About the centre
We are looking for a centre to support the UK’s transition to sustainable and equitable low-carbon living.
The centre will bring together the right people, disciplines, institutions and infrastructure to provide the evidence needed for this challenge within a 5-year timeframe.
Population and economic growth over the past century have been unprecedented. The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years. This will put even more pressure on land use, water supply and the demand for currently carbon-intensive services such as energy, transport and housing.
Delivering net zero and adapting to wider environmental change and biodiversity challenges is a policy priority for the UK and devolved administrations and will require major changes in the actions of people, firms, and governments.
The aim of this centre is to enable UK decision makers to identify the most cost-effective and socially feasible options for supporting the public, government, and businesses in transitioning to low-carbon living and adapting to wider environmental change and biodiversity challenges.
Actions to mitigate and adapt to the challenge of climate change will require significant, and often rapid, transformations of lifestyles, business practices, and governance. This includes adopting new low-carbon technologies and using natural resources and services more efficiently, from the food we eat to the way we transport goods.
The centre’s leadership team must work with and be responsive to the needs of UK decision makers, with a specific focus on supporting government departments in addressing their evidence needs.
The centre will inform policies and incentive structures that influence the actions of individuals, communities, organisations, and local and national governments in bringing about a lasting shift to more sustainable and equitable low-carbon living alongside adapting to the impacts of climate change. This will include working to understand:
- the barriers, trade-offs, co-benefits and impacts of different solutions
- what policies, regulations, consumer behaviours, governance, legislation, business models, and standards are needed
- how to leverage complex interacting social and economic processes at all levels (individual behaviours, community action, political and business decisions)
Justice, equity and empowerment will be vital to effective solutions. The centre will consider interventions in the context of the wider impact, co-benefits and potential disadvantages for all people, nature and environments.
A collaborative approach to creating solutions in partnership with a range of stakeholders and across research disciplines that span UKRI’s remit is strongly encouraged.
The centre’s objectives will be to:
- provide rapid advice to decision makers in UK government and industry based on a synthesis of existing evidence
- deliver new, transformative, interdisciplinary, systems-based research to address key evidence gaps
- test interventions on the ground in partnership with local and national stakeholders.
- work with a coalition of partners (including governments, community groups and industry) to co-produce and deliver a programme of activities to implement and scale effective practices
- collaborate and coordinate with new investments within the UKRI ‘building a green future’ theme (see ‘Additional information’ section)
- support the development of skills, research capabilities and capacity within the research community. For example, through coaching and mentoring, placements, and fellowships
The centre will have the following short-term outcomes:
- new interdisciplinary research and evidence synthesis that informs policy and spending decisions on, and the adoption of, low-carbon living solutions
- enhanced tools for stakeholders’ decision making, particularly government departments, and collaboration in implementing solutions
- catalysing and accelerating collaboration between researchers, government, industry and other stakeholders interested in equitable, low carbon living
- increased capacity and capability of the research community to rapidly generate and disseminate research evidence that helps decision makers understand the relative cost-effectiveness of different interventions and the feasibility of scaling different interventions as part of regional or national rollouts
The anticipated long-term impacts will be for the centre to have enabled tangible progress towards the UK meeting net zero and broader environmental, biodiversity and sustainability goals. This will be achieved through the centre enabling the identification and scaling of new policies, incentive structures and practices, in collaboration with policy makers, businesses and community organisations.
It is recognised that work looking at transitioning to low carbon living and adapting to wider environmental change and biodiversity will have international social, economic and environmental implications. However, the primary focus of this centre should be on supporting UK decision makers to understand the most cost-effective and socially feasible options for supporting the public and businesses in this.
We expect to fund a single centre through this funding opportunity.
You must demonstrate that your centre will deliver high-quality, interdisciplinary, internationally-recognised research findings to address unanswered questions about a defined challenge to our society, economy or both.
In this case, you should clearly articulate the challenge that transitioning to sustainable and equitable low-carbon living presents, and how the proposed programme of interdisciplinary research will address this, including any innovative research methods that you intend to develop and use.
You must demonstrate that your centre will deliver significant economic and societal impact, demonstrating that the centre is responding to its specified challenge.
Impact should be a major consideration throughout the scoping of a proposal, and during and beyond the lifetime of a centre.
Impact should be multisectoral, with evidence of engagement with research users relevant to the low-carbon living challenge, such as policymakers, businesses and civil society throughout all stages of the planned timeframe for the award.
Centres should consider other UKRI investments in terms of adding value to their centres, for example maximising opportunities through Impact Acceleration Accounts.
