Environmental Monitoring Innovation

Key Features

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £5 million for collaborative projects to develop innovative solutions in environmental monitoring. This funding is from Innovate UK and The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £5 million

Opens: 22nd Jan 2024

Closes: 6th Mar 2024

! This scheme is now closed


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.

Innovate UK 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

You must:

  • 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.

Innovate UK 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.

Portfolio approach
Innovate UK want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, technological maturities, regions, scope areas and project sizes.

Specific Themes

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 support@iuk.ukri.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your topic area.

If you have not requested approval or your application has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible. Your application will then not be sent for assessment.

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.

Water quality

  • 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


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

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with other UK registered organisations

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

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.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in IFS. They are responsible for entering their own project costs and completing their Project Impact questions in the application.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in two further applications.

If a business is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

All other organisations can collaborate on any number of applications.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations and compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • include marine monitoring
  • develop new sensing systems and capabilities that are unlikely to generate a viable business proposition
  • focus on the collection of new research or commercial data
  • do not focus on nitrogen-related pollutants

If you are addressing GHGs, the scope is limited to nitrogen-related pollutants that deposit and impact biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

Innovate UK and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have allocated up to £5 million to this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them. Of that 50% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.