The $300 million vessel, able to break through ice and despatch robotic submarines, is to be built at the Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead on the Mersey river, Xinhua news agency reported.
It will be the first complete ship to be built at the 187-year-old shipyard.
The government said the ship will maintain Britain’s position firmly at the forefront of climate and ocean research.
The decision, announced by Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, follows a 12 month competitive tender. The contract will create 400 jobs at the Birkenhead yard, including many new apprentices.
The shipyard is expected to start work on the contract next month and deliver the next generation polar research vessel ready for operation by 2019.
It is being built for NERC, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council.