Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Changing the environment

This programme aims to stimulate new collaborations across disciplines to help realise the full potential of the UK’s contribution to environmental challenges such as energy decarbonisation, creating a circular economy, reversing biodiversity decline, sustainable supply chains and cleaner air.

£20 million is available to fund two five-year awards
2021 to 2026
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

The scope and what we're doing

Environmental research plays a vital role in identifying environmental problems and their cost to the economy and society. This knowledge provides opportunities to develop solutions and interventions that reduce environmental damage and avoid the associated costs. In recent years the scale and complexity of these problems has increased, threatening livelihoods and environments in the UK and around the world.

The strength of research and innovation capability in the UK should put our communities in a leading position not just to articulate environmental problems, but to devise and propose whole system solutions. These solutions rely on a diverse range of expertise across academic disciplines including but not limited to physical and biological sciences, social sciences, medical sciences, engineering, law, business and economics. This requires a step change in the way that academic communities work.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) aims to support developing expertise by collaborating across disciplines and organisational structures to build a research community that transcends traditional boundaries. The Changing the Environment programme will stimulate and support new connections across disciplines to help realise the full potential of the UK contribution to environmental challenges. The research and innovation programmes delivered through this funding should look across a system, bringing together a range of disciplines across UKRI’s remit to drive solutions in the selected area of environmental focus.

The programme will provide funding for research organisations to identify a tractable challenge or topic and a programme of work that can lead to tangible outcomes and environmental solutions at an appropriate scale through a whole system approach. The funding will create a critical mass of interdisciplinary expertise stemming from the activity in the research organisation. It will also leverage a wide range of inputs from other stakeholders and partners needed to address the environmental challenge, and to access other funding opportunities.

Noting limitations around the scale of funding and the desire to create substantial critical mass around the chosen challenge area, the main ambition of these programme awards is to build capability within a single research organisation to address a clearly-defined environmental challenge or set of challenges. The programme is expected to create a community within the organisation that is focused on solutions and works towards common goals. Other organisations may be included to make specific contributions to the challenge but their participation must be justified.

Proposals will drive innovative environmental solutions supporting the delivery of UK and global strategies. Examples include:

  • new research addressing energy decarbonisation
  • creating a circular economy, reversing biodiversity decline
  • socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains
  • cleaner air.

Proposers should outline the environmental area and challenges they will focus on and their approaches to drive solutions.

The programme design should create new communities to deliver solutions for these challenges, taking a whole of system approach, drawing across the breadth of appropriate UKRI disciplines. The programme will nurture a generation of researchers who take this approach as the norm.

Opportunities, support and resources available

There are no current funding opportunities.


Watch NERC’s Changing the environment webinar on YouTube.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Past funding opportunities

Changing the environment

Awarded opportunities

Delivering a climate resilient city through city-university partnership: Glasgow as a living lab accelerating novel transformation (GALLANT)

Led by the University of Glasgow, in partnership with Glasgow City Council.

GALLANT’s vision is to develop whole-systems solutions for a just and sustainable transition delivered at the city scale.

Cities are increasingly seen as drivers of a carbon neutral future.

Through shared policy and knowledge exchange it is possible for successful action in one city to be adopted by others, creating scalable and rapid change.

GALLANT seeks to work with local partners and communities to transform the city into a thriving place for people and nature.


  • C40 Cities
  • Korn Ferry
  • Deloitte MCS Limited
  • UN Economic Commission Europe
  • The Alan Turing Institute
  • Bike for Good
  • British Geological Survey
  • Cycling Scotland
  • Environment Agency
  • ERS Remediation
  • Glasgow Natural History Society
  • Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery
  • ITM Mechanical Solutions
  • NatureScot
  • Paths for All
  • Public Health Scotland
  • Ramboll UK
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • SLR Consulting Limited
  • Star Refrigeration Ltd
  • Sustrans
  • Zero Waste Scotland
  • Seven Lochs Wetland Park
  • Clyde Mission
  • Glasgow Life

Learn more about the GALLANT programme.

Centre for Landscape Regeneration (CLR)

Led by the University of Cambridge.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) can contribute significantly to achieving net zero emissions.

UCam-Regen will apply a whole systems approach to deliver knowledge and tools necessary to regenerate UK landscapes using NbS approaches.

At the heart of the project is a recognition that local communities must be engaged with decisions regarding their landscape’s future and co-produce solutions.

Solutions informed by scientific assessments of the optimal landscape management approaches to maximise the delivery of ecosystem services.

Key partners in this programme include researchers from:

  • Cambridge Conservation Initiative
  • Cambridge Zero
  • Endangered Landscape Programme, a philanthropic venture that funds landscape-scale restoration activities across Europe

Learn more about the CLR programme.

AGILE: providing rapid evidence-based solutions to the needs of environmental policymakers

Led by the University of Oxford.

AGILE will build capacity within the University of Oxford to rapidly bring together interdisciplinary research, and identify evidence-based solutions to major social and environmental challenges.

AGILE is composed of three overarching goals:

  • deliver a collection of sprint projects
  • create a critical mass of insights driven research (IDR) researchers
  • drive forward a culture shift in the way universities evaluate IDR

Learn more about the AGILE programme.

Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach (RENEW)

Led by the University of Exeter and the National Trust.

The RENEW programme will develop solutions to the renewal of biodiversity.

The team will reshape understanding and action on biodiversity renewal across scales, creating knowledge at the cutting edge of global debates and policy development, and influencing:

  • national institutions
  • communities
  • individuals

RENEW will focus on a set of challenges:

  • how popular support for biodiversity renewal can be harnessed
  • how populations that are disengaged, disadvantaged, or disconnected from nature can benefit from inclusion in solutions development
  • how renewal activities can be designed and delivered by diverse sets of land-managers and interest groups
  • how biodiversity renewal can most effectively be embedded in finance and business activities

Learn more about the RENEW programme.

Who to contact

Ask a question about the programme


Last updated: 13 November 2023

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