Transforming land use for net zero, nature and people – a coordination and translation hub
This funding opportunity is co-funded by UKRI, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (on behalf of England and Wales) and Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. It has been co-designed with Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Welsh Government and Scottish Government.
Agriculture and other land uses currently have a major impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and a wide range of other environmental, social and economic outcomes.
Land use change has three major roles to play in meeting net zero:
- Reducing direct GHG emissions (especially from agriculture and degraded peatlands).
- Sequestering carbon to offset emissions in hard to mitigate sectors.
- Enabling decarbonisation of other sectors (for example, generating energy from woody biomass, solar and wind, producing low-carbon building materials, and growing feedstocks for the bioeconomy).
To achieve net zero by 2050 while meeting our wider environmental goals, a large-scale transformation is urgently needed in the way land is used and managed. The scale of change needed is unprecedented and will be highly complex to achieve.
World class research and innovation working in partnership with government and other stakeholders is needed to help:
- understand how the desired change can be achieved
- predict impacts across multiple environmental, societal and economic objectives
The aim of the transforming land use for net zero, nature and people programme is to mobilise and support research to work in partnership with government and industry to tackle net zero through action in the UK land sectors.
The programme will fund research that feeds directly into policy and decision-making in three interlinked themes:
- soil health
- agricultural systems
- land use change
Consortia will be expected to form relationships with government, industry and other stakeholders to develop and explore plausible and innovative pathways to net zero across these three themes that:
- are adapted to the impacts of climate change
- provide societal and environmental benefits
- meet policy commitments of the UK government and devolved administrations such as those set out in the 2023 environment improvement plan
In doing so the programme will seek to fast-track the uptake of research outputs back into policy and decision-making, while adding value to relevant previous and other current programmes such as the:
- Farming Innovations programme
- Greenhouse Gas Removal Demonstrators programme
- Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund
- Agri-food net zero Network+ (Agrifood4Netzero)
- UK Treescapes programme
The programme objectives are:
- to support government and industry to deliver UK legal commitments on net zero and the environment, increasing food security and economic growth
- to deliver strategic high impact transdisciplinary research, expert knowledge and community that is co-designed and co-led with policymakers
- transform the way research and government work together to tackle our most pressing environmental and societal challenges
- to build on past investments and deliver impact
Putting the UK at the forefront of a sustainable transition to net zero by:
- strengthen UK transdisciplinary capability and capacity that results in community mobilisation, advancing knowledge, partnerships, and skills in net zero for land use practitioners and policymakers. Generating research, tools and evidence that informs policy to explore different UK land-use scenarios and appraise the economic, energy security, biodiversity and carbon impacts of these
- embedding research into policy integration of new and existing evidence on land use for climate mitigation, biodiversity, agriculture, and other land uses, to enable policymakers or decision makers to design climate resilient land-policy for 2030 and beyond
- developing clean growth opportunities (practices and technologies) that have real world transformational impact
The programme consists of two components:
- The coordination and translation hub: convene a transdisciplinary, cross-sectoral community building relationships with government and industry to co-develop pathways, advance research, integrate knowledge, identify routes to impact and fast-track evidence into policy to support the UK in the transformation towards net zero, while meeting other environmental and societal goals such as those listed in the 2023 environmental improvement plan.
- Research projects: transdisciplinary research consortia that can deliver cutting edge research to find solutions and provide evidence to inform policy options for driving the desired systems transformation.
This funding opportunity is for the coordination and translation hub. There will be a separate funding opportunity for the research projects.
Convene a transdisciplinary, cross-sectoral community to support the UK in achieving net zero, while meeting other environmental and societal goals. The hub will advance research, integrate knowledge, identify routes to impact and fast track evidence into policy. There are three interlinked areas of focus:
- soil system health and carbon dynamics
- reduce agricultural emissions
- land use change
The programme will seek to understand the co-benefits, trade-offs and risks on the wider environmental policy (such as air and water quality, biodiversity, and more). The hub should provide evidence to underpin policy development and implementation in support of government’s net zero strategy, including evidencing appropriate options for the seventh carbon budget period (2038 to 2042).
