Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Improve environmental science research through new equipment

Apply for funding to improve the environmental research landscape through new or improved equipment.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for NERC funding.

Your proposal should:

  • create new or build upon existing equipment
  • support NERC’s environmental science remit.

The full cost of your project can be between £350,000 and £750,000. NERC will fund 100% of the full cost for equipment only.

Your project must run for no longer than 20 months.

This is the NERC Strategic Capital Call 2022.

Who can apply

Research organisations and standard individual eligibility rules apply.

Read section C of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Applications are welcome from all eligible individuals from eligible research organisations at:

  • approved UK higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • approved research council institutes (RCIs)
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Full details of approved organisations can be found on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) website.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

Research organisations can submit up to two proposals as the lead organisation. Each proposal must have a total value between £350,000 and £750,000.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

NERC values equality, diversity and inclusion across all its funding programmes and actively encourages proposals from diverse groups of researchers.

Investigators

Principal investigators and co-investigators may be involved in no more than two proposals submitted to this funding opportunity. Investigators may only apply as the principal investigator on one proposal.

NERC will only consider the first proposal submitted by a principal investigator and will reject any additional proposals received without consideration.

As one of the funders to sign the technician commitment (Technicians Make it Happen), UKRI recognises the value of technical expertise to the UK workforce. To reflect this, NERC welcomes applications from eligible faculty staff as either principal investigators or co-investigators.

All co-investigators must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in section C of the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook.

Postdoctoral research assistants involved in the development of the proposal can be included as researcher co-investigators.

No staff costs will be funded on the award.

Please email the NERC capital team at capitalrequirements@nerc.ukri.org if you are unsure of staff eligibility.

Previous unsuccessful applications

Resubmissions of previously unsuccessful applications to NERC for capital funding are allowed. However, the new proposal must meet all requirements stated in this opportunity. Please contact the NERC capital team before submitting a resubmission.

What we're looking for

The primary objective of this funding opportunity is to:

  • provide strategic investment in UK capital infrastructure
  • deliver a step change in research capability.

Proposed assets will likely create or offer a novel addition or improvement to an existing capability and must fulfil strategic research needs beyond those aligned to individual research projects. Specifically, this funding opportunity will support the procurement of equipment.

Proposal requirements

Proposals are invited for capital assets in the form of equipment, that:

  • enable significant and world-class environmental research to be undertaken that would otherwise not have been possible and has the potential to stimulate innovation and economic impact
  • support NERC’s environmental science remit and areas in the NERC delivery plan (see NERC’s environmental science remit)
  • demonstrate a commitment to embed sustainability within the project in line with NERC’s responsible business statement (PDF, 462KB)
  • provide maximum positive impact over both short and long timescales
  • have a useful life exceeding one year
  • create or build upon a new capability rather than maintain or duplicate an existing capability, unless evidence is provided as to why this is appropriate.

The full specification is available in ‘how we will assess your application’.

2022 application specifics

Capital requests can include justified labour costs required for creating the asset where evidence is provided that these costs cannot be met elsewhere.

Resource costs are not allowed. This includes staffing costs related to operation and maintenance of the asset (after the creation of the asset) and user training.

For all proposals, three equipment quotations must be provided. See ‘how to apply’ for more details.

Equipment application specifics

Single asset

Proposals must be for a single asset. Individual components that form a suite of equipment are allowable only if they form a single asset. Only one asset may be formed in a proposal.

You must consider the full lifecycle costs beyond this grant and that must be acquired elsewhere, including:

  • future operation and staffing costs
  • whether there is enough demand
  • strong governance and incentives to ensure efficient and effective use of the asset in the long-term.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion should be appropriately considered in the design and planned use of the asset.

Environmental sustainability

The proposal must adequately consider environmental impact. This includes demonstrable evidence that the potential of environmental harm from both procurement and ongoing operation has been considered.

Considerations should include, for example:

  • energy use, conservation and management
  • asset lifecycle (such as end-to-end use, end-of-life opportunities and decommissioning).

