A major milestone has been met on the journey towards independence for two research centres within the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) portfolio.
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) are aiming to become independent charitable bodies later this year. In January 2019, the programme underwent an independent Gateway 4 Review, the 'readiness to implement' review under the standard Cabinet Office methodology.
This review considered the large amount of activity which has been completed to date by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), NERC, NOC and CEH project teams in preparation for the move to independence.
The review concluded that the Governance, Responsibility and Ownership (GRO) Programme is on track to deliver the go-live transitions for the CEH and NOC. The review team considers that successful delivery of the plan is likely, and that the programme risks are being managed well.
When final approval is received from the Minister a date will be set for NOC and CEH to become independent research institutes (companies limited by guarantee with charitable status). In the meantime, the CEH and NOC boards are continuing to engage with NERC and UKRI to finalise the terms of the transfer.
NERC Council continues to affirm the importance of sustaining long-term funding to its research centres. This will remain the case, regardless of the changes in ownership and governance.
CEH and NOC will continue to deliver independent, world-class science for all funders, in collaboration with a wide range of partners. The new governance structures will make CEH and NOC more agile and financially more resilient, with more freedoms and flexibilities to deliver their science and to do so with a greater range of external partners and funders. The missions, purpose and scientific integrity of CEH and NOC will be protected and the detail of managing future and ongoing options, risks and issues will remain at the forefront of the process.