Engineering biology is the process of taking synthetic biology concepts and translating them into real-world solutions, for example:
- the design and fabrication of biological components and systems
- using engineering technologies and principles
- from modifications to natural systems through to artificial biology.
Consequently, engineering biology encompasses the entire innovation ecosystem, from breakthrough synthetic biology research to translation and application.
Engineering biology has the potential to offer solutions to a range of global societal challenges. This opportunity will create a pipeline for the development of high-risk, high-reward ideas and will exploit engineering biology approaches to generate impact across a range of sectors.
We strongly encourage applicants from disciplines and communities seeking to drive cutting-edge fundamental engineering biology ideas and opportunities that can pull-through into impacts in key sectors (for example clinical, manufacturing, environmental).
This opportunity aims to:
- seed the development of novel and high-risk ideas in engineering biology that will enhance the current potential impact of engineering biology in the UK
- engage with new research communities and develop early exemplars in engineering biology, beyond current known applications.
Through community consultation, the vision for a NEBP has been developed around seven core thematic challenges, see the engineering biology overview supporting documentation (PDF, 104KB).
This opportunity invites the development of novel and high-risk ideas that will support the discovery-inspired themes:
- bio-inspired design
- novel materials
- bioengineered cells and systems.
Further details of these three themes can be found below. However, these descriptions are not exhaustive, and all ideas that fit these themes are encouraged.
The bio-inspired design theme
The bio-inspired design theme aims to build on the fundamental potential of biology. In this theme we anticipate that engineering biology will be exploited to utilise and enhance the properties of nature for biotechnological solutions, such as the sensitivity of receptors in a dog’s nose and broader sentinel organisms, navigation due to magnetoreception in a bird’s brain, or the data storage and computing capability of nucleic acids and cells.
The novel materials theme
The novel materials theme aims to develop new materials, products and production processes. It is anticipated that engineering biology can be used to create more sustainable production processes or alternative production solutions, and develop new:
- non-natural materials
- integrated materials
- smart/functional materials.
The bioengineered cells and systems
The bioengineered cells and systems theme aims to develop novel approaches and technologies that allow us to construct ‘de novo’ or modify existing cell and biological systems efficiently and effectively. We anticipate that engineering biology will be applied to:
- innovation in precision genome engineering technologies
- meet challenges at different biological scales (for example synthetic organelles, functionally-modified cells, hybrid networks such as brain-computer interfaces)
- further the development and control of minimal/protocells, synthetic microbial communities and artificial life.
Recognising that these themes do not have hard boundaries, novel ideas that cut across the three themes are also encouraged. In a similar fashion, novel ideas with overlaps toward the application-inspired themes (for example towards challenges in food systems, environmental solutions, healthcare and clean growth) or with overlaps with cross-cutting tools and technologies (for example rational design, sensors, artificial intelligence) will also be accepted. Further details of the application-inspired themes and cross-cutting tools and technologies can be found in the engineering biology overview supporting documentation (PDF, 104KB).
Applications do not need to demonstrate preliminary or pre-existing data in support of the idea. However, ideas building on preliminary information and existing research are welcome, and it should be clear in the application how the proposed idea is novel and high risk.
New collaborations and partnerships are strongly encouraged, including across disciplines and sectors, and internationally. While this project will not support funding business and international partners, collaborations are encouraged where there is clear benefit to be gained and potential in-kind contributions can be offered by the external partner.
After completion of these 12-month awards, UKRI partners will explore further opportunities to support the development of breakthrough ideas in engineering biology.
Proposals in the following areas will not be accepted:
- proposals that do not fit the scope of this opportunity
- projects with an exclusive focus on purchase of equipment
- resubmissions of previously unsuccessful proposals.
Please contact us well in advance of the deadline if you are unsure whether your application fits within the scope of the opportunity.
This opportunity will follow the standard guidelines for research grant applications for BBSRC as described in the grants guide.