CEH and NOC working to become independent research institutes

1 November 2017

NERC, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) have been working with government to consider the future governance, responsibilities and ownership arrangements for NOC and CEH.

CEH and NOC logos

In October 2017, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research & Innovation agreed that plans for CEH and NOC to become independent research institutes (companies limited by guarantee with charitable status) should move into preparation phase. We will now progress all the activities required to demonstrate readiness to transition to independent institutes.

This will include, for instance, creating non-trading companies limited by guarantee, with boards which will then engage with NERC and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to agree the terms of the transfer. This milestone allows us to start the detailed planning, which we will share with our external stakeholders, staff members, third party funders, other partners and suppliers as we progress. 'Readiness to implement' will then be tested in Gateway 4 and the resulting business case submitted for ministerial review and approval in 2018.

As they are presently part of NERC, NOC and CEH will become part of the proposed UKRI when it is created in April 2018 and move from UKRI to their new independent status. Again, we will be in contact with staff, trade unions, third party funders, partners and suppliers prior to the transfer period to explain in more detail how the transfer will take place and what they may need to do.

This change will allow our valued world-class science and innovation to be sustained, and its impact enhanced, into the future. Centres will continue to work together in partnership with NERC / UK Research & Innovation. The new structures will make NOC and CEH stronger, more agile and financially more resilient, with more freedoms and flexibilities to deliver their missions and to do so with a greater range of external partners and funders. The missions, purpose and scientific integrity of CEH and NOC will be protected and the detail of managing future and ongoing options, risks and issues will remain at the forefront of the process.

NERC Council continues to affirm the importance of sustaining long-term funding to its research centres. This will remain the case, regardless of the changes in ownership and governance.

Further information

Jo Thompson
Head of Communications Campaigns
07864 601852


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, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of NERC, employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35 million. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment.

3. The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is the UK's leading institution for integrated coastal and deep ocean research. NOC undertakes and facilitates world-class agenda-setting scientific research to understand the global ocean by solving challenging multidisciplinary, large scale, long-term marine science problems to underpin international and UK public policy, business and wider society outcomes. NOC operates the Royal Research Ships James Cook and Discovery and develops technology for coastal and deep ocean research.

Working with its partners, NOC provides long-term marine science capability including sustained ocean observing, mapping and surveying, data management, and scientific advice. NOC operates at two sites, Southampton and Liverpool, with the headquarters based in Southampton. Among the resources that NOC provides on behalf of the UK are the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC), the Marine Autonomous & Robotic Systems (MARS) facility, the National Tide & Sea Level Facility (NTSLF), the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) and the British Ocean Sediment Core Research Facility (BOSCORF). The National Oceanography Centre is wholly owned by NERC.

4. Operating across the whole of the UK and with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research & Innovation will bring together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England. UK Research & Innovation will ensure that the UK maintains its world leadership in research and innovation, by creating a system that is the "best environment for research and innovation to flourish". It will come into existence on 1 April 2018.