Report highlights the value of NERC investment to the UK

1 February 2016

NERC's latest Impact Report clearly demonstrates the importance of its investment in science, innovation and training in creating jobs and driving economic growth across the whole country and beyond.

Busy street outside Oxford Circus underground station

The report, published today, shows how NERC funding drives UK prosperity and wellbeing; reduces costs across the whole economy, benefits industry, government and charities; and has global reach, providing international leadership, influence, and market opportunities for the UK.

This is true across a range of sectors, including environmental services, water, energy, agri-food, construction, healthcare, and transport. Much of the evidence for this success comes from NERC-commissioned impact analyses by Deloitte.

NERC's chief executive, Professor Duncan Wingham, said:

One of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century is how to escape poverty and improve our living standards while living within the Earth's limits. NERC's world-class environmental science has a huge part to play in this. We need to understand how the Earth works, and make sure that society benefits from natural resources, builds resilience to environmental hazards and manages environmental change.

Our latest impact report is further evidence of the value of NERC's world-leading research in all of these areas to the wider UK economy. Our investment creates jobs, drives economic growth, increases productivity, and reduces costs across the whole country. From farming to energy, from infrastructure to healthcare, the influence of our scientific excellence is extremely broad.

Some of the specific benefits of NERC investment include:

Helping to manage environmental change by undertaking long-term research into ozone loss and air pollution

  • NERC's investment of over £14 million in ozone research since 1957 has generated savings of up to £11·2 billion for the UK healthcare and farming industries, as well as the wider economy. This is down to NERC-funded scientists' discovery of the ozone hole, which led to international agreement to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals and restore the Earth's ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

  • An annual investment of £3 million in air pollution research has also supported international agreements and influenced policy that has led to a reduction in major air pollutants and generated benefits worth up to £82 billion to the UK.

Helping the UK benefit from natural resources by enabling growth in the energy industry through efficient regulation

  • NERC's £6·6 million annual investment in science in this area is expected to create £50 million per year benefit from additional wind energy generation in Scotland. NERC's investment leads to further benefits by enabling carbon capture and storage alongside safe and secure nuclear, shale gas and oil operations.

Improving the UK's resilience to environmental hazards by informing effective risk management

  • NERC's annual investment of £12·8 million generates benefits of up to £127 million per year by protecting properties, farmland and infrastructure through earlier warning of floods. This funding also leads to healthcare savings, efficiency savings for the emergency services, and other savings from forecasting seasonal extremes, extreme weather, the effects of volcanic ash on aircraft, protecting fisheries and preparing for climate change.

Further information

Tamera Jones
NERC media office
01793 411561
07917 557215


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

2. NERC's strategy, 'The Business of the Environment', explains why the environment is everyone's business. We depend on the environment for shelter, heat, light, food and water - all provided by globally interconnected trade, transport and communications. The world's population is growing by around one billion every 12 years. Now more than half of us live in cities and more than half the countryside is used for agriculture. People are the dominant source of change in the UK and across the planet. We aspire to escape poverty and improve our living standards. Achieving this while living within the Earth's limits is the great challenge of the 21st century.

NERC funds the science that is vital for meeting this challenge. We work in partnership with business, government and civil society. Each year we invest £330 million in cutting-edge research, training and innovation in UK universities and research centres. We invest in discovery science to understand how the Earth works: past, present and future. We invest in strategic research so that society can benefit from natural resources, build resilience to environmental hazards and manage environmental change. And we invest in translation activities that help business, government and society use our science knowledge. Together we deliver new ways of living, doing business, escaping poverty and growing economies.

3. NERC's research centres - the British Antarctic Survey, the British Geological Survey, the National Oceanography Centre, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the National Centre for Earth Observation.