Highlight topics

A highlight topic focuses strategic research on a defined topic area. The size and duration of projects will be specified for each highlight topic, up to the value of £4 million and four years in length.

The flow below illustrates how highlight topics are developed, taking an idea from the community to a call for new research. The process from idea to call will take around 6 months.


Idea from the community




Topics identified & prioritised


Decision to create new topic (SB)


Call for proposals


Idea generation begins in the community. NERC's Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) considers these ideas and other evidence such as our analysis of the current strategic research landscape, to recommend which priority highlight topics NERC should pursue. When the priority topics have been agreed by Science Board (SB), there will be an open call for highlight topic proposals. There will be more highlight topics announced than available funding will support, so all topics may not be funded. This is to ensure effective competition so that the most excellent science is funded.

Once the specific highlight topics have been 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.