Discovery Science: Standard and New Investigator Grant

National Environmental Research Council

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Next deadline: Feb 9, 2021 8:00am PST

Later deadlines: Jul 28, 2021 8:00am PDT

Grant amount: £65,000 - £800,000

Fields of work: Archaeology Biotechnology Environmental Conservation Ecology Environment Evolutionary Biology Microbiology Population Biology Systematics Animal Behavior (Ethology) Earth Science Biochemistry Genetics & Genomics Show all

Applicant type: Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty, Working Professional, College / University

Funding uses: Research

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: United Kingdom

Degree requirements: Applicants must have a completed PhD

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Discovery Science

NERC's discovery science (responsive mode) funding stream supports excellent environmental research that is driven by curiosity rather than by NERC's wider strategic priorities. Asking fundamental questions about how the world works often turns out to have wide-ranging social and economic benefits.

Discovery science can support pure, applied, technology-led or policy-driven research, but it must address - or provide the means to address - clearly-defined scientific questions.

Adventurous research, multidisciplinary research and collaborations with international and non-academic partners are encouraged.

NERC's research grant schemes provide financial support for environmental scientists to carry out research projects of international quality at UK universities and other approved research institutions.

Standard grants

This funding opportunity supports researchers to carry out world-class research projects in any area of environmental science within our remit. You must be based at a UK university or other approved research institution.

What we're looking for

As a researcher you can submit a proposal in any area of environmental science that interests you, provided that it is predominantly within our remit:

  • archaeology
  • atmospheric physics and chemistry
  • climate and climate change
  • ecology, biodiversity and systematics
  • genetics and development
  • geosciences
  • marine environments
  • medical and health interface
  • microbial sciences
  • omic sciences and technologies
  • planetary science
  • plant and crop science
  • pollution, waste and resources
  • terrestrial and freshwater environments
  • tools, technology and methods

We also welcome multidisciplinary proposals that cross into other research council areas.

We’re looking for proposals that can support pure, applied, technology-led or policy-driven research but still address – or provide the means to address – clearly-defined scientific questions.

We will usually fund costs at 80% full economic cost, apart from equipment which will be funded at 100%, including:

  • directly-incurred costs such as staff payroll, travel and subsistence and consumables
  • equipment
  • directly-allocated costs such as investigators’ salaries, estates costs and shared resources
  • indirect costs such as research organisation administration.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • You can apply if you are a research group or individual. To be eligible as a principal investigator you must be:
    • resident in the UK
    • employed by an eligible UK research organisation (higher education institution, research council institute or a recognised independent research organisation)
    • employed at lecturer (or equivalent) level or above.
    • We encourage multidisciplinary research and collaborations with other UK organisations. International and non-academic collaborators can be involved as project partners.
  • New investigators
    • If you want to apply as a new investigator, you must meet the same eligibility criteria as a principal investigator but be at the start of your independent scientific career. You must:
    • be within five years of first becoming eligible for NERC funding as a principal investigator
    • not have received competitive research funding from any source as a principal investigator including post-doctoral research assistant staff support costs.


  • The process to allocate Standard Grant funding is weighted to allow New Investigator led proposals an increased chance of success. 

This page was last reviewed January 21, 2021 and last updated January 21, 2021