NELIOTA is a new ESA activity launched at the National Observatory of Athens in February 2015 aiming to determine the distribution and frequency of small near-earth objects (NEOs) via lunar monitoring. The project involves upgrading the 1.2m Kryoneri telescope of the National Observatory of Athens, building a two fast-frame camera instrument, and developing a software system, which will control the telescope and the cameras, process the images and automatically detect NEO impacts. NELIOTA will provide a web-based user interface, where the impact events will be reported and made available to the scientific community and the general public. The objective of this 3.5 year activity is to design, develop and implement a highly automated lunar monitoring system, which will conduct an observing campaign for 2 years in search of NEO impact flashes on the Moon. The impact events will be verified, characterised and reported. The 1.2m telescope will be capable of detecting flashes much fainter than current, small-aperture, lunar monitoring telescopes. NELIOTA is therefore expected to characterise the frequency and distribution of NEOs weighing as little as a few grams.