UK Research and Innovation



Through the NOC’s national capability programmes, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, we enable the UK research community to stay at the forefront of environmental science globally, and we meet national strategic needs, informing government and business decision-making on environmental issues.

The National Oceanography Centre is one of several UK environmental research centres that receive significant funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) - to play a leading role in managing and delivering national capability in environmental sciences. Funding for national capability - which is directly procured by NERC from research centres due to a combination of the capability’s scale and complexity - lets the UK deliver world-leading environmental science, support national strategic needs, and respond to emergencies. It includes the research and development activities which keeps this capability at the cutting edge.

The NOC has a distinctive role in the UK’s marine science landscape. Specifically, on account of its scale and organisation it is able to:

  • provide a national capability and source of impartial advice;
  • create a critical mass of research capability, effort and expertise; to provide enhanced research productivity, visibility, exploitability; or rapidly to strengthen an underdeveloped area;
  • foster co-ordinated and co-operative multidisciplinary approaches to its main research area, ocean science;
  • encourage a long-term research vision and strategy;
  • enable long-term survey, monitoring and data management activities underpinned by research;
  • provide a full-time research-centred environment;
  • open up scientific career paths and opportunities which may not be available within university or faculty structures;
  • develop and provide facilities and services; and
  • allow greater investment in capital equipment and the skills of support staff, because of the more stable environment.

In an international context, NOC is one of only a small number of similar oceanographic institutions world-wide with the scale and range of capabilities needed to deliver and support 'big ocean science'. The NOC's unique capabilities and critical mass of scientific and technical expertise concerns the open ocean and deep sea and processes and variability operating at global and basin-decadal scale and the ability to provide expert scientific and technical advice relating to these aspects of the ocean. 

It has long experience in, and provides the unique range of capabilities and expertise to, undertake scientific research including in the High Seas and Area beyond National Jurisdiction.

As part of its NERC-funded national capability (national and public good) provision, NOC provides impartial scientific advice to government and others based on its unique range of expertise including providing international and national representation roles not normally funded in other ways and in support of response to emergencies where scientific advice and evidence may be needed rapidly.

In relation to the above, the NOC is tasked with two particular and unique roles:

  • As part of its national capability (national and public good) provision, the NOC will lead on behalf of UK Government the UK delegation to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO (which is the competent UN body for ocean science). The NOC will lead and coordinate provision scientific and technical advice to the UK Government in relation to the work of the IOC. NOC will consult with relevant departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and BEIS on the development of the UK’s policy positions at the IOC.
  • On behalf of NERC, the NOC will lead the strategic development and management of NERC’s marine science national capability including that delivered by NOC itself by other smaller charitable research institutes, specifically the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Scottish Association for Marine Science and the Marine Biological Association of the UK.