Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Centre for Doctoral Training: environmental solutions to zoonoses

Apply for funding to deliver a new cross-council Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in environmental drivers and solutions for zoonoses.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI research grant funding.

You will:

  • train a community of researchers working within a One Health framing
  • encourage the community of researchers to identify integrated solutions with an environmental approach.

The above work will provide researchers with the skills to understand and prevent emergence, spill-over and transmission of zoonoses from environmental reservoirs. This will therefore create environmental barriers to transmission.

We will fund 48 notional studentships across three annual intakes.

Who can apply

This opportunity is open to applicants based at organisations that are eligible for UKRI research grant funding. This includes:

  • UK higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • approved research institutes
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs)
  • catapult centres.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

Organisations that are not eligible for UKRI research grant funding may act as collaborative partners. Information regarding the nature of this collaboration must be included within the proposal.

PSREs wishing to be involved in an application are required to choose whether they wish to do so either as a hosting partner or CASE partner. An organisation cannot perform both roles within one application.

Each CDT must include an accredited higher education PhD awarding body.

Hosting partners

These are organisations that:

  • are eligible for UKRI funding
  • will provide the principal base (host) for students during the tenure of the award.

The proposal should identify one of the hosting partners as the administrative lead partner (the administrative lead does not have to be a higher education PhD award-making body).

Identification of the administrative lead should not be interpreted as recognition of a dominant partner which will host the majority of studentships.

Collaborative partners

These are organisations that are one of the following:

  • not eligible for UKRI funding
  • eligible for UKRI funding but will not provide the principal base (host) for students during the award.

Collaborative partners provide additional benefits to the students’ experience, such as:

  • real-world experience
  • training
  • equipment
  • facilities
  • understanding
  • opportunity.

What we're looking for

CDT priority area scope

NERC, BBSRC and MRC are seeking to invest in a cross-council CDT in environmental drivers and solutions for zoonoses.

There is funding available for a notional 16 studentships a year (this equates to 48 studentships in total over the course of three annual intakes).

An expectation is that this funding will be used to leverage additional investment (either cash or in-kind support) from further multiple stakeholders. The CDT model is designed to encourage a translational approach by encouraging academic and non-academic partners to unite around common challenges.

The rising trend in zoonotic diseases is driven by the degradation of our natural environment, through:

  • human-driven land use change
  • agriculture
  • loss of biodiversity
  • wildlife exploitation
  • resource extraction
  • climate change
  • other stressors.

Future outbreaks can be prevented through protection of the natural environment together with a One Health approach, which unites public health, veterinary and environmental expertise.

See the ‘Preventing the next pandemic: zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission’ report (UNEP).

This is further reinforced by the recent announcement of a strengthened Partnership for One Health, bringing together the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with existing tripartite partnership members:

The newly expanded partnership recognises the approach is owned by all sectors, and further reinforces the importance of NERC, BBSRC and MRC jointly supporting this new CDT to reduce the risks from emerging or re-emerging zoonotic infections.

An environmental-informed approach to preventing future outbreaks requires a better understanding of the environmental drivers that contribute to emergence or re-emergence of zoonotic pathogens. This involves how it originates, why it does so, and how we predict this emergence and put in place environmental controls to reduce risk.

‘Hotspots’ of zoonotic organism transmission occur in areas of dense population, high biodiversity, and substantial environment change, bringing people into contact with more species, and under conditions where the species are evolving at a rate faster than normal. Such conditions often occur at the rural-urban interface where there is a strong connectivity between the environment, animals and people for example, through:

  • direct contact
  • travel
  • trade
  • wastewater
  • food supply chains
  • waterways
  • air flows.

There is a need to:

  • identify and understand the chains connecting environmental reservoirs to non-human hosts (wildlife, farmed or companion animals) to people
  • understand the mechanisms and breadth of transfer along those chains if we are to identify potential environmental solutions as barriers to zoonoses transmission.

To date, interventions to restrict outbreaks have tended to focus on medical or veterinary mitigations and include:

  • vaccination
  • therapeutics
  • non-wildlife surveillance and contact tracing
  • quarantine and self-isolation.

Success of such interventions is partially determined by environmental parameters. However, there is more that environmental solutions, such as habitat, land use and farm management, or environmental monitoring, can offer in terms of prevention and breaking the chain of transmission.

