Call for ideas for strategic research

NERC invites ideas for scientific advances that will, over time, contribute to addressing some of these major challenges of the 21st century: benefiting from natural resources, resilience to environmental hazards, and managing environmental change. The ideas will be used to inform the development of new strategic research investments through either highlight topics (HTs) or strategic programme areas (SPAs).

Ideas can come from any individual or group, and any part of the environmental science community (including researchers and those who use environmental science research). Once an idea is sent to NERC, the proposer relinquishes ownership of that idea and transfers it to NERC. NERC may choose to publish or share material received.

Please refer to the guidance below, which explains what we are looking for in more detail.

Guidance for developing and submitting ideas for strategic research (PDF, 200KB)

Ideas for new highlight topics should be submitted by 15 May 2019 using the new online submission form.

Details of how to submit ideas for SPAs will be provided at a later date.

Summaries of the HT ideas received by the cut-offs are provided below.

Summary of the HT ideas, 2017 cut-off (PDF, 316KB)

Summary of the HT ideas, 2018 cut-off (PDF, 178KB)

Summaries of the SPA ideas received by the cut-offs are provided below.

Summary of the SPA ideas, 2016 cut-off (PDF, 124KB)

Summary of the SPA ideas, 2017 cut-off (PDF, 150KB)

Summary of the SPA ideas, 2018 cut-off (PDF, 128KB)

Ideas will have a lifetime of a single round to ensure they remain timely. All submitters of ideas will receive feedback, and we encourage the community to use this feedback and the ideas guidance to decide whether to resubmit ideas for future rounds.

Cut-off dates

Please note that timings are indicative only and so may change.

HT timetable

  • Cut-off date for HT ideas - 15 May 2019
  • New HTs announced, feedback on ideas available - November 2019

SPA timetable

  • Cut-off date for SPA ideas - tbc
  • New SPA(s) announced - tbc


NERC encourages ideas from all parts of the environmental science community and NERC staff are available to discuss potential ideas and provide advice. If you have any queries on the process or would like advice on a potential idea please contact us at in the first instance, and we will put you in touch with a NERC colleague who can help.