Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Enhance the impact of environmental sciences research: NERC knowledge exchange fellowships

Apply for funding to enhance the impact of research in the environmental sciences.

NERC knowledge exchange fellowships help you and your stakeholders to share knowledge.

To apply, you must be based at an institution eligible for UKRI funding. We welcome researchers at all career stages.

Your project must focus on a research theme from the NERC delivery plan.

The full economic cost of your project must be about £150,000. The fellowship will cover up to 100% of your salary. You would receive up to £40,000 for direct costs, including travel.

There is also funding for a knowledge exchange fellow to work on sustainable mineral resources in the Philippines.

Who can apply

Applicants can hold a position where they would be eligible to apply as a principal or co-investigator for a grant. Applicants would generally be expected to apply for the knowledge exchange fellowship for a percentage of their full-time equivalent (FTE) only.

Applicants can be at an earlier career stage and not yet be eligible as a principal or co-investigator for NERC grants, but may apply for up to 100% of their time through this fellowship.

Applicants do not need a PhD. However, current PhD students are expected to have submitted their thesis before taking up the fellowship.

NERC research and fellowship grants for all schemes may be held at:

  • approved UK higher education institutions
  • approved research council institutes
  • independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments.

Check your organisation is eligible for funding.

Prospective applicants unsure of their eligibility status should contact to confirm before they apply.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

NERC is committed to creating and sustaining a positive, fair and inclusive environment for our research community to ensure that all candidates feel welcomed, included and valued.

We will seek to go beyond our statutory duties and be a beacon for diversity across the environmental science community. Achieving a high level of diversity within the NERC community provides an excellent foundation and environment for research and innovation priorities to flourish.

NERC therefore encourages applications from all individuals who meet the eligibility criteria from all backgrounds, regardless of:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race (which includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins)
  • religion or belief
  • sex or sexual orientation
  • neurodiversity
  • socioeconomic background
  • any other relevant factor.

We warmly welcome applications from individuals who may have undertaken non-standard or non-typical academic routes pre or post-PhD prior to application.

When considering your application, your career track record (including publication rate and volume), career breaks and part-time working will be taken into account specifically in the assessment process. More details can be found in ‘how we will assess your application’.

Knowledge exchange job share

To enable as diverse a range of applicants as possible, joint applications as job share are welcome.

A job share is an arrangement whereby two applicants share duties and responsibilities on one application. Applicants do not need the same level of expertise, but both partners should be capable of taking responsibility for the whole application. Applicants must be able to demonstrate why they and the proposed application would not be better served by two separate fellowships.

We recommend that you contact the fellowship team before applying on a job share basis.

Each job share applicant will be required to submit an application.

Applicants should identify in their project title that they will be part of a job share application, for example: ‘Job share: knowledge exchange NERC application’.

Applicants should submit identical document attachments (your case for support, letters of support and so on).

What we're looking for

NERC knowledge exchange fellowships enable the sharing, flow and translation of knowledge and expertise between:

  • NERC-remit researchers
  • their stakeholders, partners and user communities, as relevant.

Applicants propose their own programme of work in any area across the NERC remit.

What you need to focus on

Applicants should shape their proposals around one or more of the priority areas outlined in NERC’s delivery plan:

  • environmental solutions
  • productive environment
  • healthy environment
  • resilient environment
  • digital environment
  • global environment.

Applications for knowledge exchange fellowships should focus on accelerating and amplifying impact throughout the cycle of research. To do this they should engage and work with a range of stakeholders, partners and user communities

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) definition of impact is:

‘an effect on, change or benefit, beyond academia, to one or more of:

  • the economy
  • society
  • culture
  • public policy or services
  • health
  • the environment
  • or quality of life.’

A knowledge exchange fellowship may include:

  • strengthening existing partnerships with stakeholders
  • developing new relationships that lead to collaborative projects
  • public engagement as a fundamental part of translating research outcomes into practice
  • identification of the knowledge needs of business, non-governmental organisations and policy makers
  • developing new market opportunities for the exploitation of research outcomes
  • providing briefings and reports suitable for policymakers and business users.


Knowledge exchange fellowships cover up to 100% of the fellow’s salary on a pro-rata basis.

Funded costs include:

  • superannuation
  • National Insurance
  • specific allowances
  • up to £40,000 for travel and other associated work plan costs (this can be more than £40,000 for the Sustainable Mineral Resources in the Philippines knowledge exchange fellow, but full justification of costs should be provided).

The fellowships cover direct costs only and do not include overheads. There is no budget limit for salary costs.

Applicants can apply for travel and subsistence costs for stakeholders to attend meetings or events. However, applicants cannot pay them to attend (meeting attendance fees).

