Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund

Announcement of Opportunity

Issued on: 23 March 2018

Closing date for Notification of Intent: 30 April 2018

Closing date for Full Proposals: 16:00 BST on 17 May 2018

1. Summary

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) invites proposals to its Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund 2018 call.

The Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund allows UK environmental science researchers to forge new best with best international partnerships and networks, which will be sustained beyond the life of the grant and enable exploitation of future funding opportunities.

Applicants with ongoing, mature international research collaborations and those whose proposed collaborations focus on research for international development (Official Development Assistance) are advised to seek other appropriate sources of funding.

Supported activities may include, but are not limited to, programmes of exchange visits, scoping studies, proof of concept studies and workshops.

NERC has allocated £1.0M to this call. Additional funding is available for successful joint NERC-FAPESP proposals under the terms of the RCUK/FAPESP Memorandum of Understanding (Annex A).

Key Information:

  • Standard NERC Principal and Co-Investigator eligibility rules apply. New Investigators without existing international partners are encouraged to apply.

  • Awards can be up to a maximum of £100k (100% FEC) over two years.

  • Proposals must include at least one International Project Partner.

  • Proposals will be directly evaluated by an Assessment Panel of independent external academic experts including members of the NERC Peer Review College.

  • Deadline for applications is 17 May 2018 at 4pm BST, a ‘Notification of Intent’ to apply must be submitted no later than 30 April.

  • Awards will be announced in August 2018 with grants to start from September 2018.

2. Background

Environmental science is inherently global in nature. Many of the biggest environmental challenges the world faces do not respect national boundaries. Advancing our understanding of the environment and developing innovative solutions to these challenges requires UK researchers to collaborate with the best international researchers wherever they are located.

Since 2010, through its International Opportunities Fund (IOF) scheme NERC has provided pump-priming funds to support the development of new long-term international collaborations. An internal analysis of NERC’s portfolio of funded grants in 2017 has shown that UK environmental science is increasingly international and many of the collaborations are bottom-up international partnerships across the full range of NERC funding streams and science remit.

Reflecting this changing research and funding landscape, NERC has decided to replace the IOF scheme with Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund. The new scheme will provide better and more flexible support to enable UK researchers to establish sustainable long-term partnerships with international collaborators and help accessfuture funding opportunities.

3. Scope

3.1 Programme objectives

The Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund enables UK environmental science researchers to develop new international partnerships and networks, which underpin the development of long-term sustainable collaborations.

Proposed collaborations may involve international research partner(s) from any country and in any science area within NERC remit.

The Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund has the following objectives:

  • Support new international collaborations with the best researchers wherever they are located that will result in excellent research i.e. developing new knowledge that cannot be achieved by UK communities alone or by existing collaborations. For example, new international collaborations may enable sharing of unique or complementary data, skills, infrastructure and field sites;

  • Support development of long-term partnerships with international scientists that have potential to become self-sustaining beyond the life-time of the grant. For example, through accessing new collaborative research funding opportunities;

  • Pilot new collaborative research ideas with international partners or enhance existing funded research through adding an international dimension or expanding the international partners already engaged.

Please note that the following international collaborations are out of scope for this call:

  • Existing and mature international collaborations. Applicants should apply to NERC's usual funding schemes such as Standard or Large Grant schemes, which allow for international project partnerships.

  • International collaborations whose primary focus is the promotion of economic development and welfare of countries on the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. Applicants should apply to appropriate Official Development Assistance (ODA) opportunities available under the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund. However, UK researchers may still collaborate with researchers from countries on the DAC list through the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund.

New Investigators, who are seeking to collaborate with new international research partners, are particularly encouraged to apply to the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund (see section 3.3 for further details).

3.2 Proposal requirements

3.2.1 Supported activities

Activities funded under the call must align with the aims of the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund. Activities supported may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Staff secondments and exchanges e.g. enabling the transfer of unique or complementary skills between UK and international researchers and develop plans for future collaborative research;

  • Scoping studies e.g. collecting preliminary data, which may depend on access to unique field sites or infrastructure;

  • Workshops e.g. bringing together international expertise to share best practice and compare or develop common approaches, techniques or standards;

  • Establishment of international networks around a common theme.

