Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Environmental sustainability in life sciences and medical practice

Apply for funding to research environmental sustainability in life science and medical practice.

Your application should:

  • show how you will support net zero carbon aspirations
  • seek to improve MRC’s understanding or provide practical solutions.

We will not fund studies focused on facilities management and travel arrangements.

MRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost up to £100,000.

We will fund your project for up to 12 months.

The outline stage of this funding opportunity is now open. Opening of the full applications stage is anticipated in March 2022. More information will be available on the website by then.

Who can apply

Any researcher with an employment contract at an eligible research organisation can apply for this funding opportunity. This includes MRC institutes and units, including those in Gambia and Uganda.

International co-investigators can be included if they provide expertise that is not available in the UK. Co-investigators overseas’ costs should be discussed with the opportunity lead well in advance of the proposal being submitted to MRC for consideration.

You can apply if you meet at least one of the criteria below:

  • are employed at the submitting research organisation
  • hold a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee.

Postdoctoral research assistants (PDRAs) cannot act as the lead proposer but can be named as a recognised researcher if their contract allows.

They may be included within the proposal as a research co-investigator. A researcher co-investigator is someone who has made a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the project but is not eligible to be either principal investigator or co-investigator in their own right.

In other words, they do not have a contract of employment with the research office of the principal investigator or any of co-investigators).

Organisations are not limited in the number of proposals they can submit to this funding opportunity. Individual investigators are permitted to be the principal investigator on one application. There is no limit on the number of applications any individual can be included as co-investigator.

For more information on the eligibility of organisations and individuals to receive funding, see the MRC guidance for applicants.

What we're looking for

The challenge

Climate change and other anthropogenic impacts on the environment are a persistent and growing threat worldwide. Whilst medical and life sciences research and innovation have direct social, economic and cultural benefits, they have ecological burdens and environmental impacts through waste and energy use.

Research requirements

MRC wants to fund practical research to achieve some or all of the following:

  • look at aspects of research and medical practice that are not environmentally sustainable and seek to improve our understanding or provide practical solutions
  • consider the ongoing impacts associated with the creation of new innovations in medical research
  • engage stakeholders and promote knowledge exchange
  • develop pump-prime initiatives or feasibility studies into promoting sustainable research or medical practice.

This encompasses not only the development of new research but the business models, processes and policies (within the public, private and third sectors) that support the life sciences and medical care. The research could also focus on where these have environmental and social impacts, as well as economic benefits.

New forms of governance and new types of supply chain may be needed. This is to enable organisations and societies globally to implement new and more sustainable processes, whilst ensuring all members of society have agency with regards to sustainability.

To be within remit, applications must:

  • present a strong team of investigators
  • propose innovative approaches with the potential to lead to practical applications in a year
  • support attainment of net zero carbon emissions or a net positive environmental impact.

Proposals should encourage collaboration at all levels and provide improved uptake of sustainable practices, strengthening engagement and knowledge exchange between:

  • researchers
  • health care teams
  • local, regional and national leadership teams
  • relevant research, science and technology and business groups.


The focus is on environmental sustainability, including achieving net zero carbon emissions alongside promoting a net positive environmental impact.

It is recognised that social and economic sustainability are interconnected with environmental sustainability. Therefore, exploration of these aspects of sustainability is welcomed, provided environmental sustainability is the primary focus.

We are inviting proposals that seek the re-imagining of current life science research and medical practice into alternative, more sustainable arrangements in all aspects of operations and research.

Research in this area may require an interdisciplinary and global approach, combining technical research with research across, for example:

  • social sciences
  • environmental sciences
  • business
  • humanities
  • the arts.

Action research approach

We are interested in finding out what can be achieved within grants to promote environmentally sustainable research and medical practice, whilst still ensuring high quality research outcomes.

With the above in mind, we would promote an ‘action research’ approach (putting into practice) to provide already tested measures. However, applicants should propose the methodology they wish to apply.


The total fund available is £1 million. We anticipate funding up to 10 projects over a funding period of up to 12 months.

We aim to explore opportunities for a larger initiative across councils to further build on this investment.

What we won’t fund

We won’t fund studies focusing on facilities or facilities management and travel arrangements.


The output of the work needs to be made available to researchers and practitioners across the country, not all of whom regularly read academic journals.

