Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: NERC large grant to tackle big environmental science questions: Mar 2023

Apply for funding to support innovative, large-scale and complex projects that tackle big science questions and have the potential to produce world-leading research.

You must be:

  • a UK resident
  • employed by an eligible UK research organisation

Your project must be predominantly within NERC’s remit, although we will fund research that crosses over into other research council areas.

Funding of between £1.2 million and £3.7 million (at 100% full economic cost) is available for projects lasting up to 5 years.

We will fund 80% of your project’s full economic cost for most UK costs with some exceptions.

Who can apply

You can apply if you are a research group or individual. 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 investigators and co-investigators must meet the eligibility criteria in section C of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Principal investigators based outside the UK are not permitted. Co-investigators must be based in the UK, except for 2 current exceptions:

Co-investigators based in the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and in eligible organisations in Norway can be included under specific agreements:

We encourage multidisciplinary research and collaborations with other UK organisations. Other international and non-academic collaborators can be involved as project partners.

We encourage applications from diverse groups of researchers.

The inclusion of researcher co-investigators is encouraged where they have made a substantial intellectual contribution to the development of the application and will be engaged with the ensuing research.

What we're looking for

You can submit a proposal in any area of environmental science, provided it is predominantly within a research area or subject associated with NERC’s remit.

We also welcome multidisciplinary proposals that cross into other research council areas.

We’re looking for proposals that can support pure, applied, technology-led or policy-driven research but still address (or provide the means to address) clearly-defined scientific questions.

We expect that the research projects we fund will have the potential to be world-leading.

Large research projects must tackle big science questions. To achieve this, they will often involve multidisciplinary approaches. We expect your proposal to show several interdependent components (we call these work packages) interacting in a single overall structure.

What we will fund

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost for UK organisations:

  • directly incurred costs such as staff payroll, travel and subsistence, and consumables
  • directly allocated costs such as investigators’ salaries, estates costs and shared resources
  • indirect costs such as research organisation administration

UK equipment is funded at 100% full economic cost.

Associated studentships based at the UK organisation can be funded through this funding opportunity. We will fund studentship stipends and fees at 100% direct costs and other related costs at 80%.

Eligible international co-investigator costs (under the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis or Norway agreement) are funded at:

  • 100% for eligible direct costs
  • a maximum of 30% of the full economic cost value for all international costs

For eligible international co-investigators, we will fund:

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

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • estates and other indirect costs
  • capital costs

How to apply

This funding opportunity takes part in 2 stages:

  • submission of an outline proposal
  • invited submission of a full proposal, if successful at stage 1

Outline proposal

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

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 select ‘New document’, then:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: outline proposal
  • scheme: NERC outline
  • call/type/mode: Large Grant Outline MAR23

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

Your host organisation will be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application.

Your outline proposal should include a case for support (up to 4 sides of A4) comprising:

  • objectives and anticipated outputs
  • an outline of the research proposed and its international context
  • justification for why a large grant is more appropriate than several standard grants
  • details of the composition and experience of the research team
  • the role of project partners and co-funding (both proposed and secured)
  • an outline of your project management and data management plans
  • your proposed use of any NERC facilities
  • details of equipment you will be requesting
  • references

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.


NERC must receive your application by 9 March 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

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.

We encourage you to contact us at an early stage if you have any questions about your eligibility or the application process. We can also give you advice on the best funding route for your proposed research project.

Full proposals

If we accept your outline proposal, we will invite you to submit a full proposal at least 4 months before the closing date.

If successful at the outline stage, you will be invited to submit a full application. We will send you guidance on completing a full application at this next stage on 3 July 2023.

The invited full proposal stage of this opportunity is likely to run on The Funding Service our new funding platform, rather than via Je-S.

The Funding Service has a digital form-based format with sections addressing application questions which are the assessment criteria for the opportunity.

How we will assess your application

Outline proposals

A panel of experts from the Peer Review College will assess all outline proposals. We may also bring in independent experts, as needed. We will assess proposals against the following criteria:

  • research excellence
  • fit to scheme

We usually approve around 10 proposals at this stage. We will provide feedback on your proposal.

We will email you to let you know if your outline proposal has been successful and invite you to submit a full proposal. We’ll do this at least 4 months before the closing date.

Read more about our pre-award assessment criteria.

Full proposals

If we approve your outline proposal, we will invite you to submit a full proposal. External experts will assess this and we will reject your proposal at this stage if it receives consistently low scores.

If approved, you will have the opportunity to respond to their comments before NERC’s large grants interview panel assesses your full proposal.

This panel will include members of the Peer Review College and independent experts, as needed. We will invite you to make a presentation to the panel and answer questions to help with the assessment process. The panel usually meets in March and we will let you know the date as soon as it is set.

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

Research grants team


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

NERC has agreements with other funders such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), São Paulo Research Foundation and Fonds National de la Recherche. This can make it easier for UK researchers to collaborate with research partners around the world by removing the risk that a proposed project will receive funding in one country but not in another.

Find out more about our international funding agreements.

Please note that if you wish to work with US-based researchers (NSF) then you will need to submit an expression of interest form. The deadline for submitting the form is 9 March 2023.

Supporting documents

NERC research grants and fellowships handbook

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