In addition, please note the following:

  • While proposed activities can enhance and add value to current or past funded research, it is not a requirement to build on existing NERC funded research;

  • Both new research activities and programmes focus on synthesis or alignment of existing research are acceptable;

  • Multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary collaborations are encouraged, but it is not a requirement of the scheme. The majority of the application must be within NERC remit.

In all cases activities must be undertaken with the clear and demonstrable intention of developing long-term sustainable collaborations. Whilst some exploratory elements are permitted, the proposal must include specific scientific objectives.

A balance is expected between partnership building activities such as workshops, travel and subsistence, and direct research activities.

3.2.2 International Partners

The inclusion of at least one international project partner is mandatory. To maximise the quality of the activity and its potential to develop long-term sustainable partnerships, international project partner(s) must have a significant and integral role in the proposed work.

Applicants should note the following when considering potential partners:

  • The quality of partnership development should be the primary criteria rather than the number of international partners;

  • While existing long-standing international partners are welcome to participate, the application must involve working with new international project partners.

Details of the Project Partners and their contributions to the project must be recorded in the appropriate sections of the application including the Je-S form, Case for Support and Project Partner Letters of Support (see Section 5 Application Process).

3.3 New Investigators

Investigators at the outset of their scientific career may apply for a Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund Grant as a New Investigator (for eligibility see Section 4 Programme Requirements). Where the proposal is of fundable quality, New Investigator applications will be given priority in the final funding decision. NERC will monitor success rates of New Investigator applications.

The New Investigator must be the Principal Investigator on the grant and use the prefix “NI:” in their project title to indicate it is to be considered as a New Investigator proposal in the call.

3.4 NERC-FAPESP proposals

Applicants who are considering international collaboration with researchers from the State of São Paulo in Brazil, should note that this call will accept joint proposals to Global Partnerships Seedcorn fund under the terms of the RCUK-FAPESP Lead Agency Agreement. Please refer to Annex A for further guidance on how to apply.

4. Programme requirements

4.1 Programme funding

NERC has allocated £1.0m to this call. The maximum funding for Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund proposals is £100k (at 100%FEC) with a duration of up to two years.

All applicants are advised to consult their institutional finance officers when completing the financial parts of the application. All applicants should enter the 100% FEC of the proposed research into the budget sections of the Je-S form. All costs should be in pounds sterling (£). Requested costs for UK activities will be funded at 80% of full economic costs (FEC) and non-UK costs will be funded at 100% of eligible costs.

All costs associated with the project must be itemised in the Je-S proforma and justified in the Justification of Resources document.

4.1.1 Funding for International Project Partners

International partners are not eligible for direct funding from NERC; however, eligible UK organisations may request up to £15k for international partner(s) in order to support travel and subsistence costs during visits or exchanges. Requests for support for international partner(s) greater than £15k must be exceptional and fully justified in Justification of Resources attachment.

Costs from UK and International Project Partner organisations must be entered as separate items. All costs relating to supporting International Project Partners will be payable at 100% FEC. Applicant must identify these costs as an ‘Exception’ on Je-S using the exceptions tick boxes and include the name of the International Project Partner organisation in the cost description.

4.1.2 Ineligible costs

The following are ineligible costs for Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund proposals:

  • Conference attendance

  • Standard office computing equipment

  • Equipment over £10k (inclusive of VAT)

  • Salary costs for International Project Partners

  • Visiting Researchers, (as defined by the NERC grants handbook, section...) Sub-contract where the sub-contractor is also an International Project Partner

  • Associated studentships

4.2 Eligibility

Standard NERC individual and Research Organisation eligibility apply for PI and Co-Is and can be found in Section C of the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook.

In addition, a number of specific criteria apply to the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund scheme:

  • Investigators may only submit one proposal as either a PI or Co-I;

  • Investigators who hold an active Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund grant either as PI or Co-I at the time of the call closing date are not eligible;

  • Resubmission of proposals are not permitted under this call. A proposal is considered to be a resubmission if it duplicates 40% or more of the stated objectives and/or work packages;

  • New Investigators must meet the eligibility requirements for New Investigator’s scheme in NERC standard grant (see Section C paragraphs 57-59 of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook).

