Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Realising the health co-benefits of the transition to net zero

Apply for funding to lead a transdisciplinary research hub towards realising the health co-benefits of the UK transition to net zero

You must:

  • be based at a research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding
  • meet individual eligibility requirements

The total fund is up to £30 million. You can request up to £6 million (80% full economic cost (FEC)) per hub, over five years.

Each hub will address at least one challenge of the net zero agenda, generating research to understand the human health implications of current policies and identify new health-focused interventions.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

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

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

Standard UKRI eligibility criteria apply. Applications are invited from eligible organisations, in accordance with standard UKRI practice.

Before applying for funding, check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

To be eligible to apply to lead this hub funding opportunity you must:

The funding opportunity is administered by MRC on behalf of UKRI and NIHR.

It is likely that successful applications will be led by experienced researchers who are internationally recognised, with proven ability to deliver large-scale projects successfully and lead an investment of this nature.

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.

What we're looking for

Scope

The UK is committed by law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as drivers of climate change to net zero by 2050. A series of policies aimed at reducing these emissions have been identified as part of a wide-ranging net zero strategy. This includes climate change mitigation actions alongside actions to enable society to adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change.

In equal partnership with NIHR, UKRI is seeking to establish a set of transdisciplinary research hubs that will provide policy-relevant evidence and deliver high impact solutions-focused research and innovation. The overarching goal is to realise the health co-benefits of the UK’s transition to net zero, in order to protect and promote the physical and mental health of the UK population.

Objectives

The funding opportunity has four objectives:

  • to evaluate the potential health impacts from existing climate change adaptations and mitigations with a view to improving them and realise any potential benefit to human health including reducing health disparities
  • to develop and evaluate new adaptations and mitigations to support the UK to reach net zero that protect and promote the health of the UK population. Attention will be paid to the distribution of health impacts across different socio-economic groups
  • to develop a standardised way to measure the trade-offs and unintended consequences as part of net zero measures, to optimise interventions and understand the most effective interventions to implement
  • to understand how impacts and interventions might vary in the home, workplace or in a variety of healthcare settings

The hubs will form part of a portfolio of investments supporting UKRI and NIHR priorities. Funding is provided partly through the UKRI building a green future theme, as set out in the UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027.

Hub expectations

Each hub must:

  • draw together an appropriate range of disciplinary research expertise and policymakers in order to co-design and co-lead transdisciplinary research to tackle the complex challenge area or areas. We encourage other relevant stakeholders, including industry, where appropriate
  • adopt a holistic and systems approach to research and evaluate the health impacts of net zero policies and identify future strategies where both the benefits and unintended consequences to human health are explored. The potential wide-ranging effects of strategies should be considered to effectively influence future policy decisions, including environmental and socio-economic impacts
  • undertake research to identify solutions that improve health outcomes of those most at risk and address health disparities through improved, as well as new and innovative, solutions and policies
  • develop a clear and robust set of standardised metrics within the challenge area or areas, to monitor the health and societal impacts of mitigation and adaptation interventions as well as their integration into future policies
  • build on, complement and connect with relevant broader initiatives and include existing evidence to ensure impactful outputs. Examples include but are not limited to:
    • the UKRI Clean Air Initiative (supported through the Strategic Priority Fund)
    • the UKRI UK Climate Resilience Programme
    • the pending UKRI Centre in Climate Change and Health
    • the NIHR Public Health Research Programme
    • the UK Prevention Research Partnership
  • consider incorporating further partners as dictated by the specific direction of research during the lifespan of the hub

It will be imperative that the hubs work synergistically to realise the potential joint outputs and knowledge exchange across the research landscape. Hub leads will therefore be required to work proactively to ensure effective join-up and intra-hub networking.

Challenge areas

Five UK-focused challenge areas within the net zero and health space have been identified.

You must primarily address one of these challenges within your application to ensure impact within the lifetime of the hub. It is not necessarily expected that all challenge areas will be supported, which will depend on the quality and scope of the applications.

The description of each challenge area is a suggested research area that would be within scope of the funding opportunity. However, we encourage you to think broadly within each challenge and where applicable, identify areas of synergy across challenge areas. Research should be focused both on developing new knowledge and identifying new net zero solutions that protect and promote human health in the UK.

Indoor environments in a net zero world

80% of a typical adult day is spent indoors and indoor air quality remains a public health concern.

A hub would be expected to deliver on researching the health implications of indoor air quality (including the indoor and outdoor interface). For example, research to understand the health impacts in the context of policies to improve energy efficiency of indoor environments in retrofitted and newly constructed net zero buildings as well as changing patterns of behaviour.

This could include a better understanding of indoor air flows and pollution including the toxicology of air contaminants, and the impact of bioaerosoles on health including new knowledge on the transmission of infectious diseases within low carbon buildings.

Research should also focus on identifying effective solutions to improve human health outcomes, where a wide range of factors will need to be considered, including environmental, physical, regulatory, technological and behavioural.

Transportation and the built environment

With the implementation of net zero transport initiatives and broader transformations to the built environment, including green and blue infrastructure, there are likely to be changes to the sources of air pollution and changes in public behaviour.

Research should include understanding the impacts of these to human health including for example, the impacts of low-emission zones and changing traffic flows, electric cars and cleaner combustion engines and health impacts of increased cycling or electric scooters, including the risk of injury.

The role of transport policies in promoting the use of public transport and active travel and its impact on human health should be considered.

New solutions using systems approaches should be focused on improving health outcomes of those most vulnerable.

