Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Deliver a UK national capability for cosmogenic in situ 14C

Apply for national capability funding to deliver a UK capability for cosmogenic in-situ 14C (‘in-situ 14C’) sample extraction and preparation.

The successful bid will form part of the capability within the NERC National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF).

The successful bid will provide a service to NERC grant holders and the wider NERC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) community.

You can apply for a maximum of £280,000 per year, up to a total of £1.96 million over the seven-year commission.

NERC will fund 100% of the full cash cost (FCC) for bids located in NERC centres. NERC will fund 80% full economic cost (FEC) for bids located in facilities or nodes within UK higher education institutions or other independent research organisations.

Who can apply

A person or a group from UK higher education institutions, research council institutes and independent research organisations are eligible to apply to deliver the in-situ 14C capability.

The commission will be for a period of seven years, from 1 April 2024 until 31 March 2031.

The successful bid will be commissioned as part of NEIF. As part of NEIF, the capability will be delivered under the management of the NERC research centre; the British Geological Survey (BGS).

A condition of award will be that the research centre will manage distribution and allocation of all funds for associated activities and management. Anyone seeking to apply to this funding opportunity should ensure they have discussed their application with the centre contact in BGS (Dr Adele Gardner: at least one month before the deadline.

The facility is expected to identify a principal investigator to lead in the development and submission of the bid. Other facility staff should be listed on the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system form as appropriate.

Standard NERC eligibility criteria apply.

What we're looking for

NERC is inviting eligible applicants to apply to deliver an ‘in-situ 14C’ national capability that is:

  • free at the point of use to NERC-funded researchers
  • accessible to the wider UKRI research community via NEIF

NERC is inviting bids to provide UK national capability for the extraction and sample preparation for analysis of ‘in-situ 14C’ from quartz mineral latices which enables exposure histories to be dated. NERC expects ‘in-situ 14C’ capability that:

  • is versatile (forward-looking) and innovative
  • opens up new areas of important research applied to global societal challenges
  • catalyses and boosts UK leadership in technique and application development

Cosmogenic in-situ 14C

Cosmogenic in-situ 14C refers to the carbon-14 that is formed by cosmic ray interaction within the crystal lattice of surface materials. In-situ 14C allows researchers to measure processes that have occurred in the era of human civilisations, giving us unprecedented ability to measure rates of change prior to, and since, human impacts.

Understanding natural processes at these timescales, and the impacts on them of human activity, has immediate and important applications in diverse NERC science fields such as:

  • hazards and risk
  • soil production and erosion
  • agricultural development
  • archaeology
  • coastal change
  • glacial and fluvial processes
  • tectonic evolution of mountain ranges

Scientific capability

NERC expects the ‘in-situ 14C’ service to deliver the following scientific capability:

  • two automated, bespoke extraction lines for high-throughput extraction of carbon dioxide from mineral samples and preparation of accelerator mass spectrometry targets (gas or solid) for high-precision, low-concentration analyses
  • sample preparation for separating appropriate minerals for ‘in-situ 14C’ analyses

The analysis of the samples is not included in the capability expected from this bid. However your proposal must identify and describe how you propose to engage with existing facilities to analyse the samples.

Scientific support and facilities

NERC scientific support and facilities (S&F) deliver a unique and in-demand national capability to the UK’s environmental science community, delivering expert services and a critical mass in operation, technical innovation and financial efficiency. This supports and enables world-leading research from all NERC funding streams, through which the UK scientific community can meet short and long-term ambitions of NERC and UKRI.

NERC S&F deliver national capability and provide access to specialist services, measurement facilities and sample repositories. Their ‘centralised’ national provision delivers a critical mass in operation, technical innovation and financial efficiency.

S&F are part of NERC’s national capability which enables the UK to:

  • deliver world-leading environmental science
  • support national strategic needs
  • respond to emergencies

It includes the research and development activities which keeps this capability at the cutting edge. It describes the element of NERC-funded activity directly procured by NERC due to a combination of its scale and complexity.

Service requirements

Bids will need to articulate how they would, as part of NEIF, propose to deliver the required service requirements (as set out in the ‘How to apply’ section) including the science capability through a forward looking and innovative facility. NERC expects S&F to be accessible to the entire UKRI research community, specifically to support research from all NERC funding streams, and to provide hands-on training to PhD students and research staff in particular.