Evidence of actions taken to minimise potential harm and maximise benefit (for example, actions taken to reduce carbon emissions) should also be clearly demonstrated.

Avoiding duplication of equipment

Proposals should avoid duplication of equipment by determining whether the asset being requested is available for equipment sharing. Where the asset requested is a duplicate, a strong case must be made as to why the:

  • pre-existing asset is insufficient to meet required capability or user demand
  • asset outlined in the proposal should be funded.

You should refer to:

Equipment must be made available to multiple users through equipment sharing and assets must be listed on the above-mentioned database. Multidisciplinary research on NERC funded capital equipment is welcomed.

What we will not fund

We will not fund proposals:

  • that request routine replacement or repair of assets, such as building repairs, maintenance and scheduled replacement of standard equipment or costs related to renting or leasing of assets
  • requesting resource, including staffing costs related to operation and maintenance of the asset (after the creation of the asset) and to user training
  • for single-user or single-project equipment
  • requesting the purchase of equipment that constitutes normal elements of a well-founded laboratory (for example, centrifuges, fridges, and incubators), unless as part of a larger infrastructure proposal (consumables will not be permitted under any application)
  • for development of new technologies which are unlikely to generate a productive asset
  • that have also been submitted to other award schemes during the same time frame (including all UKRI grant schemes)
  • requesting investment in digital or e-infrastructures, such as data and computing systems (see the digital environment and national capability funding streams for further information on funding such infrastructure)
  • for associated studentships.

You cannot request the use of NERC scientific support and facilities (S&F) under this funding opportunity. Applications that will provide capital assets for NERC S&F are welcome, however these must be discussed with the facility lead and the appropriate centre contact.

Proposals supporting NERC S&F must be coordinated and should not represent multiple requests for the same capital asset, unless evidence for sufficient demand can be provided and prior consent given by NERC.

If the application is not from the facility lead, but from, for example, a node of the facility, then the S&F lead must be listed as a project partner. The relevant centre contact must also be informed of the proposal.

This will ensure that any applications from within facilities are coordinated.

Funding

NERC has allocated a total of up to £6.5 million for this strategic capital funding opportunity to spend across 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024. NERC reserves the right to work with successful applicants to determine the spend profile.

The total value for each proposal must be between £350,000 and £750,000. Applications requesting more than £750,000 will be office rejected. Successful proposals will be awarded at 100% of the cost of the proposed capital asset.

All requested grant funds will be awarded to the listed institute of the principal investigator. No funds will be distributed directly to co-investigator institutes. Funding must be managed through the principal investigator’s institution.

Proposals that request contributions to an already planned asset, or that will be co-funded by an institute to deliver the requested asset, should not include institute contributions in the total grant value.

In such instances, the proposal must clearly state how much funding has been acquired from elsewhere, how much funding is being requested from NERC and the resultant total cost of this.

These proposals will require sign off from the institute’s finance director (or equivalent) to demonstrate that the overall project is affordable and that future operating costs can be met.

Some spend must be committed in the financial year (2022 to 2023) and as such, successful proposals must start on 4 July 2022. Grants must conclude by 31 March 2024.

Leveraged funding and contributions in kind from industry partners, particularly through staff time and access to facilities, are welcomed.

How to apply

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

When applying, select:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: NC&C
  • call/type/mode: NERC Strategic Capital Call 2022

This funding opportunity will close on Je-S at 16:00 on 5 April 2022.

It will not be possible to submit to the funding opportunity after the closing date and time.

You should leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before the closing date.

Proposals will be office rejected and not considered for funding if they:

Most attachments submitted through the Je-S system must be completed in single-spaced typescript of minimum font size 11 (Arial or other sans serif typeface), with margins of at least 2cm.

This excludes project partner letters of support and equipment quotes. An organisation can only be named as a project partner if it is providing specific contributions (either cash or in-kind) to the project.

Arial Narrow, Calibri and Times New Roman are not allowable font types and any proposal which has used any of these font types within the submission will be rejected.

