NERC Doctoral Focal Awards in the Environmental Sciences

Closing Date: 09/04/2024

Award to receive notional studentships over the course of three annual intakes in order to address priority and emerging doctoral training needs within the environmental sciences.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Doctoral Focal Awards in the Environmental Sciences aim to address priority or emerging doctoral training needs within the environmental sciences. This funding opportunity replaces NERC’s Centre for Doctoral Training scheme.

In November 2023 the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Doctoral Investment Framework was launched. This frames doctoral support around two types of award – doctoral landscape awards and doctoral focal awards. Doctoral focal awards seek to:

  • Provide a focus on the advancement of a specific theme or research challenge, or to build capacity in an area where there is a demonstrable skills gap.
  • Address the development of a theme, research challenge or skill that would not be addressed at scale through a landscape award.
  • Facilitate cohort-based and interdisciplinary training both within and beyond council boundaries (same thematic focus but open to a range of disciplines).
  • Promote non-academic collaboration with a specific sector.

This funding opportunity will invest in up to four doctoral focal awards within NERC’s remit (although interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary doctoral focal awards are welcome) to produce the next generation of internationally recognised doctoral researchers. The four doctoral focal awards will each be in receipt of 24 notional studentships across three annual intakes. The initiative has been designed to meet the following objectives:

  • Deliver world-class doctoral training and development including cohort experience.
  • Focus on supporting research capacity in specific strategic areas, addressing societal challenges through environmental science doctoral research and involving interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Address skills gaps identified across specific research areas within and beyond academia.
  • Provide opportunities for students, preparing them to follow a diversity of career paths within and beyond academia.
  • Advance current understanding, generate new knowledge and develop the breadth of expertise for the future of the research and innovation workforce.
  • Support a diverse doctoral community, which includes addressing areas of underrepresentation (eg protected characteristics, types of professions, career stage and porosity within the research and innovation system).
  • Enhance collaboration and knowledge exchange within and between academia and other sectors for the benefit of the students, collaborative partners, award holders and, if applicable, wider society.

Applications must outline a coherent training programme through which students will undertake both individual research projects and receive cohort-level training, in cross-cutting skills relevant to the doctoral focal award’s challenge area.

As well as being primarily within NERC’s remit, training must be relevant to the NERC delivery plan or UKRI priorities. Training may build on existing training infrastructure where applicable. Engagement with other relevant research council doctoral investments and their end-user networks is encouraged.

Applications must identify the challenge of focus and justify the specific need for doctoral training. The doctoral focal award model is designed to support a translational approach by encouraging academic and non-academic partners to unite around common challenges.

It is expected that the doctoral focal awards will integrate end-user involvement in developing and delivering the training required. An expectation is that this funding will be used to leverage additional investment (either cash or in-kind support) from stakeholders where appropriate.

Applicants should ensure that a number of studentships offered by the doctoral focal award are Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE) or ‘collaborative’ studentships.

Funding body Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Maximum value Discretionary
Reference ID S26033
Category Natural Environment
Fund or call Fund