Understanding the Impact of Plastic Pollution on Marine Ecosystems in South East Asia (South-East Asia Plastics (SEAP))

Update: UK Research and Innovation has recently announced changes to requirements on ‘Pathways to Impact’. As a result of this change, you will no longer be required to provide a ‘Pathways to Impact’ plan or complete an ‘Impact Summary’ within your grant proposal.

These requirements will be removed for all UKRI opportunities by 1 March 2020, so the section and attachment type will disappear from any proposal “under preparation” by applicants or research offices by 1 March. 

Applicants for this call should follow this guidance: A separate Pathways to Impact statement is no longer required, but applicants must still consider how they will or might achieve impact throughout their projects and include this as part of their Case for Support. Activities to realize impact do not have to be cost-incurring, but relevant costs can be included and must be fully justified within the Justification of Resources statement. The Case for Support page limit will not be increased as a result of this change.

Ocean waves

The South East Asia Plastics (SEAP) programme will support collaborations between researchers in the UK, Singapore and the wider South East Asian region to increase understanding of the impacts and risks of plastics in marine ecosystems (including mangroves, coral reefs and beaches) and the essential services these ecosystems provide, in order to support the development of mitigation measures.

This programme is jointly supported on by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF).

NRF is a department within the Singapore Prime Minister's Office. The NRF sets the national direction for research and development (R&D) by developing policies, plans and strategies for research, innovation and enterprise. It also funds strategic initiatives and builds up R&D capabilities by nurturing research talent.

The UK funding for the programme comes from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the International Climate Finance programme, a UK government commitment to support developing countries to respond to the challenges and opportunities of climate change.

Where appropriate, projects funded through this call will be considered part of a joint UK–Singapore contribution to the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework, which aims to provide a platform and overarching structure for bringing together governments, industry, researchers and practitioners from across the Commonwealth to work together to tackle this global issue.

Announcement of Opportunity: Understanding the Impact of Plastic Pollution on Marine Ecosystems in South East Asia (South East Asia Plastics (SEAP))

Closing date: 19 May

21 Jan 2020

Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) invite proposals for collaborative research projects under the Understanding the Impact of Plastic Pollution on Marine Ecosystems in South East Asia (South East Asia Plastics (SEAP)) programme.

Plastics, and their derived products, have been found in the air that we breathe, in soils, throughout aquatic systems and biota, and have even been found in the most remote polar oceans and deepest abyssal trenches. While plastics have been found in almost all environments, we do not yet understand the impacts plastics have on ecosystems, and a key knowledge gap is the impact of plastics on marine ecosystems. Plastics are entering marine foodwebs, but the effects they have on ecosystem function are not fully understood or quantified. Compounding these concerns, is the distinct lack of knowledge over the sources, process dynamics, pathways and the dispersal of plastics in the marine environment. Understanding how plastics behave in the environment is at the heart of being able to assess the likely hazard and impact of plastics on marine ecosystems and marine ecosystem services, such as fish stocks and resilience to climate change and natural hazards.

The South East Asian region has among the highest levels of plastic pollution, which is resulting in public concern about the impacts of this pollution on the health of the marine environment in the region. The aim of this joint programme is to support the research needed to improve understanding of how plastics impact marine environments in South East Asia, such as mangroves, coral reef and beaches, and the ecosystem services these habitats provide. This new understanding will be used to inform the development of strategies and approaches to reduce levels of plastic pollution in marine environments in South East Asia.

This programme will address the following themes:

  • Modification and transformation.
  • Hazard, risk, impact, to the environment.
  • Intervention, mitigation and adaptation.

Research supported through this programme will be co-designed and delivered in close collaboration with end-users in LMICs in South East Asia to ensure that the outputs can be used by government, local authorities, businesses and local communities to make decisions about the management and mitigation of plastics in marine environments.


2020 – 2023

Can I apply for a grant?

A call for proposals is open until 19 May 2020. The deadline for Notifications of Intent to Submit a proposal is 5 March 2020 – Full Proposals will only be accepted from those who have submitted a completed Notification of Intent to Submit form by this deadline.


NERC are contributing £3m to this programme, and NRF are contributing up to $5m SGD. NERC funds will be used to support the UK research community and researchers based in low and middle-income countries in South East Asia, while NRF funds will be used to support researchers from Singapore.