Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pushing the frontiers of environmental research: July 2024

Apply for funding to pursue an ambitious, high risk and high reward project in environmental research.

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

We welcome:

  • multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research
  • projects delivered in partnership with other research funders and users

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £950,000. We will fund 80% of the FEC.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

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.

Who is eligible to apply

This funding opportunity is open to research groups and individuals.

Your research project must address a significant environmental science question, but we welcome applications from individuals who can demonstrate a capability to collaborate with experts from other disciplines to generate innovative research.

We encourage multidisciplinary research and collaborations with other UK organisations.

We welcome applications from individuals at any career stage, subject to the UKRI eligibility criteria.

You may be involved in no more than two applications submitted to this funding opportunity. Only one of these can be as a project lead.

International applicants

We do not fund overseas organisations, except for specific costs for project co-leads from Norway and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Read more about this in the NERC eligibility guidance for applicants.

You should include all other 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. We will only fund minor incidental expenses, such as some travel costs, if needed for project partners.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

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.

What we're looking for


This funding opportunity supports researchers’ curiosity and imagination to enable discoveries that unlock new knowledge with a degree of adventure previously unrealised.

We are seeking to invest in our best environmental researchers to be truly adventurous and ambitious in the pursuit of curiosity driven, high risk and high reward projects.

We are looking for applications 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 welcome, and are increasingly supporting, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, designed, supported and delivered in partnership with other research funders and research users.

The research must sit predominantly within NERC’s research areas. We will work with other research councils to ensure that applications close to remit boundaries are assessed by the most appropriate lead council. We encourage you to contact us first to discuss your application if you believe your research may cross research council boundaries.

See our remit query form.

Use of novel, critical technologies in your application

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is seeking to support researchers and innovators to develop and make use of novel, critical technologies including artificial intelligence, engineering biology, and quantum technologies throughout its investment portfolio. We have also set out our aspirations for the future of data and technology in environmental science in our digital strategy 2021 to 2030. In developing your application to this funding opportunity, you may wish to consider how the innovative use of critical technologies, and approaches addressing the ambitions of NERC’s digital strategy, might offer opportunities to address your research questions in new and novel ways. This might include the development of new collaborations across domains and disciplines.


There is no defined project duration, but awards are usually for between three and four years.

Funding available

The FEC of your project can be up to £950,000. Note that this funding limit takes into account indexation rates applied to all UKRI grants, so the maximum FEC value of individual awards will be £1 million.

We will fund 80% of the FEC with the following exceptions:

  • justified equipment would be funded at 100%
  • eligible costs for international project co-lead involvement would be funded at 100%

Costs for ship and marine equipment (SME) are not included in the application, so do not count towards the funding limit.

We have already reduced the information we request at the application submission stage to focus on information required for the expert review and assessment process. This is in line with the recommendations of the.

In your application you must include an indication of the likely cost of the project by selecting one cost range:

  • up to £760,000
  • £760,000 to £950,000
  • over £950,000

Most applications will be expected to be under £950,000. We recognise that a small number of projects have exceptional costs that may require the budget to exceed the maximum grant limit. A third option (over £950,000) is available to recognise this limited number of cases. No further information on costs will be submitted at the time of application.

Once a decision is made on applications that are in the funding frame, we will request further details about the funding required under each fund heading and justification for those costs. This will enable us to remove costs associated with NERC services and facilities and award those costs notionally. Where the costs requested exceed the £950,000 limit, further justification will be required and we reserve the right to reduce the amount requested.

Example of facilities you can apply to use in your application include:

  • Geophysical Equipment Facility ocean bottom instruments
  • Geophysical Equipment Facility seismometers
  • Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements, Airborne Research and 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

What we will fund

  • facilities costs
  • cruise costs

What we will not fund

We will not fund PhD studentship costs.

Services and facilities

You can apply to use a facility or resource in your funding application.

You should discuss your application with the facility or service at least two months before the funding opportunity’s closing date to:

  • discuss the proposed work in detail
  • receive confirmation that they can provide the services required within the timeframe of the funding

The facility will provide a technical assessment that includes the calculated cost of providing the service. NERC services and facilities must be costed within the limits of the funding.

You should not submit the technical assessment with the application, but you must confirm you have received it.