4.3 Implementation and delivery

Projects should be no longer than 24 months in duration and start no earlier than September 2018 and no later than December 2018.

4.4 Data Management

The NERC Data Policy must be adhered to, and an outline data management plan produced as part of proposal development. NERC will pay the data centre directly for archival and curation services, but applicants should ensure they request sufficient resource to cover preparation of data for archiving by the research team.

4.5 NERC Facilities

Prior to submitting a proposal, applicants wishing to use a NERC service or facility must contact the facility to seek agreement that they could provide the service required. Please refer to NERC services and facilities page on the NERC website for further information.

4.6 Reporting requirements

As for all NERC grant holders, there will be a requirement to report through the RCUK reporting system; this is required annually and continues for up to five years after funding ends. Additional reporting may be required under specific circumstances.

5. Application process

5.1 How to apply

Closing Date: 4pm (BST) 10 May 2018

Refer to Annex A for additional guidance on the application process for joint NERC-FAPESP proposals.

A ‘Notification of Intent’ to apply to the 2018 Global Partnerships Seedcorn fund should be submitted no later than Thursday 19 April. this should include the names of the applicant and their international collaborator as well as a short summary (half a page max) of the project.

Full proposal must be submitted using the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). Applicants should select Proposal Type - ‘Standard Proposal’ and then select the Scheme – ‘Directed’ and the Call – ‘Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund 2018’.

Applicants should ensure that their proposal conforms to all eligibility and submission rules, otherwise their proposal may be rejected without peer review. More details on NERC’s submission rules can be found in section F of NERC research grant and fellowships handbook and in the submission rules on the NERC website.

The inclusion of at least one international project partner is mandatory. Applicants must include the name, institution and country of all international project partners in the ‘Project Partners’ section of the Je-S form, along with the financial and/or in-kind support they are providing to the project. In-kind contributions from the Project Partner(s) must be carefully costed to ensure there is no double accounting. Access to data already freely available in the public domain cannot be counted as in-kind support and care should be taken so as not to over-value in-kind contributions. Completed Je-S form without recognised international project partner will be office rejected.

In addition, applications to the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund requires the following mandatory documentation, uploaded as attachments:

a) Case for support; consisting of the following three sections clearly labelled:

i. Previous Track Record not exceeding 2 sides of A4, covering standard NERC requirements and in addition:

  • Evidence of any experience and leadership in an international context including past collaborative work that is relevant to the current activity and activities where co-funding has been awarded (especially from an international partner);

  • Summarised CVs of Project Partners (up to 1 side of A4);

  • New Investigators must demonstrate they are the proposal leader and will be responsible for its direction.

ii. Description of the Proposed Activity not exceeding 3 sides of A4, covering standard NERC requirements and in addition, how the activity will deliver against the aims of the scheme (see Section 3). In addressing the scheme objectives the case for support should make clear:

  • The significance of the international collaboration to the projects’ objectives.

  • The specific intellectual and material contribution of each Partner.

  • The expected outputs and impact of the project.

iii. Potential for Long-term Partnership, not exceeding 1 side of A4, which must describe the potential durability of the collaboration including plans for further long-term collaboration, and clarify the following:

  • How the new research collaboration is expected to develop beyond the duration of the grant;

  • Identification of appropriate potential future funding opportunities and how the proposed activity will facilitate future funding bids.

b) Project Partner Letter of Support, each not exceeding 2 sides of A4. Letters of support should be signed on headed paper and provide evidence of sufficient contributions to the proposed project such that it is clear that substantive collaboration will go-ahead if funded. These letters will be a key consideration of the panel at assessment and should complement the Case for Support effectively.

Note that a Pathways to Impact Plan is not required for Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund proposals.

