Supervisor Project Proposal

This is an open call, to all potential AgriFoRwArdS CDT supervisors, for Studentship Proposals that are defined in partnership with an industry partner.  The projects are to be largely funded by EPSRC, together with a financial contribution from an industry partner/s.

Primary Supervisors should complete the Project Proposal Form and return it to the AgriFoRwArdS Delivery Team for consideration by the Selection Panel. The Lincoln team will forward it onto the relevant institution.

Email address for completed Project Proposal Form: agriforwards.cdt@lincoln.ac.uk


Who can submit a proposal?

A PhD project can be proposed by members of academic staff authorised to supervise PhD students within the AgriFoRwArdS CDT at the Universities of Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia. To become an AgriFoRwArdS Academic, please complete the Supervisor Request Form.

How will we match students to the project?

Current AgriFoRwArdS students:   AgriFoRwArdS students study the MSc RAS at the University of Lincoln during their first year. They then progress onto a 3-year PhD. During the MSc year, Supervisors will be given the opportunity to pitch the projects to students. This is a competitive process and is just one of the ways that AgriFoRwArdS sources projects for PhD students. Proposals may be pitched to students alongside projects sourced from elsewhere and it is likely that there will be more proposals than AgriFoRwArdS students available.

Students applying to study with AgriFoRwArdS from Oct 2022 onwards:   As part of the student shortlisting process, the panel assesses the research interests of the applicants. If a successful project is identified as a potential match, the supervisor will be invited to be a member of the interview panel.  If the applicant is appointable, the supervisor will decide whether to supervise the student through the MSc and PhD research.

Whether working with an existing or incoming student, please note that proposals may need to be slightly adapted to align with the research interests of the student.

On what topic?

AgriFoRwArdS addresses fundamental challenges in RAS technologies for both agriculture and food production. The project should be influenced by a real-world industry need and focus on one of the following RAS component technology areas, including but not limited to:

  • Mobile Autonomy
  • Manipulation and Soft Robotics
  • Sensing and Perception
  • Fleet Management
  • Human-Robot Collaboration

Further information on potential research areas can also be found in the UK-RAS White Paper on the Future of Robotic Agriculture.

Proposal Content

Proposals should demonstrate that the student will be engaged on a rewarding and relevant research project that will provide them with a first-class research experience.

  • The proposal should have clearly articulated aims, objectives and focus.
  • The research methodology should be appropriate and well defined
  • The proposal should demonstrate scientific rigour in its approach
  • The project should clearly enable the student to demonstrate a level of independence and originality, to test ideas and hypotheses, and to make a contribution to learning that would be potentially worthy of publication.
  • The proposal should detail industrial participation, including agreed financial contributions.
  • Only proposals with a letter of support from an industry partner, that includes agreed financial contributions, will be considered.

Suitability & Feasibility

The project should be well-suited to a PhD. It will have clear aims that provide opportunities for intellectual challenge whilst having a reasonable element of “security” in that due progress can be made within the time constraints, and by a student who may be undertaking research for the first time.

  • The project is feasible within the given resource limitations (including financial constraints).
  • The project is achievable within the given time frame.
  • Risks to the completion of the project are identified, and robust contingency plans described that would allow the student to successfully conclude a programme of doctoral level research in the event of delays to, or failure of, the original work plan.

Industry Collaboration

Only proposals with a letter of support from an industry partner, that includes agreed financial contributions, will be considered.  Industry Partners must be willing to commit to co-funding the studentship in advance. For further details on the required financial contribution, please discuss with the CDT Project Lead at the respective institution.

Supervisors will find securing funding from industry easier if the project is co-created.  Supervisors may find it challenging to present a solution before an industry partner has highlighted a challenge or identified an area of focus.

Supervisors who have an existing relationship with an industry partner are very welcome to communicate directly with that contact.

Supervisors who do not yet know with whom they could collaborate should view the AgriFoRwArdS Industry Partner list (LINK) for more information.  The AgriFoRwArdS team would like to be as supportive as possible, and so please contact Kate Smith if you require more information. Marc Hanheide and Greg Cielniak are also available for further support.

AgriFoRwArdS has a pitch document, for Supervisors to use, during discussions with industry.  The pitch document gives information regarding AgriFoRwArdS; the benefits to industry for engaging with the CDT; and it provides details of the financial contributions required. Please email agriforwards.cdt@lincoln.ac.uk for a copy of the ‘Benefits of Engaging with AgriFoRwArdS’ pitch document.

The AgriFoRwArdS Delivery Team will help facilitate communications between Supervisors and Industry. This is for two reasons:

  • to control the amount of contact with our Industry Partners, to ensure that good relationships are maintained via a cohesive and joined up approach to Industry Partner communications; and,
  • to prevent an internal race for securing industry support. The AgriFoRwArdS Delivery Team can facilitate conversations with the right person by providing supervisors with contact details and making the introduction.

Before contact is made with industry, (unless you have a pre-existing relationship with an industry partner) please advise the AgriFoRwArdS Delivery Teams (contact details below) of which industry partners you plan to contact.  Delivery Teams can then advise whether talks are already occurring with other supervisors; and will be able to provide you with relevant information and support.

Lincoln:                agriforwards.cdt@lincoln.ac.uk

Cambridge:         agriforwards-cdt@eng.cambs.ac.uk

UEA:                     agriforwards.cdt@uea.ac.uk

Supervisors will need to ensure that industry partners understand that this is a research project, and that the aim is not to have something to sell to market at the end of the project. It is also important to advise industry that this is a competitive process, and that there will likely be more projects than students available.

Please see the list of AgriFoRwArdS industry partners here.

New industry partners with relevant interests in agri-food are also very welcome to join the CDT.

How to apply

By sending the Project Proposal Form electronically to: agriforwards.cdt@lincoln.ac.uk who will forward it onto the relevant institution.

Please download the current Project Proposal Form from the above link, or via the AgriFoRwArdS website.

In addition to the Project Proposal and industry letter of support, please also enclose, as main proposer, a curriculum vitae.


Selection of projects

PhD projects should align with at least one of the above RAS component technology areas, and be based on a real-world challenge, as defined in liaison with an industry partner. Project selection is subject to evaluation by the AgriFoRwArdS Scientific Board, followed by approval from the CDT Industrial Advisory Board. The Scientific Board is made up of AgriFoRwArdS Co-Investigators (based at the University of Lincoln), and the Advisory Board is comprised of representatives from AgriFoRwArdS industry partners.

Selection criteria will include the fit to the CDT objectives, scientific quality (originality, significance and rigour of the proposed research), industry partnership, and track record of the supervisory team, with priority given to early career researchers where possible.