NERC - Supporting interdisciplinarity in Discovery Science

The University has received recently an allocation of funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to support academics and researchers to build expertise and agility to work across disciplinary boundaries within Discovery Science.

The funding must be used to facilitate and enhance exciting new collaborations and interdisciplinary working to enable discovery within environmental science and will cover collaborations across the breadth of UKRI remit, including the arts, humanities, engineering and technology and medical sciences. 

Ambitious and curiosity-driven

In line with the ambition of the Pushing the Frontiers of environmental science call, NERC are seeking to pump prime collaborations that will enable researchers to be truly adventurous and ambitious in the pursuit of curiosity-driven, high-risk and high-reward projects that push the boundaries of discovery science and address environmental challenges.  

NERC expects the University to use this funding to initiate activities that will help the academic community to develop an understanding of different cross-disciplinary research perspectives and methodologies that could be used to enable discoveries that unlock new knowledge within the environmental sciences.

Open call 

In response to this initiative, the University will run an open call and submissions are invited from colleagues across the University. Proposed activities should be in areas of relevance to NERC’s Discovery Science agenda and address environmental challenges. 

Please note that activities supported through this call must be completed by the end of March 2023 in line with the funding conditions.  

This call is open to staff on all contract types, including fixed-term and open-ended with funding-end-date whose contract end date is after 31st March 2023.   

Applications from early career researchers and staff who have experienced differential impact to their research as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged. 

We welcome the following types of applications: 

  • Requests to support activities such as those described in the examples below;  
  • Pump-priming support for new and ambitious interdisciplinary collaborations that address environmental challenges; 
  • Requests to support any other activity that demonstrably supports and interdisciplinary working to enable discovery within environmental science. 

Examples of the types of ‘discipline-hopping’ activities that could be undertaken

Examples of the types of ‘discipline-hopping’ activities that could be undertaken include (but are not limited to):  

  • Embedding researchers, for a period of time, in departments outside of their own discipline area (within the same organisation, or in other eligible UK research organisations).
  • Sharing insights on priorities and looking for synergies/ new ideas that cut across departmental boundaries.
  • Work shadowing in other departments, for example to learn new skills and techniques.
  • Organising meetings/ seminars/ workshops between departments and disciplines to share learning, understanding of key terms, concepts, language and tools to tackle problems.
  • Building sustained and strategic relationships of co-creation and knowledge exchange with non-academic partners (including businesses, policymakers, non-governmental organisations) to understand how their needs could be addressed through our research outputs and interdisciplinary approaches. 

Eligible costs (up to £20k per proposal)

Funding can be used to support academics and researchers employed at lecturer (or equivalent) level or above and Post-Doctoral Research Associates/Assistants with a contract of employment that extends beyond 31st March 2023. Please note that PhD students are not eligible for support through this initiative. 

Due to the short time-frame no new staff recruitment will be permitted nor will collaborations that require funding to be transferred externally. 

Funding will be awarded at 100% FEC. Eligible costs include: 

  • Directly Allocated staff costs, plus associated indirect and estates costs  
  • Directly Incurred staff costs, plus associated indirect and estates costs
  • Directly Incurred travel and subsistence
  • Directly Incurred Other costs (to cover other expenses, workshops, consumables etc.)
  • Other Directly Allocated costs  

Equipment (over £10k) is not an eligible cost. 

How to apply

Applicants should complete the application form and costing template - links below.

These should be submitted to by 4pm on Friday 25th Nov, 2022 

Applications will be assessed by a panel consisting of the Deans of Research of the four Colleges, ensuring that the discipline of each participant is represented.

We would expect funding decisions to be communicated to the successful applicants on or around December 19th, 2023 and successful projects to run from 1st January – 31st March 2023. 

If you have any questions regarding any of the above, please get in touch with the Strategic Research Initiatives team in Research Services (