Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Environmental sciences: global partnerships seedcorn fund 2022

Apply for funding to create new global partnerships in areas of environmental science.

This opportunity is for principal investigators or new investigators. You must be based at a UK organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

Proposals must:

  • be in any science area within NERC’s remit
  • focus on the development of a new international partnership
  • focus on activities that requires international collaboration
  • show long-term potential.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £100,000. We fund 80% of the full economic cost.

We will fund your project for up to two years.

Proposals using partners from Brazil or Taiwan may be eligible for co-funding from FAPESP or MOST, respectively.

Who can apply

This funding opportunity is for principal or new investigators looking to create new global partnerships across any environmental science areas in NERC’s remit.

A number of specific criteria apply to this opportunity.

You can only submit one proposal as either a principal investigator or co-investigator.

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

You must not:

  • resubmit proposals
  • apply as a principal investigator or co-investigator in two consecutive years
  • hold an active Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund grant either as principal investigator or co-investigator at the time of the closing date.

New investigators

The new investigator must be the principal investigator on the grant.

Applications will be ranked by an assessment panel. The NERC office may give priority to applications with ‘new investigator’ status after the ranking stage.

Using co-investigators

Proposals can include any number of co-investigators. In addition to UK co-investigators, researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems (IIASA) are eligible as co-investigators.

IIASA researchers

IIASA researchers are eligible as co-investigators. If they are claiming funding as a co-investigator, they cannot be the project partner for the purposes of meeting the opportunity requirements.

Find out more

Standard NERC individual and research organisation eligibility rules apply for principal investigators, co-investigators and new investigators.

Check if you’re eligible for funding.

What we're looking for

Programme objectives

The Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund enables UK researchers to develop new international partnerships and networks, which underpin the development of long-term sustainable collaborations.

Proposed collaborations may involve international research partners from any country and in any science area within NERC’s remit.

Although the majority of the application should lie within NERC remit, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborations with international partners are welcomed.

The aim of the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund is to support development of partnerships that are:

  • international (from any country)
  • new (partners you have not collaborated with previously)
  • long-term (that will be self-sustaining beyond the lifetime of the grant).

Whilst some exploratory elements are expected, the proposal must include specific scientific objectives. Research excellence remains a consideration and the partnership should aim to develop in areas of excellence that could not be achieved from working with UK partners.

You should ensure the balance between partnership building activities and direct research is appropriate, considering the key objectives of the funding opportunity.

Supported activities may include but are not limited to:

  • programmes of exchange visits or staff secondments
  • establishing networks on a common research area
  • scoping, feasibility or proof of concept studies
  • workshops.

New collaborations may enable UK researchers and international partners to share:

  • unique or complementary data
  • skills
  • infrastructure
  • field sites.

In all cases, activities must be undertaken with the clear and demonstrable intention of developing long-term sustainable collaborations.

International partners

The inclusion of one or more international project partners is mandatory.

To maximise the quality of the activity and its potential to develop long-term sustainable partnerships, international project partners must have an integral role in the proposed work.

You can work with project partners from any country around the globe, outside of the UK.

You should note the following when considering potential partners:

  • the quality of partnerships should be the primary criteria rather than the number of international partners
  • while existing long-standing international partners are welcome to participate, the application must primarily involve developing new international project partnerships
  • proposed work can include promoting socio-economic development, impact and welfare, but be aware this is not an Official Development Assistance opportunity.

Details of the project partners and their contributions to the project must be recorded in the appropriate sections of the application including:

  • the Je-S form
  • case for support
  • project partner letters of support.

Letters of support will be a key consideration of the panel at assessment and should complement the case for support effectively.

Proposals with international partners from São Paulo, Brazil

This opportunity will accept joint proposals with researchers from the State of São Paulo in Brazil under the terms of the UKRI-São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) lead agency agreement (PDF, 260KB).

Please refer to the supporting document ‘NERC-FAPESP guidance’ for further guidance on how to apply.

Learn more about FAPESP.

Proposals with international partners from Taiwan

This opportunity will accept joint proposals with researchers from Taiwan under the NERC-Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST) memorandum of understanding (MoU).

Please refer to the supporting documents for joint MOST and NERC proposals for further guidance on how to apply. These include the:

  • NERC-MOST guidance
  • MOST budget form.

Learn more about MOST.

Programme funding

NERC has provisionally allocated £1 million to this funding opportunity. The maximum funding for Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund proposals is £100,000 at 100% full economic cost with a duration of up to two years.

