, subsystems, circuits, integrated circuits (ICs), Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI), Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), interconnects, packaging, electronic.

Magnetics and data storage: sensors, actuators, memory [e.g.MRAM].

Semiconductors: Silicon (Si), compound semiconductors, Group IV semiconductors, III-V semiconductors, II-VI semiconductors, organic semiconductors, inorganic semiconductors, gallium arsenide (GaAs), gallium nitride (GaN), silicon carbide (SiC), silicon germanium (SiGe).

Processing: growth, deposition, lithography, ion implantation, etching.

Displays: LCD (liquid crystal display), LED (light emitting diode).

Devices: MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), microsystems, transistor, diode, logic (analogue, digital, mixed-signal), deep sub-micron (DSM), wafer, System-on-Chip (SoC), CMOS, MOSFET, spintronics, single electron transistor (SET).

Design: electronic design (including test, verification, synthesis), EDA, design tools (e.g. CAD), electronic product design.

Physics and materials: quantum information processing (devices and circuits), molecular electronics (bulk and single molecule devices), optical switch, optical amplifier, electronic structure of materials, superconductors, ceramics/electroceramics, diamond.

Information Technologies

Umbrella term to cover software development, IT systems and service provision.

Research areas cover:
Database and information handling, data processing and services, computer maintenance and support, operating systems, software applications, development software, system tools, cad software, security software, business process software, scientific computational software, AI applications, support services, embedded systems, control systems, project management and quality control.

Security, Internet Technologies, image databases, eBusiness, pattern recognition, computer-based image interpretation, document image processing, machine vision, image display systems, text, character & handwriting recognition, content based image retrieval. Avatars, speech recognition, language processing, virtual reality, augmented reality, visualisation and displays, interactive content, remote collaboration, immersive environments. Publishing and printing.



The power industries involved in:

  • Power generation (from renewable, fossil fuel and nuclear sources). Renewable sources for power generation include wind, wave, biomass, solar, and fuel cells. it includes large and small scale power generation, central and distributed, from the big power plants (like in Didcot) to micro-generation (small wind turbines, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) etc);
  • Distribution and network operators, that could be dealing also with issues related to power systems management, protection and control and integration of renewable sources to the grid;
  • Oil and gas industries (extraction of resources, e.g. coal, oil and gas);
  • Equipment for power generation and power generation plant manufacturers;
  • Includes aspects of demand reduction and demand side management.

Does not include: industries with interest in energy use in transport, energy use in manufacturing, energy use in buildings. These will be covered respectively by sectors such as Transport Systems and Vehicles, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Environment.

Infrastructure and Environment


The construction sector covers all aspects of the construction supply chain including: contractors, architects, designers, consulting engineers, specialist subcontractors, specialist professionals, materials suppliers, clients, owners and users. Also covered are construction-related applications of structural engineering (e.g., performance of construction materials), facilities management, building services, and ground and pavement engineering.

Other Keywords: construction as a manufacturing process; integration in design and construction and meeting clients’ needs through standardisation; maintenance and refurbishment; use of construction materials and components; structural integrity; fire engineering for structures; land use planning; urban and building design.

Does not include: manufacturing of building materials - covered by Manufacturing


The environmental industry supplies a diverse range of goods and services to measure, prevent, limit, minimise or correct environmental damage to water, air and soil as well as problems related to waste, noise and eco-systems. Environment covers: waste management, contaminated land remediation, air pollution control and its impact on climate change, environmental monitoring and instrumentation, energy use in buildings, environmental consulting services, noise and vibration control, cleaner technologies & processes and marine pollution control.

Does not include: water and wastewater treatment – this is covered by Water.
Energy generation – this is covered by Energy.


The EPSRC research portfolio related to this sector comprises two parts: the provision of water services (primarily by water utilities) and the design, operation and management of coastal and waterway engineering structures. The water utilities are closely regulated, and comprise providers of water-only and both water and sewerage. The maintenance and improvement of UK flood and coastal defences comprise the majority of coastal and waterway engineering



The manufacturing sector looks across the manufacturing process chain and includes traditional hard manufacturing (manipulating materials and high volume, low cost production), assembly manufacturing, processing (materials, chemicals, food and drink, biorefining), advanced manufacturing, design and “soft manufacturing” (innovation, business management), construction materials and components, packaging and through life support, reuse, recycling and disposal. It also includes high value manufacturing elements, such as servicing, value chains, supply chains, logistics, distribution, operations management, process and performance control. The sector excludes both the extraction of raw materials and the actual end use of the products.

Typical keywords include: forming, forging, casting, moulding (injection), extrusion, blow moulding, presses, dies, compacters, machining, grinding, pultrusion, calendering, spraying, vapour deposition, coating, cutting, adhesives, fillers, welding, net shaping, fatigue, creep, annealing, thermal barrier coating, supply chains, innovation, business modelling, logistics, design, rapid prototyping.


Research of relevance includes: synthesis (clean, asymmetric, organic, inorganic, novel pathways), solvents, radiochemicals, agrochemistry, pesticides, functional materials (electroceramics, zeolites, photonic, magnetic, ionic), kinetics of reactions, process intensification, combinatorial chemistry, high throughput screening, formulation, real-time process analysis, electrochemistry, control, product discovery, chelation, catalysis, surfactants, coatings, polymerisation (also consider Food & Drink), reactor design, separation processes, particle technology, crystallisation, reaction scale-up, process engineering, physical organic chemistry, clean technology, green chemistry, flavours and fragrances (also consider Food & Drink).

