Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Environmental sciences: global partnerships seedcorn fund 2023

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

You must be based at a UK organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding. You can apply as a standard principal investigator or new investigator.

Applications 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. NERC will fund 80% of the full economic cost for UK organisations.

NERC will fund your project for up to 2 years.

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

Who can apply

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

Before applying to NERC for funding, please check the following:

This funding opportunity is open to eligible researchers at:

  • higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • catapults

Principal and co-investigators must meet our standard eligibility criteria, as outlined in the NERC Grants Handbook and webpages.

A number of specific eligibility criteria apply to this opportunity.

You can only submit 1 proposal as either a principal investigator or co-investigator.

You must not:

  • resubmit proposals
  • apply as a principal investigator or co-investigator in 2 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.

Co-investigators

Proposals can include any number of co-investigators. In addition to UK co-investigators, co-investigators based in International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and in eligible organisations in Norway can be included under specific agreements:

IIASA researchers and researchers in eligible organisations in Norway can be included 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.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

NERC is committed to achieving equity of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion and NERC’s diversity and inclusion action plan.

What we're looking for

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.

UKRI believes freedom to work without fear of reprisals is essential and international collaboration is vital in addressing the global challenges we all face.

However, you are strongly encouraged to consider the current geopolitical environment and corresponding institutional and funding guidance with respect to the conflict in Ukraine. The Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund team will be pleased to consult specifically on questions arising in this area. Please see ‘Contact’ for details.

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 1 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 (please note comment above) 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 (ODA) opportunity

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

  • the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system 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 read the FAPESP guidance (PDF, 78KB).

Learn more about FAPESP.

Proposals with international partners from Taiwan

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

Please read the NSTC guidance (PDF, 91KB).

Learn more about NSTC.

Funding available

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 2 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.

Eligible international co-investigator costs (under the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis or Norway agreement) are funded at 100% for eligible direct costs and can be a maximum of 30% of the full economic cost value (for all international costs).  This is separate to the allowable project partner travel and subsistence costs for this opportunity.

For eligible international co-investigators, we will fund:

  • co-investigator salaries
  • directly incurred costs (for example, travel and subsistence, consumables)
  • research assistants

We will not fund:

  • estates and other indirect costs
  • capital costs
  • equipment over £10,000 (anything under £10,000 can be requested under directly incurred costs)

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.

All travel and subsistence for international project partners will be payable at 100% of actual costs. For projects seeking support from FAPESP or NSTC, 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 duration

Projects should be no longer than 24 months in duration, with an earliest start date of 2 October 2023 and latest of 15 November 2023.

Data management

You must adhere to UKRI open research policy and NERC data policy and include an outline data management plan under the data management and sharing section.

Read the NERC data management planning guidance.

For details of data centres, see the NERC Environmental Data Service.

NERC will pay the data centre directly on behalf of the programme for archival and curation services, but you should ensure that you request sufficient resource to cover preparation of data for archiving by the research team.

Additional services from the data centres, such as database development or a specialist in project data management during your project, will need to be discussed with the relevant data centre prior to submission, costs for additional services will need to be included in the grant application.

NERC facilities

If you wish to use a NERC service or facility, you must seek agreement from the facility at least 2 months 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 5 years after funding ends.

How to apply

There are 2 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 2 March 2023.

Full Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system 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.

As soon as you have submitted your notification of intent, you can submit your full proposal. You will not be contacted following your notification of intent.

Full proposal

You must apply using Je-S.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least 7 working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund 2023

This will populate:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: ‘standard proposal’
  • scheme: ‘directed international’
  • call/type/mode: Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund 2023

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

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

Deadline

NERC must receive your application by 30 March 2023 at 4:00pm.

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.

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

New investigators

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

Project partners

You should include your international partners as ‘Project Partners’ in your Je-S submission and include their contribution in kind to your project.

International travel and subsistence

International project partners

Costs for UK and international project partner organisations must be entered as separate items.

All travel and subsistence for international project partners should be entered as ‘exceptions’ on the Je-S form.

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’.

International co-investigators (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and eligible Norwegian researchers)

Costs associated with any international co-investigators should be entered as an exception and using a specific format: organisation: ‘x’, country: ‘x’, cost category: ‘x’, cost description: ’x’.

Attachments

Your application must also include the following attachments:

Case for support

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

Previous track record

This should not exceed 2 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 principal Investigator, any co-investigators and key project partners

If you are a new investigator, then 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 3 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 1 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 2 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 2 sides of A4. For information on what to include in the justification of resources, see section E in the NERC research grants handbook.

CVs

CVs are no longer required and must not be attached. Relevant information about the applicants and named researchers should be included in the ‘previous track record’ section of the case for support.

Applications with São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

You should refer to the FAPESP guidance (PDF, 78KB) and:

  • include ‘NERC-FAPESP’ as a prefix to your project title.
  • include your Brazilian investigator as a ‘project partner’ in your Je-S submission. The project partner contribution should be the budget requested from FAPESP
  • register under FAPESP’s SAGe system
  • attach the FAPESP submission (SAGe ‘Visualise’) in your Je-S submission

Applications with the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (NSTC)

You should refer to the NSTC guidance (PDF, 91KB) and:

  • include ‘NERC-NSTC’ as a prefix to your project title
  • include your Taiwanese investigator as a ‘project partner’ in your Je-S submission. The project partner contribution should be the budget requested from NSTC
  • attach the NSTC budget form (DOCX, 213KB) to your Je-S submission

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 sift and 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 2-day panel meeting.

All applications will be assigned to 2 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 2023 with the funding decision expected in August 2023.

Assessment criteria

Proposals will be assessed on how well they meet the programme objectives and given a single score by the panel.

Read the proposal scoring criteria (PDF, 119KB).

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 extent to which the international project partners are integral to the proposal activities
  • 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.

Consideration of excellence will take into account both the duration of the grant and the potential to achieve further excellence in the longer term.

Contact details

Get help with developing your application

For help and advice on costings and writing your application please contact your research office. Please also allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Claire Simmons, Programme Manager

Email: gpsf@nerc.ukri.org

Telephone: 07704 384120

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times.

Additional info

Background

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 to 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

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.

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, you can highlight this within your application, if they you, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Supporting documents

FAPESP guidance (PDF, 78KB)

NSTC guidance (PDF, 91KB)

Proposal scoring criteria (PDF, 119KB)

NSTC budget form (DOCX, 213KB)

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