The Natural Environment Research Council is to focus on four new programmes, some of which have a crossover with the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, in its bid for the next spending review.
It is considering an environment and health programme to investigate chemicals in the environment that impact on health.
A sustainable water-management programme would examine the impact of climate change and how to achieve sustainable levels of water usage. The council is also keen to fund research into deep oceans, focusing on what they can tell us about the climate and how they can enhance knowledge of medicine and biotechnology.
Nerc is also likely to bid for funding for a programme on sun and earth interactions, considering how other planets influence the earth and how the sun impacts on climate change.
All the research councils are debating which research themes should be included in their bids for funding from the 2004 spending review.
The Research Councils UK strategy group will be considering input from all areas of the research community over the next four weeks. It plans to publish information about likely cross-council priorities later this month.
A spokesperson for the RCUK said: "At this stage there are a lot of ideas in circulation for both single and multi-council research programmes and clearly not all will make the final cut."