The CDT will foster a community of researchers who, working within a One Health framing, will identify integrated solutions that put an environmental approach at their core. This is to understand and prevent emergence, spill-over and transmission of zoonoses from environmental reservoirs and thereby create environmental barriers to transmission.

We will not support training that focuses on antimicrobial resistance through this CDT.

Training remit

Training provided by the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) should cross the NERC, BBSRC and MRC remits. This must be relevant to the ambitions to detect and disrupt the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease articulated within:

  • the ‘tackling infections’ theme in the UKRI strategy
  • related themes in disciplinary council strategic NERC, BBSRC and MRC delivery plans. With the need for this CDT to contribute to strengthening environmental features of One Health approaches, training should include interdisciplinary approaches at the interface between environmental sciences and other disciplines (particularly human and animal health, and social sciences).

Training delivered by this CDT must align with the areas specifically outlined in this opportunity but may:

  • build on existing training infrastructure
  • take advantage of the networks developed through existing and past UKRI-funded interdisciplinary investments on tackling zoonoses.

This emergent field of research (in environment-focused solutions to preventing zoonoses) requires new theoretical and applied approaches to bring together and embed tools and technology from a range of disciplines and research areas. This could include:

  • environmental informatics
  • bioinformatics
  • pathogen biology
  • evolution
  • ecology
  • epidemiology
  • economics
  • principles of behaviour and community change.

These approaches would work alongside understanding how the following affect the spatial distribution of pathogen sources and susceptible human and animal groups at the urban and rural interface:

  • climate change
  • agriculture
  • land use change
  • multi hazard events.

Skills in capturing and using diverse and complex datasets ranging across levels of complexity and origins will be key to successfully predict the nodes in disease spread pathways. Such skills can be used to:

  • design interventions in the pathway
  • modify transmission
  • understand the wider impact of that intervention.

Whilst the development of a skilled research community is core to this training need, this community must apply the acquired knowledge and use approaches developed to deliver ‘real world’ solutions as a key training and output of a CDT. Training opportunities are therefore required in innovation uptake, and the ability to take on secondments, interdisciplinary exchanges and technology transfer opportunities must be provided.

Proposals must outline a coherent training programme through which students will both undertake individual research projects and receive cohort-level training in cross-cutting skills relevant to the areas above.

Individual student research projects must take a One Health approach to the challenge and therefore include multi and interdisciplinary components as appropriate, with further interdisciplinary approaches explored through the wider training programme. In this way, students will be exposed to techniques, perspectives and context from all the relevant disciplines.

Other training requirements

In addition to the research training remit identified above, there are a number of transferable professional, technical and personal development training requirements that must be delivered by the CDT funded through this opportunity:

  • access for all CDT students to placements, internships or other relevant work experience opportunities
    • a minimum of 33% of the notional studentships should include a placement, including CASE placements (which should account for at least 25% of notional studentships), UKRI Policy Internships or other similar placements. However, these opportunities must be available to all, and training programmes should be designed with the flexibility to enable students to undertake such work experience opportunities if they wish to do so
  • explicit careers training and continuous professional development relevant to both academic and non-academic career trajectories
  • careers training must take place suitably early in students’ training to enable it to inform their choice of training opportunities
  • strong end-user involvement with all levels of CDT training
  • dedicated professional skills, and innovation or translation training available to all CDT students
  • access for all students to appropriate data skills training
  • opportunities to network across Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), CDT and research council cohorts and gain multidisciplinary perspectives
  • training needs analysis (TNA) or equivalent for all students at the outset of training, and the opportunity to discuss individual training requirements throughout their PhD
  • discussion of training needs and available opportunities
    • these should take place with end-users as appropriate and be placed within the context of potential future careers
  • clear guidance and training on mental health awareness as part of CDT induction process for staff and students, outlining how to access support for mental health issues encountered during the PhD
    • it is important to show how this will be implemented and managed by the CDT across hosting partner institutions.

Funding opportunity requirements

Research capacity

Applicants must provide evidence within their proposals that they offer sufficient high quality research capacity to deliver training in the areas specified in the remit of the priority area. They should also justify their choice of partnership which can include international collaborative partners as appropriate to deliver the objectives of the training programme.

While research capacity is an important aspect of a successful CDT, the assessment process will balance this against the full assessment criteria for the opportunity.

