NERC launches 50th anniversary with Impact Awards prize-giving ceremony

29 January 2015

NERC is delighted to announce the winners of its inaugural Impact Awards.

The awards recognise and reward the value of NERC science to the UK's economy, society, wellbeing and international reputation.

Overall winners of the NERC Impact Awards

(Left to Right) Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Professor John Pyle, Dr Neil Harris and Lord John Selborne

At a prize-giving ceremony in London to launch NERC's 50th anniversary, a trophy and a total of £40,000 was awarded to overall winners Professor John Pyle and Dr Neil Harris for their work to demonstrate the effect of man-made gases on the ozone layer.

Their research, supported by colleagues at the University of Cambridge and NERC's National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), has underpinned the strengthening of the Montreal Protocol, widely regarded as one of the most successful international agreements ever enacted.

The protocol has ensured the rapid phase-out of ozone-depleting substances. As a result, the hole in the ozone now appears to be slowly closing, preventing a number of UV-related health problems worldwide, including skin cancer, sunburn and cataracts.

The winners plan to use the money to ensure fundamental research into atmospheric chemistry is further reflected in public policy.

The awards, hosted by scientist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili, rewarded impact in four categories: economic, societal, early-career and international.

More than 80 applications of an excellent standard were submitted across a broad range of science and impact, demonstrating the enormous reach and value of environmental science.

A shortlisting panel, made up of experts from academia, business and the third sector, whittled them down to two finalists in each category.

The winners were then selected by an esteemed panel of judges, chaired by Dr Peter Costigan.

Each winner received a prize of £10,000 to further the impact of their research, with the runners-up receiving £5,000. A further £30,000 was awarded for the overall prize.

NERC chief executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

"These awards are a wonderful demonstration of the value of NERC science, and a perfect way to mark the beginning of our 50th anniversary. Our finalists provide clear examples of the contribution environmental science makes to our economy, well-being and international standing.

They can also give us cause for optimism as we confront the major environmental and economic challenges of the 21st Century. Congratulations to all our winners."

Professor John Pyle said:

"It's a huge honour to get these awards from NERC. As scientists, we strive to understand the natural world and, of course, we feel we have made major contributions to the understanding of many aspects of ozone depletion.

We also feel passionately that these scientific advances should have an impact on national and international policy, for the benefit of all, which we have achieved through our involvement in the Montreal Protocol process. We are absolutely delighted that these efforts have been recognised by NERC.

This award is particularly special for us as the Antarctic Ozone Hole was originally discovered by Joe Farman and colleagues working at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. Joe worked very closely with us for many years after his retirement from BAS."

NERC media office
01793 411568
07785 520929

Results in full:

Overall Winner

Professor John Pyle, Dr Neil Harris and colleagues at the University of Cambridge and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science for their work to demonstrate the effect of man-made gases on the ozone layer.

Economic Impact Award


Dr Stephen Boult and his team at the University of Manchester developed new instruments for developing and marketing a new instrument for monitoring water and gas quality in the environment.


Professor Paul Bates and his team at the University of Bristol for developing a computer model that has served as a blueprint for the flood-risk management industry worldwide.

Societal Impact Award


Professor Jeremy Thomas at the University of Oxford for his work to bring back the iconic large blue butterfly from UK extinction.


Professor Kevin Horsburgh and the extreme sea levels team at the National Oceanography Centre for research which has underpinned many aspects of government policy on coastal defence and the mitigation of flood risk.

Early-Career Impact Award


Professor Hannah Cloke of the University of Reading who has led a continuous programme of NERC-funded research which has furthered our understanding of flood risk.


Dr Peter Graystock of the University of Leeds, whose research into bumblebee parasites has led to a tightening of regulations surrounding bumblebee imports.

International Impact Award


Professor John Pyle, Dr Neil Harris and colleagues at the University of Cambridge and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science for their work to demonstrate the effect of man-made gases on the ozone layer.


Professor Mark Saunders and his team at University College London for research which has underpinned the development of seasonal forecasts and the real-time monitoring of tropical storms and European extreme weather.