Does not include: feedstocks, petrochemicals or other bulk materials.

Food & Drink

Research of relevance includes food and drink products or ingredients: food proteins and carbohydrates, starch, milk, chocolate, sugars (sucrose, fructose etc.), lactic acid, grain, barley, dough, yeast (and any other obvious food stuffs). Food structure and properties: food colloids, lipids, non-Newtonian rheology, emulsions, phase inversion, oil/water dispersions, crystallisation. Food and drink manufacture and handling (including machinery, equipment and supply chain): extrusion, drying, spray drying, automation, boiling, baking, membranes (as in separation processes), ovens, freezing, distilling, milling, maturing, heat exchangers, fermentation, brewing, wort boiling, mashing, mixing, filters, centrifuge, cleaning, fouling, hygiene. Packaging (where relevant to food and drink properties or uses): cartons, smart packaging, barriers. Food modelling, functional foods (nutraceuticals), food waste or recycling, food chemistry (flavours), food sensors or analysis methods.

Medicines and Healthcare


The Healthcare sector covers a broad range of technology and service areas. In particular it covers the design and manufacture of medical technology and the delivery of healthcare services through the National Health Service and related organisations. Typical topics for healthcare sector grants therefore include: medical technologies, instrumentation, and equipment, medical imaging, ultrasound, radiology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), hospitals, nursing, GPs, assistive technologies, rehabilitation, biomaterials, biocompatibility, implants, prosthetics, surgery, tissue engineering, dentistry, patient monitoring, diagnostics, sterile supplies.

Note that the sector does not include research only of relevance to pharmaceuticals or biotechnology, which are part of the Process Industries sector (although such grants may well involve the Health socio-economic theme). Nor should grants with a life sciences component be coded as healthcare unless there is a clear application of the knowledge generated to improving human health.

Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology

Research of relevance includes high throughput screening, bioscience, drug discovery, biocatalysis, enzymes, radiopharmaceuticals, natural product synthesis, therapeutic agents, molecular recognition, biosensors (consider also Healthcare), bioinformatics, combinatorial chemistry, synthesis (clean, asymmetric, organic, inorganic, novel pathways), drug design, drug delivery, biomimetics, receptors, separation processes, particle technology, crystallisation, physical organic chemistry, clean technology, green chemistry.

Does not include: biomaterials, medical instrumentation, medical imaging or biomedical implants - covered under Healthcare.

Transport Systems and Vehicles


The Transport Systems and Vehicles remit covers research and training that:

  • Helps improve the effectiveness of our transport systems (all surface transport modes and transport network management), whether for people and/or goods;
  • Covers manufacturing issues specific to vehicle production (except aircraft).

Example research areas might be:

  • Control research applied to behaviour of rail carriage wheels;
  • Human factors research applied to driver behaviour;
  • Land use planning and transport mode provision;
  • Manufacturing operations specifically applied to vehicle production e.g. high value added aspects, engine manufacture;
  • Operational research applied to scheduling of transport activities e.g. of deliveries or maintenance;
  • Environmental and energy implications of transport operations;
  • ICT research that would be used in transport operations/infrastructure;
  • Airport operations, but excludes air travel (covered by Aerospace and Defence sector).



Proposals that benefit the education sector in some way.

Financial Services

The financial services sector's role can be broken down into three core functions:

  • through the investment chain, savers and borrowers are brought together – bringing finance to business and opportunities for savers to manage their finances over their lifetime.
  • the sector allows risks to be managed effectively and efficiently through the use of insurance and increasingly sophisticated derivatives.
  • payment systems and banking services operated by the sector provide the practical mechanisms for money to be managed, transmitted and received quickly and reliably.

The sector includes: actuaries, insurance, banking, hedge funds, investment banking, financial regulation.

Research of Relevance includes: Mathematical Sciences: Risk management and uncertainty, quantitative finance, mathematical and stochastic analysis, statistics and probability, operational research.

Systems and Networks: ICT infrastructures such as systems, communication, network architecture, software and hardware (including HPC). Security: Encryption, security for e-trading and networks, authentication and countermeasures to fraudulent transactions, forensics, biometrics and surveillance. Business data analysis: Analysis techniques for relationship management systems and supply chain models. Extreme Weather/Climate change: Complexity, energy, (links to power and environment sector).

Research crosses the remits of ESRC and NERC.


The retail sector covers all aspects of making goods available to consumers either through traditional bricks and mortar or mail-order or more novel e-commerce routes. Topics for research may include logistics, supply chain management, store design and operations, e-commerce systems and others.

Projects solely concerned with manufacturing of goods for sale should not be coded as Retail sector, unless the manufacturing process is strongly influenced by the need to meet consumer requirements e.g. point of sale or mass customised manufacturing.


Proposals related to Research and Development in its broadest context.

Sports and Recreation

Proposals related to Sports and Recreation.

Technical Consultancy

Proposals related to Technical Consultancy.

No relevance to Underpinning Sectors

For proposals that have no relevance to a sector.