Collaboration with end-users and non-HEI partners

Collaboration with a variety of non-higher education institution (HEI) partners is vital for:

  • delivery of excellent multidisciplinary training
  • framing research questions to ensure production of research outputs with real-world applications of direct relevance, and use to public health, infectious diseases and environmental science communities.

Collaboration with end-users and other non-HEI partners must therefore form a significant part of the CDT’s training programme, at both the design and delivery stage. Successful proposals will demonstrate clearly how students will benefit from engagement with multiple types of organisations, on both an individual and a cohort level, via a variety of mechanisms.

In outlining their approach to engaging with stakeholders, proposals must evidence a track record of collaborative working and describe a coherent strategy for engaging with multiple stakeholders.

An expectation of the CDT is that the UKRI funding will be used to leverage additional investment (either cash or in-kind support) from multiple stakeholders.

In addition, applicants:

  • should ensure that a number of studentships offered by the CDT are CASE or ‘collaborative’ studentships (see the section below)
  • must embed collaboration with end-users through mechanisms in addition to CASE (for example, placements, training courses or site visits) within their wider training programme.

Applicants must demonstrate clearly within their proposals how this will be achieved.

CASE studentships

The CDT must ensure that a minimum of 25% of the notional studentships are delivered as formal CASE studentships with a broad range of eligible partners.

It is important that these requirements are adhered to, and compliance will therefore be monitored via reporting processes. Applicants must demonstrate in their proposals the mechanisms they will use to ensure the CASE conversion requirement is met.

CASE studentships must be delivered in collaboration with non-academic partners from industry, business, public and the third or civil sectors. Organisations eligible to receive research grant funding will not be eligible to act as a CASE partner. This includes research institutes and independent research organisations (IROs).

Check eligible research institutes and IROs.

As an exception to the above, public sector research establishments (PSREs) are eligible to act as CASE partners. As already noted, PSREs wishing to be involved in an application are required to choose whether they wish to do so as either a hosting partner or a CASE partner.

Collaborative (non-CASE) studentships

In addition to CASE studentships, any number of CDT studentships may be ‘collaborative’ (in other words, have no formal partnership requirements or project partners not eligible to be CASE partners).

These collaborative studentships will also be monitored and recorded through reporting processes and will be formally recognised as a success metric as part of the monitoring of CDT performance. Proposals must describe how such collaborative relationships will be developed and maintained, and the benefits they will provide to students’ training.

Clinical PhDs

MRC would like to encourage innovative CDTs which embed clinicians into the centre’s training.

To overcome the barrier of costs, MRC will consider providing ‘top up’ funding to cover the additional costs associated with a clinical PhD compared to non-clinical doctorates. This will be limited to £150,000 per individual. Proposals wishing to include clinical trainees should briefly indicate this at the notification of intent stage.

The top up is designed to enable clinicians in specialty training to undertake a PhD. Medical students and those yet to exit foundation training would not be suitable candidates for the top up funding. All clinical candidates appointed will be expected to reduce their clinical commitments to a maximum of 20% of their time during their PhD.

Within the proposal, bids wishing to host clinicians should summarise how they will provide a strong environment for training academic clinicians and recruitment plans to attract clinical applicants, including any plans to attract non-medics.

The outcome of the bid will not be affected by proposing to host clinicians, and the core assessment process will be the same for all bids.


The CDT must have strong leadership and management. It should have both a lead operational manager and steering committee or management board.

The steering committee or management board should be comprised of all hosting CDT partners and must also have representation from relevant end-user organisations.

It will have overall responsibility for the effective governance of the CDT and its relationship with UKRI and provide a strategic needs framework to aid the prioritisation and development of PhD projects.

The CDT must demonstrate that robust and transparent governance arrangements will be in place from the outset of the CDT, which may include the development of formal partnership agreements, communication plans and systems for monitoring the CDT’s overall progress and success.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to incorporate CDT students into the management and running of activities within the CDT. Where appropriate, formal partnership agreements must be in place ahead of the start of the first student cohort.

The CDT must also commit adequate support for appropriate administrative resource, and proposals must be explicit about how administrative structures will be managed and funded.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

We must ensure that we support the most talented students whatever their background and regardless of where and when they undertook their first degree.

To ensure that this happens, we require that DEI principles are embedded at all levels and in all aspects of research and training practice in the CDT. You should refer to NERC’s best practice principles in recruitment and training at doctoral level. The successful CDT will be expected to implement these best practice principles.

