NERC research centres

NERC supports six research centres. Our research centres provide leadership to the UK environmental science community and play influential roles in international science collaborations.

British Antarctic Survey

Each year NERC invests around £38 million in the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to deliver and enable world-leading interdisciplinary research in the polar regions. The scale of polar science is immense; from insects and microbes studied under the microscope, to the continent-sized ice sheet best appreciated from satellite imagery.

BAS’s skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the polar regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how, BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with excellent infrastructure, help sustain a world-leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs.

BAS employs over 400 staff. Facilities to support scientific and operational activities include:

  • laboratories and offices in Cambridge
  • two year-round Antarctic research stations (Rothera and Halley) and the summer-only Signy
  • two subantarctic stations on South Georgia
  • the NERC Arctic research facility at Ny-Ålesund.

A research ship (RRS Sir David Attenborough) and a fleet of five aircraft provide logistic support and access to the polar regions, as well as supporting research missions elsewhere.

British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey (BGS), founded in 1835, is the world’s longest-established national geological survey and the UK’s premier centre for Earth science information and expertise. BGS’s annual budget is around £47 million, and approximately half of BGS’s income comes from NERC. The remainder comes from commissioned research from the public and private sectors.

In addition to geological work in the UK, BGS has an extensive programme of overseas research, surveying and monitoring, including major programmes in the developing world. Much of this work is now won through competitive tendering.

BGS’s headquarters are based at Keyworth, just outside Nottingham. They have regional offices in Edinburgh, Oxfordshire, London and Cardiff.

National Centre for Atmospheric Science

The National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) provides advice, leadership and national capability in atmospheric science.

NCAS research falls into 3 key areas:

  • air pollution
  • climate and high-impact weather
  • long-term global changes in our atmosphere

The centre provides the UK with state-of-the-art services for observing and modelling the atmosphere. These include a research aircraft, advanced ground-based observational facilities, computer modelling and support, and facilities for storing and analysing data.

National Centre for Earth Observation

The National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) is an established NERC research centre that provides NERC with national capability in earth observation science.

NCEO is building on the considerable expertise of the Centres of Excellence by using data from earth observation satellites to monitor global and regional changes in the environment, helping us predict future environmental conditions.

National Oceanography Centre

The mission of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is to make sense of changing seas, understanding how the ocean affects our environment and benefits people around the globe. NOC’s vision is to be the most innovative oceanographic organisation in the world, as one of a few leading research bodies that has the equipment and expertise to operate at full ocean depth.

Its research covers the whole ocean, from top to bottom, from deep sea to coastlines. Research areas include clean energy, food, medicine and minerals, pollution, biodiversity, and ecosystems.

NOC provides UK national capability in oceanographic sciences in partnership with NERC, and also works with NOC’s marine delivery partners in specialist marine science institutions. The facilities include two large global-class research ships and a full suite of equipment for oceanographic research.

UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is an independent, not-for-profit research institute investigating, monitoring and modelling environmental change. The centre’s 500 scientists provide data and insights for researchers, governments and businesses to create a productive, resilient and healthy environment.

CEH research extends from molecular biology to global climate modelling, and includes fieldwork across the world, from the semi-arid West African Sahel to the rainforests of South East Asia. The focus is on mitigating and building resilience to climate change, preventing and reducing pollution, and creating sustainable ecosystems.

CEH is a strategic delivery partner for NERC. As the best solutions are co-designed and co-delivered, CEH’s partnerships cross borders, sectors and disciplines.

Last updated: 5 September 2023

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