Where appropriate, NERC expects engagement across NERC facilities, to maximise benefits and shared learning and to avoid duplication.


The maximum amount of funding which can be requested from NERC to deliver this capability is £280,000 per year, up to a total of £1.96 million over the seven-year commission. You should ensure that proposed services within your bid are deliverable within the funding level requested.

Funding will be awarded at 100% FCC for bids located within NERC centres and 80% FEC for facilities or nodes based within UK higher education institutions or other independent research organisations.

Bids should include all resource costs requested to deliver the services, including:

  • requests for staff costs
  • travel and subsistence
  • service contracts
  • consumables
  • capital items under £10,000

Capital costs (such as equipment) to provide these capabilities should be clearly included in the case for support and justification of resources and will be considered separately by NERC.

Please note that as a NERC national capability investment, the award will be based on flat funding, the award will not receive indexation as standard.

Funding will be provided via the British Geological Survey, who will manage distribution and allocation of all funds for associated activities and management.

Bids should include confirmation of any other anticipated contributions (including in-kind contributions) to operate the capability, such as from the host university, if applicable.


The ‘in-situ 14C’ capability will be commissioned and will operate as part of NERC NEIF.

The capability will be commissioned from April 2024 to March 2031, and may include a ramping up period of up to 36 months if required.

Bids should ensure full in-situ 14C capability can be provided by 31 March 2027.

How to apply

Application process

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

When applying select:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: NC&C
  • call/type/mode: NC S&F In-situ 14C Facility Commissioning


In addition to the proforma, your proposal should include the following attachments:

  • case for support
  • justification of resources
  • letter of support

Case for support

The case for support should be no longer than six sides of A4 and should set out:

  • how you propose to deliver against each of the essential service requirements
  • what success looks like for each of the requirements

Service requirements

1. Delivery of science capability

What we are looking for

Outline how you will deliver the science capability specified in the ‘What we are looking for’ section, how the facility will work towards supporting and delivering excellent science and capture impacts arising.

2. Support of existing and new user communities

What we are looking for

How will the facility, as part of NEIF, ensure access, monitor demand, deliver training, respond to feedback. How will the facility, as part of NEIF, identify, target and engage appropriate audiences.

3. Delivery of physical capability and capacity

What we are looking for

Outline of the projected capacity and capability (including equipment and future capability, plans to identify future needs and ways to upgrade or innovate.

4. Appropriate management and governance to deliver

What we are looking for

How will the facility, as part of NEIF, implement appropriate management and governance arrangements to ensure a quality service, excellent science outcomes and value for money. This should include:

  • determining staffing levels
  • governance mechanisms (including a governance diagram)
  • risk management strategies
  • plans on achieving value for money

5. Sustainability

What we are looking for

NERC’s responsible business statement sets out the key commitments of reaching net zero operational carbon emissions by 2040 and increasing diversity and inclusion. What actions will the facility take to understand and reduce its carbon emissions? What actions will the facility take to increase diversity and inclusion?

The case for support should include all the necessary figures, tables and references.

Justification of resources

The justification of resources should be submitted as a separate attachment in the Je-S system. Provide a breakdown and justification of costs and resources associated with the funding requested from NERC to deliver the ‘in-situ 14C’ capability. Up to two pages of A4 are allowed for this purpose (for all collaborative organisations or locations, if applicable). These figures should match those submitted in the Je-S proforma.

It should include justification for all directly incurred costs, investigator effort, use of pool staff resources and any access to shared facilities and equipment being sought.

If required, a development or ramping up period of up to 36 months can be proposed. This should include, within the funding limit of £280,000 per year, any costs associated with:

  • developing and establishing the capability
  • development of or adjustments to instrumentation at the facility proposed for sample analysis
  • sample analysis associated with setting up and testing the extraction and sample preparation capability being commissioned (ongoing costs for routine sample analysis should not however be included in this bid)

Capital costs (such as equipment) to provide the capabilities listed in the ‘What we’re looking for’ section should also be clearly included in the case for support and justification of resources, and will be considered separately by NERC.

