Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Environmental science: NERC standard and new investigator grants

Apply for funding to carry out a research project in any area of environmental science in the remit of NERC.

You must be:

  • based at an eligible UK research organisation
  • at lecturer level, or equivalent.

If applying for a ‘new investigator’ grant, you must also:

  • be within five years of your first employment at lecturer level, or equivalent, at an eligible research organisation
  • not yet have received competitive research funding as a principal investigator.

The full economic cost of your project can be:

  • up to £800,000, for most proposals
  • more than £800,000 only in exceptional cases.

We will usually fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

You can apply if you are a research group or individual. To be eligible as a principal investigator you must be:

  • resident in the UK
  • employed by an eligible UK research organisation (higher education institution, research council institute, recognised independent research organisation or public sector research establishment)
  • employed at lecturer (or equivalent) level or above.

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

New investigators

If you want to apply as a new investigator, you must meet the same eligibility criteria as a principal investigator but be at the start of your independent scientific career. You must:

  • be within five years of first becoming eligible for NERC funding as a principal investigator
  • not have received competitive research funding from any source as a principal investigator including post-doctoral research assistant staff support costs.

Find more information on:

Investigators may be involved in no more than two proposals submitted to this opportunity. They may only be the ‘lead principal investigator’ on one of these proposals.

What we're looking for

As a researcher you can submit a proposal in any area of environmental science that interests you, provided that it’s predominantly within our remit:

  • archaeology
  • atmospheric physics and chemistry
  • climate and climate change
  • ecology, biodiversity and systematics
  • genetics and development
  • geosciences
  • marine environments
  • medical and health interface
  • microbial sciences
  • omic sciences and technologies
  • planetary science
  • plant and crop science
  • pollution, waste and resources
  • terrestrial and freshwater environments
  • tools, technology and methods.

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 will fund 80% of the full economic cost for:

  • 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.

Equipment is funded at 100% full economic cost.

You cannot request associated studentships through this opportunity.

How to apply

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

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.

When applying select ‘New document’ then one of the following options:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard grant
  • call: standard grant Jan22 and standard grant new investigator Jan22.

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

The opportunity will close at 16:00 on 18 January 2022 and it will not be possible to submit applications after this time.

Applicants should leave enough time for their proposal to pass through their organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

Any proposal that is incomplete, or does not meet NERC’s eligibility criteria or follow NERC’s proposal submission rules, will be office rejected and not be considered.

There are restrictions on how many applications a research organisation can make. This will depend on the organisation’s previous standard grants success rate.

NERC standard grant demand management measures per research organisation 2019 guide (PDF, 220KB)

You can find out more about the application process in the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Applying for more than £800,000

We will accept applications for more than the normal £800,000 limit in exceptional cases. For example, if you have high facility, fieldwork, equipment or other costs but your project does not meet our large grant scheme’s requirements for scale and complexity of research.

If you are planning to apply for more than the funding limit of £800,000, you must get approval first. Your application will be rejected if you have not received permission before you apply.

You must contact us at least two months before the opportunity closing date to get our permission to submit a standard grant proposal that is higher than the maximum funding limit. This includes costs for:

  • the Geophysical Equipment Facility ocean bottom instruments
  • Geophysical Equipment Facility seismometers
  • Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements, Airborne Research & Survey Facility or the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) twin otter aircraft (the facility will be able to advise on eligible instrument or aircraft costs)
  • European Incoherent Scatter Radar facility
  • other ship-time or marine facility related costs.

Find out more in section B (‘types of award’) of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

For the current round, the requirements for what can be submitted through Je-S have changed considerably from previous rounds. We have reduced the requirement for many of the attachments to reduce bureaucracy.

The application document requirements are:

  • case for support, maximum of 7 sides:
    • 2 sides of previous track record and capability to deliver
    • 5 sides for proposed research.
  • justification of resources, maximum of 2 sides
  • facility forms, as required, where the use of a NERC facility is being requested
  • non-UK components, if the proposal is being submitted under a lead agency agreement
  • proposal cover letter can be attached where required, for internal use only.

Do not submit:

  • CVs. Information relevant to the team should be included in the two- page track record and capability to deliver section of the case for support)
  • letters of support (for project partners or other partners)
  • outline data management plan
  • equipment quotes.

Please attach blank documents as needed to manage any validations in Je-S, which can not be removed.

If you want to use NERC services and facilities, including ship and marine equipment and BAS Antarctic logistics support, refer to the guidance on deadlines and relevant forms in the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

How we will assess your application

We will assess your proposal for its scientific excellence using a peer review process. This consists of two stages.

Stage one: expert review

We invite three to four UK and international experts to review your proposal. These may be members of the NERC Peer Review College. You may nominate reviewers and we will invite them to comment on your proposal. You will have the chance to respond to reviewers’ comments.

Stage two: moderating panel

This will include peer review college members and other experts as required.

We aim to complete the assessment process within six months of receiving your application.

NERC assessment process.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

NERC Research Grants Team


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

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Additional info

NERC has agreements with other funders such as the National Science Foundation and São Paulo Research Foundation. 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.


UKRI 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, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career such as:

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

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts 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.

Responsible research

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, 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 or 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.

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

Supporting documents

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