Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: NERC strategic capital funding opportunity 2023

Apply for funding to improve the environmental research landscape through new or improved equipment.

You must be:

  • based at a UK research organisation eligible for Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funding
  • in a role that meets the individual eligibility requirements

Your application must:

  • create new or build upon existing equipment
  • support NERC’s environmental science remit

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be between £350,000 to £750,000. We will fund 100% of the FEC for equipment only.

Projects must run for no more than 34 months and must begin from mid May 2024 2024.

Who can apply

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service. For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Before applying for funding, check the following:

Who is eligible to apply

This funding opportunity is open to research groups and individuals. We:

  • encourage multidisciplinary research and collaborations with other UK organisations
  • welcome applications from individuals at any career stage, subject to the UKRI eligibility criteria
  • value equality, diversity and inclusion across all our funding programmes, and actively encourage applications from diverse groups of researchers

Resubmissions of previously unsuccessful applications to NERC for capital funding are allowed.

Research organisations can submit up to two applications as the lead organisation.

Individuals may be involved in no more than two applications submitted to this funding opportunity. Only one of these applications can be as the project lead. Additional applications from the same project lead will automatically be rejected.

International applicants

Note this funding opportunity does not come under the UKRI and Research Council of Norway Money Follows Cooperation agreement or enable International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) collaboration.

You should include all international collaborators (or UK partners not based at approved organisations) as project partners. This includes organisations from the business or financial sectors.

Project partners fund their own involvement.

What we're looking for


The primary objective of this funding opportunity is to:

  • provide strategic investment in UK capital infrastructure
  • deliver a step change in research capability

Proposed assets will likely create or offer a novel addition or improvement to an existing capability and will fulfil strategic research needs beyond those aligned to individual research projects.

Specifically, this funding opportunity will support the procurement of equipment.

Numerous capital assets have previously been funded by NERC through strategic environmental science capital investments. These competitive grant awards have been used to improve the environmental research landscape in different ways, including increasing capacity and enabling more efficient sample analysis; improving precision in measurements; and enabling the development, implementation or both of novel monitoring techniques.

Applications are invited for capital assets which:

  • enable significant and world class environmental research to be undertaken that would otherwise not have been possible and have the potential to stimulate innovation and economic impact
  • support NERC’s environmental science remit (see NERC’s environmental science remit)
  • demonstrate a commitment to embed sustainability within the project in line with NERC’s commitment to sustainable research
  • provide maximum positive impact over both short and long timescales. Have a useful life exceeding one year
  • create or build upon a new capability rather than maintain or duplicate an existing capability, unless evidence is provided as to why this is appropriate

The headings below provide further details about any application you make.

Single assets

Applications must be for a single asset (one per application). Individual components forming a suite of equipment are allowable only if they form a single asset.

You must consider the full lifecycle costs beyond this grant and that they must be acquired elsewhere. This includes all operational and ongoing staff costs.

You must also consider:

  • whether there is enough demand for the asset
  • methods for ensuring strong governance of the asset
  • embedded incentives to ensure efficient and effective use of the asset in the long-term

Capital requests can include justified labour costs required for creating the asset (where evidence is provided that these costs cannot be met elsewhere). However, resource costs are not allowed, which includes staffing costs related to operation and maintenance of the asset (after the creation of the asset) and user training.

Avoiding asset duplication

Applications should avoid duplication of equipment. Where the asset requested is a duplicate, a strong case must be made as to:

  • why the pre-existing asset is insufficient to meet required capability or user demand
  • why the asset outlined in the application should be funded

You must refer to:

Equipment must be made available to multiple users through equipment sharing and assets must be listed on the above-mentioned database. Use of equipment in multidisciplinary research areas is welcomed, while meeting NERC’s environmental science remit.

Equality, diversity and inclusion considerations

Equality, diversity and inclusion should be appropriately considered in the design and planned use of the asset, and should be explained in your response to the ‘Sustainability’ question.

We are committed to achieving equality 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 at UKRI and NERC’s diversity and inclusion action plan.

Environmental sustainability of your proposed asset

The application must adequately consider environmental impact, including demonstrating evidence that the potential of environmental harm from both procurement and ongoing operation has been considered.

Considerations should include, for example:

  • energy use, conservation and management
  • asset lifecycle (such as end-to-end use, end-of-life opportunities and decommissioning)

Evidence of actions taken to minimise potential harm and maximise benefit (for example, actions taken to reduce carbon emissions) should also be clearly demonstrated. See ‘How to Apply’ for more information. See the ‘Responsible Research’ section for more details.

Consideration of ‘place’ and ‘levelling up’

We have long supported access to cutting edge and diverse capital and infrastructure for the environmental sciences community across the UK.