6. Assessment Process

6.1 Assessment Criteria

All proposals must clearly define how the project objectives deliver against the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund objectives in the ‘Case for Support’. If proposals fail to demonstrate a strong link between the project objectives and the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund Scheme objectives they will be office rejected on poor fit to scope of the call.

Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund proposals will be assessed on their excellence and fit to scheme and given a single score by the panel.

The following assessment criteria will be used:

  • Development of new research collaborations and the extent to which this will promote excellence. Some aspects of the proposed research collaborations may be more speculative and exploratory than is expected for NERC Standard Grants. Consideration of excellence will take into account both the duration of the grant and the potential to achieve further excellence in the longer term. Please refer to the NERC definition of excellence criteria for more information.

  • Unique contribution and expertise of the international partners i.e. why these partners above any others around the world or within the UK.

  • Potential for long-term sustainability of the collaboration, including routes for further collaboration.

  • Level of the contribution made to this award from other sources including the UK institutions and international potential partners.

  • The balance between partnering activities and direct research is appropriate to achieve the objectives of the grant.

6.2. Assessment panel

Proposals will be directly reviewed by an Assessment Panel of independent experts including members of the NERC Peer Review College.

The panel will make funding recommendations to NERC via a single ranked list of proposals (including New Investigators). NERC will use the recommendations of the assessment panel along with the overall call requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions, New Investigator status will be taken into consideration, as previously described.

Panel Feedback will be provided to both successful and unsuccessful applicants following the funding decision.

7. Timetable



Announcement published

March 2018

Deadline for submission of full proposals

17 May 2018

Assessment Panel

July 2018

Announcement of Awards

July/August 2018

Latest start date for projects

December 2018


Annex A: joint proposals to NERC-FAPESP

Applicants considering international collaboration with researchers from São Paulo State, Brazil, should note that this Call will welcome proposals jointly prepared and submitted by PIs from the UK and São Paulo State, Brazil, under the terms of the RCUK-FAPESP (the State of São Paulo Research Foundation) Lead Agency Agreement.

1. Context

In 2009, the United Kingdom Research Councils (RCUK) and FAPESP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen the existing research links between the UK and Brazil and to help encourage and support proposals that involve international collaborative teams. The MoU provides for a Lead Agency Agreement whereby UK and Brazilian researchers may apply for funds from both countries through the UK Research Councils’ funding schemes. Further information is available from the RCUK website.

2. Aims

FAPESP will consider proposals from PIs eligible for FAPESP funding and that demonstrate excellence in one or more of the following characteristics (international collaboration is amust):

2.1 develop research with high impact and outcome focused on areas of interest for FAPESP’s Research Program for Global Climate Change (RPGCC) and FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA)as described in item 3.1 below.

2.2 activities that place international collaboration at the centre of their approach, adding value to Brazilian capability and delivering outcomes that cannot be delivered by scientists in São Paulo alone (FAPESP’s standard requirement that the PI must be a scientist affiliated to a research organization in São Paulo still applies to the Brazilian side of the collaboration).

2.3 activities with lasting outputs that are expected to have benefits beyond the duration of the NERC Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund and the FAPESP award (e.g. establishing long- term collaborations, pump priming for ongoing, self-sustaining activities and/or developing high-impact knowledge).

NOTE: Applications to multiple FAPESP-NERC programmes with similar applications are not allowed.

3. Activities Supported

3.1 NERC Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund aims to support UK environmental science researchers to develop new partnerships and networks with the best international researchers, which underpin the development of long-term collaborations. 3.2 Requirements and conditions for any FAPESP-funded elements of submissions under this optional collaboration between the UK and Brazil are as follows.

a) The São Paulo, Brazil part of the proposal must have a research content consistent with the “collaborative secondments and exchanges” section of Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund AO, i.e., building long-term partnerships among Brazilian and UK centres of excellence, with a view to capacity building and accessing skills, data or infrastructure that enhances Brazil and UK research capabilities.

b) FAPESP is especially interested in proposals in which the geographic focus of the collaboration is South America and the adjacent oceans, particularly the Amazon and the South Atlantic. Other geographies can be considered, pending analysis by FAPESP of the justifications given. Therefore, applicants from São Paulo, Brazil, must contact Carolina Costa ( before submission, to discuss and obtain permission to submit a proposal focusing outside of the preferred geographic area.

c) The focus of the São Paulo, Brazil-UK partnership will be in Earth System Science and Global Environmental Change research, and the research collaboration will address one or more of the topics below:

(i) facilitate links between scientists in both countries, building on existing partnerships, but also widening to other groups from both countries;

(ii) develop groundbreaking techniques for communicating scientific outcomes to stakeholders;

(iii) engage directly with the wider Earth System Science community.

