Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) NERC launches £20M ‘Changing the Environment’ call for whole system solutions to environmental challenges (deadline 5 November 2020)

The ‘Changing the Environment’ Programme will focus on developing solutions to critical environmental challenges through supporting and encouraging working across disciplines within successful organisations.
This call will provide up to £20M funding in total over 5 years to support 2 research organisation awards of a maximum £10M each at 80% FEC (i.e. a maximum NERC investment of £2M per annum, per award over 5 years).

Proposals for this call are invited from eligible UK researchers and research organisations (see NERC Grants Handbook for standard eligibility criteria).

There will be a two stage (outline and full) assessment process for this programme and closing date for outline proposals is 16:00 on 5 November 2020. Details for the requirements for the full proposal stage will be published in due course and no later than 5 November 2020.

The research and innovation programmes delivered through this funding will be expected to look across a system bringing together a wide range of disciplines (for example, physical and biological sciences, social sciences, economics,  medical sciences, technology, engineering, law, business and economics) to drive solutions in the selected area of environmental focus.
The programme will provide funding for research organisations to identify a tractable challenge or topic and a programme of work that can lead to tangible outcomes and environmental solutions at an appropriate scale through a whole system approach.
Target challenges and solutions will not be pre-determined for this call but should be proposed by the research organisation and be aligned with both the research organisation’s strategy and capability and that of NERC and the funding scheme. The challenge should be clearly articulated – with a clear pathway from discovery through translation to solutions (impact) i.e. an ambition to deliver ‘environmental solutions’.
Each NERC investment will be centred on an individual organisation that can:

o Bring demonstrable excellence and skills across a breadth of environmental science capabilities plus other disciplines that are relevant to the whole-system challenge(s)/topic(s) to be addressed.
o Demonstrate, or have the ambition to create, a critical mass of capability within the research organisation across the relevant disciplines to address the challenge(s) in question.
o Demonstrate that the contribution of the research organisation and project partners to the programme award (be that in-kind or financial) adds value to the funding sought from NERC with an ambition to build over time.
o Fully articulate how awards will leverage and/or integrate with existing research and innovation capacity within the research organisation, e.g. CDT awards, major research programmes, large scale impact orientated activities, in order to gain the maximum impact from the investment.
o Bring strong and successful partnerships relevant to the scale of the challenge identified i.e. niche skills and capabilities not present in the lead organisation. These may include relevant external non-academic organisations as project partners: private industry, public bodies (such as government departments, local government, regulatory authorities, etc.) who can co-design and apply solutions across systems or supply chains; NGOs and other civil society. Standard UKRI/NERC eligibility criteria will apply.
o Provide governance, leadership and coordination to manage and deliver a cohesive inter- disciplinary programme across the research organisation and clearly justified external partners.
o Propose an integrated approach managed at the organisational level, which delivers whole of system approaches and does not divide funding into disaggregated activity across departments.
o Articulate how they support the strategic ambitions of the research organisation(s) involved while understanding and gaining benefit from the opportunities offered by the scheme and to the UK, and
o Set out how the programme will be evaluated, including performance and success criteria and measures and expected outcomes.

Eligibility Criteria

o Applications should be led by a single research organisation. Only one application per organisation is permitted and the principal applicant should be Pro-VC research or equivalent. Other eligible Research Organisations may be included to make specific contributions to the challenge or area of focus, but their participation must be clearly justified; the primary aim of this initiative is to build capability across a single research organisation rather than to develop broader collaborations.
o Private, public or third sector organisations with a remit that can contribute to the programme of work are eligible to be considered as project partners. These include private industry, public bodies (such as government departments, local government, regulatory authorities, etc.) and nongovernment organisations or charities. However, any commitment of funds or in-kind contribution from these partners should be guaranteed for the duration of their proposed engagement and letters of support should reflect this commitment at the full proposal stage. Project partners should not receive funding from the grant beyond minor incidental expenses, and 
o Investigators may be involved in no more than one proposal submitted to this call.

For further information, visit NERC.