It is not expected that knowledge exchange fellowships will require NERC facilities. If the applicant wishes to use a NERC service or facility they should contact the NERC fellowships team to discuss before submitting an application, in addition to following the usual facilities requirements.

Fellowships can last up to three years.

Knowledge exchange fellows can work anywhere between 20% and 100% of their time on a work plan of their own choosing to generate impact from NERC remit research.

Sustainable mineral resources in the Philippines knowledge exchange fellow

As part of this funding there is an opportunity for a knowledge exchange fellow to work specifically within the Sustainable Mineral Resources in the Philippines programme.

Learn about the Sustainable Mineral Resources in the Philippines programme.

This research programme aims to:

  • improve understanding of the impacts of past and future mining practices in the Philippines
  • develop innovative new approaches to the production of minerals that minimise negative impacts on:
    • the environment
    • the health and wellbeing of communities.

The aims and objectives of the knowledge exchange fellow role working within this programme are:

  • to work across the funded research project teams in the programme, to help stakeholders work together and share information
  • to be responsible for policy and industry engagement and ensure the visibility and legacy of outputs from the programme to relevant audiences.

The indicative total funding amount available for the sustainable minerals knowledge exchange fellowship is £200,000. The limit of £40,000 for travel and associated costs does not apply for the sustainable minerals knowledge exchange fellow, but full justification of travel costs should be provided.

It is envisaged that the sustainable minerals knowledge exchange fellowship project will commence no sooner than September 2022.

How to apply

Full proposals must be submitted using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

Applicants should select:

  • proposal type: standard proposal
  • document type: fellowship proposal
  • scheme: Innovation People
  • call: Knowledge Exchange Fellowships (KE Jan22).

The knowledge exchange fellowship funding opportunity will close on Je-S at 16:00 on 20 January 2022. It will not be possible to submit to the funding opportunity after this time. Applicants should leave enough time for their proposal to pass through their organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

Any proposal that is incomplete, or does not meet NERC’s eligibility criteria or follow NERC’s submission rules, will be office-rejected and will not be considered.

See the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook.


All attachments, with the exception of letters of support and services, facilities or equipment quotes, submitted through the Je-S system must be completed in single-spaced typescript of minimum font size 11 point (Arial or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size to Arial 11), with margins of at least 2cm. Please note that Arial narrow, Calibri and Times New Roman are not allowable font types and any proposal which has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected.

References and footnotes should also be at least 11 point font and should be in the same font type as the rest of the document. Headers and footers should not be used for references or information relating to the scientific case. Applicants referring to websites should note that referees may choose not to use them.

Applicants should ensure that their proposal conforms to all eligibility and submission rules, otherwise their proposal may be rejected without peer review. More details on NERC’s submission rules can be found in:

Proposals for this funding opportunity should be submitted following the requirements outlined in section F of the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook.

Please note that on submission to the council, all non-PDF documents are converted to PDF. The use of non-standard fonts may result in errors or font conversion, which could affect the overall length of the document.

Additionally, where non-standard fonts are present, and even if the converted PDF document may look unaffected in the Je-S system, when it is imported into the research councils grants system some information may be removed. We therefore recommend that where a document contains any non-standard fonts (scientific notation, diagrams and so on), the document should be converted to PDF prior to attaching it to the proposal.

No associated studentships can be requested under this funding opportunity.

The expected start date for projects funded under this funding opportunity is 31 August 2022.

Notes on completing the Je-S form

Project details

Project title: state that you are applying for a knowledge exchange fellowship or sustainable minerals knowledge exchange fellowship in the title.

Fellow details

Knowledge exchange fellowships are awarded 100% of costs with no provision for overheads.


Identify, as relevant, the key stakeholders, partners and user communities you will interact with and will benefit from your programme of work. Identify what impacts this may generate.

You should consider how your project will enhance the impact of the NERC remit science related to the wider community. Think about how you will connect with the most suitable stakeholders to generate impact (as described by the Research Excellence Framework) in terms of either (or both):

  • reach (how widely the impact has been felt)
  • significance (how much difference was made to the beneficiaries) .


Tick the ‘exceptions’ box.


These are the only attachments we require.

Case for support

Four sides A4 maximum.

Outline your ideas of how you will undertake this role.


Two sides A4 maximum.

Please attach your CV, including a track record.

Justification of resources

Two sides A4 maximum.

Explain why you need funds for activities making reference to your project objectives.

Head of department statement

Two sides A4 maximum.

The head of department of the host institution will be required to demonstrate the availability of structured institutional support, and opportunities for personal development available to the fellow.

