Innovation in Environmental Monitoring

Closing Date: 07/11/2023

Funding for collaborative projects demonstrating innovative approaches towards environmental monitoring at a sensor or systems-based level.

This Innovation in Environmental Monitoring call is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as part of the Innovation in Environmental Monitoring (IEM) programme. IEM has a budget from Defra and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) of £12 million across three years for research and innovation projects to develop enhanced monitoring capabilities in areas of joint strategic interest across all areas of the data lifecycle. The programme is made up of two elements:

  • This NERC-led funding opportunity supporting research-led activity.
  • An Innovate UK (IUK)-led funding opportunity (to be launched in late 2023 or early 2024) supporting business-led activity.

The programme spans multiple technology readiness levels (TRLs), and UKRI and Defra intend to bring together the grant holders from both funding opportunities to develop a broad UK community in innovative environmental sensing and monitoring.

Through this call, proposals are invited from consortia for projects demonstrating innovative approaches towards environmental monitoring at a sensor or systems-based level. Collaborative applications for this open capital funding opportunity are encouraged from across the environmental science, environment-focused informatics and wider data science communities.

It is expected that applications will focus on the development of new sensing and monitoring systems that can be applied widely in the real world by those with responsibility for environmental management (eg governments, industry or non-governmental organisations). They could also include activities that explore and measure the benefits of new innovative approaches. Applications should have UK relevance, though wider applicability in other geographical regions is welcome.

Sensing systems and capabilities can include:

  • Observation systems, in-situ sensors or samplers, sensor or sampler carrying platforms.
  • Data processing, analysis, modelling or visualisation systems.
  • Post-acquisition sample or data processing or analysis and reporting.

Desired outcomes of new sensing systems and capabilities could include:

  • Improving the temporal and spatial resolution of monitoring regimes or data or both, or increasing the range of environmental variables monitored. This could include the multi-scale coordination of data collection from sensor networks.
  • Ensuring that existing long-term datasets can be combined and enriched with new or better data.
  • Improving the quality of data sets:
    • Intelligent consideration of metadata to enable aggregation and disaggregation at ease.
    • Suitable to use and train artificial intelligence (AI) eg to classify outputs of remote sensing images.
  • Optimising how sensors and systems are used together for improved resolution of environmental variables. It is anticipated that effective sensing systems produce analysis ready data (ARD) and interoperable data, which can be combined with a myriad of other sources in order to provide a robust and multi-faceted systems base for end-users. Examples include the use of edge computing for local data processing, or AI techniques to denoise data streams and support more effective wireless data transfer.
  • Developing lower cost sensors and sensor networks that maintain accuracy and precision. Desirable features include: ease of use and maintenance, low energy-demand or self-powered, ruggedisation and miniaturisation. They could be more precise, accurate, sustainable or offer wider coverage than existing approaches.
  • Making better use of citizen science and non-statutory datasets:
    • Increasing the confidence in citizen science data.
    • Improving data interoperability between citizen science and monitoring networks.
  • Enhancing data accessibility for both private and public end users by reducing fragmentation and duplication and integrating it with existing data streams and accessible platforms.

Applications are welcomed on one or more of the four terrestrial monitoring challenge areas:

  • Biodiversity and natural capital.
  • Soil health (including measuring soil carbon sequestration).
  • Freshwater or estuarine water quality (not marine).
  • Monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

These are areas of interest developed across Defra policy teams to illustrate the scope of this funding opportunity. They are not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive. Applicants can choose to address one, several or none of the areas of interest, however, if proposing a different area of interest, a strong rationale must be given.

Funding body Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Maximum value £750,000
Reference ID S25535
Category Science and Technology
Natural Environment
Biotechnology and Biology
Fund or call Fund