Whilst the research outcome should be published through open access (essential requirement for funding by UKRI), it is important that:

  • the results of the work are easily accessible for everybody
  • awareness is raised on how to reduce the environmental impact of this sector by publishing on websites accessed by practitioners and consultants and present to organisations, such as:
    • S-Lab
    • Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF)
    • Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE)
    • Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS)
    • government departments (for example, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)).

With the funding allocation, the NHS, DHSC and ourselves will retain the rights to disseminate outcomes of these research activities to government departments and organisations (such as the aforementioned) for non-commercial purposes.

How to apply

This funding opportunity will involve a two-stage review process, starting with an initial mandatory outline application stage. This is followed by a full application stage (for invited applicants only).

Outline application stage

The initial outline application is designed to:

  • capture key information on the research question, approaches and research team to assess your proposal’s fit to the remit and ambitions of the funding opportunity
  • provide general feedback to guide the submission of full applications.

Outline applications should be submitted using the case for support form, which should be attached to your Je-S application. The outline application case for support (DOCX, 31KB) form is available to download.

Applying through Je-S

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

To enable the creation and submission of a proposal through Je-S, the host or lead organisation is required to have registered with Je-S.

A list of registered organisations is available on the homepage of the Je-S portal (please note that this does not include self-registered organisations).

Only the principal investigator will be required to register on Je-S at the outline stage.

If your organisation is not currently registered, then please navigate to the Je-S website and select self-registration for organisations. This will allow you to add your organisation to the Je-S database, allowing the direct submission of your proposal to MRC through Je-S.

If you do not have a Je-S account yourself, then please note that your research organisation has to approve your account on Je-S.

When applying, select:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: outline proposal
  • scheme: standard outline
  • call/type/mode: Sustainable Research Outline Mar 2022.

Please note that the notes and comments section is not visible to MRC and is for internal applicant use only.

Required attachments and sections

Outline applications must include the following:

  • complete all mandatory sections of the Je-S outline
    • sections that are not mandatory are co-investigator, researcher co-investigator and project partners
    • the notes and comments section is not visible to MRC and is for internal applicant use only
  • case for support, including justification for resources
  • applicant CVs (principal investigator, research co-investigators and co-investigators should include a maximum of two pages each)
    • CVs should not be amalgamated into a single file
  • combined publication list (up to one page maximum per investigator) comprising the most important publications of each applicant with relevance to the proposed collaborative project
    • as per the CV requirement, all investigators are required to include a list of publications
  • project partners: any project partners involvement in the project should be added to the relevant section and any indicated cash or in-kind support should be detailed within the resource summary
    • 0 (zero) is required to be entered within the resource summary section, regardless of any project partner participation
    • letters of support for project partners are not mandatory
  • resource summary: funding from all sources should be included in this section
    • it’s not expected that financial details will be precise at this stage. All prices and salaries should be calculated at current prices
    • total estimated costs for each of the sub-headings described below should be recorded. A detailed breakdown of costs in each sub-heading is not required.

Full application

You can only submit a full application if you have been successful at the outline stage.

The full application form will be provided to applicants following the outline decision.

How we will assess your application

Your proposal will be assessed through a two-stage review process:

  • outline application
  • full application (if successful in the outline stage).

Outline applications will be considered by a scientific review panel, convened by MRC.

Recommendations to invite to the full application stage will be made by the panel.

Full application

This stage will only be open to applicants who are successful at the outline stage.

Full applications will be assessed using:

  • the standard criteria for an MRC research grant
  • specific criteria for the sustainable research funding opportunity (detail to be provided upon invitation to full application stage).

We will share the specific criteria for this funding opportunity with you if you’re invited to the full application stage.

Read the standard MRC research assessment criteria.

Peer review

All applications will be sent out for independent expert peer review before consideration by the panel for a funding decision.

Please note that MRC reserves the right to amend the review process in the case of high demand.


We aim to communicate funding decisions within one week of the full panel meeting.

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 a question about this funding opportunity


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info


A webinar was held on 16 February 2022.

Watch a recording of the webinar on Zoom (passcode: @B*Q30?b)

Equality and inclusion

MRC is committed to:

  • achieving equality of opportunity for all
  • creating an inclusive environment that encourages excellence in scientific research through good equalities practice.

Diversity is one of the core MRC values. They are working to ensure that the ways in which they fund embrace a diversity of:

  • thought
  • people
  • geographical locations
  • ideas.

Supporting documents

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding

MRC guidance for applicants

Sustainable research Je-S guidelines (PDF, 244KB)

Outline application case for support (DOCX, 31KB)

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