Discovery science - NERC

Contents

Overview

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) discovery science spans the full breadth of sciences and methodologies required to advance our understanding of the Earth system and to reveal people’s impact on environmental processes. It is driving policy change and catalysing innovation in the UK and worldwide.

NERC discovery science funding supports environmental research driven by curiosity and imagination rather than our strategic priorities. We welcome, multi and interdisciplinary research, designed, supported, and delivered in partnership with other research funders and research users.

Discovery science grants can support pure, applied, technology-led or policy-driven research that addresses, or provides the means to address, clearly defined scientific questions.

Proposals do not need to be hypothesis-driven and may instead focus on an exploratory approach or the development of a new technology.

Eligible researchers can submit a proposal in any area of research that is predominantly within NERC’s remit.

If your research spans different disciplines, read more about the Cross-Council Remit Agreement.

Pushing the frontiers grants

The Pushing the Frontiers scheme invests in excellence, challenging researchers to push the boundaries of environmental research. The adventurous and ambitious curiosity-driven, high-risk, high-reward projects lead to scientific discoveries that are likely to change the future landscape of a discipline.

Timing: two funding opportunities per year with closing dates in January and July.

Funding: up to £1 million per award (at 100% full economic cost, of which we pay 80% full economic cost).

Assessment process: expert review and moderating panel.

Grant duration: proposal dependent, no fixed duration of award but typically three to four years.

Demand management will apply.

Find out more about demand management.

Find out more about the latest pushing the frontiers entry on the funding finder.

Contact email: pushingfrontiers@nerc.ukri.org

Exploring the frontiers grants

The Exploring the Frontiers scheme offers flexible support for high-risk, high-reward research, allowing researchers to explore and test new ideas, approaches and technologies in a dynamic way. This might initiate further exploration of ground-breaking research, open up novel paths of research or result in discipline-shifting discovery in environmental research.

Timing: one call per year (timing subject to review of the pilot funding opportunity).

Funding: up to £100,000 per award (at 100% full economic cost, of which we pay 80% full economic cost).

Assessment process: assessment panel.

Grant duration: proposal dependent, no fixed duration of award but typically six to 12 months.

Demand management does not apply (subject to review of the pilot funding opportunity).

Find out more about the latest exploring the frontiers entry on the funding finder.

Contact email: exploringfrontiers@nerc.ukri.org

Large grants

Large grants offer funding for researchers tackling the big environmental science questions that have the potential to produce world-leading research. Often multidisciplinary, these large-scale projects are adventurous, innovative, and complex. As with all discovery science schemes, large grant proposals must fit predominantly within NERC’s remit but can cross over into other research council areas.

Timing: one call per year (two-stage process), outline proposals closing date in March. Full proposals (by invitation only) closing date in November.

Funding: between £1.2 million and £3.7 million per award (at 100% full economic cost, of which we pay 80% full economic cost).

Assessment process: outline proposals, assessment panel. Full proposals, expert review and moderating panel with applicant interviews.

Grant duration: up to five years.

Demand management does not apply.

Find out more about the latest large grants entry on the funding finder.

Contact email: largegrants@nerc.ukri.org

Urgency funding

Urgency grants offer fast-track support to respond quickly to short-lived and unexpected research opportunities that would result in a missed opportunity to collect valuable data should you conform to other available funding opportunities.

These may be events affecting the environment created by the occurrence of sporadic natural events such as (but limited to):

  • earthquakes
  • droughts
  • floods
  • ephemeral events in ecosystems.

We expect projects to last up to one year and focus on urgent data collection and essential initial analysis. You must have a clear strategy for taking the research forward once the urgent phase is complete.

Timing: no closing date, two stage application process, outline proposal, then full proposal by invitation only.

Funding: up to £100,000 per award (at 100% full economic cost, of which we pay 80% full economic cost)

Assessment process: expert review with moderation by NERC peer review college member (target turnaround time one month from receipt of full proposal).

Grant duration: up to 12 months.

Demand management does not apply.

Find out more about urgency grants.

Contact email: urgencygrants@nerc.ukri.org

Last updated: 2 August 2022

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