Large grants - Guidance notes
Click on the links below to navigate to each section:
- Key points
- Application process
- Assessment of proposals
- Reporting & evaluation
Large Grants are intended to support adventurous, large-scale and complex research tackling big science questions that cannot be addressed through other NERC funding opportunities.
Research funded via this scheme is expected to have the potential to be world-leading. Proposals will often involve multidisciplinary approaches via inter- or intra-institutional collaboration, although this is not a requirement.
Large Grants can address any area of science within the NERC remit, including NERC strategic priorities or new curiosity-driven research challenges.
Large Grants are supported through responsive mode funding, but the size and nature of these awards mean that they will often incidentally have a strong strategic element.
- Large Grants must tackle big science questions. To achieve this they will often involve multidisciplinary approaches, and are expected to require a number of interdependent workpackages interacting in a clearly defined management structure.
- Large Grants provide funding for up to five years.
- The maximum budget is £3·7m. This limit is on the total cost (100% full economic cost, including any project studentships and major facility costs such as ship time, aircraft time).
- Proposals with a more modest budget are also encouraged, the minimum budget is £1·2m.
- An outline proposal must be submitted first and will be assessed by a panel comprising members of the Peer Review College plus independent experts, as required, against the criteria potential excellence and fit to scheme.
- Outline proposals must be submitted using the Joint electronic-Submissions system . Please select Document Type - 'Outline Proposal', Scheme - 'NERC Outline' and the appropriate Large Grant Outline Call based on the year of submission. The Large Grant Outline Call will be open for approximately 6 weeks prior to the closing date.
- Only invited full proposals based on successful outlines will be accepted.
- Full proposals must be submitted using the Joint electronic-Submissions system . Please select Document Type - 'Standard Proposal', Scheme - 'Large Grant' and the appropriate Large Grant Call based on the year of submission.
- Large Grant proposals involving multiple research organisations may be submitted as joint proposals and there is no limit on the number of components. NERC will expect the lead institution to act as co-ordinator.
- NERC will carry out an assessment of Large Grant full proposals according to the pre-award assessment criteria.
- NERC retains a ring-fenced budget for Large Grants. This is in addition to the funding available for other responsive mode research grant schemes.
Individual and organisational eligibility for NERC responsive mode funding is defined in the NERC Research Grants & Fellowships Handbook.
The participation of organisations not eligible for direct funding from NERC as project partners is encouraged; eg government, industry and third sector organisations or international collaborators.
Applicants are encouraged (but it is not a requirement) to contact the NERC office at an early stage to discuss any questions on Large Grant scheme procedures or seek feedback regarding the most appropriate route for funding the research proposed. The Research Grants Team acts as the first point of contact for Large Grant applications.
NERC requires an outline proposal to be submitted in the first instance. For joint proposals a single outline is required, to be submitted by the lead organisation. The outline proforma must be submitted via Je-S and accompanied by a case for support as one attachment. The case for support must not exceed 4 sides of A4 in total (Arial, 11pt font) and should include summary information on the following:
- Objectives and anticipated outputs
- Outline of research proposed and its international context
- Justification for a Large Grant approach (the outline proposal should clearly justify why a Large Grant is more appropriate than multiple standard grants)
- Composition and experience of the research team
- Role of Project Partners and Co-funding (proposed and secured)
- Outline project management plan and data management plan
- Proposed use of NERC facilities, including ship-time (initial discussions should be held with the relevant facilities on feasibility at this stage)
- Equipment to be requested and the expected NERC % contribution required
- Proposed pathways to impact
A Justification of Resources attachment is not required. No CVs or project partner letters should be submitted at the outline proposal stage.
If the Large Grant will require BAS Antarctic logistics support then a Preliminary Request for Antarctic Logistic Support form must be submitted to the Antarctic Funding Office at BAS (firstname.lastname@example.org) by the outline closing date. Further details of this process are available on the Antarctic Proposals & Fieldwork Planning website .
No other facility forms - eg shiptime (SME) or High Performance Computing - are required to be submitted at the outline stage.
Once an outline proposal has been invited to proceed, a full proposal may be submitted to the next Large Grant full proposal closing date for assessment. If for any reason the full proposal is not submitted to the allocated closing date, in order to proceed an outline must be resubmitted for further consideration. NERC will only accept full proposals that have been through the outline proposal and invitation procedure earlier that year.
Full details of the application procedure for Large Grant full proposals are given in the NERC Research Grants & Fellowships Handbook.
Proposals involving approved Antarctic logistics support that have had a preliminary request approved will be required to complete the detailed Antarctic Logistic Support Questionnaire (Word document) and attach this to the full proposal submitted to NERC.
Outline proposals will be assessed by the Large Grant Outline Panel, comprising members of the Peer Review College, plus independent experts as needed, against potential excellence and fit to scheme criteria. Up to 50% of outlines will be rejected at this stage.
Applicants will be informed of the outcome of this process at least 4 months before the full proposal closing date.
Feedback on unsuccessful outlines and those invited to proceed to the full proposal stage will be available on request.
Full proposals will follow the pre-award assessment process, moving directly to external peer review. If a proposal receives consistently low reviewer grades, the NERC office reserves the right to reject the proposal before the PI feedback stage.
Unless this is the case, applicants will have the opportunity to respond to referee comments before consideration by the Large Grants Moderating Panel, who will allocate final grades and rank proposals. The moderating panel will also judge the appropriateness of the scientific challenge for a Large Grant approach and the strength of the management arrangements.
The moderating panel will be comprised of Peer Review College and Affiliate College members, augmented if necessary by relevant experts from outside the College.
For proposals that reach the moderating panel stage, we will invite applicants to make a presentation and answer questions at the Large Grants Moderating Panel to assist the assessment process. NERC will try to provide early notice of an invitation to attend, but applicants should note that the Large Grants Moderating Panel meeting is usually held in April or May.
Appropriate management is an important component of Large Grant assessment and success. For Large Grants a lead Principal Investigator (PI) or co-ordinator will be responsible for the overall science and management plans. They will act as the focal point for contact with NERC responsible for reporting progress, outputs and achievements.
Co-ordination costs will be allowable within the grant to cover expenses such as travel and project meetings and project management costs. These costs must be fully articulated and justified in the proposal.
For NERC the Research Grants Team acts as the first point of contact for Large Grant awards.
Requirements for Large Grants are as follows:
- Bi-annual progress updates by the lead PI on delivery of research against NERC science theme challenges, where appropriate.
- Annual return of Output & Performance Measures (OPMs) to be collated by the lead PI and returned to NERC each year during the Large Grants lifetime, for the year in which the grant completes and for a further two years.
- In some cases an interim report may be required together with closer monitoring by relevant NERC staff.
- Final report to be collated by the lead PI for submission to NERC.