Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Innovation programme in oil and gas

The focus of this programme is to better understand the challenges and issues facing the oil and gas sector, and identify opportunities for environmental science to have maximum economic and societal impact.

£5 million
2016 to 2021
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

The scope and what we're doing

In pursuing its remit, NERC invests in world-leading research, training and innovation across the energy spectrum to provide society with evidence and expertise to inform decision-making.

NERC’s focus through this programme is to understand the challenges and issues facing the oil and gas sector as a whole, and where opportunities exist for environmental science to be translated for its maximum economic and societal impact.

The programme is driven by the needs of the business community and decision-makers. It focuses on a series of industry challenges and cross-cutting themes which have been developed through individual consultation with oil and gas companies and their supply chain, policymakers, regulators and environmental consultancies, and a series of scoping workshops with the business and academic communities.

Why we're doing it

Oil and gas currently provides 75% of the UK’s primary energy source. Over the last five decades no other industrial sector has created more prosperity for the UK (source: UK oil and gas industrial sector strategy).

The UK has high levels of scientific and industrial capability in relation to oil and gas, reflecting the legacy of North Sea development. NERC is committed to working with the academic research base, business, policymakers and the third sector to ensure its investments in research, skills and technologies in oil and gas are translated for their maximum economic and societal impact.

This innovation programme operates according to the following general principles:

  • industry led – programme members define the challenges that need to be addressed through innovation projects
  • openness – innovation grants will be awarded in open competition and access to project outcomes will be open to programme members
  • translation focused – innovation projects must translate existing research into outputs that meet the needs of programme members
  • impact driven – this programme will be consistently focused on benefiting society, the economy and the environment.

Cross-cutting innovation themes

Acknowledging the challenges above, this innovation programme focused on the following cross-cutting innovation themes:

Innovative monitoring approaches

This theme recognises the need for consistent, cost effective data collection and regulated and agreed monitoring protocols covering techniques and time periods to establish baselines (or proxies for these) and for monitoring of prospective, operational and decommissioned sites.

Data management, sharing and collaboration

Aside from the issues of consistent data collection, this theme recognises the need for sharing of data between interested parties and related issues around acquisition, creation, accessibility and management of big data sets. It also recognises that the environment is shared by a wide variety of users, all of whom potentially impact the environment to a greater or lesser extent, and the need to share data and lessons learned and consider cumulative impact and potential trade-offs.

Environmental management

This theme runs throughout the programme. Reducing the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction is a key priority for the sector. Improvements in the scientific understanding and technology used during hydrocarbon resource extraction will result in lower levels of environmental impact and will directly influence UK oil and gas industry regulations.

Opportunities, support and resources available

There are no current grant funding opportunities for this programme.

Other resources

In October 2019 the Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas (IPOG) held a workshop alongside the annual science meeting of Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS). The aim was to disseminate some of the key science findings and highlight how they have been utilised to reduce uncertainty in the regulatory environment and to reduce cost in monitoring. The workshop also sought to inform the future strategy of this programme.

Read about the workshop:

This workshop was then followed by a survey in spring and summer 2020 to identify business needs for environmental research. Read the summary report Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas (IPOG) Research Needs 2020.

The external IPOG coordinator has also produced a review of the programme IPOG Review Public. The review summarises the programme’s achievements and makes recommendations for future activities.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Past awards

There have been three innovation funding opportunities as part of this programme. Since 2015, 12 collaborative projects have been funded as part of the programme.

Find a list of projects funded as part of the Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas (IPOG).

Read about two of the projects funded by this programme:

Who to contact

Ask a question about the programme

Jacky Wood


Telephone: 07849 303738

Last updated: 23 February 2023

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