In the context of ‘reduce agricultural emissions’ the term ‘agriculture’ refers to all activities pertaining to crops and farmed animals, including horticulture, aquaculture, as well as mixed systems such as agroforestry and silvopastoral systems.
Please note that this funding opportunity focuses strictly on UK land use and does not include land use and net zero research and interventions in overseas countries that are part of the UK supply chain or that are under its influence.
The coordination and translation hub will support policymakers to address key challenges in the three focus themes as set out below. These include, but are not limited to:
Land use change
- what are the key drivers of land use change in the UK?
- how do they interact?
- how are these likely to change by 2050?
- how might environmental, economic or social change influence land use change in the UK?
- how might emerging market opportunities affect UK land use?
- how does UK land use drive multiple social, environmental, and economic outcomes?
- what is the value of natural assets associated with land use under different future scenarios?
- what are the risks to natural capital from climate change?
- what are the intended and unintended consequences, and co-benefits of land use changes on people (including future generations)?
- what are the solutions to facilitate a just transition, as part of changes to land management?
- what are the tensions between national and local priorities for land use, and how can they be reconciled?
- what does our understanding of the drivers tell us about trajectories of UK land use change to 2050?
- what land use changes (including agri-system or nature-based solutions) are needed to meet net zero and our wider environmental and socio-economic goals at national and local levels?
- how is the breadth of government policy driving land use change and which drivers of future land use change can be influenced through policy action?
- how can changes be achieved at national, regional and local scales?
- how can national and local interventions work effectively together?
- what levers can be used to influence change in different land-based sectors?
- how can actors be effectively engaged to enhance collaboration and deliver solutions?
- what is the underpinning research required to support development of accessible and usable decision support tools to drive land use policy and day-to-day decision-making at multiple levels, from national to local, and how can their use be embedded?
- to support these tools data must be at the heart of land use decision-making
- how do we obtain and utilise the complex socio-economic, biological and environmental data required to inform decision-making?
Soil system health and carbon dynamics
Rethinking soil health:
- in its own context, what defines a healthy soil system?
- what new and novel indicators (biological, physicochemical, social, economic, cultural) need to be developed to gauge the extent to which a soil system is delivering multiple functions including sustaining low carbon agricultural production, biodiversity recovery and carbon sequestration?
- what tools and technologies do we need to develop and adopt at scales suitable to enable reliable measurement, monitoring, and thereby prediction of soil system state including carbon fluxes and biodiversity change under different land use and management practices, and climate scenarios?
Rethinking soil management:
- how can we use multiscale and layered datasets to drive innovative analysis, visualisation and prediction to transform farming and wider land management systems to deliver sustainable soil systems that support carbon sequestration and biodiversity, among other ecosystem services?
Reduce agricultural emissions
- how might changing patterns of land use and land availability influence the adoption and use of production technologies and management choices that would help reduce or mitigate GHG emissions or adaptation to their impacts?
- what solutions will enable transformation of production systems under different climate scenarios to achieve lower input production with reduced emissions and impacts on biodiversity and other ecosystem services?
- what could the impact be on other policy goals relating to agriculture?
- which emerging approaches, including GHG removals, might present new solutions for agriculture?
- how can crop and livestock systems be balanced or integrated to optimise productivity while minimising emissions?
- how can the UK agri-food system be transformed to deliver net zero and biodiversity goals while maintaining food security and rural livelihoods?
- what new systems and business models can drive change?
- what social innovations do we need to address cultural and socio-economic barriers to the delivery of net zero agriculture?
- what solutions are needed to enable change at national and local scales?
- to what extent do different models leave us exposed to climate, critical input, and infrastructural disruptions?
Monitoring and scaling up:
- what agriculture production systems are there that can be demonstrated at farm-scale, and which may sustainably enable UK agriculture to adapt to different climate change scenarios?
- what improved metrics of emissions and biodiversity are required to track progress, identify target areas, develop interventions, and flag unintended consequences of change at farm, regional and national levels?
