Capital funding guidelines

NERC is committed to sustaining funding which delivers scientific understanding of the environment. Capital funding provides an opportunity for NERC to invest in state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and infrastructure.

Capital investments underpin and enhance the delivery of world-class environmental science, generating exciting scientific discovery and building an effective UK capability to sustain novel and high-quality research. This webpage provides further detail and guidance for those seeking to apply to funding for capital.

Definition of capital

NERC considers capital to be the creation or purchase of an asset that has a useful life exceeding one year and that costs more than £10,000. NERC makes capital investments either as part of a grant or as a direct capital investment.

An asset can be anything from equipment to buildings, from IT software to supercomputers.

What can be funded as capital?

Applications to NERC capital calls should adhere to any specific requirements stated in the announcement of opportunity (AO) for the specific capital call. Capital can include labour / development costs associated with the creation of the asset, providing the input from an individual is for a sustained period and a significant number of hours within that period. This may include transport, delivery and installation costs.

What cannot be funded as capital?

Items under £10,000 cannot be funded as capital. However, items which form a suite of equipment totalling more than £10,000 but which individually are less than £10,000 may be funded as capital; the components must all be necessary for the task the applicant wishes to apply them to, they must be required to perform the purpose for which it is constructed, and a clear, coherent case must be made as to how this suite will collectively form a single asset.

Staffing after the creation of the asset cannot be included within a capital investment; resourcing related to operation, maintenance and training users is to be covered by the awarded institution.

Routine replacement and/or repair of assets, such as building repairs, maintenance and scheduled replacement of standard equipment, will not be considered. Similarly, costs related to renting cannot be included.

Equipment sharing

A key national capability for the UK's environmental science community is the availability of advanced science equipment located within research organisations to the wider community. Sharing NERC funded equipment is vital to driving scientific innovation and discovery, and consequently NERC works continuously to improve access to these state-of-the-art assets wherever possible.

Equipment sharing avoids duplication of assets, ensures NERC-supported assets enhance current UK capability and maximises scientific opportunities for ambitious projects. NERC-funded equipment, including advice and support to users, must therefore be made available to the wider environmental research community if there is spare capacity (UKRI Terms & Conditions of Research Council FEC Grants – EC Grant Terms and Conditions Guidance, RGC 9.2 Ownership of Equipment). Priority should be given to research supported by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and to UKRI-funded students.

All NERC-funded equipment over £138,000 (£115,000 excluding VAT) must be registered on the national equipment database (UKRI Terms & Conditions of Research Council FEC Grants – Grant Full Terms and Conditions, RGC 9.3 Equipment Data). Even if the value of the equipment does not exceed £138,000 (£115,000 excluding VAT), NERC recommends that all NERC-funded equipment is added to the database to maximise the opportunities of shared use and collaboration. This is in accordance with the recommendations outlined in the ‘Efficiency, effectiveness & value for money’ report 2015 from Universities UK (5. Harnessing the benefits of asset sharing). Where capital assets previously funded by the NERC have been registered on alternative data portals, details of these assets must be added to the database.

Please note that NERC calls may have specific equipment sharing guidelines outside of what is outlined above. As such, please check within the call's AO and / or the awards terms and conditions.


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