You should consider how your proposed asset may potentially benefit the local place or region where the asset is located. This can be demonstrated within your answers to the ‘Vision’, ‘Approach’ and ‘Sustainability’ sections. This may include, but not be limited to the following aspects (noting that not all will be relevant to your application):

  • unlocking potential innovation and local economic growth
  • job creation, skills development, development of capability
  • users in the local area and other areas in the UK not typically in receipt of significant levels of research funding, thereby enabling excellent research and innovation and increased capacity
  • driving local and place-based environmental and social benefits

This is in support of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s strategic priorities to:

  • ensure the UK has cutting edge research and innovation (R&I) infrastructures
  • enable R&I capability across regions
  • support a diversity of institutions and a diverse portfolio as part of its world-class places objective


The duration of this award is a maximum of 34 months.

Projects cannot start before mid May 2024. We will work with the successful applicants to determine an appropriate start date to meet our profiled payment needs.

Funding available

The FEC of your project can be between £350,000 and £750,000 (including VAT).

We will fund 100% of the FEC for capital equipment, and associated costs. See ‘What we will fund’.

You must provide three equipment quotes for equipment costing over £138,000. Where you believe that there are fewer than three potential suppliers for an item, you should provide a brief explanation as to why fewer than three quotations were obtained.

A single grant will be awarded to the lead research organisation.

Applications that request contributions to an already planned asset, or that will be co-funded by an institute to deliver the requested asset, should not include institute contributions in the total grant value. In such instances, you must clearly state in your answer to the ‘Resources and cost justification’ section:

  • how much funding has been acquired from elsewhere
  • how much funding is being requested from NERC

These applications will require sign off from your institute’s finance director (or equivalent) and if your application is successful then we will request a letter of support.

We reserve the right to work with successful applicants to determine the spend profile.

What we will fund

For this funding opportunity, your application must:

Capital costs can include labour and development costs associated with the creation of the asset such as:

  • transport
  • delivery
  • installation

These costs must be entered under the equipment fund heading only.

A clear case must be made as to how any suite of equipment will collectively form a single asset.

Support from industry partners in the form of expertise (in-kind support) or leveraged funding (financial support) is welcomed as evidence of increased asset impact and reach.

What we will not fund

The following costs are not eligible for this funding opportunity:

  • PhD studentship costs
  • staff costs will not be funded on this award after the creation of the asset, such as resourcing related to operation or maintenance
  • estates and indirect costs
  • individual items under £10,000 (unless forming a single asset from a suite of equipment with a total value over £10,000)
  • items with a life expectancy of less than one year
  • insurance and servicing including warranties
  • user training after the asset’s creation
  • routine replacement and, or, repair of assets, such as:
    • building repairs
    • maintenance
    • scheduled replacement of standard equipment
    • costs related to rent or leasing
    • single-user or single-project equipment
  • items which constitute normal elements of a well-founded laboratory (for example, centrifuges, fridges, and incubators), unless as part of a larger infrastructure application (consumables will not be permitted under any application)
  • new technologies which are unlikely to generate a productive asset
  • applications submitted to other funding opportunities during the same time frame (including all UKRI grant schemes)
  • investment requested in digital or e-infrastructures, such as data and computing systems (see the digital environment and national capability funding streams for further information on funding such infrastructure)
  • services and facilities (see ‘Services and facilities’ section)

Services and facilities

You cannot request the use of NERC scientific support and facilities (S&F) under this funding opportunity.

Applications that will provide capital assets for NERC S&F are welcome, however these must be discussed with the facility lead and the appropriate centre contact.

Applications supporting NERC S&F must be coordinated and should not represent multiple requests for the same capital asset unless evidence for sufficient demand can be provided and prior consent given by NERC.

If the application is not from the facility lead, but from, for example, a node of the facility, then the S&F lead must be listed as a project partner. The relevant centre contact must also be informed of the application.

This will ensure that any applications from within facilities are coordinated.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

As one of the funders to sign the technician commitment, NERC recognises the value of technical expertise to the UK workforce. To reflect this, we welcome applications from all eligible faculty staff as either project lead or project co-leads.

Postdoctoral research assistants involved in the development of the application can be included as a researcher co-lead.

Responsible research

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment. This is 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
  • equality, diversity and inclusion

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

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise 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 capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. 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 you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the UKRI Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

Watch our recording on how to apply for an opportunity in the UKRI Funding Service.

To apply:

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a UKRI Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the UKRI Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the ‘How to apply’ section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service.


We must receive your application by 5 December 2023 at 4.00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Personal data

NERC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your UKRI funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

NERC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity on What NERC has funded.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.