Letters of support

Upload letters of support.

These need to be from organisations who are offering support in cash or support in kind and who will be engaged in the programme of work. It is not the number of letters but the quality of engagement and integration within the programme of work that the panel will assess.

Sustainable mineral resources in the Philippines applications

To apply for the sustainable mineral resources in the Philippines knowledge exchange fellowship, include ‘sustainable minerals knowledge exchange fellowship’ in the title of your application.

In your case for support, clearly outline how your programme of work will meet the specific aims and objectives described in ‘what we’re looking for’.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed equally on:

  • the potential impact of the proposal
  • the suitability of the knowledge exchange fellow
  • the demonstration of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Our assessors use the Research Excellence Framework definition of impact quoted in ‘what we’re looking for’.


The assessment criteria are equally weighted:

  • suitability of applicant
  • potential impact
  • EDI.

Suitability of applicant

The assessment will look for relevance of applicant’s experience to the proposal and their approach:

  • recognised to be of high standard (skills, capabilities, and ambitions) relative to their career stage
  • a broad understanding of the research and innovation landscape and the value of knowledge exchange and translation
  • clear evidence of, or potential for, knowledge exchange, innovation or engagement leadership
  • demonstrate an ability to engage effectively, build partnerships, be a clear communicator, disseminator of knowledge and innovation, or both
  • demonstrate an ability to develop and mature new relationships and influence across multiple disciplines and sectors
  • evidence of using the fellowship for personal development.

Additionally, for the sustainable minerals knowledge exchange fellowship:

  • experience or understanding of working internationally with partners or stakeholders
  • strong, adaptable communication skills, and proven ability to tailor communication methods appropriately to the audience, including for international audiences.

Potential impact

The assessment will look for alignment of proposal to funding opportunity scope.

Quality and innovation: innovativeness of the programme of work and the scale of the impact.

User engagement: demonstration of ongoing involvement and engagement of users in design and delivery.

Efficiency and effective management:

  • outline of work plan exemplifying how the programme will deliver on objectives
  • justification of resources requested, including partner contributions of cash or in kind and leverage
  • evidence of the potential for a lasting legacy and long term sustainability
  • consideration of how the impact will be assessed and recorded
  • demonstrate good governance structures.


The assessment will look for evidence that you:

  • demonstrate a commitment to EDI through the proposed work, in terms of both:
    • management, for example membership of boards
    • impact, for example who will be impacted
  • demonstrate an approach and commitment to championing EDI by:
    • removing barriers in the research environment
    • promoting an open and inclusive research community.

Application process

Applications will go through a two-stage process:

  • an assessment sift by a panel
  • interview by the same panel.

The panel will be composed of members with relevant expertise, ensuring a balance of different perspectives, disciplines, expertise and affiliations, with diversity in mind. These panel members’ expertise can include:

  • knowledge exchange expert
  • environmental science specialism
  • non-academic engagement organisation
  • institutional and cross-disciplinary perspectives
  • public engagement practitioner or expert.

Applicants will be given brief feedback from the panel, summarising the reasons why the proposal was unsuccessful in being invited to interview. Feedback will be provided to all those invited to interview after the interview panel.

NERC will use the recommendations of the interview panel along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

COVID-19 impacts

NERC recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. NERC is committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their careers, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic.

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, applicants can highlight this within their application, if they wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity


Ask about the sustainable mineral resources in the Philippines fellowship


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

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Additional info

Reporting requirements

Successful applicants will be required to report research outcomes on Researchfish in line with standard UKRI terms and conditions. This is required annually and continues for up to five years post grant end.

Successful projects are required to submit a final expenditure statement. NERC reserves the right to make ad hoc requests for other reports as necessary. Fellows should inform NERC when they identify any knowledge needs of stakeholders that have been fed into either (or both):

  • NERC future strategy development
  • funding opportunities (such as highlight topics or the Strategic Priorities Fund ideas process).

Visa for international researchers

International researchers and specialists who are named, or have their position listed, on a successful grant may be eligible for the Global Talent visa.

Responsible research

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, not just through research outputs and outcomes but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities managed.

All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set-out in the NERC responsible business statement.

Responsible research is defined as: reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities.

Specifically, this covers:

  • the natural environment
  • the local community
  • EDI.

Grant holders should consider the responsible research context of their project, not the host institution, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.

When developing proposals, it is important that applicants ensure their proposals have no links to any organisations engaged in unsafe practice, lobbying activities or modern slavery. No UK funds may be directed to mining companies, and researchers involved in this funding opportunity cannot accept any direct funding from mining companies.

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