On submission, we convert all documents to PDF. The use of non-standard fonts may result in errors of 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), some information may be removed when it is imported into the research councils’ grants system.

We therefore recommend that where a document contains any non-standard fonts (for example, scientific notation or diagrams), the document should be converted to PDF before it is attached to the proposal.

This is a non-standard funding opportunity. Therefore you must adhere to the guidance provided in this document, including the strict character and line limits.

Proposal documents

Proposals must comprise a completed Je-S proforma (the completed proposal form), a completed case for support proforma and three equipment quotes for equipment costing over £138,000.

Proposals with named project partners must include project partner letters of support for each partner. As previously noted, an organisation should only be named as a project partner if it is providing specific contributions (either cash or in-kind) to the project.

Proposals that have additional funding from the principal investigator’s institution must include a letter of support from the institution’s finance director (or equivalent) to demonstrate that the project is affordable. This letter of support will be reviewed by NERC Head Office and will not form part of the assessment process.

No other documentation will be allowed. Letters of support will not be allowed, except in the sole case noted above, and will be removed from applications.

Completing the Je-S proforma

For each proposal submitted, all relevant sections of the Je-S proforma should be completed and character restrictions adhered to.

For particular sections, some requirements may differ from the standard Je-S application requirements and these are therefore detailed below.

The panel is not obligated to check websites or hyperlinks provided in proposals.

Non-standard Je-S application requirements

For investigators, you must include applicant names, the research organisation and department. When completing the mandatory field ‘How many hours a week will the investigator work on the project?’, state ‘1’ (one hour). No investigator costs can be claimed for this non-standard funding opportunity.

Resource summary

This section will self-populate with the total cost figure added to the equipment section of the Je-S proforma.

All costs must be under the equipment header. There must be no costs associated with resource (if resource is requested for procurement purposes, please categorise this within equipment). Applications requesting resource will be rejected.

Equipment

Costs can include justified labour costs required for building the asset or installation costs associated with the creation of the asset.

Evidence is required that details why these labour costs cannot be met elsewhere, for example, by the host research organisation or a project partner. These labour or installation costs should be included in the total equipment cost figure requested and also detailed in the case for support document under ‘costs’.

For all items of equipment requested over £138,000, three quotations must be provided. Where you believe that there are fewer than three potential suppliers for an item, you should upload documents as equipment quotes that provide a brief explanation as to why fewer than three quotations were obtained.

This non-standard funding opportunity does not require a separate equipment business case to be submitted as part of the Je-S application process. Therefore, if prompted to include a business case, please upload a blank document.

Research council facilities

As stated, if equipment is being purchased for NERC S&F, this must be stated in the objectives section of the Je-S proforma.

Where the application is not from the principal investigator of the facility but from, for example, a node of the facility or external to the facility, the S&F must be listed as a project partner. A project partner letter of support must be included from the NERC S&F, signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission.

Completing the case for support proforma

For each proposal submitted, all relevant sections of the case for support proforma (see ‘supporting documents’) should be completed. You may complete the proforma in either Word or PDF format, though we recommend that you save it as a PDF.

Guidance on completing the proforma is included below. Please save the completed proforma with the title ‘CfS – [title of the equipment]’. Upload the file to Je-S as the ‘case for support’ attachment.

The character limits and line lengths, font, font size (Arial, size 11) and formatting must be strictly adhered to. Proposals which exceed any stated limits or adjust formatting will be office rejected.

The case for support proforma will ask for the following details on the proposal:

  • asset description and location
  • science background and need
  • importance and timeliness
  • user demand and usage
  • sustainability
  • impact
  • costs
  • breakdown of asset components.

The case for support proforma includes an optional two pages for additional information. If using figures, pictures or diagrams, please include them in the additional two pages.

How we will assess your application

Eligible proposals that meet the criteria for this funding opportunity will be assessed by an expert panel.

Assessment criteria

The expert panel will consider whether there is sufficient evidence that the asset will meet the following assessment criteria.

