Clean Air

Polluted London's hazy skyline

The Clean Air programme is a £42.5 million research and innovation investment supported through the UK Research and Innovation Strategic Priorities Fund. The aim is to bring together the UK's world-class research base and support high quality multi- and inter- disciplinary research and innovation to develop practical solutions for today’s air quality issues and equip the UK to proactively tackle future air quality challenges, in order to protect health and support clean growth.

The funding is part of the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), delivered by the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI's investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities. 

The Clean Air programme is jointly delivered by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Met Office, with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, Medical Research Council (MRC), National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Department for Transport (DfT), Scottish Government and Welsh Government.

Cancellation of Jan/Feb 2021 Intensive Observing Period (IOP)

7 Oct 2020

A decision has been made to cancel the Clean Air Programme winter Intensive Observing Period, previously scheduled for Monday 20 January to Friday 28 February 2021.


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Atmospheric pollution in the UK is responsible for approximately 40,000 early deaths and has a cost of around £20 billion to health services and business, per year. The UK is entering a transformative period in air quality, as transport, heating, energy, solvent use and agricultural emissions change. Most of the 'easy wins' to reduce particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, ammonia and nitrogen oxides have already been implemented in the UK. Future improvements will require innovative solutions underpinned by new research to protect the health of society, whilst pursuing clean growth and increasing national productivity.

The vision of the Clean Air programme is a coordinated landscape of research and innovation co-designed with users to develop robust solutions that reduce emissions and impacts of atmospheric pollution.

The Clean Air programme plans to address these challenges through two waves.

Wave 1: Analysis and Solutions

The first (£20.5 million) supported multi-disciplinary research and innovation to stimulate solutions for clean air through predictive understanding of future air quality challenges; a systems approach to analysis; new technologies and innovative policy and practice interventions to benefit groups of people most at risk and improve public health and support clean growth.

Wave 2: Indoor/Outdoor Interface

The second wave of investment (£22 million) will support new interdisciplinary research and innovation that will equip the UK to proactively tackle new and emerging air quality challenges related to changes in the types of air pollutants emitted and their importance across the indoor/outdoor interface, with regards to exposure patterns and impacts on those most at risk.

The second wave of the Clean Air programme is expected to:

  • Build a new UK interdisciplinary community to address research challenges across the interface of indoor/outdoor air quality through collaboration between wider disciplines and stakeholders including: environmental, social and medical sciences, engineering, economics, and health.
  • Deliver new knowledge that:
    • provides critical foresight on emerging air pollution challenges and associated health risks and impacts; and
    • enable an increased understanding and quantification of human behavioural change and practices in order to develop and assess interventions, that limit harmful exposure to mitigate the negative health impacts of individuals most at risk.
  • Provide consistent, evidence-based advice for stakeholders through open data and tools in order to stimulate policy and regulatory innovation.
  • Stimulate business-led innovation for sustainable products and services to protect health across the indoor/outdoor air quality interface and grow UK businesses.

The second wave of the programme will be delivered through a portfolio of activities including through:

  • Networks to build the interdisciplinary community (NERC and Met Office)
  • Interdisciplinary research and innovation consortia to generate new knowledge and tools to influence policy and regulation (NERC and Met Office)
  • Business-led innovation projects to develop a new clean air products and services for indoor environment (Innovate UK)
  • Coordination, integration and impact activities (including Clean Air Champions to coordinate the new research investments, encourage integration and maximise impact of the larger Clean Air portfolio.)

Timing

2019 - 2025

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no open calls at present.

Assessment of Preparing for Future Clean Air Challenges: Interdisciplinary research and innovation consortia Outline Proposals is currently underway. Applicants should be informed by December 2020 if they are to proceed to the Full Proposal stage.

Budget

£42.5 million (across both waves).

Programmes awards

Award details of the research projects awarded by UKRI are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web: View details of funded applications - external link

Public summaries of the feasibility projects awarded by Innovate UK in 2020 - external link and 2019 - external link

Further information about the UK Clean Air Champions can be found on the Clean Air Programme website - external link.

The governance of the UK Clean Air programme encompasses a number of different bodies which undertake different roles.

Programme Board

The Programme Board is responsible for providing the strategic direction for the programme, the delivery of the programme's objectives and is the ultimate decision-making authority for the programme. It comprises the programme's delivery partners as follows:

  • UKRI-NERC (co-Chair)
  • Met Office (co-Chair)
  • UKRI-EPSRC
  • UKRI-ESRC
  • UKRI-Innovate UK
  • UKRI-MRC
  • Defra

and the National Physical Laboratory.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee provides strategic advice to the Programme Board in support of the programme's objectives. Its membership is as follows:

  • Prof. John Cherrie, Heriot-Watt University
  • Prof. Chris Whitty, Department of Health & Social Care (Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA))
  • Prof. Phil Blythe, Department for Transport (CSA)
  • Dr John Newington, Defra (CSA representative)
  • Dr Sarah Moller, Defra (CSA representative)
  • Dr Simon Vosper, Met Office
  • Prof. Alastair Lewis, University of York
  • Alex Minshull, Bristol City Council
  • Prof. Helen ApSimon, Imperial College London
  • Prof. Stephen Holgate, University of Southampton (Champion team)
  • Prof. Frank Kelly, Imperial College London
  • Roger Herbert, Welsh Government (CSA representative)
  • Andrew Taylor, Scottish Government (CSA representative)
  • Prof. Catherine Noakes, University of Leeds
  • Prof. Nicola Carslaw, University of York
  • Mark Westwood, Connected Places Catapult
  • Dr Stuart Capstick, Cardiff University
  • Amy Holmes, DAERA
  • Dr Sefi Roth, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Professor Stephen Holgate, University of Southampton (Champion team)
  • Dr Jenny Baverstock, University of Southampton (Champion team)

Secretariat

The Secretary, based at NERC Head Office, provides administrative support to the Programme Board and Steering Committee.