Word count: 550

In plain English, provide a summary that we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • what the proposed asset is and why is it novel
  • the science questions or challenge the asset addresses
  • potential benefits and beneficiaries

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

Application questions

Purpose, Vision and Approach

Word count: 10

Why is the proposed infrastructure needed? What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed infrastructure? What are your plans to manage the proposed infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response
Upload guidance

Create a document that includes your responses to all criteria. The document should not be more than six sides of A4, single line spacing in 11-point Arial (or equivalent sans serif font) with margins of at least 2cm.

You may include images, graphs, tables.

For the file name, use the unique UKRI funding service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Purpose and Vision and Approach’.

Save this document as a single PDF file, no bigger than 8MB. Unless specifically requested, do not include any personal data within the attachment.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

Once you have uploaded, enter the text ‘attachment provided’ into the textbox, mark this section as complete and move to the next one.

For the Purpose, explain how the proposed infrastructure:

  • creates a new, or builds upon, an existing capability
  • meets the evidenced needs of clearly identified user groups
  • will have a measurable impact beyond the immediate team

Within the Purpose section we also expect you to:

  • give the title, manufacturer and model (where applicable) and the proposed location of the equipment
  • state if the proposed asset already exists elsewhere, outlining details of the other asset(s) and explaining what the new asset provides that current assets do not
  • highlight the main science questions that the proposed asset will address or enable, and indicate how the asset will address them

For the Vision, explain how the proposed infrastructure will:

  • enable high quality and important research questions to be addressed
  • meet the strategic aims of the funder or government
  • enhance and complement the existing landscape
  • be of international importance (if applicable)

Within the Vision section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and beneficiaries
  • highlight why this asset should be funded now and what the impact is if it is not funded
  • explain how the asset will advance current understanding or capability and generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • explain how the asset will generate wider impact (for example, make data produced from equipment open source, create employment or training opportunities, stimulate the economy)
  • identify if, and how, the asset has the potential to stimulate innovation, both nationally, and in the local or regional area (if appropriate)

Within the Approach section explain:

  • how the asset complements existing assets in the host institute
  • the community demand and reach for the proposed asset and how this will be met
  • the estimated balance of users from the host institution, academics from external institutions and industrial users
  • how the asset will be made available for use by others, and if there are charges incurred for internal or external use (if so, provide estimated costs), outlining application and assessment processes


Word count: 1,000

What steps have you taken to ensure the sustainability (economic, environmental and social) of your proposed asset?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

For the Sustainability, explain how the proposed infrastructure:

  • is as economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable as possible
  • delivers large scale societal, environmental and economic benefits
  • will have its lifetime maximised, including stating what the expected lifetime is, and where relevant, how will the asset be sustainably decommissioned?

Within the Sustainability section we also expect you to explain:

  • how long-term operational and maintenance costs, including staffing will be supported?
  • is the proposed asset to be integrated into an existing NERC service, facility, equipment pool, or similar and if so, how?
  • how the proposed asset is complementary to NERC or host institute carbon reduction targets?
  • if relevant, how does the proposed asset contribute to a broader approach to environmental sustainability such as enhancing biodiversity or clean air, as well as reducing carbon emissions?
  • how you have considered equality, diversity and inclusion, including equitable access, in the design and planned use of the asset to maximise benefit to the UK environmental sciences community?

For environmental sustainability, NERC centres should explain how the asset is complementary to the NERC’s commitment to have net zero emissions for all operations by 2040, while other research organisations should explain how the asset complements your organisation’s carbon reduction targets, where applicable.

Project partners

Word count: 1,000

Provide details about any project partners’ contributions.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do have project partners, download and complete the project partner contributions template (DOCX, 52KB) then copy and paste the table within it into the text box.

Ensure you have obtained prior agreement from project partners that, should you be offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the template.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation that is contributing to the application and will have an integral role in the proposed research. Project partners cannot normally receive funding directly from the grant. An exception relevant to this funding opportunity is:

  • where a project partner is providing services or equipment that will go through a formal procurement process audited by the host research organisation

Within the project partners section we also expect you to:

  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.


Word count: 1,000

List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Include all references in this section, not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application.

If linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible.

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.


Word Count: 250

Upload any quotes that you need to provide for requesting funding of your asset.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You must provide three equipment quotes for equipment costing over £138,000.

Where you believe that there are fewer than three potential suppliers for an item, you should provide a brief explanation as to why fewer than three quotations were obtained.

Upload guidance

Save the quotes in a single PDF no bigger than 8MB.

For the file name, use the unique UKRI funding service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the word ‘Quotes’.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The UKRI Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply.