For more information, see the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Read the full list of NERC facilities that require a technical assessment.

High Performance Computing (HPC), SME and the large research facilities at Harwell have their own policies for access and costing.

Ship-time and marine facilities

Applications may require ship time and other marine facilities. If you wish to use NERC’s marine facilities, you must complete an online SME or autonomous deployment (ADF) application form available from Marine Facilities Planning. Include the SME or ADF number on the ‘facilities’ section of your application.

SMEs or ADFs must be submitted to and approved by NERC Marine Planning by the time your funding application is submitted. A PDF of the SME or ADF can be attached as a facility form to your application. If you do not do this, your request may not be included in the NERC Marine Facilities Programme.

If you intend to apply for NERC’s marine facilities, you should contact to discuss ship-time and equipment needs as soon as possible and by 17 May 2024.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Antarctic Logistics Support

If you require NERC BAS Antarctic logistics support, you must complete a pre-award operational support planning questionnaire (OSPQ) online.

You must email the Antarctic Access Office (AAO) at BAS (email: stating your name, institution and project title.

The AAO will set up a new and numbered pre-award OSPQ and send the link to you along with instructions for completion.

The deadline for pre-award OSPQs to be submitted is 17 April 2024. Any funding applications that request Antarctic logistic support without having received prior logistic approval will not be awarded. All funding applications wishing to use Antarctic logistics support must add this to the facilities question in their application.

You should also be aware of the NERC update on polar research planning.

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.

International collaboration

NERC has agreements with other funders:

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 getting funding for international collaboration.

If you wish to work with US-based researchers (NSF) then you must submit an expression of interest form. The deadline for submitting the form is 17 April 2024.

Work with US-based researchers on environmental science research

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Data management

You must adhere to the NERC data policy and complete the ‘Data management and sharing’ question.

For details of data centres, see the NERC environmental data service.

We will pay the data centre directly on behalf of the programme for archival and curation services, but you should ensure that you request sufficient resource to cover preparation of data for archiving by the research team. Additional services from the data centres, such as database development or a specialist in project data management during your project, will need to be discussed with the relevant data centre prior to submission, costs for additional services will need to be included in the grant application.

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
  • the local community
  • 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 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 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
    Allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  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 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.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. You should:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • ensure that files are smaller than 5MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:


Applications should be self-contained, and hyperlinks should only be used to provide links directly to reference information. To ensure the information’s integrity is maintained, where possible, persistent identifiers such as digital object identifiers should be used. Assessors are not required to access links to carry out assessment or recommend a funding decision. You should use your discretion when including references and prioritise those most pertinent to your application.

Reference should be included in the appropriate question section of the application and be easily identifiable by the assessors, for example (Smith, Research Paper, 2019).

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


We must receive your application by 17 July 2024 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. We will not be returning applications for amendment. If an application is withdrawn prior to peer review or office rejected due to substantive errors in the application, it cannot be re-submitted to the same round.

Personal data

NERC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your 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:

  • context
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

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

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

Only list one individual as project lead. The project lead is responsible for setting up and completing the application process on the Funding Service.

The PcL (I) role should only be used for applications making use of the UKRI-RCN Money Follows Cooperation agreement or the UKRI-IIASA agreement. We do not otherwise accept project co-lead (international) applicants.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Application questions


Word limit: 1,100

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

For the Vision, explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, or generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context, and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy, or the environment

Within the Vision section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the ‘How to apply’ section.

References may be included within this section.


Word limit: 2,750

How are you going to deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your work so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the Approach section we also expect you to:

  • demonstrate access to the appropriate services, facilities, infrastructure, or equipment to deliver the proposed work
  • provide a detailed and comprehensive project plan, including milestones and timelines in the form of a chart or diagram

References may be included within this section.

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word count: 1,650

Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the ‘How to apply’ section.

The word count for this section is 1,650 words, 1,150 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

All aspects above must be addressed for the top score. An overall combined lower score may be awarded when the ‘Applicant and Team Capability to Deliver’ section is missing one (or more) of these four key aspects entirely, or where there is very superficial information on one or more aspects.


Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

References may be included within this section.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word count: 500

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations
  • consideration for preventing environmental harm and enhancing environmental benefit in line with NERC’s responsible business statement

If you are collecting or using data, identify:

  • any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical considerations and, in particular, strategies to not preclude further reuse of data
  • formal information standards with which your study will comply

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Project partners

Provide details about any project partners’ contributions.

