Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) opens today with the aim of helping nature projects get ready for investment (application deadline: 16th February 2024)

Opening today, Monday 11th December 2023, with a deadline for applications of Friday 16th February 2024, the Environment Agency’s Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) aims to stimulate private investment and market based mechanisms that improve and safeguard England’s domestic natural environment by helping nature projects get ready for investment.

The NEIRF is a competitive grants scheme providing grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 to support the development of nature projects in England that:

o Help farmers achieve one or more natural environmental outcomes from the Environmental Improvement Plan
o Have the ability to help farmers produce revenue from ecosystem services to attract and repay investment, and
o Produce an investment model that can be scaled up and reproduced by farmers

Proposals should focus on generating revenue from ecosystem services alongside food production, rather than producing revenue through the sale of goods or commodities. Examples of ecosystem services that could produce revenue include:

o Selling carbon units from woodland creation or peatland restoration, using the Woodland Carbon Code or Peatland Code
o Selling biodiversity units from a habitat bank, using the Natural England biodiversity offsetting metric
o Selling ‘catchment services’ (such as improved water quality and natural flood management benefits) resulting from natural environment improvements.

The Environment Agency wants to see a diversity of ecosystem service and investment models represented. The Agency welcomes proposals outside the examples above, ones which consider interactions between ecosystem services or focus on more specific or complex elements of existing codes or metrics. Proposals must be focussed on helping farmers to access revenue and investment through nature markets.

The grants are to help farmers:

o Get support from professional advisors to develop your project, address barriers to investment and present an attractive case for potential investors.
o Build capability to attract financial investment into natural environment projects, and
o Develop a market for ecosystem services (such as investment or trading platforms, codes for verifying benefits, aggregator vehicles).

The Environment Agency will expect successful applicants to make the products and knowledge gained through the fund openly available for the benefit of others. This is to help the development of:

o The natural capital investment sector, and
o Policy and regulation, including alignment with future government funding schemes

You can read about projects funded through the first 2 rounds of NEIRF in the news stories:

o 50 projects receive up to £100,000 to boost investment in nature, May 2022

o Innovative nature projects awarded funding to drive private investment, July 2021

You can apply for an NEIRF grant between Monday 11 December 2023 and Friday 16 February 2024.

(The Environment Agency is administrating the scheme on behalf of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)).