Successful innovation in NERC

NERC's mandate for innovation

A key function of the research councils is to deliver the knowledge and skills that drive UK productivity and economic growth. The economic potential of this investment is often realised within longer term timescales[1] and so needs support across its lifetime. Catalytic links are required between the research base and the relevant communities including the private sector, and the research councils make an important contribution to this, with co-development through to delivery of impact.

With respect to innovation derived from the UK's environmental science, NERC has a key role in improving ways that the knowledge, data, capabilities and skills generated by discovery ('blue-skies') and more directed research can be captured, applied, accessed and translated for commercial and societal benefit.

Vision

Through working with our Innovation Advisory Board, NERC has set out a clear vision that will enable us to build on our mandate for innovation. Our vision for innovation is:

To enhance the impact of NERC's research investments by transforming the knowledge, data, capabilities and skills of our science community into new value-adding approaches, tools and solutions.

Diagram displaying NERC's innovation pillars

Innovation vision along with the pillars which will enable NERC to achieve its critical success factors

Text description of above diagram

Triangle labelled Critical Success Factors:

  • Co-design, co-development and co-delivery of research and innovation investments from the outset
  • Skills, capabilities and data assets of the NERC science community are visible, relevant and accessible
  • Business engagement is culturally normal in NERC and the research communities it funds

The triangle rests on four pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Become the innovation partner of choice for environmental science and system challenges
  • Pillar 2: Improve the uptake of NERC research into real world solutions
  • Pillar 3: Realise benefits from research assets and infrastructure
  • Pillar 4: Drive international collaboration and innovation

The pillars stand on a block repeating NERC's vision.

Achieving our vision

To achieve our vision, we propose three critical success factors (CSFs) for innovation in NERC, against which progress will be measured, and a description of how we will work with the research and business communities in delivering our objectives:

  • CSF 1: Skills, capabilities and data assets of the NERC science community are visible, relevant and accessible

    The NERC science community's skills, capabilities and data assets must be made visible, relevant and accessible to potential beneficiaries of new value-adding approaches, tools and solutions by using communication, funding and partnership models that work for them.

  • CSF 2: Co-design, co-development and co-delivery of research and innovation investments from the outset

    Relevance to user sectors must be a principle of the development of NERC directed research activities, with commissioners and researchers thinking from the outset about the needs of potential beneficiaries to foster the practice of co-design, co-development and co-delivery.

  • CSF 3: Business engagement is culturally normal in NERC and the research communities it funds

    NERC must continue to address barriers to business engagement, ensuring that it becomes culturally normal in NERC and the research communities it funds.

How we will achieve this

To develop and grow, NERC will focus on developing four 'pillars for innovation'. These will be delivered using an approach of co-design and delivery with NERC's academic community and partners across its innovation priority areas. NERC will develop its partnerships to become a key part of the UK innovation ecosystem, thus helping to drive the rapid and effective translation of its research into tangible products, processes and services.

  • Pillar 1: Become the innovation partner of choice for environmental science and system challenges

  • Pillar 2: Improve the uptake of NERC research into real world solutions

  • Pillar 3: Realise the benefits from research assets and infrastructure

  • Pillar 4: Drive international collaboration and innovation


  1. 'Ensuring a successful research endeavour' - P Nurse (2015).