Closed Applications (Archive)

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) UKRI, Executive Chair

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) UKRI
Appointing Department
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Science & Technology
Swindon or London
Number of Vacancies
£130K – £145K + an opportunity for performance related pay
Time Requirements
Full Time. However, the role could be reduced to four days per week to allow for research activity to be maintained

Campaign Timeline

  1. Competition Launched


  2. Closed for Applications


  3. Panel Sift

    Expected April 2023

  4. Final Interview Date

    Expected May 2023

  5. Announcement

    Expected June 2023

This is not a ministerial appointment.

Assessment Panel

Panel Member
Alexandra Jones
Panel Role
Panel Chair
Director, Science, Research and Innovation
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Political Activity-
Panel Member
Dame Ottoline Leyser
CEO Representative of Organisation
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Political Activity-
Panel Member
Professor Sir Charles Godfray
Director, Oxford Martin School Independent Member
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Political Activity-
Panel Member
Professor Gideon Henderson
Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Independent Member
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Political Activity-

Vacancy Description

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the UK’s leading public funder of environmental science, investing £330 million each year in cutting-edge research, postgraduate training and innovation in universities and research centres. We advance the frontier of environmental science by commissioning new research, infrastructure and training that delivers valuable scientific breakthroughs.

Our vision is to place environmental science at the heart of responsible management of our planet. We no longer live in a natural world – there is virtually no part of the environment that we have left unchanged. Our growing population and the way we live has changed our relationship with the environment, and humans are now the dominant source of change.

About the Role

The Executive Chair, advised by NERC’s Council Members, is responsible for setting and then delivering the strategic vision for NERC, and contributing to the wider direction and activities of UKRI. As the visible and credible leader of NERC you will be responsible for delivering its research, skills and infrastructure investments.

As a member of UKRI’s Executive Committee, you will be accountable to, and work closely with, the UKRI Chief Executive Officer. The NERC Executive Chair will have a critical role within UKRI and beyond, in championing and increasing the impact of environmental research.

The Executive Chair will work closely with Government, including the devolved administrations, and in particular through DEFRA and FCDO. The Executive Chair will also work closely with the Higher Education Funding Councils and with stakeholders, including industry, through a variety of approaches aimed at promoting the translation and take-up of the outcomes of NERC-supported research.

The post is also likely to include specific UKRI roles to address cross-cutting UKRI priorities, to be agreed with the UKRI CEO. This can further be explained by outlining the two overarching responsibilities the Executive Chairs have.

First, they have a responsibility to ensure the health and vibrancy of their domain. To achieve this, Executive Chairs have delegated responsibility for a budget awarded by the Secretary of State. The budget is set through recommendations to the Secretary of State from the UKRI Board, which is in turn advised by the UKRI Executive Committee.

Executive Chairs have freedom to operate to deliver this budget through their council, including through collaborative programmes with other councils, with advice from their council’s Council and aligned with the UKRI Strategy. Executive Chairs are also encouraged to work closely with and expand their connections within their domain community. This enables Executive Chairs to harness the strategic insight they gain to build key relationships across the research and innovation system, and to foster engagement.

Second, as members of the UKRI Executive Committee, Executive Chairs have a responsibility for the health and vibrancy of the entire UK research and innovation system, recommending strategy to the UKRI Board. This includes making recommendations about and holding responsibility for the UKRI Strategy, for collective UKRI budgets, and for the leadership and delivery of collective UKRI programmes.

These two responsibilities overlap. Often, they will be fully aligned and synergistic, with collective working delivering clear domain-specific benefits. But occasionally, there will be trade-offs to be made. Executive Chairs must work to ensure domain-specific impacts are understood, maximising benefits for the wider UK Research and Innovation system.



• develop and define NERC’s strategic direction and ensure the successful delivery of NERC objectives and outcomes, providing the inclusive leadership, and the vision to develop the quality, outputs and impacts of its research, skills and capital investment portfolio.

• work closely with the rest of the leadership team and Board to provide overall leadership and direction to UKRI; modelling the culture and behaviours required to bring to life UKRI’s values.

• lead and develop the capacity and capability of the NERC Executive team.

Stakeholder Engagement:

• work with the Senior Independent Member (SIM) of NERC and other Council members to lead and develop NERC’s strategic approach to world class environmental research, innovation, infrastructure and training.

• provide overall direction and management of the NERC Institute portfolio, including BGS and BAS as well as the strategic funding of CEH and NOC.

• ensure the effective operation of the British Antarctic Territory including its infrastructure and supply.

• overall oversight of Antarctic Modernisation Programme and other NERC major capital programmes.

• be a core member of the UKRI Executive Committee, working to deliver the best value from the overall research and innovation funding system and actively contribute to delivery of mission of UKRI.

• act to ensure UKRI provides a strong, unified voice for science, research and innovation in the UK and globally, both in facilitating the dialogue with government and partners on the world stage.

• work collaboratively across UK Research and Innovation Councils to foster interdisciplinary work and build on collective capabilities, providing support and challenge when required. This may include specific responsibility for the strategy and delivery of one or more cross cutting area on behalf of all the Councils.

• represent and develop positive relationships between NERC and its numerous and diverse stakeholders in government and public funding agencies, higher education institutions, academic and research communities, business and the public at large and internationally.

Finance, Planning and Analysis:

• maximise efficiency and ensure value for money from public investment

• work closely with the UKRI CFO to ensure robust budget planning and financial control

• work closely with the UKRI Executive Directors for Strategy to ensure robust analysis underpins decisions and evidence outcomes; and ensure alignment between NERC’s objectives and overall UKRI strategy

Person Specification

The successful candidate will be able to command confidence and represent NERC at the highest level of Government/Academia and be able to meet the following criteria:


• able to demonstrate the highest standards of research expertise in the environmental sciences, with a broad understanding of their current developments and relevance to the social and economic wellbeing of the country

• ability to develop a clear strategic vision for NERC with high quality programmes and collaborations, built on meaningful engagement with stakeholders

• a good communicator able to command confidence and build strong working relationships across the academic domains of NERC and the wider stakeholder landscape including with Government Ministers

• credible experience of senior leadership and management able to run an organisation to be high performing while tackling issues of equality and diversity

• commitment to the overarching goals of UKRI, multidisciplinary working and the health of a wider and more integrated R&D landscape.


• expertise and credibility in communicating the insights from environmental science and its wider impact.