- how could new metrics be integrated into, and be applied alongside existing monitoring, reporting and validation methodologies so that they add value and impact at the farm-scale?
The hub will work in close partnership with government departments, devolved administrations, industry and other stakeholders to:
- co-design and co-develop policy pathways on how to transform land use for net zero, nature and people in the UK. Working with stakeholders to understand the wider context and potential intervention points for land use transformation, including the potential benefits and trade-offs across the system
- identify critical policy-relevant research questions and evidence gaps and provide long term solutions. Policymakers and relevant external actors will be involved in shaping research questions and setting priorities on an ongoing basis
- respond flexibly to urgent and emerging policy questions, for example, acting as a sounding board, convening workshops or undertaking rapid evidence reviews
- manage a flexible fund for agile projects, that provide rapid responses to policy and decision-making needs throughout the programme, that have real world impact (for example, rapid evidence synthesis, convening expert advisory groups or workshops on key issues)
- develop a commonly recognised and accepted shared set of land use scenarios for the UK, focusing on:
- desired goals, and the trajectories of change that would be needed to reach them
- forward projections based on identifying key drivers of change and emerging trends in farming, land use and soil management, including benefits and trade-offs across the whole system
- develop capacity and capability in knowledge brokering and decision support that is embedded into policy and practice at national, regional and local levels. For example, by supporting government to access and use land use and environmental models, by establishing collaborations with government analysts or by developing transdisciplinary ways of working, that can be built into land use governance at local and national levels
- ensure cohesion across the whole programme and develop synergistic links between research projects through events, papers and activities that provide knowledge mobilisation. This will include ensuring that the research feeds into the activities of the hub, and that the hub provides feedback to the strategic research projects
- facilitate embedding policy into research by, for example, secondment of academics into government on a flexible and responsive basis to support urgent policy needs, including rapid, responsive evidence synthesis and policy advice
- build on and link to relevant UKRI and wider UK investments in net zero, in the key themes covered in the scope of this funding opportunity, and other investments in the building a green future theme
- convene key stakeholders across UK land use and management to develop a national dialogue and jointly identify and develop routes to impact. This will require bringing together practitioners to share knowledge and co-design solutions
- develop knowledge brokering systems to facilitate exchange across stakeholder groups and communities and carry out extensive public engagement activities to raise awareness, as well as get feedback from the general public on their expectations from the programme
The hub will have the following outcomes:
- new transdisciplinary research, tools and evidence synthesis that informs policy
- new ways of working between government and academia
- embeds research into policy and practice by catalysing and accelerating collaboration between researchers, government, industry, the public and other stakeholders
- creates increased capacity and capability that results in mobilisation, advancing knowledge, partnerships and skills to rapidly generate and disseminate research evidence that helps policy
- ensures the programme is agile and flexible to address emerging policy needs, working at the interface between science, policy and practice so that the outputs continue to be relevant to policy and decision-makers and other end-users
- ensure cohesion and integrate knowledge across the programme
- clear demonstration of the cost and benefits of specific land use scenarios to net zero, with an analysis of the trade-offs, resilience, and mitigation potential of land use options
- development of modelling tools, mitigation strategies, solution frameworks, assessments of uncertainties, cost benefit analysis, integrated assessment modelling, rapid reviews, and more, to explore plausible pathways towards net zero
- the ability to take a whole-systems view when developing evidence and proposing realistic and viable policy options, crucial to understanding how landscapes can be designed to deliver net zero as well as delivering on commitments around biodiversity, environment, food and energy security, or resilience
Key requirements for the hub
The hub will have the following requirements:
- be UK-wide to include England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
- embed principles and best practices to ensure equality, diversity and inclusivity
- take a holistic approach that builds on, and link to other key UKRI and wider UK investments in net zero as stated (see scope)
- involve a broad range of disciplines in transdisciplinary research agendas and engage non-academic stakeholders, including policymakers at national and local levels across the UK
- include regular monitoring, learning and evaluating on progress and reporting to the programme funders
- the programme funders will provide continued oversight and governance, through this reporting, to ensure that policy relevance is maintained throughout, as an essential deliverable of the hub outcomes
The hub team
We are looking for a diverse hub team that includes researchers and innovators from a broad range of disciplines, as well as policymakers, practitioners and wider civil society. The team must be interdisciplinary, and must include academics, policymakers, and external practitioners with skills in knowledge brokering, facilitation, modelling, soft systems methodology, and futures.
