Innovation Follow-on Pathfinder

Note: With the advent of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and new significant funding opportunities, the context for the NERC-funded Innovation Follow-on Pathfinder scheme has altered. This shifting landscape has led to a need to review NERC's innovation open calls.

To this end, the annual call for financial year 2019-20 is paused whilst we review NERC's offer in the round. Future call opportunities will be listed on the NERC funding news and calls page and you can sign up to the NERC email alert service to ensure you receive the most up-to-date news on NERC and UKRI funding.

Pathfinder awards complement Innovation Follow-on call awards.

The Innovation Follow-on Fund Call awards up to £155,000 at 100% full economic cost (FEC) to fund development projects whose objective is to realise the commercial potential of NERC-funded research via a combination of complementary technical and commercial engagement work programmes.

Successful applications to the Innovation Follow-on Call are invariably built upon a good understanding of the likely market potential for the technology around which the project is based.

If you are confident that you already have a sound assessment of these, and the other, issues described in the Announcement of Opportunity document below, you are ready to submit an application to the call.

NERC Innovation Follow-on Fund Call: Announcement of Opportunity (PDF, 218KB)

If, however, there are gaps in your knowledge, you are strongly advised to first apply for a Pathfinder award.

This will give you the best possible opportunity to secure Innovation Follow-on funding by enabling you to carry out work that will help you develop a greater understanding of the commercial aspects and possibilities of your research, and hence produce a more robust, better informed proposal.

Pathfinder awards enable you to fill such knowledge gaps via activities such as market assessment and competitor analysis, intellectual property searches, engaging with potential commercial collaborators and end-users, and 'milestone 1' technical work where the technical feasibility of the whole project depends on it.

Pathfinder awards are normally between £7,000 and £10,000, but in exceptional circumstances a maximum of £25,000 is available (NERC will contribute £20,000 at 80% FEC).


The Pathfinder and Innovation Follow-on Fund calls are open to researchers with current or past NERC funding or research council funded research that falls within the NERC remit:

  • Proposals for Follow-on support must build on the outputs of recent or previous NERC-funded research activity or research council funded research that falls within the NERC remit.
  • Proposals must come from a research organisation eligible to apply to NERC, please see the guidance on the UKRI website - external link.
  • Planned outcomes must fall within NERC's remit.
  • Projects whose aim is to develop products or services based on NERC-funded research outputs and capabilities or research council funded research that falls within the NERC remit. ('Blue-sky' projects and applied research for commercial partners are not eligible).
  • Projects do not have to be based on proprietary, patentable intellectual property. For example, substantial databases and other information sources within the NERC research community might form the basis of successful service businesses. The scale of the opportunity can vary, from relatively modest through to very large.
  • All projects must have demonstrable economic potential, even if only modest, and be likely to deliver some form of societal or environmental benefit.

Potential applicants from NERC's research centres must contact the Commercialisation Manager or equivalent at their research centre before applying:

Matthew Polaine
Innovation Manager,
Aurora, British Antarctic Survey

Mike Ackroyd
Commercialisation Manager,
British Geological Survey

Nicholas Corker
Commercialisation Manager,
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Dr Paul T Wilkinson
Commercialisation Manager, Innovation & Enterprise
Innovation & enterprise, National Oceanography Centre

How to apply

There is no closing date for this scheme; applications should be submitted at any time via the Je-S system - external link.

Please select the following on Je-S:

  • Select council- NERC
  • Select Document type- Standard proposal
  • Select Scheme- Innovation
  • Select call- Follow-on Fund Pathfinder

Please contact NERC at when a Pathfinder proposal is submitted. All Pathfinder proposals must include a letter of support from the Principal Investigator's Technology Transfer Office (TTO) which should include a statement confirming that the application has been developed in conjunction with the TTO.

Please note: the next annual Innovation Follow-on Fund call closes 19 September 2018.

Further guidance

Follow-on Fund Pathfinder - specific guidance (PDF, 125KB)


Tessa Edgecombe
Senior Programme Manager (Innovation)
07788 190531