Incorporating nature into decision making in the finance sector

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Apply for funding to enable the sharing of ‘nature and finance’ knowledge and expertise between:

  • academics
  • stakeholders
  • user communities.

You must be based at an eligible UK research organisation.

Your fellowship can focus on any theme or activity around research relevant to the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TFND).

The full economic cost of your fellowship can be up to £100,000. We will fund 100% of the full economic cost. This does not include overheads.

Your fellowship will last for at least six months.

Who can apply

Applicant eligibility

Normal individual eligibility applies and is in Section C of the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook.

Applicants can either hold a position where they would be eligible to apply as a principal investigator or co-investigator for a grant.

UKRI Future Leaders Fellows and other equivalent UKRI research fellows, Royal Society University Research Fellows, and fellowship holders aimed at later career stages are eligible to apply.

The Finance for Nature Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellow must be employed by a host institution for the duration of their fellowship, including any time the fellow spends embedded with another organisation.

Applicants should be aware that only one application for a fellowship is permitted per year.

This Nature for Finance KE Fellowship is a very specific opportunity in advance of and separate to the annual NERC KE fellowships opportunity which will be announced shortly. Applying for the KE Nature Finance Fellowship will preclude an applicant from being able to apply to the annual NERC fellowship, so they are encouraged to consider very carefully which opportunity would be most suitable.

Joint applications from those wishing to job share are welcomed. We recommend that you contact the team (pcd@nerc.ukri.org) before applying on a job-share basis. Only one application is required. Applicants must be able to demonstrate why they and the proposed application would not be better served by two separate fellowships.

Host institution eligibility

UKRI 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.

Read further information on research organisation eligibility.

What we're looking for

Opportunity aims

This focused fellowship opportunity is to help to actively engage the NERC and wider academic research community, and resources within that community, with the developing process of the TNFD.

The Finance for Nature KE Fellowships will be expected to:

  • work closely with Finance for Biodiversity (F4B)
  • contribute to the ambition of the opportunity by enabling the sharing, flow and translation of knowledge and expertise between academic experts from environmental sciences and other relevant disciplines and their stakeholders, partners and user communities.

The high-level approach to the work should be proposed by the applicants but is likely to evolve in line with the programme of TNFD action. Generating practical and also scientifically robust research will be core to TNFD’s success.

Nature’s relationship with other sustainable development agendas such as climate change, economic activities, employment and food security is complex. Linking this complexity to a usable framework to inform financing decisions by many actors regarding diverse economic activities in varied nature endowments and policy circumstances is increasingly urgent.

Two emerging TNFD work streams are:

  • financing the transition to an inclusive, sustainable, healthy food system
  • an integrated climate-nature transition risk framework.

A sense of the focus of these workstreams is given below.

Financing the transition to an inclusive, sustainable, health food system

There is a strong requirement to understand the implications of ‘success’ in internalising nature and climate risks into financial decisions making for a future food system transition.

An urgent need for internalisation of nature is likely to widely impact production methods, change asset prices (including land) and impact employment and the availability of affordable nutrition, with positive and negative cascade effects over the entire food system.

Integrated climate-nature transition risk framework

Building nature into financial decision-making, as with climate, requires effective risk assessment over extended periods of time, notably during the so-called ’transition’ to a net zero and nature positive economy.

Whilst this has progressed in relation to net zero, such a framework is lacking for nature-positive outcomes. Nature-positive outcomes are outcomes that will contribute to halting and reversing nature loss.

Complicated by its greater complexity, a lack of a single measurable goal (such as 1.5 degrees), and the complex climate-nature nexus, there is a need to consider nature not in isolation, but in an integrated transition risk framework alongside the existing progress on a net-zero transition.

Research is required to build on the experience of climate transition pathways and initial work on nature positive linked financial risk assessment to invent, conceptualise and develop a framework on solid theoretical building blocks, with considered practical application for the policy, regulatory and financial communities.

Programme requirements and scope

These fellowships can be focused on any theme or activity arising from research relevant to the TNFD process and user community, and proposals from applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds are encouraged. It is understood that in some cases a mix of funding will lead to an opportunity to generate impact.

The applicant should have the committed support of the head of department or school and an enthusiasm for knowledge exchange should be apparent through the application.

NERC KE Fellowships are expected to focus on accelerating and amplifying impact throughout the cycle of research, by engaging and working with:

  • stakeholders
  • partners
  • industry
  • user communities
  • business intermediaries.

In the case of this directed opportunity, engagement with F4B as co-chairs of the technical expert group for TNFD is expected, but other relevant stakeholders may be included

Impact is defined according to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) definition as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”.

Approaches could include:

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

Examples of activities that may be supported

Developing relationships, for example with business

These could be developed with the aim of interpreting their environmental science needs, demonstrating the potential offered by the latest research or developing an exchange of resources. These can be non-cash based.

Spending time embedded within a partner host organisation

For example, with:

  • national government departments
  • local government
  • third party sector
  • private organisations.

