Strategic programme areas

Strategic programme areas are major activities that address complex science questions in which the research is expected to be large-scale and complex, logistically challenging, and/or there are significant opportunities for partnership development. They will require a community effort to develop and deliver. The research programmes might typically range in size from £5 million to £20 million depending on their scope and partnership funding.

The flow below illustrates how strategic programme areas are developed, taking an idea from the community through to a call for new research. The process from idea to call will take around 12 months depending on the size and complexity of the new programme.


Idea from the community




Priorities for strategic programme


Strategic programmes developed


SB & Council decision


Call for proposals


Idea generation begins in the community. NERC's Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) draws upon these ideas and other evidence such as our analysis of the current strategic research landscape to recommend how NERC should allocate the available strategic research funding to particular priority strategic programme areas. SPAG then work closely with the NERC Executive and relevant experts through scoping groups, which develop the full cases for the potential programmes that will be presented to Science Board (SB) and Council.

Once the specific strategic programme areas have been developed and agreed specific funding opportunities will be announced for the UK environmental science community to respond to with grant proposals that will be peer reviewed through the usual routes.