You must include a logic model in your case for support demonstrating the changes your centre will bring about to respond to the challenge, and how and why your programme of research will bring about those changes.
Further resources to support the development of a logic model can be found under ‘Supporting documents’ in the ‘Additional information’ section.
You must demonstrate that your centre will deliver the resources needed to become a centre of excellence that adds value to the wider community. This includes developing the people, producing the data and creating the infrastructure needed to respond to the challenge.
Career and skills development
You should clearly articulate your plans for career development.
UKRI is a signatory to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, and the Technician Commitment. Through these UKRI commits to support the professional and career development of researchers and technicians through its funding opportunities. You are encouraged to consider both leadership development and capacity building in your plans.
Leadership development skills should be considered at all career stages to equip researchers in the centre with the leadership skills needed to be able to design, lead and deliver large and complex or interdisciplinary projects and teams.
Research leadership should go beyond project management to include a capacity to enthuse, ignite and sustain an intellectual vision that is inclusive, flexible and open to challenge. The report ‘Fit for the future: research leadership matters’ gives insight into the skills related to research leadership at different career stages and some preliminary suggestions for how those skills might be supported across the career life-course.
You should also demonstrate how you plan to build capacity among decision makers to use evidence as well as building skills in academia, policy and industry engagement among research staff and technicians at all career levels, from PhD students to early and mid-career academics to established professors.
Up to 3 associated studentships may also be included in this application, for those Doctoral Training Partnerships eligible to receive studentships from 2024.
Centres should maximise the use of relevant existing data resources in the first instance, as well as (where appropriate) producing data that responds to their proposed challenge and is of value to the wider community.
Data collection and management should be in accordance with our research data policy.
UKRI funds a range of data infrastructures that are available and free to use for all bona fide researchers (subject to appropriate data sharing considerations).
Management and structure
You should consider the structure of your proposed centre to ensure it can successfully deliver the objectives of the funding opportunity, whether through a consortium approach or single institution.
The successful centre will be required to partner, collaborate and engage with a wide range of stakeholders and disciplines to agree priorities and deliver key activities.
Partnerships with non-higher education institutions across government, industry and civil society, as well as internationally are encouraged where appropriate.
You must include a brief management plan in your case for support, demonstrating:
- how you will provide leadership across the collaborators involved in the application
- how the management of the centre and its activities will be carried out, including details of project management and administration resource
You should also include details of any advisory group that will be appointed to oversee the development of the centre.
ESRC will work with the appointed centre on their governance arrangements to ensure suitable representation from government departments and representation from the UKRI ‘building a green future’ theme (see ‘Additional information’ section).
You are also expected to indicate your plans for monitoring progress against your logic model, and any plans for self-evaluation throughout the lifetime of the award.
The successful centre will be allocated an ESRC investment manager who will work with their centre to agree a monitoring and evaluation plan in the starting phase of the award. This will include submitting quarterly updates on progress to UKRI’s ‘building a green future’ programme board and regular reporting and meetings between ESRC and the centre, for the centre to update ESRC on activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts as well as spend and any key challenges or concerns.
You may propose a title for this centre. Once appointed, the successful applicant will need to have the centre’s title approved by the UKRI Building a Green Future Programme Board.
We will be looking for evidence of long-term strategic and financial institutional commitment, to the proposed centre, above the required 20% (as UKRI funds at 80% FEC). This should be through the provision of grant-associated parallel activities. Examples include but are not limited to:
- summer schools
- refurbishment of facilities for the centre
- provision of equipment
- new lectureships
Outline proposals must include an institutional letter of support from the pro-vice chancellor of research (or equivalent role) from the lead organisation that confirms the research organisation’s commitment to the centre application.
If the application is from an existing UKRI investment then this should be noted in the letter of support.
You must ensure that the proposed research will be carried out to a high ethical standard.
You must clearly state how any potential ethical, safeguarding and health and safety issues have been considered and will be addressed, ensuring that all necessary ethical approval is in place and all risks are minimised before the award commences.
All proposals must comply with the ESRC framework for research ethics.
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)
Promoting EDI is an integral part of UKRI’s vision to deliver new knowledge and an enriched, healthier, more sustainable and resilient society and culture, and to contribute to a more prosperous economy.
You are expected to demonstrate throughout your proposal how you will consider EDI during the centre’s lifetime.
UKRI recognises that we must embed environmental sustainability in everything we do.
You are expected to consider the environmental impact of the centre’s activities and to put in place actions that encourage sustainability and mitigate any risk of environmental harm.