Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Clean air

The aim of this programme is to support high-quality research and innovation that will help develop practical solutions for today’s air quality issues and equip the UK to proactively tackle future air quality challenges in order to protect health and support clean growth.

£42.5 million (across both waves)
2019 to 2025
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Met Office, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, Medical Research Council (MRC), National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Department for Transport (DfT), Scottish Government and Welsh Government.

The scope and what we're doing

The aim of the Clean Air programme is to bring together the UK’s world-class research base and support high-quality multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and innovation to develop practical solutions for today’s air quality issues and equip the UK to proactively tackle future air quality challenges, in order to protect health and support clean growth.

The funding is part of the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), delivered by UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities.

The vision of the Clean Air programme is a coordinated landscape of research and innovation co-designed with users to develop robust solutions that reduce emissions and impacts of atmospheric pollution.

The Clean Air programme plans to address these challenges through two waves:

Intensive observing periods

The Clean Air programme is supporting detailed long-term urban air quality measurements at three NERC supersites located in central London, Manchester and Birmingham. Each supersite has agreed to provide practical and logistical support to additional multidisciplinary researchers and experiments during the intensive observing periods enabling, for example:

  • deployment of specialised atmospheric chemistry equipment
  • short-term observations of boundary layer meteorology and structure
  • enhanced collection of particulate and gas samples for laboratory analysis
  • testing of new or proof-of-concept instrumentation
  • instrument calibration inter-comparisons and performance evaluation.

Wider scientific benefits are envisaged through a coordination of intensive observation periods with other research activities such as:

  • mobile surveys of the distribution of pollution by vehicle, drone or aircraft
  • personal exposure, activity surveys and health studies
  • high resolution modelling of pollution distributions
  • targeted emissions observations
  • health effects and biomarkers of exposure studies aligned to detailed atmospheric composition measurements
  • computational or technological approaches for better integration of environmental with health data
  • relevant indoor studies that would gain value from being coordinated with intensive outdoor observations and modelling.

Intensive observing periods 2022

The winter intensive observing period, previously scheduled for 20 January to 28 February 2021, has been rescheduled due to COVID-19. It will now take place in January and February 2022 with exact dates to be confirmed.

Why we're doing it

Atmospheric pollution in the UK is responsible for approximately 40,000 early deaths and has a cost of around £20 billion to health services and business, per year. The UK is entering a transformative period in air quality, as transport, heating, energy, solvent use and agricultural emissions change.

Most of the easy wins to reduce particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, ammonia and nitrogen oxides have already been implemented in the UK. Future improvements will require innovative solutions underpinned by new research to protect the health of society, while pursuing clean growth and increasing national productivity.

Opportunities, support and resources available

There are currently no open funding opportunities.

Limited funding may be available from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science to support third-party participation in the intensive observing periods at the NERC supersites. This can be used to cover the costs such as shipping, transport, travel and consumables, but not staff time.

Who to contact

Ask a question about the the Clean Air programme


Governance, management and panels

The governance of the Clean Air programme encompasses a number of different bodies which undertake different roles.

Find out how the programme is managed.

Last updated: 12 September 2023

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