Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Funding Call

Announcement of opportunity from Natural Environment Research Council

Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Funding Call

It is vital that the knowledge and expertise arising from science funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is harnessed for the benefit of a wide range of stakeholders. To facilitate this, NERC wishes to fund scientists to apply their knowledge and skills to support decision-makers dealing with the challenge of managing environmental risks to infrastructure.


The UK Government recently outlined a pipeline of over £100bn worth of public investment in infrastructure projects, to 2020. With increased investment in infrastructure there is the need to better understand how our existing and new infrastructure is vulnerable to environmental risks such as climate change including extreme weather events. “We already have some insight into what a changing climate might mean for our infrastructure; high temperatures affecting rail lines leading to delays, floods affecting water infrastructure, closing motorways and damaging century old bridges, more extreme winter weather bringing costs and disruption to services.” 

Increasingly, decision-makers are faced with the challenge of protecting infrastructure and making it as resilient as possible, often operating within the increasing constraints of regulatory control periods. It is imperative that environmental risks are accurately assessed and taken into account at all points during the design, construction and operation of our infrastructure. NERC believes there is a wealth of data, knowledge and expertise in the UK research base which could address this challenge, however, this valuable resource is often not readily accessible and requires translation to be useable by decision-makers. As industry identifies and understands how the recent extreme weather events are affecting them there is a need to connect industry needs with research and to form partnerships that will help them to understand the current and future environmental risks to infrastructure.  

This Innovation funding call is intended to support the establishment and development of partnerships between academics and partners in industry (including infrastructure owners and operators, engineering consultants, contractors, insurance and investors), associated policy-making, regulatory bodies and NGOs, in order to translate existing environmental science to assist decision-makers with the challenge of managing environmental risks to infrastructure.


We refer to infrastructure as the physical, built environment and its key systems:

·         Transport systems, such as roads, rail, airports, ports, canals, bridges and tunnels;

·         Utilities systems, such as distribution networks, power generation facilities (electricity, gas, renewables, oil and gas platforms) and water;

·         Environmental management systems, such as sewerage, waste, green infrastructure, flood management and drainage;

·         Communications systems that connect the various physical infrastructure assets, such as smart services, telecommunications, broadband and satellites.

The proposals must specify a stakeholder (i.e. business, policy or NGO) issue that the project will address and develop tangible outcomes for the stakeholder’s organisation. Each proposal must have a project partner from the stakeholder organisation who helps identify the specific issue and is willing to provide resources to shape the proposal, steer the project (in conjunction with the academic) and report on outcomes and impact on their organisation.

Examples of topic areas may include:

·         improving the ways in which environmental risks (e.g. flooding, space weather, windstorms, landslides, sea level rise) are identified, assessed and planned for to increase infrastructure resilience and reduce disruption;

·         improving assessments of the vulnerability of infrastructure networks, enabling infrastructure operators to focus on the most ‘at risk’ zones;

·         providing decision makers with information on the likelihood of multi-hazard events or extreme events and the likely impact on infrastructure;

·         understanding the uncertainties involved in environmental risks, as well as tools to support decision-making under uncertainty;

·         considering infrastructure as an interdependent system, identifying cascade effects and providing information to ensure the whole system is resilient to environmental risks;

·         informing industry-led guidance or regulatory frameworks related to risk assessment and building resilient infrastructure;

·         strategies which utilise the natural environment as part of the solution to reduce environmental risks, e.g. shading from trees to reduce over-heating

·         assessing where new infrastructure should be located to minimise environmental risks;

·         solutions to minimise the impact of infrastructure on the environment;

·         visualising and communicating risk to enable decision-making.

NERC also encourages applications which involve researchers from different disciplines working on a problem caused by a combination of environmental risks or which requires a multidisciplinary approach.

NERC is developing an Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme, This Innovation funding call is intended to initiate new partnerships and build on existing collaborations between researchers and infrastructure decision-makers as part of the development of the programme. NERC is working with partners in business policy, regulation and civil society to develop the scope of the programme. If you would like to find out more, please contact Ruth Hughes ( or Robyn Thomas (


NERC has up to £600k available for this call. NERC would like to fund a range of projects from short term (3-6 month) projects, which explore the value of environmental science to a stakeholder organisation, to longer-term (up to 18 months) projects which develop environmental science into solutions to address the challenge of managing environmental risks to infrastructure.

All projects will be expected to produce a case study which clearly states the stakeholders’ problem, how science has been applied to develop a ‘solution’ and the impact of the project on the stakeholder organisation, i.e. how the project has had a ‘disruptive’ influence on the stakeholder. 

This call funds all costs at 80%FEC. 


All researchers who qualify for a NERC grant are eligible to apply. Full guidance on eligibility is available.

Project partnering service and support

Support with finding project partners and developing academic-stakeholder collaborations is available from the NERC-funded Probability, Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment (PURE) Network ( This will be done through the following activities:

·         A workshop to initiate collaborations between academics and stakeholders will be held in London on 20th May.

·         A list of stakeholder organisations who are looking for academic collaborators will be published along with the topic areas they are seeking academic expertise in.

·         Alternatively, if you are an academic looking for a stakeholder organisation or a stakeholder organisation looking for an academic with appropriate expertise, please get in touch.

For all of the above, to attend the brokering workshop on 20th May, or to discuss your idea informally, please contact the PURE Network Director, Dr Vera Hazelwood at (

Submission of proposals

Proposals should be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission (JeS) system, along with the application form.

The application form requests more detailed information than can be submitted on the Je_S form. By requesting this information in one application form, we are attempting to minimise the number of additional documents you are expected to attach to your Je_S form. You do not have to attach CV’s for named staff, justification of resources or letters of support from project partners. The only attachment to the Je_S form should be the application form, which should be attached as ‘case for support’.

More detailed guidance on submitting a proposal through Je-S is available below.

Closing date for applications is 16.00 on Wednesday 19th June 2014. Successful applicants will be notified in early August. Projects will be expected to start by the end of October 2014 at the latest.

Assessment Criteria

The proposals will be assessed on two criteria:

1.    Impact, including

a.    Evidence of how the project will change “business as usual” within the stakeholder organisation and beyond;

b.    Evidence of engagement from a stakeholder organisation.


2.    Project fit, content and design, including

a.    Fit to scope of call

b.    Appropriateness of science to answer stakeholder questions;

c.    Appropriateness of expertise and achievability of work plan.


Key dates

Call opens on Je-S

12th May 2014

Brokerage workshop

20th May 2014

Closing date for proposals  

16.00 on 19th June 2014

Assessment panel  

July 2014

Decision communicated to applicants

August 2014

Project start

By end of Oct 2014




For general queries relating to the submission process, please contact:


Katie Hart


Tel. 01793 411565



To discuss project and proposal ideas, please contact:


Vera Hazelwood


Tel. 07875401570 

No comments yet. Be the first.

Most read articles

New free SAFE Toolbox for Global Sensitivity Analysis

Francesca Pianosi, Fanny Sarrazin and Thorsten Wagener (CREDIBLE, University of...

Call for evidence: Shaping NERC’s Priorities

In 2015 NERC expects to participate in a spending review that sets budgets for government...

PURE Associate Case Studies

In 2013/14, the Natural Environment Research Council funded  20 PURE Associate projects...