All costs associated with the capability must be itemised and fully justified in the justification of resources document, with the following exceptions:

  • estate costs
  • indirect costs
  • staff salary costs (not time, which must be justified)
  • other directly allocated costs, for example infrastructure technicians

Resources required for data management should be included if applicable.

Funding levels are 100% FCC for S&F based at NERC centres and 80% FEC for S&F based at universities or higher education institutions.

You should itemise breakdown of funding headings costs and resources associated with NERC funding provided to the S&F. Details of the funding categories can be found in the UKRI grants standard terms and conditions of grant guidance.

If resources are not fully justified, they will be subject to reduction.

NERC does not guarantee any additional funding will be available during this commissioning process.

The managing centre will receive a management fee totalling 1.5% of the overall award. Please include these costs within the ‘other directly allocated costs’ section.

As well as outlining the costs requested from NERC, the justification of resources should also include brief information if the full costs of the proposed capability differ from the costs requested from NERC, and if so how this shortfall will be met. This could include any additional funding, joint agreements, planned commercial activity or other anticipated contributions (including in-kind contributions such as use of use of buildings/facilities, staff, equipment or training) to operate the facility, such as from the host university, if applicable.

Letter of support

All bids must include a letter of support from the proposed host institution stating that they are aware of the bid and supportive of hosting the proposed NERC national capability.

How we will assess your application

NERC reserves the right to reject any submissions if:

  • documents do not meet the format requirements set out in the “How to apply” section
  • documents do not sufficiently address the service and science requirements set out in the ‘How to apply’ section
  • costs exceed the budget limit for the capability

You will be informed within two weeks of the submission deadline if your submission is being rejected.

Eligible proposals will be assessed by an independent expert panel in autumn 2023 against the service requirements as outlined in the ‘How to apply’ section. The panel will be tasked to score each proposal on the extent to which the evidence provided in the bid gives sufficient confidence that the facility has an appropriate plan in place to be able to deliver against each service requirement throughout the commission.

The expert panel will provide a score (zero to 10) for each service requirement, based on the evidence provided in the bid.

The expert panel may also:

  • recommend to NERC any points of clarification or additional information to be obtained from you prior to the start of the commission
  • recommend to NERC any amendments to be implemented from the start or during the commission

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.

Ask about this funding opportunity

NERC research facilities


British Geological Survey (BGS)

If you are seeking to apply to this funding opportunity you should ensure you have discussed your application with the centre contact in BGS at least one month before the deadline.

Dr Adele Gardner


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

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Additional info

Roles and responsibilities

It is expected that all scientific support and facilities (S&F) will have a steering committee to support and direct the facility. The membership of the committee is to be determined by the managing research centre with suggestions from the S&F and existing committee members.

It is expected that the steering committee will comprise of independent members who have expertise in the area. The steering committees should adhere to the terms of reference for S&F steering committees. All S&F will be required to report annually to their steering committee on the service provided; the process should be overseen by the managing research centre.

It is expected that NERC investments consider equality, diversity and inclusion and place-based representation (such as from devolved administrations) within their governing boards, and steering committees.

The role of the centre contact is to act as a point of contact for and between, the facility, the steering committee and NERC head office to provide support and guidance on best practice, policy and processes.

The role of NERC head office is to lead the transformation, commissioning and delivery of NERC’s S&F portfolio by providing strategic oversight and leadership.

Monitoring and evaluation

The commissioning and subsequent monitoring and evaluation of all S&F will be assessed against the service requirements listed in the “How to apply” section. Facilities will be expected, once commissioned, to complete monitoring or other activities as requested by NERC.

Additionally, facilities will be expected to engage directly with their managing centres (where requested) regarding the reporting of place or location-based data, impacts and benefits associated with their award.


The S&F portfolio feeds into the NERC strategic delivery plan:

  • through the ‘world class places’ objective, focusing on the high-quality facilities in the NERC S&F portfolio that underpin global environmental science
  • enabling the ‘world class ideas’ objective by underpinning and providing expert technical services to the community

NERC S&F may also be used by industry partners, where appropriate, to generate additional external revenue, and provide a source of capability and expert advice to government and wider society.

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