skip to content

International Development Research @ Cambridge


NERC invites ideas for scientific advances that will, over time, contribute to addressing some of these major challenges of the 21st century: benefiting from natural resources, resilience to environmental hazards, and managing environmental change. The ideas will be used to inform the development of new strategic research investments through either highlight topics (HTs) or strategic programme areas (SPAs).

Ideas can be sent to NERC at any time and can come from any individual or group, and any part of the environmental science community (including researchers and those who use environmental science research).

Ideas must be submitted using the template provided for either highlight topics or strategic programme areas; this should be up to two sides of A4 written in language that is clear to a broad section of the NERC community. Once an idea is sent to NERC, the proposer relinquishes ownership of that idea and transfers it to NERC. NERC may choose to publish or share material received.

Ideas will have a lifetime of a single round to ensure they remain timely. All submitters of ideas will receive feedback, and we encourage the community to use this feedback and the ideas guidance to decide whether to resubmit ideas for future rounds.


Cut-off dates

Please note that timings are indicative only and so may change.

HT timetable

  • Cut-off date for HT ideas - 16 May 2017
  • New HTs announced, feedback on ideas available - November 2017

SPA timetable

  • New SPA(s) announced - Autumn 2017
  • Cut-off date for SPA ideas - 7 September 2017
  • Potential SPA(s) for further development announced, feedback on ideas available - February 2018
  • New SPA(s) announced - Autumn 2018


NERC encourages ideas from all parts of the environmental science community and NERC staff are available to discuss potential ideas and provide advice. If you have any queries on the process or would like advice on a potential idea please contact us at  in the first instance, and we will put you in touch with a NERC colleague who can help.

Welcome to Cambridge Global Challenges

Cambridge Global Challenges is the Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, with a particular focus on the poorest half of the world’s population.


Contribute to Cambridge's response to COVID-19 in developing countries

Join working groups that invite your collaboration, create a new working group and learn about available funding opportunities here.


Join the Strategic Research Initiative

Register to Cambridge Global Challenges and to the SRI's mailing list here.


Learn about the support we provide 

Information on how Cambridge Global Challenges can support your research is shared here.


Contact us

Research Strategy Manager (Dr Sara Serradas Duarte):​.