Fast facts

Our goal

Our goal, as outlined in our strategy, is to address and respond to critical issues such as environmental hazards, resource security and environmental change, and to work in partnerships to achieve this.

Our scientists study and monitor the physical, chemical and biological processes of our whole planet - from pole to pole, and from the deep Earth and oceans to the edge of space.


Established by Royal Charter in 1965, NERC is the largest funder of environmental science in the UK. We invest in world-leading environmental research, postgraduate training and innovation both in UK universities and our own research centres.


We receive a total budget of around £330 million each year from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), but our activities and funding decisions are independent of government. As a public body, we are accountable for our investment decisions to UK taxpayers.

NERC in numbers

We support approximately 3,000 scientists and 1,000 PhD students, 1,000 research projects and 60 UK or international programmes, 55 universities and 20 research institutes.

Our facilities

We have research stations and facilities in some of the most hostile places on the planet:

  • seven research stations in Antarctica, including the award-winning Halley VI and one in the Arctic
  • three royal research ships (RRS Discovery, RRS James Cook and RRS James Clark Ross)
  • two research aircraft (a Dornier 228 and a BAe 146)
  • satellite technology (such as CryoSat-2 and SMOS)
  • high-performance computing facilities (including ARCHER)
  • a space geodesy facility
  • several isotope facilities.

Major discoveries

Scientist inspecting test tube

NERC scientists contributed to:

  • The discovery of the ozone hole in 1985.
  • Efforts to help the UK Civil Aviation Authority establish safe flying limits when Eyjafjallajokull erupted in 2010 - one of the research aircraft we jointly run with the Met Office flew through the ash plume.
  • A coastal flooding model that feeds directly into the Thames Barrier control centre.
  • A project to decode the ash tree's genetic sequence in 2013 to help identify the genes that mean some trees are resistant to ash dieback.
  • Data and risk models that are used to predict local flooding and plan major investments in infrastructure.
  • The first ever countryside survey in 1978.
  • The UK National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011.