We expect applicants to think imaginatively. Proposals must include details of a strategy for DEI to ensure wide participation and promote postgraduate research to a diverse base of talented graduate students. This aspect of the proposal will be assessed through the Partnership Operational Management criterion.

The successful CDT’s strategies and commitments in this area will be reviewed regularly through a reporting and monitoring programme. It will be mandatory for the successful CDT to collect and report on the characteristics of the applicant and student population.


NERC, BBSRC and MRC will award 16 notional studentships a year for three years.

A notional studentship consists of sufficient funds to meet the annual UKRI minimum stipend and fee levels, plus additional research and management costs as outlined below, for four full years of PhD study.

It is expected that individual students will undertake training over a variety of timeframes (between three and four years as appropriate, depending on the discipline, project and the student’s experience and knowledge).

The indicative funding per notional studentship is provided below. The student stipend and fees are indicative estimates only, based on the 2022 to 2023 figures multiplied by four, and excluding London allowance (at the time of award, stipend and fees will be indexed to accommodate rises in the minimum stipend and fees levels over the lifetime of the award).

The research training support grant (RTSG) and management costs are fixed:

  • student stipend: £64,248
  • fees: £18,384
  • research training support grant: £11,000
  • management costs: £1,500
  • total: £95,132.

CDTs will have flexibility in how they use the funding awarded (subject to the normal UKRI terms and conditions of training grants), as long as the minimum numbers of students are supported each year (the minimum being the number of notional studentships awarded).

Read about meeting UKRI terms and conditions for funding.

Given the flexibility in use of funding, it will be possible for the CDT to use the training grant to support more than the minimum number of students each year.

This could be achieved by having students undertake training over a variety of timeframes and by co-funding students from other sources. Students must be funded at least 50% by a UKRI training grant to be classed as a UKRI student.

It is strongly recommended that, wherever possible, co-funding from non-UKRI sources is used to co-fund students (rather than wholly fund individual students) so that all CDT students have equal access to the opportunities available to UKRI-funded students and can be registered on Je-S for reporting purposes.

In situations where it is not possible to part-fund students, the CDT must ensure suitable measures are in place to ensure those students’ training experiences are comparable and all relevant data are provided outside of Je-S reporting.

Implementation and delivery

The CDT award will provide funding for three years of new student intake. This is six years of funding in total, from the start of academic year 2023 to 2024.

Legacy and impact

CDTs are supported with the intention of developing a legacy of training excellence from a directed investment. Proposals must demonstrate consideration of the legacy and impacts of the CDT beyond the lifetime of UKRI investment.

Data management

It is NERC policy to increase the visibility and awareness of environmental data and to improve their management as a resource.

The CDT funded through this opportunity should therefore ensure that relevant NERC Environmental Data Centres are aware of significant datasets generated, or to be compiled, under the award so that their long-term stewardship can be planned.

Read about NERC environmental data centres (NERC website).

NERC facilities

Funding for NERC services and facilities cannot be requested as part of a training grant proposal. Students wishing to use NERC services and facilities must fund the costs of doing so using Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) funds or gain access to facilities through other routes.

Anyone wishing to use a NERC service or facility must contact the facility to seek agreement that they can provide the service required.

Read about NERC’s facilities, ships, aircraft and stations.

Reporting requirements and monitoring

There will be mandatory annual reporting requirements for the CDT, in addition to the standard studentships information captured through the Je-S studentship details functionality.

This information will be used to report on the success of our training investments to the government and other partners.

Information provided will also be used to provide assurance that the CDT is being managed appropriately and is progressing in accordance with its original funding proposal and the aims and expectations outlined in this funding opportunity.

This additional reporting will take the form of an annual return.

Indicative reporting headings include:

  • information regarding student recruitment (including demographics of unsuccessful applicants)
  • information regarding the CDT student population, including those funded by alternative sources to the CDT award
  • CASE studentships and other collaborative partner engagement
  • information regarding partners’ in-kind investment and co-funding
  • cohort-level training activities
  • cross-CDT and Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) training activities
  • CDT-level success stories and impacts (individual student research outputs will be captured through Researchfish).

In addition to annual reports, NERC, BBSRC and MRC will conduct regular visits to the CDT. The CDT will also be expected to respond to other reporting requirements when requested.

