Environment, natural resources and agriculture research: strategy 2022 to 2027

We fund a multi-million pound portfolio of research on the environment, natural resources and agriculture. This strategy outlines our vision, priorities and mechanisms for funding the next cycle of research which starts in 2022.

6. Delivering Our Investment

The diversity of our research needs requires correspondingly diverse funding mechanisms. There will be five key mechanisms through which our investment will be directed in order to take this strategy forward in 2022-27 (listed below).

Longer term grant-supported research will continue across core areas of the programme. Similarly, the commitment to services supported by underpinning capacity will remain, for example, call-down advice, maintenance of biological collections and long-term field studies. However, the share of funding which currently goes to longer term strategic research will fall from the current 66% of spend at present to around 57% of spend (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Comparison of current and future distribution of research spend by type.
Two pie charts illustrating the percentage allocation of spend between the five funding mechanisms, now and for the future.

This change will allow us to introduce a Responsive Research Fund (RRF). This is a new fund designed to ensure that the research programme can respond more flexibly to changes in research needs and analysis as we proceed through the research cycle. The RRF will be reactive to new, emerging policy needs across the whole programme, and will enable the procurement of short and medium-term (up to 3 years) research through open competition.

We will also continue to pursue collaborations with other science funders both within Scotland and across the UK to maximise the impact of our investment. We will liaise with other funders, and identify priority areas for collaboration where there is opportunity to strengthen our programme and build added value to topics with particular relevance to Scotland.

Overall our investment will be delivered through the five funding mechanisms outlined below:

Strategic Research Programme (SRP)

  • Longer-term (3-5 years) research which provides new knowledge which is relevant to government policy.
  • We will continue to use the SEFARI institutes as providers of the strategic research programme, and will allocate available resources accordingly.

Responsive Research Fund (RRF)

The flexibility to commission short-term policy-led projects has significant impact for policy making and was previously delivered through the Contract Research Fund. This function will be maintained as part of the RRF fund in 2022-2027.

Medium-term research (up to 3 years) responding to new, unforeseen policy needs which emerge after the initial commissioning period. Aims, objectives and mechanisms will need to be developed, and options such as staged, "challenge" funding will be considered.

This funding will be awarded under open competition and will therefore be open to a far greater range of organisations to help foster innovation and creativity in the types of work funded by the programme.

Centres of Expertise (CoEs)

We will continue to support the existing policy-facing Centres of Expertise for Climate Change, Water, Animal Disease Outbreaks and Plant Health. It is envisaged that the proportion of the budget allocated to these centres will be increased slightly to reflect the growing demand for their outputs.

A new Centre of Expertise on Biodiversity will be established to reflect the growing demand for evidence in this subject area (see Annex A Theme D.4 for further detail).

Underpinning Capacity (UC)

The Underpinning Capacity funding stream will continue to be available to ensure key assets are maintained and their long-term sustainability is secured for Scotland.

Encouraging access to, and availability of, the range of science resources supported by this funding will be a key focus of this funding for 2022-2027. This is in line with trends for increased accessibility of publicly-funded data and facilities.

Knowledge Exchange (KE)

We will continue to support a Centre for Knowledge Exchange, which will promote engagement with users to co-construct new research, communicate research findings and raise impact.


Email: helen.m.jones@gov.scot

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