Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: centre in sustainable and equitable low-carbon living

Apply for funding to establish a centre in sustainable and equitable low-carbon living. Our centres are world-leading centres of excellence that carry out interdisciplinary, cutting-edge and impactful research.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

The full economic cost of your project can be between £5 million and £9.7 million for up to 5 years. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change.

The outline stage of this funding opportunity will open in February 2023. More information will be available on this page by then.

Who can apply

The principal investigator for this funding opportunity must be based at an organisation eligible for UKRI funding for the duration of the grant.

Eligible organisations are:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity

Check if your institution is eligible for funding.

Standard ESRC eligibility rules for co-investigators apply.

What we're looking for

We are looking for a centre to support the UK’s transition to sustainable and equitable low-carbon living. The centre will bring together the right people, disciplines, institutions and infrastructure to provide the evidence needed for this challenge within a 5-year timeframe.

Population and economic growth over the past century have been unprecedented. The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years, putting even more pressure on land use, water supply and the demand for currently carbon-intensive services such as energy, transport and housing.

Delivering net zero and adapting to wider environmental change and biodiversity challenges will require major changes in the actions of people, firms, and governments.

The aim of this centre is to enable UK decision makers to identify the most cost-effective and socially feasible options for supporting the public, government, and businesses in transitioning to low-carbon living and adapting to wider environmental change and biodiversity challenges.

Actions to mitigate and adapt to the challenge of climate change will require significant, and often rapid, transformations of lifestyles, business practices, and governance. This includes adopting new low-carbon technologies and using natural resources and services more efficiently.

The centre will work with, and be responsive to, the needs of UK decision makers, with a specific focus on supporting government departments in addressing their evidence needs.

The centre will inform policies and incentive structures that influence the actions of individuals, communities, organisations, and local and national governments. This will enable them to bring about a lasting shift to more sustainable and equitable low carbon living alongside adapting to the impacts of climate change.

A collaborative approach to creating solutions in partnership with a range of stakeholders and across research disciplines that span UKRI’s remit is strongly encouraged.

We expect to fund a single centre through this funding opportunity. You will be expected to demonstrate that your centre will deliver:

  • research: high-quality, interdisciplinary, internationally recognised research findings to address unanswered questions about a defined challenge to our society, economy or both. In this case, the centre will need to clearly articulate the challenge that transitioning to sustainable and equitable low-carbon living presents, and how the proposed programme of research will address this
  • impact: significant economic and societal impact, demonstrating that the centre is responding to their specified challenge. Impact should be a major consideration throughout the scoping of a proposal, and during and beyond the lifetime of a centre. Research users relevant to the low-carbon living challenge, such as policymakers, businesses and civil society, should be engaged from the initial planning phases through to the end of an award
  • capability: the resources needed to become a centre of excellence that adds value to the wider community. This will include developing the people, producing the data and creating the infrastructure needed to respond to their specified challenge, as well as making use of existing datasets and infrastructure

You should consider the structure of your proposed centre to ensure it can successfully deliver its objectives, whether through a consortium approach or single institution. Partnerships with non-higher education institution organisations across government, industry and civil society are also encouraged where appropriate.

The successful centre will be required to partner, collaborate and engage with a wide range of stakeholders to agree priorities and deliver key activities. It should build upon, collaborate and integrate with other investments funded via UKRI’s Building a Green Future Programme (see ‘additional information’).

Applicants can propose a title for this centre, and the successful applicant will need to seek approval for the title from the UKRI Building a Green Future Programme Board.

Further details will be made available when the full opportunity is posted in February 2023.

This is a pre-announcement and information may change.

How to apply

Full guidance on how to apply will be published on the funding finder in February 2023.

How we will assess your application

The assessment of applications will be a 2-stage process:

  • outline proposal stage
  • full proposal stage

Outline proposals will be assessed and shortlisted by an interdisciplinary assessment panel. Shortlisted applicants will subsequently be invited to submit applications to the full proposal stage.

Full proposals will be subject to external peer review and assessed by an interdisciplinary commissioning panel. Shortlisted proposals will be invited to interview.

Representatives from the funders will participate in the interview panel. Representatives from government departments, as a key user group of the evidence generated by the centre, will also be invited to participate in the assessment panel.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

ESRC centres team


Enquiries about this announcement can be sent to this email. However, we will not be able to provide additional information about the opportunity in advance of its publication.

Additional info

This centre is jointly funded by central funding from UKRI and ESRC. This centre forms part of a portfolio of investments under the UKRI Building a Green Future strategic theme, as set out in the UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027.

The Building a Green Future theme addresses environmental and net zero challenges in all sectors of the economy, including amplifying investments to mitigate greenhouse gas issues and support the adaptation and monitoring of climate change. Investments made under the Building a Green Future theme are intended to support research and innovation activity across the full breadth of UKRI’s remit and are overseen by a cross-UKRI programme board.

This centre is also relevant to priority 1 ‘net zero, environment, biodiversity and climate change’ of the ESRC 2022 to 2025 delivery plan, which sets out our commitment to invest in ambitious new interdisciplinary programmes on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Demand management

Applications to the centre for sustainable and equitable low carbon living will not be counted in the demand management measures in place for the open centres funding opportunity.

Please note that proposals for ESRC centres may only be submitted through 1 of the available centres funding opportunities being led by ESRC: the ESRC centres open funding opportunity or 1 of ESRC’s steered centres’ funding opportunities highlighted under the ‘related opportunities’ section.

Applicants submitting the same or a similar proposal to 1 of the steered centres opportunities and the open opportunity will be withdrawn from the open funding opportunity.

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