Environmental Monitoring Innovation
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £5m for collaborative projects to develop innovative solutions in environmental monitoring.
Your project must have total costs between £150,000 and £450,000. Up to 70% of costs can be funded, depending on business size.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and Innovate UK (IUK), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will invest up to £5 million in innovation projects. This partnership funding is part of the Innovation in Environmental Monitoring programme. The aim of this competition is to fund collaborative projects that develop environmental monitoring solutions to enable improved monitoring of environmental variables.
We are looking for projects that will:
- support the development of new sensing systems and monitoring capabilities that will either improve existing approaches or introduce new ones
- support the testing of these products, including ‘ground-truthing’ with existing monitoring regimes, verifying their accuracy and reliability, and potential for deployment at scale
- help the UK environmental monitoring sector in anticipating and responding to growing markets for environmental sensing, delivering economic growth to the UK
- deliver new and strengthened partnerships between academia, public and private sectors, and across disciplines, stimulating innovative approaches
Your project must focus on one or more of the following challenge areas:
- biodiversity and natural capital
- soil health (including measuring soil carbon)
- water quality
- greenhouse gas (GHG) and ammonia emissions from Defra sectors
To lead a project your organisation must:
- be a UK registered business of any size
- collaborate with other UK registered organisations
Your project team must have the relevant environmental monitoring expertise for the environment they are testing in , or have experts involved in an advisory capacity.
To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:
- business of any size
- academic institution
- not for profit
- public sector organisation
- research and technology organisation (RTO)
A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in two further applications.
All other organisations, and businesses not leading an application, can collaborate on any number of applications.
Your project must:
- have total costs between £150,000 and £450,000
- last between 3 and 18 months
- carry out all of its project work in the UK
- intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
- start by 1 August 2024
- end by 31 January 2026
The aim of this competition is to fund collaborative projects that develop environmental monitoring solutions to enable improved monitoring of environmental variables.
We are looking for projects that will:
- support the development of new sensing systems and monitoring capabilities that will either improve existing approaches or introduce new ones, including improving the sustainability and connectivity of data collection, analysis and reporting
- support the testing of these products, including ‘ground-truthing’ with existing monitoring regimes, and verifying their accuracy and reliability, thus improving their chances of being successfully deployed at scale
- help the UK environmental monitoring sector to anticipate and respond to growing public and private markets for environmental sensing, whilst delivering economic growth to the UK
- deliver new and strengthened partnerships and collaborations between the public sector, academia and private sector, helping to connect across disciplines and stimulate innovative approaches
This competition is limited to terrestrial geographies, including near shore regions in transitional and some coastal waters, such as estuaries and salt marshes, provided they can be accessed from land.
Your proposal must develop new, or repurpose existing sensor systems and capabilities, such as:
- observation systems, in-situ sensors or samplers, sensor or sampler carrying platforms
- data processing, analysis, modelling or visualisation systems
- post-acquisition sample or data processing or analysis and reporting
- provide a strong case for why your proposed solution will be in demand from end users
- provide a plan for how to engage end users in its development.
- explain how the solution is closely aligned with industry and government policy priorities, such as Defra’s Outcome Indicator Framework, Biodiversity Net Gain, the Environmental Improvement Plan, Environmental Land Management schemes, Green Finance Strategy, Net Zero Strategy, England Peat Action Plan, the Nature markets Framework, and the Plan for Water.
We encourage proposals that include testing in end user conditions and include a rigorous comparison against the current best practice, to allow ground truthing of the solution and data to verify reliability and accuracy. We also strongly encourage proposals that fit into the soil health challenge area.
Your project can address one or more of the topics listed below. These lists are not exhaustive and if you are seeking to address a different topic, you must provide a strong rationale within your application.
If your project does not fall within the topics listed then you must provide justification by email to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your topic area.
Biodiversity and natural capital
- improving the collection of balanced biodiversity data on the distribution and abundance of species·monitor the short and medium term trends in species and habitats following interventions that aim to improve biodiversity
- improving the ability to measure habitat connectivity and species mobility at a landscape and national scale
- development of new approaches to verify biodiversity credits
Example end users: citizens, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and government statutory monitoring including protected species, protected areas, Environment Act 2021 (targets), landowners, biodiversity net gain, ecosystem and service markets.
Soil carbon and soil health
Including organic and peat soils.
- improved methods of monitoring, reporting and verification to carbon markets and other users, which can include the sequestration and flux of carbon in soils in suitable frequencies and scales
- new approaches toward the measurement of the biological, chemical, and physical properties of soil
- the integration of individual data flows to better understand soil interactions and properties
- improve current approaches or methodologies for assessing soil health and biodiversity for use in policy making and environmental or natural capital markets
Example end users: participants in environmental or natural capital markets, Government, land managers, agri-food sector.
- delivering low-cost, real-time measurement of key parameters in association with water quality and quantity
- improving the accuracy and precision of field-based sensors, their maintenance and calibration
- combining sensor networks and citizen science outputs to monitor and report multiple water quality parameters and optimise current monitoring regimes
- improve monitoring of organic and inorganic pollution in riverine and groundwaters, lakes and estuaries, with reference to diffuse sources, industry discharges, wastewater treatment facilities and combined sewer outfalls
Example end users: Government delivery bodies, water companies, NGOs, civil society, local authorities, private companies.
Greenhouse gases (GHG) and ammonia emissions from Defra sectors
- improve the quality of contributions to the UK’s GHG inventory from landfill, agriculture, agroforestry, forestry, anaerobic digestion plants, wastewater treatment, estuarine and freshwater bodies across a range of site types, conditions, and seasons
- develop new approaches to monitor ozone depleting substances and fluorinated gases, with the aim of improving current global coverage
- develop innovative approaches to improving the frequency of monitoring, compiling and quality-assessing agricultural emissions, with cost-effective direct assessment approaches, for example, tall tower systems
- develop new methodologies to fill data and information gaps of the emissions inventory on farming practices, for example, livestock feed composition and diets
- develop measurement technology and techniques for long and short term measurement of nitrogen-related pollutant concentrations, and fluxes under a range of environmental conditions and spatial scales
- priorities for GHGs are carbon dioxide and methane but proposals making a strong case for others, including indirect greenhouse gases, will be considered
The scope is limited to nitrogen-related pollutants that deposit and impact biodiversity and ecosystem function, primarily ammonia but also NOx as they affect nitrogen deposition.
Example end users: participants in carbon markets, Government (devolved administrations, Defra, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero), landfill companies, water companies, farmers and companies wanting to monitor their environmental impact.
Your solution can significantly improve on current approaches to environmental monitoring such as providing:
- improved insights and analytical capability
- improvements such as reliability, accuracy, precision resolution and sustainability
- increased range of environmental variables monitored and frequency of data collection
- optimised methodology for the cohesive use of sensors and systems
- easy integration with existing systems allowing straightforward use by non-experts such as citizen scientists
- reduction in the overall costs of environmental monitoring
An online briefing event was held on 22 January 2024: click here to watch the recording.
An online collaboration event was held on Wednesday 31 January: click here for more details and to download the slides.