3.2 Only proposals that are not typically supported through other FAPESP funding schemes will be considered.

3.3 Funding Conditions:

Funding from FAPESP will be in addition to the funding awarded by NERC.

Applicants can request up to £30K for up to two (2) years in duration including at least one international workshop to be held in São Paulo.

3.4 Proposals must be “related” to an ongoing FAPESP grant (i.e. complement and build upon another confirmed grant). Thus, researchers regarded as eligible to submit proposals are:

a) Principal Investigators of ongoing research projects funded by FAPESP within the following funding lines: Regular Research Awards; Thematic Projects; Young Investigators; Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centres (RIDC/CEPID – acronyms in Portuguese); Public Education Research Program; Research in Public Policies; Research Partnership for Technological Innovation (PITE); and Engineering Research Centres (CPE).

b) Co-Principal Investigators (PPs) of ongoing Thematic Projects; RIDCs; PITEs or CPEs.

3.5 FAPESP will provide the selected proposals with funds to cover short-term scientific exchange visits to UK (travel, accommodation, living expenses and health insurance), workshops (within the rules of FAPESP) and small research expenses (consumables, services, low cost research equipment). Research and Infrastructure overheads are not applicable.

3.6 FAPESP will only accept one application per related ongoing research project. Likewise, each Principal Investigator can present only one proposal to this Call. The ongoing FAPESP research project linked to this proposal must have a minimum of six months left at the scheduled beginning of the mobility project.

4. Additional Application Procedures for joint FAPESP – NERC proposals

4.1 Applicants considering applying under this Agreement must read the Operational Guidelines available from the RCUK website. Please note that there are specific guidelines for applicants to NERC within these RCUK Guidelines.

UK Principal Investigators of potential collaborative proposals should, in this case, contact the GPS Programme Manager ( before submitting a proposal.

Brazilian Principal Investigators should contact FAPESP’s representative for matters related to this joint Call, Carolina Costa (

5. How to apply

Proposals must be submitted only through NERC by the UK PI, following the procedure described in the main text of the Announcement of Opportunity, and attaching the forms listed below.

5.1 The Brazilian applicants should be included as Project Partners on the JeS form and their role should be described in the Case for Support.

5.2 A specific Proposal Form for this Call must be attached by UK PI to his application as a supporting document: FAPESP-NERC Pump Priming Proposal Form.

5.3 The Case for Support must:

a) state that the RCUK-FAPESP Lead Agency Agreement is being applied by the applicants;

b) mention the PI in São Paulo and other members of the research team affiliated to research and higher education institutions in São Paulo, including summarized CVs for each participant;

c) identify the number of the ongoing FAPESP Grant led by the PI in the State of São Paulo;

d) clearly define the budget requested to FAPESP, within the limit set at Item 3.4 above.

5.4 No further documents should be sent directly to FAPESP at the submission stage. After the submission deadline, further documentation will be timely requested by FAPESP to enable the processing of proposals, following the usual procedures for Regular Research grants. This will include detailed budget forms, budget justifications, research team description, etc.

6. Intellectual Property

6.1 In case of approval, a Letter of Agreement between the Partner Host Institution and the Host Institution to which the PI from São Paulo is affiliated, establishing how Intellectual Property rights, confidentiality, and publications will be treated jointly, in observance of the policies of each funding Party. The Letter of Agreement is not mandatory for the submission of proposals, but no approved project will be contracted before the presentation of a copy of the signed Agreement.


Page updated on 05/08/2018 - Published on 03/09/2018