All applicants are advised to consult their institutional finance officers when completing the financial parts of the application.

All applicants should enter the 100% full economic cost of the proposed research into the budget sections of the Je-S form. All costs should be in pounds sterling (£).

Requested costs for UK research organisations will be funded at 80% of full economic cost. All costs associated with the project must be itemised in the Je-S form and justified in the justification of resources document.

Funding for international project partners

International project partners are not eligible for direct funding. However, eligible UK organisations may request up to £15,000 towards their international partners travel and subsistence costs during visits or exchanges.

Costs for UK and international project partner organisations must be entered as separate items. All travel and subsistence for international project partners will be payable at 100% of actual costs and entered as ‘exceptions’ on the Je-S form. UK travel and subsistence costs are still paid at 80% full economic cost.

Enter on Je-S under a single line per organisation and country. For example, enter as:

University of ‘x’, Country: ‘x’, Number of trips: ‘x’, Cost in pounds sterling: ’x’.

For projects seeking support from FAPESP or MOST, you may still use this allowance, or part of it. However, you should carefully consider and make clear which costs are supported by NERC and why.

What we do not cover

You cannot receive support for the following costs under this opportunity:

  • conference attendance, including registration fees, and travel and subsistence costs
  • standard office computing equipment
  • equipment over £10,000 (inclusive of VAT)
  • all international project partner costs, such as, salary and estates costs, except for travel and subsistence up to £15,000
  • associated studentships.

Project start and delivery

Projects should be no longer than 24 months in duration, with an earliest start date of 1 August 2022 and latest of 31 October 2022.

NERC-MOST projects should start no earlier than 1 September 2022 and no later than 31 December 2022.

Data management

The NERC data policy must be adhered to, and an outline data management plan produced as part of proposal development.

NERC will pay the data centre directly on behalf of the programme for archival and curation services. However, you should ensure you request sufficient resources to cover preparation of data for archiving by the relevant data centre.

NERC facilities

If you wish to use a NERC service or facility, you must seek agreement from the facility before submitting your proposal.

Applying to use NERC services and facilities.

Reporting requirements

All NERC grant holders are required to report through the UKRI reporting system, Researchfish. This is required annually and continues for up to five years after funding ends.

How to apply

There are two stages to apply for this funding opportunity:

  • notification of intent
  • full proposal.

Notification of intent

A notification of intent to submit must be submitted by 17 February 2022.

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

You should include:

  • your name
  • your international partners
  • the main research areas of your work.

Submit your notification of intent.

Full proposal

The full proposal must be submitted using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submissions system (Je-S).

When applying, select:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: ‘standard proposal’
  • scheme: ‘directed international’
  • call/type/mode: Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund 2022.

This funding opportunity will close on Je-S at 16:00 on 10 March 2022 and it will not be possible to submit after this time.

You should ensure that your proposal conforms to all eligibility and submission rules, otherwise your proposal may be rejected without peer review. More details on NERC’s submission rules can be found in:

New investigators

New investigators must use the prefix “NI:” in their project title to indicate it is to be considered as a ‘new investigator’ proposal.

What you need to submit

For this funding opportunity, you must submit the following documentation, uploaded as attachments, for your full proposal:

Case for support

This should consist of the following three sections, all clearly labelled.

Previous track record

This should not exceed two sides of A4. It should cover standard NERC requirements plus:

  • any experience and leadership in an international context including past collaborative work that is relevant to the current activity
  • summarised CVs of key project partners.

If you are a new investigator, you must demonstrate that you are the proposal leader and will be responsible for its direction.

Description of the proposed activity

This should not exceed three sides of A4. It should cover standard NERC requirements and explain how the activity will deliver against the aims of the programme. In addressing the programme objectives, this part of the case for support should make clear:

  • the significance of the international collaboration to the project’s objectives, for example, why it could not be achieved with UK research partners
  • specific intellectual and material contributions of each partner
  • the expected outputs and impact of the project.
Potential for long-term partnership

This should not exceed one side of A4. You should describe:

  • the durability of the collaboration
  • plans for long-term collaboration, including how it will develop beyond the duration of the grant and potential future funding opportunities targeted.

This is a vital element in meeting the objectives of the programme.

Project partners’ letters of support

Each letter of support should not be more than two sides of A4.