Disciplines involved could be drawn from the agricultural, biological, natural, environmental, physical, engineering, mathematical, economics and social sciences.
The hub team will be required to have excellent skills and experience in:
Policy, communication and strategy:
- working with a range of stakeholders to support the application of research into agricultural or environment policy
- translation and communication of research findings into real world scenarios, which capture both benefits and trade-offs across the whole system
- strong leadership, strategic vision and ability to set and meet objectives
Analysis and evidence:
- expertise across a broad range of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research that is relevant to land use and land use change, soil system health and carbon dynamics, and reducing agriculture emissions
- systems thinking
- developing future scenarios
- evidence synthesis and integration
- foresight and scenario development
- leadership of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research
- programme coordination
- knowledge mobilisation
- workshop design and facilitation
- working with a range of stakeholders to support translation of research into policy
- supporting equality, diversity and inclusion in research or programme coordination
The successful hub team will be allocated a project officer assigned by the government funding partners, who will work with the hub on monitoring, evaluation and reporting at least quarterly.
There will be mid-term review to decide if outputs and outcomes are being achieved and if funding should continue. Steering will be provided by a Programme Executive Board, who will provide input throughout the duration of the award.
Funding is available for up to 40 months, with a fixed start date of 1 November 2023.
We will invest a total of £6,250,000 to support one coordination and translation hub (at 80% FEC).
Funding under the ‘directly incurred’ cost heading may include the following costs:
- travel and subsistence: to enable members of the coordination and translation hub to meet to exchange ideas and expertise. This may include visits by or to experts overseas. This may also include travel and subsistence costs to support secondments. Where possible, collaborators should meet their own travel costs
- administrative support: a sufficient level of administrative support should be requested to ensure the coordination, management and smooth running of the hub. Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the hub’s activities can also be included
- organisation of activities: funding can be requested for costs involved in running activities such as networking events, expert working groups, workshops. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about the range of activities that could support the delivery of the hub’s goals
- engagement and access: funds can be requested for engagement activities, such as engaging with farmers and accessing agricultural sites
- activities to identify and disseminate key research challenges in the area, for example, horizon scanning studies
- activities to facilitate impact and advance policy: for example, reports and briefings
- secondment support: funds can be requested for support, including scoping of potential opportunities, travel and subsistence
- activities to support career development: funds can be requested for activities including training, knowledge exchange visits and mentoring
- activities to connect users, industry, policymakers and other stakeholders with the research base: funds can be requested for activities including stakeholder workshops and engagements with farmers and small and medium enterprises to support participation
- communication costs: funds can be requested for communication costs and for additional equipment such as personal computers and web servers
- equipment: funds can be requested for equipment to support networking, events and communication. Equipment over £10,000 is not available through this opportunity
Further details will be covered in the webinar. If there are any queries regarding eligibility of specific costs please use the email address in the contact details section of the funding opportunity. Please provide sufficient time ahead of the submission date when making these queries.
As directed by the UKRI policies and standards, responsible innovation aims to ensure that:
- unintended negative impacts are avoided
- barriers to dissemination, adoption and diffusion of research and innovation are reduced
- the positive societal and economic benefits of research and innovation are fully realised
Applicants for this funding opportunity will be required to practice responsible innovation following the UKRI guidance. This includes avoiding solution options that would require decreasing the overall fraction of locally produced UK food and avoiding negative offshore environmental outcomes as a result of the changes in UK land use.
UKRI recognises that we must embed environmental sustainability in everything we do.
You are expected to consider the environmental impact of the hub’s activities and to put in place actions that encourage sustainability and mitigate any risk of environmental harm.