Gaining understanding of their needs and working with them on translating research into tools.

Data development

Substantial amounts of data is generated from research and often published in ways that are not easily available or meaningful to potential users. The KE Fellows could be employed to develop data into meaningful outputs, such as for businesses to use.

Convening meetings and workshops of stakeholders or expert advisors

For example, working with non-governmental organisations, government and the private sector to exchange skills and techniques and to provide input to design or delivery of the work.

KE translators and facilitators

Leading as a facilitator to move between the research base and the user community (such as the TNFD) to act as a focal point for a range of activities to improve knowledge exchange can be useful. In some cases, it may be essential to help businesses define the questions that they want to ask academics.

Other approaches are welcome.

Ineligible activities

KE Fellowships should not be used to support:

  • activity that is solely for the purpose of knowledge exchange between different sections of the academic research base
  • consultancy
  • provision of external training
  • activities which are not free at the point of access for public audiences
  • impact generating activity which is not linked to NERC or UKRI research
  • generic public engagement with science (not research).

Funding available

The total budget is up to £300,000. This will fund two to three fellowship awards.

Finance for Nature KE Fellowships cover up to 100% of the fellow’s salary on a pro-rata basis including superannuation, national insurance  and specific allowances, plus up to £40,000 for travel and other associated costs. They 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, for example, meeting attendance fees.

Award duration

Awards will be for six months in the first instance, with the potential to extend by a further six months subject to funding (not guaranteed at this stage). The fellowship must start by 1 February 2021.

Due to the ongoing nature of the work, NERC are exploring opportunities for collaborative continuation funding which will be communicated in due course.

Working pattern

The Finance for Nature KE Fellowship can be held part time or full time as appropriate to delivering the project and to all parties (ideally 40% to 100% of their time). Applicants should fully justify their choice of %FTE requested.

Data management

The NERC data policy (PDF, 138KB) must be adhered to and an outline data management plan produced as part of proposal development. As datasets may include information from engagement activities with members of the public, NERC can help to make arrangements for these to be managed in an appropriate data centre.

NERC will pay the data centre directly on behalf of the programme for archival and curation services, but applicants should ensure they request sufficient resource to cover preparation of data for archiving by the research team.

NERC facilities

It is not expected that KE Fellowships will require NERC facilities. If the applicant wishes to use a NERC service or facility, they should email pcd@nerc.ukri.org with full details before submitting an application, in addition to following the usual facilities requirements.

Programme management

There may be opportunities to connect with the wider network of NERC funded fellows to share best practice and with other relevant programmes. Current fellows can be found listed on the Gateway to Research page or on Grants on The Web.

Sustainability

Proposals should also consider the sustainability of the project (although this will not be part of the formal assessment criteria) in-line with NERC’s approach. 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 (PDF, 462KB).

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

  • the natural environment
  • the local community
  • equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

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

The Good Research Resource Hub can be used as a resource to support development of responsible research.

EDI

When planning KE Fellow activities, applicants should actively consider how they will address specific needs in the context of EDI and underrepresented groups. This should align with the key legal requirements underpinning this important area of consideration. Applicants should:

  • ensure engagement and KE Fellowship plans address issues of EDI
  • ensure consideration of imagery used in activities that they develop, ensuring it is diverse and inclusive so that the public and external stakeholders see environmental science as an inclusive, welcoming community
  • consider the accessibility needs of people they work with to ensure that everyone who wants to is able to engage with NERC engagement activity, for example:
    • wheelchair accessibility of venues
    • subtitles
    • British Sign Language translation where appropriate
    • timing of events with respect to travel for those with caring commitments.

Information about UKRI’s approach to EDI.

How to apply

Application process

Full proposals must be submitted using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. The closing date is 16:00 18 November 2021.

When applying please select:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: Innovation people
  • call/type/mode: Finance for Nature Knowledge Exchange Fellowships.

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 (see NERC grants handbook), will be office rejected and will not be considered.

All attachments, with the exception of letters of support and services, facilities and 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.

Read more information in NERC’s research grant and fellowships handbook.

Proposals for this opportunity should be submitted following the requirements outlined in Section F of the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook. Specific details regarding page limits for this opportunity are listed below. Please note that on submission to 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), the document should be converted to PDF prior to attaching it to the proposal.

No associated studentships can be requested under this opportunity. The expected start date for projects funded under this announcement of opportunity is 1 February 2022.

Project details for your Je-S application

Project title: beneficiaries

Identify the key stakeholders, partners and user communities you will interact with and will benefit from your programme of work and what impacts this may generate (see details above).

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 in terms of reach (how widely the impact has been felt) and significance (how much difference was made to the beneficiaries) (as described by the Research Excellence Framework).

Resources

Tick the ‘exceptions’ box.