How to apply

Notification of intent

A notification of intent to submit a full application must be submitted by 29 July 2022 at 16:00.

Submit a notification of intent.

Tell us the organisations that are expected to be involved as hosting and collaborative partners, and include a title and abstract of your planned work. The abstract will not be assessed, but we will use the information to plan the proposal assessment.

Full Je-S proposals submitted without a prior notification of intent will be rejected.

Full proposals

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Applying using Je-S

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying, select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: studentship proposal
  • scheme: doctoral training
  • call/type/mode: CDT September 2022.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application.

NERC must receive your application by 22 September 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

Any proposal that is incomplete, or does not meet NERC’s eligibility criteria, will be office rejected and will not be considered.

All proposals must use the application and case for support form, which is available to download from the ‘supporting documents’ section under ‘additional info’.

The case for support section of the form must not exceed 14 pages of A4 in single-spaced typescript of minimum font size 11 point (Arial or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size to Arial 11), with margins of at least 2cm.

Please note that Arial Narrow, Calibri and Times New Roman are not allowable font types and any proposal which has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected.

References and footnotes should also be at least 11 point font and should be in the same font type as the rest of the document. Headers and footers should not be used for references or information relating to the scientific case. Applicants referring to websites should note that referees may choose not to use them.

Please note that on submission to the council, all non-PDF documents are converted to PDF. The use of non-standard fonts may result in errors or font conversion, which could affect the overall length of the document.

Additionally, where non-standard fonts are present, and even if the converted PDF document may look unaffected in the Je-S system, when it is imported into the research council’s grants system, some information may be removed.

We therefore recommend that where a document contains any non-standard fonts (scientific notation, diagrams and so on), the document should be converted to PDF prior to attaching it to the proposal.

Applicants will need to provide details under the following headings:

  • research excellence
  • training excellence
  • multidisciplinary training environment
  • partnership operational management.

Applicants must provide evidence of any financial or in-kind commitment agreed by partners. This may take the form of a statement in the case for support or a signed letter of support (up to two sides of A4 per organisation).

Only letters of support outlining agreed commitments (financial or in-kind) to the CDT will be accepted (no other attachments will be accepted).

A single proposal should be submitted by the administrative lead partner.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed by an assessment panel, consisting of independent experts in postgraduate training provision and the research areas of the opportunity.

Proposals will be assessed against the following equally weighted criteria:

  • research excellence
  • training excellence
  • multidisciplinary training environment
  • partnership operational management.

Assessment criteria

The scoring definitions to be used by the assessment panel are available to download from the ‘supporting documents’ section under ‘additional info’.

Research excellence

Key aspects for an outstanding CDT:

  • the training and training environment must include scientifically excellent and original research within the NERC, BBSRC and MRC remit, and specifically within the remit of the opportunity
  • critical mass of relevant researchers, teams or projects within the specific remit of the opportunity to allow students to be supported effectively and sufficiently exposed to excellent research and researchers in the relevant areas.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed:

  • number of active NERC, BBSRC and MRC-funded research projects and principal investigators at host research organisations, specifically within the remit of the opportunity
  • Research Excellence Framework (REF) profiles relevant to the remit of the opportunity. Standing in the appropriate academic community (for example, national, international)
  • institutional commitment to research excellence, specifically within the remit of the opportunity
  • amount of NERC, BBSRC and MRC research income in research areas specific to the opportunity.

Training excellence

Key aspects for an outstanding CDT:

  • students are part of an active research and training community and managed as a cohort
  • excellent scientific training and transferable or professional skills development opportunities
  • excellent training and support for supervisors
  • challenging and relevant, but feasible, projects
  • co-development of projects and training programmes with end-users to ensure research and skills are tailored to their needs from the outset
  • timely access to world-class facilities, direct experience of cutting-edge techniques, technologies and up to date methodologies.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed:

  • integration of students into the relevant teams, projects, departments or schools
  • mechanisms for supervision, supervisor training, and monitoring of both student and supervisor
  • how generalist and specialist development needs of individual students will be identified and addressed
  • personal, professional, career learning and development that students will receive
  • collaborative opportunities and end-user engagement in training programmes, which may include training delivery, internships, industrial placements, overseas studies and co-supervisory arrangements if appropriate
  • mechanisms to ensure the development of independent researchers and world-leading scientists
  • access to, and encouragement of, peer-to-peer learning and support
    completion rates, publication and first destination data for students hosted within CDT institutions
  • employability of graduates
  • leveraged support for the CDT (either in-kind or financial).

