Rural Hub

Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund

3 mins

The Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF), which is a new source of funding for environmental projects in England, was announced by Defra and the Environment Agency in February.

The fund – which is available to charities, public bodies and companies or other businesses registered with HMRC – is open for applications up to 26 March 2021 and provides grants of between £10,000 and £100,000.

The funding aims to support environmental projects that:

  • Help achieve one or more natural environment outcomes from the 25-year environment plan (see below)
  • Have the ability to produce revenue from ecosystem services to attract and repay investment
  • Produce an investment model that can be scaled up and reproduced.

Examples noted include the sale of carbon credits, biodiversity units from a habitat bank and selling catchment services, including water quality and flood management benefits. The grants are intended to pay for organisations’ internal staff costs or third party consultancy advice in the preparation of proposals for schemes which are transferable and offer viable models for wider adoption.

In some cases, funding may be agreed for the purpose of securing consents, baseline surveys and research where it can be demonstrated that this complements investment proposals.

Funding is not available for capital spending such as buying or leasing land and equipment.


Application forms and guidance are available online.

Applications are assessed and scored against four criteria as follows:

1. The extent to which the application describes the environmental outcomes the proposed or resulting investment model will achieve for the government’s 25-year environment plan.

2. The extent to which the application describes the potential of the proposed model to produce revenue.

3. The extent to which the application shows potential for innovation and learning.

4. Funded activities must clearly present value for money – minimising costs, maximising resources, effective project management and plans for assessing success.

Moderation and shortlisting will be undertaken on applications, with funding expected to be confirmed for successful applicants by July 2021.

Further information on how to apply and examples of how to meet the assessment criteria are also provided.


An application should explain how the investment model will lead to natural environmental outcomes, referring to the 25-year environment plan and its outcome indicator framework. 

The following are examples of outcomes.

Thriving plants and wildlife

Such as:

  • supporting or improving biodiversity
  • supporting or improving pollinator status
  • increasing favourable condition of protected sites
  • restoration of priority habitats and reduction of degraded land
  • supporting condition of marine habitats and sustainable use of the marine environment
  • protecting threatened species
  • net zero or negative emissions from deforestation and forest restoration
  • increases in the percentage of production area under productive and sustainable agriculture and aquaculture
  • creation of water habitats

Clean and plentiful water

Such as enhancing the water environment and supporting water bodies to meet good status.

Clean air

Such as supporting reduction of emissions from important air pollutants.

Protection from flooding, drought and other environmental hazards, and mitigation of and adaptation to climate change

Such as:

  • peatland restoration
  • flood resilience
  • tree planting
  • managing climate change risks – for example, taking account of the UK Climate Projections (UKCP18), Natural England’s adaptation manual for conservation, Environment Agency’s climate impacts tool, Forestry Commission guidance on managing woodlands in a climate emergency and its climate matching tool.

Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment

Including better outcomes in landscapes for nature and for people.

3 mins

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