Published: August 2022
Updated: December 2022
Nature Restoration Fund - Transforming Nature
Development Phase Guidance
About the Nature Restoration Fund: Transforming Nature
The Nature Restoration Fund is a Scottish Government commitment to invest at least £65 million in multi-year funding to benefit nature across the whole country. Since its launch in 2021, we have started over 100 projects, putting Scotland’s species, habitats and seas back on the road to recovery.
The strategic goal of the Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) is to catalyse action at a scale to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity on land and sea.
In this funding round we are inviting ambitious, transformative projects of single or multi-year duration and with a funding requirement in excess of £250,000. Development phase funding may be applied for separately. All projects must be completed by 31 March 2026.
The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy will be instrumental in defining clear priorities for NRF, determining the optimum allocation of resources and the impact we want projects to deliver. The Strategy will be finalised in autumn 2022, with 2022/23 a bridging year for NRF, focusing on broad priority themes, with a more direct focus anticipated on the priorities outlined in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, once launched.
The priority themes for this round are:
- Habitat and species restoration: Management for enhancement and connectivity
- Freshwater restoration, including restoration of natural flows in rural catchments
- Coastal and marine initiatives which promote restoration, recovery, enhancement or resilience
- Control of invasive non-native species (INNS) impacting on nature
- Urban: Enhancing and connecting nature across, and between, towns and cities.
NRF will only support habitats, species and priorities as set out in the accompanying ‘Priorities for Action’ document on our website. You should use this document to help develop detailed proposals.
Recognising the complexities and challenges of developing and implementing multi-year, high value projects - particularly those being delivered through a partnership or collaboration of organisations and/or landowners – development phase funding has been made available to enable emerging projects to undertake key tasks and activity that would be required in advance of submitting a robust application to the Transforming Nature competitive stream.
About development phase funding
NRF development phase funding is intended to support preparatory activity that will enable emerging projects to submit fully developed delivery phase funding applications and move swiftly to implementation when funding is secured.
All applications for development phase funding must be for projects that are NRF eligible and will meet NRF priorities should delivery phase funding be secured. Eligibility and priorities are outlined in the two guidance documents referenced above. Securing NRF development phase funding does not guarantee a successful NRF delivery phase application.
Development phase funding is only available to support projects under the Transforming Nature stream – it is not available to support applications to the Helping Nature stream.
NRF development phase applications must meet NRF priorities but the applicant is not obligated to submit a delivery phase NRF application e.g. due to securing funding from other sources or emergent partnership issues. Where delivery phase funding is being sought from another funder, £250,000 must be the minimum overall grant value being requested.
Eligible development phase activity
NRF development phase funding is available to support projects that have already been identified as a possibility and have been subject to early discussion by organisations, individual landowners/managers or between a number of proposed partners. In these circumstances, there should be increased confidence that permissions and landowner agreements will be secured, that the development actions required will be achievable in a short timescale and that potential challenges or issues can, in part, be anticipated.
Eligible development phase activity is likely to fall into two broad categories, both of which can be applied for within a single application:
- Actions that will lead to refinement, detail and clarity on the specific activities that a project will implement and the biodiversity outcomes it will expect to secure (e.g. surveys, modelling, planning applications, detailed designs)
- Actions that will bring together organisations, landowners and/or land managers to progress ambitious project applications at a landscape or catchment scale. This can be across multiple (ideally adjacent) landholdings or sites which must be linked by a strategic objective (e.g. staff time to facilitate partnership development, securing landowner/manager agreements)
Who is eligible to apply
As set out in the NRF 2022 Transforming Nature Guidance, development phase applications are invited from:
1. Constituted organisations.
a) Registered charities and trusts.
2. Private individuals and companies - where public benefit will be demonstrated.
3. Partnerships and organisations working collaboratively with others.
Where applications are received from partnerships or organisations working collaboratively, a lead applicant must be identified. If successful, the lead applicant will be required to accept the Terms and Conditions of the development phase Grant Offer, provide overall updates and claim funds on behalf of all partners. We will ask you to tell us how the project will be managed in your development phase application.
Where applications are received from an individual or organisation working in a project development/facilitation role, NRF will not fund on-going development activity that would otherwise be routine work and have happened anyway with resources already secured. Evidence will be required to demonstrate that staff or facilitator time requested of NRF is additional and required to enable development at increased scale or pace.
Public Bodies cannot be the principal beneficiary of a grant from NRF, including development phase funding, but can be a coordinator of, or funding contributor to, a wider partnership bid (where the match funding eligibility criteria are met). Any Bids with public body partners will be scrutinised to ensure funding is not delivering activities that would be expected to be undertaken by public bodies as part of their core functions or biodiversity duties.
Period of funding
Development phase funding will be awarded for a maximum of 6 months. It is expected that as far as possible, the development phase will be implemented before the end of March 2023. The development phase must be completed no later than 31 May 2023.
