2022 NEOF Pilot Project Grants Competition – Early Career Researchers

The NERC Environmental Omics Facility provides access to omics capabilities (Genomics, Metabolomics and Proteomics) to the UK environmental research community.

To help scientists working within the NERC remit to take advantage of these opportunities, NERC is providing funding for small pilot/development projects that wish to access the latest genome sequencing technologies (Pacific BioSciences, Illumina and 10X Genomics). Applicants should consult the Centre for Genomic Research (which hosts the genomic capability of NEOF) for a fuller description of the capabilities and technologies available. Enquiries and project discussion can be made through our enquiries page.

Pilot/development projects should be directed at generating preliminary data or proof of concept in advance of full research grant proposals or fellowship proposals, particularly when it is necessary to demonstrate the applicability or the technical feasibility of new techniques or approaches to NERC-relevant research problems. Examples could include proposals wishing to demonstrate, within a NERC context, ‘digital’ transcriptomics using next-generation sequencing, deep metagenomics of environmental samples, de-novo genome assembly from long-read data, or the use of high-throughput sequencing as a genetic tool in natural populations. Proposals can also include a request for support with bioinformatic analysis.

This call is specifically for early career researchers (ECR) within NERC’s remit. Applicants should make clear the relevance of the work to NERC’s strategic remit and how the proposal would promote their transition towards being an independent researcher, develop their career or provide pilot data that will lead to further work and/or proposals for full funding. A second call for more established researchers will be announced later in 2022.

For this call NEOF define an ECR as a non-independent Postdoctoral Researcher (e.g. a PDRA), an independent Postdoctoral Researcher (e.g. a research fellow) or an individual with a technician background, such as research or instrument technicians currently employed in a research capacity within the UK in an environmental science discipline relevant to NERC’s remit. Applicants do not need to be employed from a NERC grant or fellowship. Non-independent researchers and those in a research support or technical role should confirm that their line manager has understood the time commitment required for the project and is willing to make this available.

Applicants should note the following:

  • Eligibility: Applicants will demonstrate their early career status and support from their line manager by providing a short CV (NERC standard format: 2 pages, A4, 2-cm margins, Arial 11-point) and a short statement of support from their line manager.
  • Samples suitable for analysis (i.e. meeting minimum quality and quantity requirements) must be delivered to NEOF by Wednesday 14th December 2022; failure to deliver suitable samples to the NEOF by the submission deadline will result in funding being withdrawn.
  • Only one project per applicant will be considered.
  • Applicants may either prepare samples in their own laboratory or use the NEOF Visitor Facility, which houses expertise and equipment for nucleic acid extraction and QC. If this is required, please flag this during project discussions.

All proposals should include a clear plan for the bioinformatic analysis of the resulting data, noting that NEOF can, by agreement, provide some bioinformatic and statistical support as part of the funded project.

Applications will be graded by the NEOF Steering Committee, following the established NEOF procedures, but with particular reference to:

  • scientific excellence, including the novelty, timeliness and/or impact of the proposed work
  • the likely importance of the pilot data to a full grant or fellowship proposal

Each successful project will include access to staff, equipment and consumables costs, to a total value of up to £9,000. Successful applicants will be required to report publications or other outputs arising from work conducted at the facility in line with NEOF standard terms and conditions.

We anticipate that applicants will be informed of outcomes by the end of May 2022.

Potential applicants

Potential applicants must send NEOF an Enquiry to discuss their specific requirements and obtain a formal quotation between Monday 17 January and Thursday 10 February 2021. There is no need for a full outline of the project at this enquiry stage – a brief overview will be sufficient. Only applications where initial contact has taken place before Thursday 10 February will be considered.


Applications should be made via the NEOF Access portal and applicants will be required to upload a case for support (maximum 750 words), NEOF quotation, a two-page CV and, where required, a statement of support from their supervisor. The closing date for this call is 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday 1 March 2022.

The application should include

  • Underlying rationale, scientific and technological issues to be addressed
  • Specific objectives of the project
  • Methodology and plan of research
  • How the funding will help develop the applicant’s career plans


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