Capital funding guidelines

NERC is committed to sustained funding for UK national capability that delivers scientific understanding of environmental processes, and to investing in state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and infrastructure. These capital investments underpin and enhance the delivery of world-class environmental science, generating exciting scientific discovery and building an effective capability to sustain high-quality research.

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 for the specific capital call, however 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. Furthermore, suites of equipment with low value components that cost less than £10,000 and which can work independently of each other (that is if one component stopped working, the rest would still operate) will not be considered for capital funding. For example, a single proposal for twenty sensors costing £9,000 each (total value £180,000) that can work independently of each other would not be accepted, as each asset is less than £10,000. However, if the operation of each sensor was reliant on the others, this could be considered for capital funding.

Staffing cannot be included within a capital investment, with all resourcing related to operation, maintenance and training users 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

While NERC invests in a range of national facilities to support the UK environmental science research community, a key national capability for the UK's research community is the availability of advanced research equipment located within research organisations. The creative use of equipment is a vital driver of scientific innovation and discovery, and consequently NERC works to improve access to these state-of-the-art assets wherever possible.

Fundamental to this is ensuring that the equipment that NERC funds is actively used and that it is available to other researchers whenever possible through equipment sharing arrangements. Equipment sharing schemes avoid duplication of equipment, ensuring that the best possible value is gained from capital investments.

Consequently, though any equipment purchased from grant funds should primarily be used for the research project under which the grant was awarded (Terms & Conditions of Research Council fEC (full economic cost) Grants - external link, RGC 11.2 Ownership of Equipment), if there is spare capacity in the use of the equipment, NERC expects this equipment to be made available to other users (Terms & Conditions of Research Council fEC Grants, RGC 11.3 Use of Equipment). Priority should be given to research supported by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and to UKRI-funded students. Arrangements should also be made for providing advice and support to other users of the equipment.

Furthermore, a condition of NERC capital grants is that all new equipment purchased over £138,000 (£115,000 excluding VAT) must be discoverable on the national equipment database - - external link. This is in accordance with UKRI policy (Terms & Conditions of Research Council fEC Grants, RGC 11.5 Equipment Data), with the recommendations outlined in the Efficiency, effectiveness & value for money report 2015 - external link.

Where capital assets previously funded by NERC have been registered on alternative data portals, please do consider also adding the details of these assets to the national equipment 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 announcement of opportunity and/or the award's terms and conditions.


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