Announcement of Opportunity: Pushing the Frontiers

UKRI recognises that the current situation may present additional challenges to those intending to apply. To help with that, the deadlines on all open funding opportunities will be extended to give applicants more time to submit their applications. The deadline for this call has been extended by two weeks to 21 July 2020.

The Announcement of Opportunity has been updated to share that the normal expectation for a 50% contribution to any equipment costs (over £10k) by the Research Organisation is not required and NERC will pay 100% of any justified equipment costs.

Closing date: 16:00 on 21 July 2020

NERC invites proposals for a new pilot call. The Pushing the Frontiers pilot will support our very best individual researchers to push the frontiers of knowledge with ground-breaking, risky, innovative scientific discovery.

From our Discovery Science budget, we will fund up to 5 successful proposals at the level of £2m per award over a period of 3 - 4 years, a timescale and funding award that can enable the ambitious and innovative research we seek. The projects will be funded via a streamlined process, with focus on the proposed transformational research (5 pages), and the skills and track record of the individual (2 pages).

As part of the streamlined application process, the assessment will focus on the individual applicant and their high-risk, high-reward scientific vision. The only attachment to be submitted at the point of application is the case for support, which will cover the research proposal and track record. Thus, joint applications with other researchers is not required, although funds, if awarded, may be used flexibly to resource eligible collaborators. In recognising the PI may lead a team, we will be encouraging the applicant to demonstrate in their track record their capability to advance the careers of others.

This scheme structure encourages applications from early career researchers (ECR). Applicants can apply as an ECR if at the closing date of the call, they are in post less than 5 years from the start of their first permanent position. Applicants can also apply from when they have an in-principle offer of a permanent position, which will enable individuals who are undertaking fellowships to be eligible as an ECR for this call from a point where they are offered a permanent position, if sooner. The 5 years excludes career breaks and the applicant can have received other grant funding.   Within an institution’s demand management allocation, research organisations can submit up to two applications to this scheme, provided one application is from an ECR. There will be separate, initial assessment panels for ECRs and established PIs, but a final panel will consider jointly the best candidates from each.

There is no necessity to submit to the scheme, Organisations can choose, within their demand management allocation, to submit only to the conventional Standard Grant call, which will be running concurrently or to both. Applications to this pilot will count in the demand management calculation (in addition to applications submitted to the July 2020 Standard Grant round).

Announcement of opportunity (PDF, 245KB).

Pushing the Frontiers FAQ April 2020 (PDF, 200KB)

Pushing the Frontiers Webinar Presentation Slides 6 April 2020 (PDF, 661KB)


For further information please contact:

Victoria Wickens

Programme Manager

Avril Allman

Head of Research and Funding Operations


There will be two briefing webinars to support the funding opportunity. Initial enquiries to the mailbox will be collated alongside questions received for the webinars and used to inform the content of the webinars.

Webinar 1: 13:15 – 14:45 on Wednesday 11 March 2020

The deadline for registration is 16:00 on 9 March 2020.

Webinar 2: 15:15 – 16:45 on Monday 6 April 2020

The deadline for registration is 16:00 on 3 April 2020

There will be two options for joining: Option 1 – From PC, Mac, iPad or Android device; and Option 2 – by phone.

The webinars will provide an overview of the Pushing the Frontiers call, including a summary of the objectives, scope, eligibility and process for applying to the call. There will be opportunities to ask questions about the call.

Participants should register their name, role, institution, and email address via an online form. Participants will then be sent all relevant links and instructions for joining the webinar.

There is no requirement to attend the webinar. A copy of the slides will subsequently be made available. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, with any extra guidance not covered in the Announcement of Opportunity, will be published following the first webinar and updated following the second webinar, as required.