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the Funding Service.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Add the following project partner details:

  • organisation name and address (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • project partner contact name and email address
  • type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If a detail is entered incorrectly and you have saved the entry, remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.


Word count: 250

Does your proposed research require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you will need to use a facility, follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Ensure you have prior agreement so that if you are offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project.

For each requested facility you will need to provide the:

  • name of facility, copied and pasted from facility information list (DOCX, 37KB)
  • proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicated on the facility information list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

If you have to attach a facility form, for example NERC ship-time and marine equipment, then upload it as a PDF. If you need to upload multiple forms, then combine them into a single PDF.

If you do not need to use a facility, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

Upload guidance

Upload a single PDF containing facility forms ensuring it is no larger than 5MB, if applicable. For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives to your application when you create an application, immediately followed by the words ‘facility forms’. Then use the ‘upload’ button.

Unless specifically requested, do not include any personal data within the attachment.

Once you have uploaded, mark this section as complete and move to the next one.

Data management and sharing

Word limit: 500

How will you manage and share data collected or acquired through the proposed research?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide an outline data management plan which should clearly detail how you will comply with our published data sharing policy, which includes detailed guidance notes.


  • which NERC data centre is required to archive the data
  • whether the total volume of data is likely to be larger than 1TB
  • any other detail on how you will comply with NERC data policy

Provide a data management plan that clearly details how you will comply with UKRI’s published data sharing policy, which includes detailed guidance notes.

NERC international partnership joint funding

Word limit: 10

Are you submitting your application under a NERC international partnership joint funding agreement?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If your application is in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in Brazil or Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) in Luxembourg, provide the name of which agreement you are submitting under in the textbox.

You should include further detail of the team, the collaboration and the added value to the project in the appropriate sections of the application, not here.

Add any further documentation required for the international funder as a single PDF attachment in this section.

Any involvement of international project co-leads from IIASA or Norway should be included in core team, applicant and team capability to deliver and any other relevant sections and are not applicable to this question.

Upload guidance

Upload a single PDF containing the international funder documentation ensuring it is no larger than 5MB, if applicable.

For the file name, use the Funding Service number the system gives to your application when you create an application, immediately followed by the words ‘international partnerships’. Then use the ‘upload’ button.

Unless specifically requested, do not include any personal data within the attachment.

Once you have uploaded, mark this section as complete and move to the next one.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 10

What is the estimated cost range of your project?

In your application you must include an indication of the likely cost of the project by selecting one cost range:

  • up to £760,000
  • £760,000 to £950,000
  • over £950,000

Copy and paste the relevant cost range into the text box.

This information is for NERC and not for consideration by the assessors.

Once the decision has been made on applications that are likely to be in the funding frame, we will request further details about the funding required under each fund heading and justification for those costs.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using a two-stage process where experts will be invited to form part of a panel to assess applications independently, against the published criteria (assessment criteria) for this funding opportunity. The panel will be comprised of NERC Peer Review College members, augmented if necessary by relevant experts from outside the college.

Applications not considered a priority for funding may not be invited by NERC to proceed to the second stage of assessment. All applications will receive feedback from stage one assessment.

Applications invited to proceed to the second stage of assessment will be asked to respond to stage one panel feedback, which will be considered by the assessment panel at stage two. All applications invited to stage two will be provided with feedback.

We will use the recommendations of the assessment panels along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions. Random allocation will be used where necessary to allocate funding between equally scored applications.


We aim to complete the assessment process within six months of the funding opportunity closing date. If you are given the opportunity to provide an application response after the stage one assessment, you will be notified by 8 November 2024 and will have 10 working days to submit your response.


Feedback will be provided to all applicants.

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:

  • vision
  • approach
  • applicant and team capability to deliver
  • ethical and responsible research and innovation

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

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. To manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

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

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity, contact

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

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

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

You can also find information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact

Include in the subject line: NERC pushing the frontiers; sensitive information; your 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 UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection

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

Additional info

Our commitment to the principles of the Modern Slavery Act 2015

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
  • servitude
  • 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 June 2024
    Question under Vision section updated in How to apply.

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.