Strategy and goals

NERC scientists study the whole planet, from the edge of the atmosphere to the centre of the Earth, and excel at revealing the environmental challenges confronting the world. Tackling these complex problems requires us to go further, bringing together deep understanding of environmental science with a whole-systems approach.

With our new delivery plan, NERC is setting out its ambition to lead a broad and diverse research community to bring about the environmental solutions – clean air and water, limited climate warming, a circular economy, and diverse ecosystems – needed in the UK and worldwide, to foster a productive, healthy and resilient environment.

The NERC delivery plan is part of the suite of UKRI delivery plans setting out our strategic direction.

Priority areas

Our delivery plan focuses on eight priority areas to deliver NERC’s ambition.

Environmental solutions

Within this priority area we will:

  • champion environmental solutions to contribute to clean growth
  • nurture a generation of researchers who take a systems approach to complex environmental problems.

Pushing the frontiers of understanding

Within this priority area we will:

  • maintain the UK’s leading environmental science expertise to be ready for the unknown challenges of the future
  • challenge researchers to be adventurous and ambitious, exploiting new technologies and approaches.

Productive environment

Within this priority area we will:

  • build understanding of economic and environmental system interactions
  • embed environmental sustainability into economic models
  • enable a shift to a circular, resource-efficient economy.

Healthy environment

Within this priority area we will:

  • promote research to reduce environmental degradation and support healthy life on Earth
  • increase understanding of the health and wellbeing benefits of a healthy environment, and of the interactions between environmental systems and a healthy economy, society and culture.

Resilient environment

Within this priority area we will:

  • increase understanding of environmental change and environmental hazards to manage vulnerability, risk, response and recovery
  • promote interdisciplinary research to protect lives and livelihoods.

Digital environment

Within this priority area we will:

  • use cutting-edge technology including machine learning, miniaturisation and battery technology to advance environmental nowcasting
  • combine data across disciplines to generate new insight, using high-performance computing to create virtual environments.

Global environment

Within this priority area we will:

  • bring leadership and UK expertise to understanding the whole Earth system, tackling global challenges, international development and responding to environmental emergencies
  • work in partnership and in internationally coordinated efforts to tackle complex environmental challenges.

Best environment for research and innovation

Within this priority area we will:

  • maintain and enhance the NERC centres of expertise, infrastructure, services and facilities which benefit the UK environmental science community and global partners
  • ensure a pipeline of talent with the skills to resolve future challenges and take a whole-systems approach
  • engage with the public and stakeholders to draw in expertise and share knowledge
  • lead across UKRI on environmental sustainability.

Last updated: 22 September 2022

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