Resources and cost justification

Word count: 1,000

What will you need to deliver your asset and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response
Guidance on using the costs table

Only equipment costs can be requested via this funding opportunity. In the costs table:

  • set the salary costs for any member of the team, including the project lead, to £0 and % FTE as appropriate
  • include the total value of the requested assets under the ‘Exceptions – Equipment’ header, enabling funding at 100% FEC from NERC
  • leave all other cost headings blank

If non-eligible costs are included in the costs table or in the ‘Justification of Resources’ text box, the application will be rejected.

Using the text box, demonstrate how the resources you are requesting:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

List the requested asset and equipment costs broken down in components ensuring you also state:

  • if applicable, how much additional funding the host organisation or project partner is providing, and the total funding requested from NERC
  • a brief justification of labour costs, if applicable, and why they are required and cannot be met elsewhere. Labour costs required for procuring and installing the asset may be included within the funds requested
  • a brief justification of any other costs required for the generation of the asset which are not covered in the quotes

If you have equipment costs, input these under the ‘Exceptions’ heading on the UKRI Funding Service. This will allow them to be costed at 100%.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Prior to the assessment stage:

  • we reserve the right to reject applications, without reference to panel assessment, that are deemed to fall outside the remit and scope (including the financial scope) of this funding opportunity

Your application will be assessed by the following process:

  • applications that fit the remit and scope of the funding opportunity will be assessed through a single-stage panel assessment process. This process will make use of an expert panel, who will assess applications against the published criteria for this funding opportunity
  • this process will use a broadly based, multidisciplinary panel with appropriate expertise
  • the panel will provide us with a recommended rank-ordered list of applications

When making the final funding decisions, we will use the recommendations of the panel, along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget. We reserve the right to use the recommendations to create a balanced portfolio across research themes and location of assets.


We aim to complete the assessment process within three months of the funding opportunity closing.


If your application was discussed by a panel, we will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI Principles of Assessment and Decision Making.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment criteria

The criteria against which your application will be assessed are:

  • purpose
  • vision
  • approach
  • sustainability

Find details of assessment questions under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity


Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the UKRI Funding Service helpdesk on

Include in the subject line: NERC Strategic capital call 2023; sensitive information; your UKRI Funding Service application number

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Implementation and delivery

Funded equipment must be purchased and installed before the conclusion of the grant.

In line with normal grant processes, a final expenditure statement (FES) will be required three months after the grant end date.

You will be expected to adhere to any specific grant conditions and follow our guidelines for the procurement and management of capital assets as set out in the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Terms and Conditions.

Data management

It is not expected that data will be produced as an output of this funding opportunity, therefore an outline data management plan is not required.

Reporting requirements

Successful applicants will be required to report research outcomes on Researchfish in line with standard UKRI terms and conditions. This is required annually and continues for up to five years after the grant ends.

Grant holders must also fulfil our reporting requirements up to 24 months after the grant end date. Reports will be requested in six monthly intervals and will ask for:

  • confirmation of the successful procurement and installation of the funded asset
  • a list of other grants, projects, research organisations or businesses that have used, or plan to use, the asset
  • details on the asset usage, including the approximate breakdown by hours for each user group and, where applicable, information on equipment sharing
  • other identified benefits of the investment


We reserve the right to conduct asset verification, which could include site visits to view the asset. We also reserve the right to request further relevant details with respect to the assets funded at any point.

To encourage equipment sharing, grant holders of equipment must list their asset on the equipment data website. The URL link to the equipment will be requested in the grant reporting.

To encourage best practice, we welcome impact case studies detailing how capital assets have been successfully utilised and shared or used by people outside of the host institute.

We also welcome case studies that demonstrate what actions have been taken to promote sustainable research practices.

You must inform us as soon as possible if, during the lifetime of the asset, the need for the asset diminishes substantially or it is not being used for the purpose for which it was funded.

We reserve the right to withdraw funding or determine the disposal of equipment and to claim the proceeds of any sale if these requirements are not being met.

Feedback on application process

To ensure continual improvements and development of best practice, we welcome your feedback on the application process for this funding opportunity. If you would like to provide feedback, then email

Webinar for potential applicants

We held a webinar for potential applicants on 25 October 2023.

Watch the webinar (Zoom).

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Modern slavery is a crime and a violation of fundamental human rights. It takes various forms which deprive a person of their liberty in order to exploit them for personal or commercial gain, such as:

  • slavery
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  • human trafficking
  • forced and compulsory labour

We are committed to the principles of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and the abolition of modern slavery and human trafficking.


  • 19 March 2024
    Project start date amended from 1 April 2024 to mid May 2024.
  • 10 October 2023
    Resources and cost justification section updated to clarify where equipment costs need to be inputted. Duration of the projects and panel meeting date also updated.

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