Sustainable healthy diets

Changes to diet can have effects both on greenhouse gas emission and human health.

Research should provide a better understanding of the health impacts and potential trade-offs (for example, nutritional, food waste, affordability, accessibility) of novel low carbon foods and diets and deliver insight as to where potential barriers exist.

Research on health impacts may include for example, effects on the microbiome, novel allergens, foodborne pathogens and hypersensitivities, and new research which enables informed policy decisions on, and regulation of future low carbon foods.

Research should also focus on innovative ways to take advantage of possible health benefits and mitigate against negative effects, which will require consideration of a wide range of factors and multisectoral challenges including consumer behaviour.

Extreme weather

Climate change and associated extreme weather can have significant direct and indirect effects on human health.

This challenge relates to understanding the health impact of actions and policies concerning extreme weather, particularly extreme heat, in the context of the wider climate system, environment and a net zero world. For example, changes in building ventilation rates and air-conditioning use.

New interventions, which may include nature-based solutions, should focus on vulnerable groups, protecting human health and increase the resilience of communities to future forms of extreme weather and its impact on the environment. For example, flooding and wildfires.

Decarbonising health and social care pathways

The NHS is responsible for approximately 4% of the UK’s carbon emissions and represents over 7% of the economy. It is therefore crucial to address the environmental and economic implications of healthcare practices in a net zero world.

This challenge addresses the changing nature of care and aims to identify the carbon impact and material waste associated with emerging health and social care delivery models and pathways.

Whole systems research should include understanding the implications of cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable approaches (for example, new technologies and care delivery models), on managing human disease (for example, chronic disease and multimorbidity).

Collaborations

You should consider the structure of your proposed hub to ensure it can successfully deliver the objectives of the funding opportunity. The structure should allow for multiple institutions, organisations and stakeholders to work in collaboration to ensure impacts are delivered within the lifetime of the hub.

UKRI will host an applicant workshop in Bristol on the 12 and 13 December 2023 following the deadline of the expression of interest stage of the funding opportunity. We strongly encourage attendance at the workshop for all project leads (and members of the research team, depending on demand) that submit an expression of interest. The aims of the workshop are for you to:

  • learn more about the aims of the funding opportunity in readiness for the full application
  • engage with a diverse set of researchers and stakeholders (including policymakers) beyond existing networks and communities to further develop the strategic, transdisciplinary partnerships necessary to address the challenge areas prior to the full application stage

You can signal your interest in attending the workshop in the expression of interest template.

A Microsoft Teams site will be set up to help connect potential applicants seeking to join emerging hubs and for those hub teams seeking specific expertise. To join the Teams site please email netzerohealth@ukri.org

Duration

We will fund hubs lasting up to five years.

Due to the nature of the funding available, the hubs will have a fixed start date in summer 2024. The fixed start date will be provided when the full application funding opportunity opens.

Funding available

The total fund is up to £30 million. You can request up to £6 million per hub (80% FEC) (this would be £7.5 million at 100% FEC), over five years.

What costs we will fund

You can request funding for costs such as:

  • a contribution to the salary of the project lead and project co-lead
  • support for other posts such as research and technical
  • research consumables
  • equipment
  • travel costs
  • data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs
  • estates and indirect costs

What costs we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • research involving randomised trials of clinical treatments
  • publication costs

Hub partners

We encourage hub partners within applications where they add significant value to the research. Industry partners will support the hub through appropriate contributions. Hub partners are not required to be detailed at the expression of interest stage.

How to apply

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

To apply

Stage one: expression of interest

The expression of interest stage is mandatory. You must submit an expression of interest to UKRI using the expression of interest template (DOCX, 207KB). You must then email your completed template to netzerohealth@ukri.org

All hub leads (and members of the research team, depending on demand) where the expression of interest is in remit, will be invited to a workshop. You can signal your interest on the template provided.

To manage demand, you may only submit one expression of interest as a hub lead, however you may be involved as part of the research team on other applications. At the expression of interest stage, the research team does not need to be confirmed and further hub team members will be allowed at the full stage.

MRC must receive your expression of interest application by 14 November 2023 at 4.00pm UK time using the template provided.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Stage two: full application

Following completion of your expression of interest, you will be notified and invited to apply to the full application stage (stage two).

Full details on how to apply for stage two will be published when the full application funding opportunity opens. We will run stage two of this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

Personal data

MRC, as part of UKRI, will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with NIHR so that they can participate in the assessment process. For more information on how NIHR uses personal information, see the NIHR privacy policy.

How we will assess your application

Stage one: expression of interest

Information provided as part of the expression of interest will not be formally assessed. UKRI will use this information to:

  • check remit and fit to funding opportunity scope
  • invite you to a workshop
  • anticipate expected submission levels
  • inform panel composition and membership

In the event of high demand for this funding opportunity, UKRI reserves the right to introduce shortlisting at this stage.

Stage two: full application

Full applications will be assessed by an expert review panel in spring 2024. The full criteria for assessment will be published when the full application funding opportunity opens.

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

Email: netzerohealth@ukri.org

Include ‘Net Zero Health’ in the subject line

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

Additional info

Webinar for potential applicants

We held a webinar on 5 October 2023. This provided more information about the opportunity and a chance to ask questions.

Watch the webinar recording

Passcode: DB.hBx07

Supporting documents

Expression of interest template (DOCX, 207KB)

Updates

  • 13 October 2023
    Recording of webinar added under 'Additional info' section and workshop event date added.
  • 19 September 2023
    Made some minor edits to the 'what we're looking for' section.

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