Letters of support should:

  • come from the named project partner
  • be signed and on headed paper from the project partner organisation
  • provide evidence of sufficient contributions that substantive collaboration will go-ahead if funded.

Outline data management plan

All NERC proposals require a completed outline data management plan to identify data sets of long term value that should be made available to NERC data centres for archiving and reuse at the end of the grant.

Justification of resources

This should not exceed two sides of A4. For information on what to include in the justification of resources, see section E in the NERC research grants handbook.


These are required for the principal investigator and co-investigators. You should provide them as attachments on the Je-S application as per standard NERC grants.

CVs of international project partners are not required as separate attachments, but short summary CVs should be included within the ‘previous track record’ section of the case for support.

Proposals with São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) or Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST)

You should refer to the supporting documents respectively for further guidance on how to apply.

‘NERC-FAPESP’ or ‘NERC-MOST’ proposals should add this prefix to their project title.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

All applications that meet the eligibility criteria and pass a sift stage will be reviewed by an assessment panel. The panel will consist of independent experts representing the disciplinary remits of NERC.

All proposals must clearly show how the project delivers against the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund objectives.

If proposals fail to demonstrate a strong link between the project objectives and the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund Programme objectives, they will be office rejected on poor fit to scope of the opportunity prior to panel assessment.

Sift process

NERC will use a sift stage before the panel to reduce the number of applications to a manageable level for a two-day panel meeting.

All applications will be assigned to two panel members who will then pre-score the proposals. Based on the pre-scores, the lowest scoring proposals will be sifted out with agreement from the panel chair.

Assessment panel

Proposals will be directly reviewed by an assessment panel of independent experts, including members of the NERC Peer Review College.

The assessment panel will discuss all proposals that progress from the sift process and agree on a single score for each proposal. The panel will make funding recommendations to NERC through a single ranked list of proposals.

NERC will use the recommendations of the assessment panel, along with the overall opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions. ‘New investigator’ status will be taken into consideration, as previously described.

Panel feedback will be provided to both successful and unsuccessful applicants following the funding decision. Applicants whose proposal is sifted prior to the panel assessment will receive their pre-score and comments.

The panel meeting will be held in June 2022 with the funding decision expected by the end of June. Outcomes will be communicated to applicants at the beginning of July 2022.

Assessment criteria

Proposals will be assessed on how well they meet the programme objectives and given a single score by the panel. The full scoring criteria can be found in the supporting documents.

The following considerations will be included in the assessment:

  • development of new research collaborations and the extent to which this will promote excellence
  • the unique or complementary contribution and expertise of the UK team and the international partners, for example, why the proposed project objectives require collaboration between the UK and international partners
  • the potential for long-term sustainability of the collaboration, including routes for further collaboration beyond the duration of the seedcorn fund grant
  • the level of the contribution made to this award from other sources including the UK institutions and international potential partners
  • the balance between partnership building activities and direct research activities and how they are appropriate to the objectives of the grant.

The number of international project partners is not a primary consideration, but rather the quality and value of the partnership being developed as well as the likelihood of developing a successful partnership in the long term. One partner can be just as valuable as multiple individuals or networks.

Some aspects of the proposed research collaborations may be more speculative and exploratory than is expected for NERC standard grants. Consideration of excellence will take into account both the duration of the grant and the potential to achieve further excellence in the longer term.

COVID-19 impacts

NERC recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team are not penalised for any disruption to their careers such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of on-going work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic.

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts of the impact that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal.

They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, applicants can highlight this within their application, if they wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

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

Claire Simmons

Programme Manager
Telephone: +44 (0)7704 384120

Get help with applying through Je-S

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times.

Additional info


Environmental science is inherently global in nature. Many of the biggest environmental challenges the world faces do not respect national boundaries.

Advancing our understanding of the environment and developing innovative solutions to these challenges requires UK researchers to collaborate with the best international researchers wherever they are located.

Considering the increasing importance of international partnerships for research, the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund provides support to enable UK researchers to establish sustainable long-term partnerships with international collaborators and reap the benefits that these relationships can deliver.

Responsible research

Through our funding processes, NERC seeks to make a positive contribution to society and the environment. We strive to achieve this 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 and enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities.

Specifically, this covers:

  • the natural environment
  • the local community
  • equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

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

Supporting documents

FAPESP guidance (PDF, 28KB)

MOST guidance (PDF, 48KB)

Proposal scoring criteria (PDF, 75KB)

MOST budget form (PDF, 59KB)

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