The latest Impact Report from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) demonstrates the importance of its investment in science, innovation and training in creating jobs and driving economic growth across the whole country and beyond.
The report shows how NERC funding drives UK prosperity and wellbeing; reduces costs across the whole economy, benefits industry, government and charities; and has global reach, providing international leadership, influence, and market opportunities for the UK.
This is true across a range of sectors, including environmental services, water, energy, agri-food, construction, healthcare, and transport. Much of the evidence for this success comes from NERC-commissioned impact analyses by Deloitte.
NERC’s chief executive, Duncan Wingham, said: ‘One of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century is how to escape poverty and improve our living standards while living within the Earth’s limits. NERC’s world-class environmental science has a huge part to play in this. We need to understand how the Earth works, and make sure that society benefits from natural resources, builds resilience to environmental hazards and manages environmental change.
‘Our latest impact report is further evidence of the value of NERC’s world-leading research in all of these areas to the wider UK economy. Our investment creates jobs, drives economic growth, increases productivity, and reduces costs across the whole country. From farming to energy, from infrastructure to healthcare, the influence of our scientific excellence is extremely broad.’
Some of the specific benefits of NERC investment include:
Helping to manage environmental change by undertaking long-term research into ozone loss and air pollution
- NERC’s investment of over £14m in ozone research since 1957 has generated savings of up to £11·2bn for the UK healthcare and farming industries, as well as the wider economy. This is down to NERC-funded scientists’ discovery of the ozone hole, which led to international agreement to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals and restore the Earth’s ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
- An annual investment of £3m in air pollution research has also supported international agreements and influenced policy that has led to a reduction in major air pollutants and generated benefits worth up to £82bn to the UK.
Helping the UK benefit from natural resources by enabling growth in the energy industry through efficient regulation
- NERC’s £6·6m annual investment in science in this area is expected to create £50m pa benefit from additional wind energy generation in Scotland. NERC’s investment leads to further benefits by enabling carbon capture and storage alongside safe and secure nuclear, shale gas and oil operations.
Improving the UK’s resilience to environmental hazards by informing effective risk management
- NERC’s annual investment of £12·8m generates benefits of up to £127m per year by protecting properties, farmland and infrastructure through earlier warning of floods. This funding also leads to healthcare savings, efficiency savings for the emergency services, and other savings from forecasting seasonal extremes, extreme weather, the effects of volcanic ash on aircraft, protecting fisheries and preparing for climate change.