Creates or supports a step change in world-class environmental science capability

The asset must create a new, or build upon an existing, capability. It must also make the strongest possible contribution to the national agenda.

Demonstrates long-term support for NERC’s environmental science

The asset must enable significant and world-class environmental research to be undertaken that would otherwise not have been.

Demonstrates a strategic and timely response to an evidenced community demand

The asset must be important to multiple beneficiaries. It must be clear how it fits in with others in existence at both the host institute and elsewhere.

The proposal must demonstrate clear, sensible plans with respect to how the asset will be utilised or shared among both internal and external users. This must include consideration of asset sharing to ensure long-term, sustainable improvements to the environmental research landscape.

Demonstrates full consideration of sustainability, including for the lifecycle of the asset

The proposal must demonstrate consideration for preventing environmental harm and enhancing environmental benefit in line with NERC’s responsible business statement (PDF, 462KB).

Responses should be proportional to the size and nature of the project and include evidence of actions taken to minimise carbon emissions.

Read about NERC’s environmental sustainability policy.

The proposal should also likely demonstrate the asset’s capability to generate wide impacts, including (for example) social, environmental or economic benefits.

The asset may include links with industry and, in such cases, there will be evidence that the asset could stimulate innovation.

If the asset is already available for equipment sharing in the UK, the panel will determine whether a credible justification has been made for an additional asset.

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

Feedback will be provided for eligible proposals meeting the funding opportunity criteria that were discussed by the expert panel.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Kola Akinola, programme manager (capital)

Email: capitalrequirements@nerc.ukri.org

Include ‘Strategic capital call 2022’ in the subject line.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org
Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Implementation and delivery

Funded equipment must be purchased and installed before the conclusion of the grant.

In line with normal grant processes, a final expenditure statement (FES) will be required three months after the grant end date.

You will be expected to adhere to any specific grant conditions and follow NERC guidelines for the procurement and management of capital assets as set out in the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Data management

It is not expected that data will be produced as an output of this funding opportunity, therefore an outline data management plan is not required.

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 after the grant ends.

Grant holders must also fulfil NERC’s reporting requirements up to 24 months after the grant end date. Reports will be requested in six monthly intervals and will ask for:

  • confirmation of the successful procurement and installation of the funded asset
  • a list of other grants, projects, higher education institutes or businesses that have used, or plan to use, the asset
  • details on the asset usage, including the approximate breakdown by hours for each user group and, where applicable, information on equipment sharing
  • other identified benefits of the investment.

Assets

NERC reserves the right to conduct asset verification, which could include site visits to view the asset. NERC also reserves the right to request further relevant details with respect to the assets funded at any point.

To encourage equipment sharing, grant holders of equipment must list their asset on the equipment.data website.

The URL link to the equipment will be requested in the grant reporting.

To encourage best practice, NERC welcomes impact case studies detailing how capital assets have been successfully utilised and shared or used by people outside of the host institute.

NERC also welcomes case studies that demonstrate what actions have been taken to promote sustainable research practices.

NERC must be informed as soon as possible if, during the lifetime of the asset, the need for the asset diminishes substantially or it is not being used for the purpose for which it was funded.

NERC reserves the right to withdraw funding or determine the disposal of equipment and to claim the proceeds of any sale if these requirements are not being met.

Feedback on application process

To ensure continual improvements and development of best practice, NERC welcomes feedback on the application process for this funding opportunity. If you would like to provide feedback, please email capitalrequirements@nerc.ukri.org

Supporting documents

Case for support proforma (Word, 92KB)
Case for support proforma (PDF, 1MB)

Webinar

A webinar was held on 28 February 2022 to discuss the funding opportunity and answer questions. The webinar presented the call details and provided some examples on environmental, social and economic sustainability.

View the webinar recording on YouTube.

View the presentation given at the webinar (PDF, 2MB) and a questions and answers document (PDF, 131KB) that answers all questions asked at the webinar.

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.