Multidisciplinary training environments

Key aspects for an outstanding CDT:

  • training is embedded in multidisciplinary research environments
  • excellent opportunities to network with researchers and students from other disciplines
  • excellent opportunities for collaborative projects involving end-user partners, including CASE studentships, internships or placements, and end-user co-supervision
  • end user engagement in all aspects of training, from individual projects to cohort-level specialist and transferable skills training. Students will gain value from interaction with a wide range of end-users, and leave equipped with skills applicable to the environment sector and relevant to policymakers and regulators, industry and business, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed:

  • how students will be made aware of the context of their research and how it relates to other disciplines, and its application outside of academia
  • supervisory or wider advisory team engagement in research outside the relevant disciplines
  • ability to expose students to different disciplines via, for example:
    • interaction with cohorts from different disciplines beyond the CDT through transferrable skills training, seminars or conferences. and networking opportunities
    • placing students within multidisciplinary research teams
    • opportunities to attend specialist training courses in other disciplines where appropriate.

Partnership operational management

Key aspects for an outstanding CDT:

  • diversity, equity and inclusion principles embedded at all levels and in all aspects of research and training practice throughout the lifetime of the CDT
  • robust mechanisms to promote postgraduate research to a diverse base of talented graduate students across the UK, with all studentships offered on a full or part-time basis through an open and transparent selection process. CDT programme and processes are sufficiently flexible to enable them to be tailored to individual needs
  • robust and transparent governance arrangements and strategy for managing partnerships between or within organisations
  • agreement by all parties of a robust mechanism for aligning ways of working and sharing resources and finances between different organisations (including non-academic partners)
  • adequate dedicated administrative resource
    clear strategy for engagement with end-users, appropriate to the scope of the CDT, in all aspects of training from the outset of the CDT
  • well-considered mechanism for planning, managing and monitoring training. This includes strategic and systematic approaches to project selection and attracting and selecting the best-fit students for projects. Student recruitment is designed to enable wide participation and prioritises potential for excellence in studentship outcomes (what an individual can bring to a project and the graduate they will be as a result of the CDT’s training)
  • well-defined legacy of the CDT beyond the lifetime of any UKRI investment, including research and training outcomes and impacts, and opportunities to maximise the UKRI investment.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed:

  • demonstration of a strategy for embedding diversity, equity and inclusion principles in all aspects of the CDT
  • evidence of support available to all students to protect their physical and mental health and wellbeing
  • management and governance structure, including mechanisms for agreeing management arrangements and monitoring CDT’s overall progress and success
  • representation of different parties (including students and end-users) within the CDT’s management structure
  • amount of dedicated administrative resource
  • strategy for engaging with end-users and other collaborators
  • systems and processes for assessing the suitability of supervisors and projects
  • mechanisms for allocating studentships within the CDT and recruiting the best-fit students
  • processes for student induction, progression, monitoring and submission
  • demonstration of success stories
  • establishing cohorts beyond the UKRI-funded students by using the CDT as a magnet or nucleus for research and training activities
  • arrangements for management of data generated by studentship projects, and for returning accurate and timely data on studentships to UKRI.

The types of evidence that may be considered are provided as examples only. Applicants should develop their proposals in whatever way they feel is most appropriate to address the requirements of the opportunity and provide appropriate evidence to support their proposed training programme and any claims made within the proposal.

The assessment panel will use this criteria as a guide when assessing proposals but will not expect all proposals to include all types of evidence listed within this criteria, nor will they ignore additional evidence of excellence or innovative approaches to addressing the requirements of the opportunity.


The assessment process includes an applicant presentation and interview with the assessment panel. We will try to provide early notice of an invitation to attend, but applicants should note that the assessment panel meeting is currently planned for the week commencing 31 October 2022.

Following the panel meeting, feedback for all proposals will be provided.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

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Additional info

Responsible research

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, not just through research outputs and outcomes, but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities managed.

All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set-out in the NERC responsible business statement. Responsible research is defined as reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities. Specifically, this covers:

  • the natural environment,
  • the local community
  • diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Grant holders should consider the responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.

Supporting documents

Application and case for support form (DOCX, 20KB)

Overall excellence score definitions (PDF, 15KB)

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