Changing the Environment

Oak tree

Environmental research plays a vital role in identifying environmental problems and their cost to the economy and society. This knowledge provides opportunities for development of solutions and interventions that reduce environmental damage and avoid the associated costs. In recent years the scale and complexity of these problems has increased, impacting on and threatening livelihoods and environments in the UK and globally.

The strength of research and innovation capability in the UK should put our communities in a leading position not just to articulate environmental problems, but to devise and propose the whole system solutions to these problems. These solutions will be reliant on drawing from a diverse range of expertise across academic disciplines including but not limited to physical and biological sciences, social sciences, medical sciences, engineering, law, business and economics. A step change in the way that academic communities work will be required.

NERC, as a Council of UKRI, aims to support the development of expertise in collaborating across disciplines and organisational structures to build a research community that transcends traditional boundaries.  The Changing the Environment programme will stimulate and support new connections across disciplines to help realise the full potential of the UK contribution to environmental challenges. The research and innovation programmes delivered through this funding will be expected to look across a system bringing together a wide range of disciplines across the UKRI remit to drive solutions in the selected area of environmental focus.

Webinar: Changing the Environment

12 Oct 2020

A Town Hall meeting for the Changing the Environment programme was held via webinar on Thursday 1 October 2020.

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The programme will provide funding for research organisations to identify a tractable challenge or topic and a programme of work that can lead to tangible outcomes and environmental solutions at an appropriate scale through a whole system approach. The funding will create a critical mass of inter-disciplinary expertise stemming from the activity in the research organisation, with the ability to leverage a wide range of inputs from other stakeholders and partners as required by the environmental challenge, and to access other funding opportunities.  

Noting limitations around the scale of funding and the desire to create substantial critical mass around the chosen challenge area, the primary ambition of these programme awards is to build capability within a single research organisation to address a clearly defined environmental challenge or set of challenges. The programme is expected to create an intra-organisational solutions orientated community working towards common goals.  Other  organisations may be included and/or identified to make specific contributions to the challenge but their participation must be justified.

Proposals will drive innovative environmental solutions supporting the delivery of UK and global strategies, for example, new research addressing decarbonisation of energy, creation of a circular economy, reversing biodiversity decline, socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains, and cleaner air. It is expected that proposers will outline the environmental area and challenge(s) they will focus on and the approaches to drive solutions.

The programme design should create new communities to deliver solutions for these challenges, taking a whole of system approach to the challenge(s), drawing across the breadth of appropriate UKRI disciplines. The programme will nurture a generation of researchers who take this approach as the norm.


2021 - 2026

Can I apply for a grant?

The 2020 call for outline proposals is now open, see the Announcement of Opportunity


£20 million NERC funding is available to fund two 5 year awards as part of the CtE 2020 call for proposals.

Programme awards

No awards have been made to date. Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web (GOTW).