Attachments

The attachments we require are:

  • case for support: outline your ideas of how you will undertake this role to help contribute to the delivery of this opportunity (four sides of A4 max)
  • CV (two sides of A4 max)
  • justification of resources: explain why you need funds for activities making reference to your project objectives (two sides of A4 max)
  • head of department (HoD) statement: explain where you would fit into broader university department or school KE objectives and existing partnerships, this does not necessarily need to be the HoD, someone who can give a strategic viewpoint will also be suitable but this supporting person may need to attend the interview with the applicant or be available at the end of a phone (two sides of A4 max)
  • work plan: outline the timeline for carrying out the fellowship (two sides of A4 max)
  • 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 the letters that the panel are looking for.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed equally on the potential impact of the proposal and the suitability of the KE Fellow. The REF definition of impact is: “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”.

Criteria

These are equally weighted.

Suitability of applicant

Relevance of applicant’s experience to the proposal and their approach, demonstrating:

  • recognised to be of high standard relative to their career stage
  • a broad understanding of the research and innovation landscape and the value of knowledge exchange and translation
  • a broad understanding of the potential research questions at the nature and finance nexus
  • clear evidence of knowledge exchange, innovation or engagement leadership
  • an ability to engage effectively, build partnerships, be a clear communicator and disseminator of knowledge and innovation
  • an ability to develop and mature new relationships and influence across multiple disciplines and sectors.

Potential impact

Alignment of proposal to call scope.

Quality and innovation:

  • innovativeness of the programme of work and the scale of the impact.

User engagement:

  • demonstration of the involvement 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.

Assessment process

Applications will be assessed by an interview panel which will comprise staff from NERC and F4B, plus additional appropriate external experts to ensure there is a balance of different perspectives, disciplines, expertise and affiliations, with diversity in mind.

NERC and F4B will use the recommendations of the interview panel along with the overall opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

In the first instance, please email: pcd@nerc.ukri.org

Alternative contacts

Philippa Kennard, Programme Manager
Email: philippa.kennard@nerc.ukri.org

Gemma Truelove, Senior Programme Manager
Email: gemma.truelove@nerc.ukri.org

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

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

Opening times: Je-S opening times

Additional info

Background

Global economic systems are increasingly under threat from climate and environment impacts and the Dasgupta review on GOV.UK highlights that our economies are embedded within nature.

The recent landmark report from the IPCC prompts leaders in sustainable finance to consider a longer-term focus and new ways to measure investments. There is a need for new research to include increasingly important non-climate risks.

Tackling complex environmental-related problems demands both a deep understanding of environmental science and a whole-systems approach, with a broad, diverse research community engaged so that research and innovation are key factors in delivering the solutions society needs.

The science funded by NERC can make important contributions beyond academia through its effect on, change or benefit to the following, as defined by the REF definition of impact:

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

Creating opportunities for people and organisations to discuss, create and participate in research and innovation is an important way to achieve a more productive, resilient, healthy and sustainable society.

A recent Carnegie UK Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation study asserted that “Academic research is the most trusted, but least used, source of evidence by policy makers and practitioners”. This is also often the case with respect to exchanges between academic research and private industry.

KE Fellowships are designed to facilitate sustained, impactful interactions between researchers and their stakeholders, partners and user communities, through the development of projects and partnerships to translate and increase the impact of research outcomes.

For the UK to continue to be a global leader in environmental science, scientific advances need to be translated swiftly into a form that stakeholders, partners and user communities can absorb and use. This includes:

  • businesses
  • non-governmental organisations
  • government
  • public groups.

These groups could also be engaged early in the research process in co-production, which can increase evidence use compared with dissemination or involved in the research process itself.

Context of the opportunity

The UK government’s 2019 Green Finance Strategy signals the UK’s commitment to using its global finance sector to support the transition to a net-zero carbon and nature positive future.

NERC and Innovate UK have invested £10 million via the Climate and Environmental Risk Analytics for Resilient Finance programme to support a new UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment which will deliver research, innovation and investment in improved risk information and services for the financial services sector.

The data and tools developed will help enhance the resilience of the financial system to the increasing impact of climate and environmental variability and change and drive more sustainable investment of capital.

The Dasgupta Review on GOV.UK highlights that our economies are embedded within nature, not external to it, and describes the need for new economic models which properly account for humanity’s interaction with and dependence on nature.

There is a need for new research to include increasingly important non-climate risks and impacts such as maintenance and restoration of water supply, soil health and biodiversity, in future policy making.

A better understanding of biodiversity impacts will contribute both to management of investment risks and opportunities and allow the use of biodiversity monitoring to contribute to ambitions around carbon and water use and achievement of targets in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations (UNDP and UNEP) working with WWF and Global Canopy have brought together TNFD to help appraise nature-related risk.

Launched in June 2021, TNFD aims to deliver a framework by 2023 for organisations to report and act on evolving nature-related risks and the redirection of global financial flows away from nature-negative and towards nature-positive outcomes.

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 knowledge needs of business, non-governmental organisations and policy makers that have been fed into UKRI-NERC future strategy development and funding opportunities (such as highlight topics and strategic priority fund ideas process).

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