Announcement of Opportunity: Marine sensor development capital call

Update 14 November 2016: Please note the Justification of Resources template has been updated to include a heading for other directly incurred costs, which was missing from an earlier version of this form.

Call is now closed.


NERC is investing £15 million for Marine Autonomous Systems (MAS) and sensor development which will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of global marine science and technological innovation by enabling the NERC community to maximise science delivery from several ambitious large-scale research programmes.

As part of this investment NERC will fund £4·4 million over four years to support the development of the next generation of miniaturised, low-power sensors for increased endurance and capability. The resulting sensors will be integrated into the MAS currently available or being developed at NERC's National Oceanography Centre (NOC) - one of only half a dozen or so large oceanographic institutions world-wide, capable of undertaking and supporting global-scale ocean science.


Proposals should have a maximum value of £1·2 million per proposal at 100% full economic cost with funding starting in 2017-18. Grants will be funded at 80% full economic cost (ie maximum award of £960,000). Equipment would also be funded at 80% full economic cost.

All proposals must also include costs for lab, simulator, tank and operational environment (ie anticipated usage environment) testing to demonstrate successful interfacing and interoperability of the sensors. Following the panel meeting NERC will work with successful principal investigators and NOC to develop a cost effective field testing programme. Final costs will be agreed on award.


This opportunity is open to individuals and organisations eligible for NERC research grant funding, ie applicants based in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), NERC research centres, and independent research organisations (IROs) approved by NERC for managed mode.

Investigators are limited to involvement in no more than four proposals; investigators may be named on no more than two proposals as the lead principal investigator and no more than two proposals as co-investigator.

How to apply

All proposals should be submitted through the Joint electronic Submission (Je-S) system from eligible research organisations only. Please note the application process via Je-S will not open until Monday 19 September 2016.

Please read the Announcement of Opportunity document below for more detail on how to apply.

Announcement of Opportunity (PDF, 110KB)

All proposals must include both a Case for Support and a Justification of Resources form. These forms are provided below and must be submitted as attachments via Je-S. In accordance with the Research Councils UK guidance for items with a value above £115,000 (net VAT and import duty - £138,000 inc VAT), an equipment business case is also required. Any submission that does not use the forms provided will not be considered.

Case for Support form (Word, 45KB)

Justification of Resources (Word, 42KB)

Equipment Business Case (Word, 44KB)

Applicants must ensure that their proposal is received by NERC by 16:00 on 22 November 2016.


A workshop was held on the 16 September 2016 to allow potential applicants access to view the current suite of autonomous systems and discuss integration with technical staff at NOC. Workshop materials will be made available online as soon as possible following 16 September.

Marine Sensor Development Capital Call - Workshop delegate pack (PDF, 452KB)

Marine Sensor Development Capital Call - Workshop questions and answers (PDF, 161KB)

Workshop presentations

  1. General background and introduction to marine robotics and sensors - Gwyn Griffiths (pages 3-14)
  2. Introduction to the NERC marine sensor development capital call - Amber Vater (pages 15-29)
  3. Overview of MAS fleet and a description of the ship bound vehicles- Maarten Furlong (pages 30-43)
  4. Overview of Autosub Long Range - Steve McPhail (pages 44-50)
  5. Overview of glider and USV fleet - David White (pages 51-66)

2016 Marine Sensor Development Capital Call - Workshop presentation sessions 1-5 (PDF, 7.3MB)

  1. International EOVs and TRLs in a UK science & marine measurement context - Matt Mowlem (pages 67-85)
  2. A semantically rich and standardised approach enhancing discovery of sensor data and metadata - Alexandra Kokkinaki (pages 86-105)
  3. Introduction to NERC Innovation - Sarah Keynes (pages 106-113)

2016 Marine Sensor Development Capital Call - Workshop presentation sessions 6-8 (PDF, 4.6MB)

Technical specifications

The following documentation should be used to support the development of the proposals for this call. Further information can be directed to NERC by emailing

NMEP MAS specifications

Details of the current MAS held within the National Marine Equipment Pool (NMEP) at NOC are provided in the two documents below:

NERC Marine Sensor Capital Call - Interface Specification v1·1 (PDF, 154KB)

NMEP MAS payload summaries v1·1 (PDF, 673KB)

Metadata specification and data flow recommendations

Applicants are advised to follow the metadata specification and data flow arrangement tools and framework developed as part of the EU FP7 project 'senseOCEAN'.

The current standard for recording metadata that is available and managed by the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) is available here:

senseOCEAN metadata request form (Excel, 27KB)

Technologies Readiness Levels (TRL)

The following documents provide a summary of the existing TRL scheme that should be referred to for this call.

Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs)

Applicants are advised to refer to the list of biogeochemical and biological Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) - external link.

We urge potential applicants to contact NERC as soon as possible if there are any questions around the scope of the call.

Assessment Process

A panel interview process will be used to assess proposals. The principal investigator plus one additional representative will be required to travel to London to present their proposal to an assessment panel on one day between 6-10 February 2017. The interview is expected to last between 30-45 minutes. Applicants will be invited to provide a maximum of ten slides and bring any useful technologies to showcase as appropriate.

Conflicts of Interest

NOC is a national research organisation, delivering integrated marine science and technology from the coast to the deep ocean, working in partnership with the UK marine research community.

Wholly owned by NERC, NOC is the UK's leading institution for sea-level science, coastal & deep-ocean research and technology development. The centre works in close partnership with institutions across the UK marine science community addressing key science challenges including sea-level change, the oceans' role in climate change, predicting and simulating the behaviour of the oceans through computer modelling, development, the future of the Arctic Ocean and long-term monitoring technologies.

Any discussions with NOC, as the host to the NMEP MAS, around interoperability of sensors will be strictly confidential. Principal investigators should contact their university data officers to determine if creating a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) would be necessary prior to contacting and discussing ideas with any other organisation.


  • Workshop at NOC: 16 September 2016
  • Call opens on Je-S: 19 September 2016
  • Call closing date: 16:00 on 22 November 2016
  • Applicants invited to panel interview: December 2016
  • Assessment Panel and Interviews: 6-10 February 2017
  • Grants start: April 2017
  • Expected grants end: 31 March 2021


Sally Reid
01793 442565