Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas

IPOG banner

In pursuing its remit, NERC invests in world-leading research, training and innovation across the energy spectrum to provide society with evidence and expertise to inform decision-making.

Through the Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas (IPOG), NERC focus is to understand the challenges and issues facing the oil and gas sector as a whole, and where opportunities exist for environmental science to be translated for its maximum economic and societal impact.

The Innovation Programme is a five-year, £5 million initiative, driven by the needs of the business community and decision-makers. The Programme focuses on a series of industry challenges and cross-cutting themes which have been developed through individual consultation with oil and gas companies and their supply chain, policymakers, regulators and environmental consultancies, and a series of scoping workshops with the business and academic communities.

NERC appoints coordination team for Innovation Programme Oil and Gas

25 Apr 2019

NERC has appointed a multi-disciplinary team to coordinate the Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas.

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Oil and gas currently provides 75% of the UK's primary energy source. Over the last five decades no other industrial sector has created more prosperity for the UK (source: UK Oil & Gas Industrial Sector strategy).

NERC Executive Chair Professor Duncan Wingham said:

Looking across the sectors that provide growth in the UK's economy, and where a strong understanding of the environment is absolutely essential, it is hard to think of one where the need is higher than in oil and gas. It's vital that NERC contributes to ensuring growth with responsible environmental management for the industry.

The UK has high levels of scientific and industrial capability in relation to oil and gas, reflecting the legacy of North Sea development. NERC is committed to working with the academic research base, business, policymakers and the third sector to ensure its investments in research, skills and technologies in oil and gas are translated for their maximum economic and societal impact.

The Innovation Programme operates according to the following general principles:

  • Industry-led - Programme members define the challenges that need to be addressed through innovation projects.
  • Openness - Innovation grants will be awarded in open competition and access to project outcomes will be open to programme members.
  • Translation-focused - Innovation projects must translate existing research into outputs that meet the needs of programme members.
  • Impact driven - This programme will be consistently focused on benefiting society, the economy and the environment.

Applications for IPOG membership will remain open for the duration of the programme and interested organisations should contact Michelle Truman at to discuss membership.

  • BMT Cordah logoBMT Cordah Limited
  • Chevron logoChevron North Sea Limited
  • Fugro logoFugro
  • JNCC logoJoint Nature Conservation Committee
  • Marine Scotland logoMarine Scotland
  • Natural England logoNatural England
  • Natural England logoOil Spill Response Limited

Industry challenges

The Innovation Programme focuses on the following sector challenges:

  • Decommissioning - The UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) is one of the world's most mature petroleum provinces with many assets (oil and gas platforms and associated wells, pipelines and other subsea structures) reaching the end of their field lives and likely to require decommissioning over the next 30 years. This task must be conducted in a safe and responsible manner, in one of the harshest maritime environments.

  • Extending the life of mature basins - Mature basins such as the UK's North Sea contain very significant amounts of unrecovered hydrocarbons. Identifying and producing new resources in a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way is technically challenging. This challenge could include novel approaches to data analysis and interpretation as well as areas such as enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

  • Exploration in challenging environments - Large oil and gas resources are still present in environments in which exploration, appraisal and production are challenging, and where conventional technologies are inadequate. This challenge also includes the identification and assessment of risks from environmental hazards to offshore infrastructure.

  • Unconventional hydrocarbons - Unconventional oil and gas (such as shale oil and gas resources) is an important part of the energy debate. Environmental science can provide independent evidence and expertise on the feasibility and safety of these resources, and inform industry's efforts to boost its efficiency and manage its environmental impact.

Diagram showing that the three cross-cutting innovation themes stretch across all four industry challenges

Relationship between the industry challenges and the cross-cutting innovation themes

Cross-cutting innovation themes

With respect to the above challenges, the Innovation Programme will focus on the following cross-cutting innovation themes:

  • Innovative monitoring approaches - This theme recognises the need for consistent, cost effective data collection and regulated and agreed monitoring protocols covering techniques and time periods to establish baselines (or proxies for these) and for monitoring of prospective, operational and decommissioned sites.

  • Data management, sharing and collaboration - Aside from the issues of consistent data collection, this theme recognises the need for sharing of data between interested parties and related issues around acquisition, creation, accessibility and management of big data sets. It also recognises that the environment is shared by a wide variety of users, all of whom potentially impact the environment to a greater or lesser extent, and the need to share data and lessons learnt and consider cumulative impact and potential trade-offs.

  • Environmental management - This theme runs throughout the programme. Reducing the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction is a key priority for the sector. Improvements in the scientific understanding and technology used during hydrocarbon resource extraction will result in lower levels of environmental impact and will directly influence UK oil and gas industry regulations.


2016 - 2021

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no current grant funding opportunities for this programme.


This programme has a budget of £5 million over five years.


There have now been three innovation funding calls as part of the Innovation Programme in Oil and Gas. Since 2015, 12 collaborative projects have been funded as part of the programme.

IPOG funded projects (PDF, 291KB)

Please also see below a list of oil and gas projects funded prior to the start of the IPOG programme

Oil & Gas funded projects (PDF, 298KB)

In collaboration with the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas - external link, two workshops were held in 2015, bringing together industry, academic and government representatives to identify the biggest challenges facing the oil and gas sector in the UK and the opportunities for NERC-remit science to be translated to address these and inform decision-making. Summary reports from these workshops are below:

NERC Innovation scoping workshop summary report - Decommissioning (PDF, 553KB)

NERC Innovation scoping workshop summary report - Extending the life of mature basins in the UKCS and west of Shetland (PDF, 532KB)

In March 2018 NERC supported a Design for Decommissioning workshop led by Kate Gormley, a NERC KE Fellow. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together academic researchers and industry to discuss the potential challenges and opportunities for integrating marine science at the design stage of offshore structures, to enable better environmental management. The report and presentations are below:

Designing for Decommissioning - workshop report (PDF, 1.1MB)

Designing for Decommissioning - workshop presentations (PDF, 17.1MB)

In October 2019 IPOG held a workshop alongside the annual science meeting of MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland). The aim was to disseminate some of the key science findings and highlight how they have been utilised  to reduce uncertainty in the regulatory environment and/or to reduce cost in monitoring. The workshop also sought to inform the future strategy of NERC’s IPOG.

MASTS IPOG meeting October 2019 (PDF, 503KB)

IPOG presentation October 2019 (PDF, 1.9MB)

NanoPAM Next generation acoustic monitoring (PDF, 1.4MB)

Rouse 3DMARG Presentation 2019 (PDF, 3.1MB)

MASTS Meeting Summary 2019 (PDF, 249KB)

This workshop was then followed by a survey during Spring/Summer 2020 to identify business’ needs for environmental research. A summary report is available.

IPOG Research Neeeds 2020 (PDF, 625KB)

The external IPOG coordinator has also produced a review of the programme, summarising its achievements and making recommendations for future activities.

IPOG Review Public (PDF, 408KB)