Eligible development phase activity
The following are examples of eligible development phase activity:
- Feasibility studies (based on early discussion of potential projects)
- Detailed design surveys to inform on the ground implementation
- Data gathering such as habitat and protected species surveys – field and desk based
- Engagement with stakeholders, delivery partners and landowners to secure involvement and commitments
- Consulting agencies e.g. SEPA, Forest and Land Scotland, NatureScot
- Exploring blended finance options and other funding opportunities for delivery phase
- Securing permissions and licenses
- Development of project plans including integrated habitat management, delivery, management, monitoring and evaluation
- Development of monitoring and maintenance plans post project
- Seeking quotes and engaging suppliers/contractors – availability and costs
- Monitoring and reporting of development phase
- Site/land investigation and feasibility activity such as soil sampling, habitat or ground mapping to inform vegetation management or tree planting
Our expectation is that training and skills development of staff or volunteers who will implement the project will be included in delivery phase applications. By exception, and where training needs can be shown to have value whatever the outcome of any subsequent delivery application, we will consider a case for their inclusion at development phase.
Ineligible development phase activity
The following activities are ineligible for NRF development phase funding:
- Employing a bid writer or writing any funding applications including NRF delivery phase
- Developing and establishing project governance structures including Partnership Agreements, Memorandum of Understanding, NRF funds transfer (where a partnership or collaboration). We expect such arrangements, where required as part of demonstrating effective governance of larger projects, to be submitted as part of the project delivery application
- Building organisational and staffing capacity to undertake large, complex projects and manage external funds in organisations and groups
- On the ground works for habitats and species that are ready for implementation
Eligible development phase costs
The following costs can be applied for:
- Contractor costs for example to undertake detailed design or feasibility studies
- Staff costs inclusive of salary, National Insurance and Employer Pension Contributions. The short term nature of development phase funding is such that we do not anticipate creation and recruitment of new posts. The fund therefore expects to cover the cost of existing staff having either a proportion of dedicated project time or additional hours.
- Where there are staff costs, organisational and overhead costs (Full Cost Recovery) to cover office accommodation, equipment and running costs and wider staff support (e.g. finance, IT) are eligible. To note we cannot fund staff time to complete NRF claims
- Travel and subsistence to cover staff and any volunteers supporting development phase activity for organisations. A copy of your Travel and Subsistence policy will be required in support
- Irrecoverable VAT
- Lead applicant costs – staff time and on-costs where development phase applications are received from a partnership or organisations working collaboratively (but not costs associated with establishing any additional partnership governance). Any additional levy/management fee will be ineligible
- Equipment and materials required during the development phase where these are not available through other means e.g. hire or match funding/in-kind contribution. Note - Equipment and resources required in the delivery phase are not eligible for development phase funding.
Development phase funding: Award level and match funding
There are no minimum or maximum award values for development phase applications. We expect the development phase costs to be proportionate to the anticipated costs and benefits of the proposed project application, and ensure good value for money.
All applications will be required to confirm cash or in-kind contributions. There is a maximum NRF intervention rate of 90% of total development phase costs. Total costs are inclusive of in-kind contributions. The NRF will, where justified, cover up to 100% of cash costs for the development phase for projects that have the potential to make a significant contribution to the Priorities for Action and can demonstrate proportionate in-kind support (a minimum of 10%).
Cash and in-kind contributions to projects cannot be matched from the following funding programmes:
- Peatland Action
- Green Infrastructure Funds
- Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund
- Nature Restoration Fund:
- Helping Nature rounds
- Transforming Nature rounds (development phase)
- Edinburgh Process Fund
- Biodiversity Challenge Fund
- Scottish Marine Environmental Enhancement Fund (SMEEF)
- Any other funds and grants administered by NatureScot.
We recognise that while funds can’t be matched from these sources, making connections to projects funded by them, and working in catchments/sites alongside, may allow increased action and is encouraged.
Cash and in-kind contributions must be in support of the costs and activities to be undertaken during the development phase only – those relating to project delivery are not eligible.
Cash or in-kind contributions to cover the claiming and reporting of progress of NRF activity (as distinct from undertaking and completing evaluation reports) must be confirmed within each application. These are not eligible NRF project management costs but can be included as a proportionate element within the minimum 10% match funding that is required.
How to apply for development phase funding
You should read the NRF Outcomes and Eligibility, How to Apply and Contacts and Resources pages on our website. Please then download a Development Phase Expression of Interest form and submit it to [email protected]
An Expression of Interest form can be submitted at any point but must be received no later than noon on 2 September 2022. You may submit more than one development phase Expression of Interest where potential projects are entirely unrelated.
It is likely that a Funding Officer or topic specialist within NatureScot will be in touch with you about your Expression of Interest during the review period. If we assess that your proposed project could meet the NRF priorities, we will send you a development phase application form, with a unique project reference number, to complete. This will only be made available to those who are offered the opportunity to submit a full development phase application. We will not accept any applications without a project reference number. The opportunity to complete a full application does not guarantee that it will be successful.
For the current round:
Development phase launched - 9 August 2022
Final date for Expressions of Interest - Noon 2 September 2022
Closing date for applications - Noon 7 October 2022
Applicants informed of decisions - in December 2022
There will be further rounds of both Helping Nature (grants under £250,000) and Transforming Nature (grants in excess of £250,000). The next application call for the Helping Nature stream is expected to be in early 2023. The next application call for the Transforming Nature stream is expected to be in mid 2023. Projects which complete a development phase can submit a Transforming Nature application as soon as it is ready and in advance of that date.
If, having read the Priorities for Action and Information for Applicants documents, you have any queries on the fund, please send an email to [email protected] in the first instance, thank you.