University of Bath

Natural Environment Research Council demand management process

The University's internal screening process, for selecting applications to submit to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

About the process

NERC put demand management measures in place for its standard grants in July 2015. This limits the number of applications from research organisations failing to achieve a 20% success rate quality threshold. This is based on application and award data from the previous three years.

NERC has restricted the University of Bath to two submissions per round, for the next two rounds which close July 2018 and January 2019. This is for NERC Discovery Science grants and New Investigator standard grants.

Our screening process to meet NERC's demand management requirements is as follows:

Timeframe for July 2018 submission

  • Pitch: 6 April 2018, 10.15am-12.30pm, 1W2.02
  • Proposal development: April to June
  • Panel presentation: 27 June 2018, 10.00-11.30, 8W 2.19
  • Submission deadline: 4:00pm on 17 July 2018

If you want to pitch on 6 April 2018 contact Nick Cook in Research and Innovation Services (RIS) by 2 April 2018.

Timeframe for Jan 2019 submission

  • Pitch: September 2018
  • Proposal development: September – December 2018
  • Panel presentation: mid December 2018
  • Submission deadline: week commencing 14 January 2019 (to be confirmed by NERC)


Potential applicants are invited to pitch their ideas to the panel, peers and RIS in a 10 minute pitch focused on:

  • idea and its novelty
  • potential impact of the research
  • anticipated submission date
  • questions and answers from the panel and broader audience

Candidates are asked to use the attached pitch template.

Pitches are open only to ideas for proposals which are:

  • Bath led
  • within NERC remit

The panel has the chance to hear, critique and input into the development of ideas.

After the pitches, the panel are expected to select three to four proposals for full development. Selected proposals require support from the applicant’s faculty, department,or research centre and Heads of Department. In particular, for robust and timely internal peer review.

Selected applicants will work closely with RIS and engage with peers and/or mentors with NERC experience (internally and/or externally). It is the applicant’s responsibility to inform RIS of any issue which may threaten or delay proposal development.

The panel:

  • reserves the right to take more proposals forward in exceptional circumstances
  • will be led by the quality of the science, whilst looking to balance other relevant factors (for example, interests of collaborators, time factors)
  • will endeavour to put forward one New Investigator award per year, subject to satisfactory research quality

Ideas that are not grant ready will be asked to be developed further before re-pitching at a later date. Alternative funding routes (not NERC) may be identified.

Proposal Development

RIS will establish a close working relationship with the selected applicant Principal Investigators (PIs). The approach will be tailored to ‘idea readiness’.

If you are starting from scratch, RIS encourage a short outline proposal to develop PI’s thinking and clarify ideas. If concepts are more developed (e.g. early proposal draft already exists) RIS will tailor approach as needed.

RIS will schedule regular progress meetings with the PI, to ensure:

  • appropriate support is available
  • timely progress
  • issues affecting submission are notified

All PIs must identify a scientific mentor or sounding board, to support on scientific aspects of the proposal. The panel may be able to suggest suitable individual(s).

Peer review – The PI is responsible for ensuring that the bid is peer-reviewed, in line with university processes, i.e. via HoD/department/research centre. Any problems with obtaining peer reviewers must be discussed with RIS at the earliest opportunity.

Applicants have clear non-negotiable deadlines for delivering:

  • draft of full proposal (all sections of the grant, including case for support, justification of resources, pathways to impact)
  • peer review comments

A draft, peer reviewed application is ready to be presented to the panel, along with a plan for addressing peer review recommendations.

Two applications are currently available to Bath in each round of the NERC standard grants. Therefore, PIs must commit to meeting the panel deadline with a quality, fully-developed, peer-reviewed proposal.

Panel presentation

The panel will be issued with the applicant’s full proposal, as near to completion as is possible. This includes, full case for support, peer reviewer comments, full costings and completed JeS form as minimum.

Applicants must attend the meeting and informally report back to the panel on:

  • outcome of peer review and changes made/to be made in light of this
  • additional work still intended to be carried out by the applicant


The panel has oversight of every developed proposal and the opportunity to converse with applicants to inform their decision making process.

Where more than one grant is ready for submission, the panel will make a decision on what is submitted and what is rolled over to the following round. Applications should be fully developed and peer reviewed, so they can be submitted with panel support.

If a selected applicant fails to sufficiently develop their proposal or notify RIS of delay, the panel reserves the right to impose a ban on the applicant. This prevents further Discovery Science submissions to NERC for one year.

Failure to develop and submit quality bid(s) at each round could jeopardise the University from meeting its quota, and submitting high quality science.

Our desired outcomes for the University are:

  • submitting one quality proposal at each NERC submission round
  • identifying a pipeline of competitive proposals in each round
  • retaining motivation of PIs to develop proposals
  • having the University taken out of NERC demand management through improved success rate