Purchase mid-range equipment for biosciences research: ALERT 2021

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Apply for funding for mid-range equipment for research across BBSRC’s scientific areas.

You must be a researcher from an eligible UK research organisation.

You can only lead on one application.

The full economic cost of your equipment can be up to £1 million. We will fund 100% of the full economic cost.

Awards must start by 1 August 2022 and will last for 12 months.

This is the latest round of ALERT funding.

Who can apply

The ALERT 2021 opportunity is open to institutions and researchers normally eligible to apply to BBSRC, as described in section three of the BBSRC research grants guide.

As an individual you can only lead on one submitted application.

As principal investigator on one proposal you can still be a member of a consortium on a different application, as long as you do not take a leading role as principal investigator. However, as such applications will be in direct competition this is not recommended unless the applications are in very different areas.

As the first funder to sign the Technician Commitment, UKRI recognises the value of technical expertise to the UK research workforce. To reflect this, BBSRC welcomes applications eligible facility staff as either principal investigators or co-investigators.

All co-investigators must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in section 3 of the BBSRC grants guide.

Postdoctoral research assistants can be included as researcher co-investigators.

Please email the BBSRC ALERT team at bbsrcalert@bbsrc.ukri.org if you are unsure of staff eligibility.

An institution may submit more than one application, but we strongly encourage institutions to discuss and prioritise their submissions given the limited budget available.

What we're looking for

Scope

Advanced research equipment and the development of capability in this area is a key component in maintaining the competitiveness of the UK research base.

BBSRC recognises that new technologies, tools and approaches, often spanning several disciplines, are revolutionising biology. They are providing unprecedented opportunities to:

  • advance understanding of the complex, dynamic processes that govern life
  • apply that knowledge for the benefit of society and the economy.

To support this approach, this funding opportunity, like previous opportunities of this nature, encourages you to apply for:

  • equipment that is widely used and underpins capability across all scientific areas within BBSRC remit (relevance to the priority areas in BBSRC’s delivery plan (PDF, 2.25MB) is particularly encouraged)
  • the use of emerging advanced research technology or utilisation of equipment in new ways of working
  • the promotion of collaboration and equipment access between users within industry, public sector and other institutes.

The maximum duration of grants is 12 months and grants must start by 1 August 2022 at the very latest.

Funding available

The indicative capital budget for ALERT 2021 is approximately £10 million.

Applications may seek the cost of capital equipment over £200,000, including VAT, requested under the ‘directly incurred equipment’ heading only. No other cost types are eligible under this opportunity. Any applications submitted with costs in any other heading will be rejected without consultation.

Costs such as initial installation or service maintenance contracts can be included if they are one-off costs and part of the manufacturer’s offer. These costs should be included in the equipment quotation.

Contributions from the host institution or institutions and other external sources are welcome but not mandatory.

Equipment requests

Only one piece of capital equipment may be funded, although this can include equipment that requires assembly or involves several components (not necessarily physically linked) provided they constitute a single technology platform.

If you plan to request several components that could constitute a platform, it is important that you approach BBSRC for permission before submission, providing a short one page document outlining how your proposal enables novel research that would not otherwise be possible. See ‘how to apply’ for more details.

In a large multi-component application that is otherwise in scope, one or more small components costing under £10,000 can be supported, but these must be from the same supplier so that they can come together as one invoice. If they cannot be sourced from the same supplier, the applicant’s research organisation will need to fund the sub £10,000 component themselves.

All equipment must be on the market at the time of the opportunity closing date to be considered for funding.

Host contributions towards the purchase of equipment are not mandatory.

Additional funding considerations

Costs such as initial installation or service maintenance contracts can be included if they are one-off costs and part of the manufacturer’s offer. These costs should be included in the equipment quotation.

Service maintenance contracts may extend a maximum of 24 months past the end date of the award (36 months in total), but the contract cost must be paid within the lifetime of the grant (12 months). Should the expected length of the contract exceed 36 months, then the cost included in the application should be reduced on a pro-rata basis so as to fit within the conditions as stated.

BBSRC expects that institutions will make longer term arrangements to ensure appropriate ongoing support over the lifetime of the equipment. Separately negotiated service contracts are not eligible for this opportunity.

If you expect that a significant portion of the equipment user base will be undertaking research in areas outside BBSRC remit, you must seek an appropriate level of additional upfront contributions and support from external sources and provide information on this external support in the application.

Read more about the BBSRC remit.

Exclusions

Applications in the following areas will not be accepted and BBSRC withholds the right to reject these applications without consultation:

  • applications that request any other costs apart from capital funding
  • equipment requested valued below the £200,000 (VAT included) threshold
  • proposals that exceed 12 months in duration
  • applications for single-user or single-project instruments
  • requests for funding for equipment that is scheduled for market release after the opportunity close date
  • principal beneficiaries outside the UK
  • principal beneficiaries outside bioscience
  • establishment of generic computing platforms (for example high performance computing clusters) when the intended use largely extends beyond research areas that are within the BBSRC remit
  • requests for contributions to very large facilities or to the purchase of equipment that constitute normal elements of a well-founded laboratory (centrifuges, fridges, incubators and so on) or for buildings and other types of infrastructures
  • proposals for the development of new technology that are outside of the scope of this opportunity and will be rejected, although the use of new or emerging technologies is encouraged
  • proposals to develop software packages
  • proposals that do not provide quotes for the requested equipment
  • applications of the same nature that at the same time have also been submitted to other award schemes (including research council grant schemes)
  • unsolicited resubmissions of proposals that have previously been considered by BBSRC or any other funder.

How to apply

You should refer to the opportunity guidance for full details. Applications must be submitted using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system by 16:00 on 25 November 2021.

Please consider the time required by your research office to process the application as late submissions will not be accepted.

Applicants should select:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: 21ALERT mid-range equipment initiative.

In addition to the completed Je-S pro-forma, the application should include the following attachments:

  • application cover letter (mandatory)
  • case for support (mandatory)
  • justification of resources (mandatory)
  • data management plan (mandatory)
  • diagrammatic work plan (mandatory)
  • CVs for named applicants and research staff only (mandatory)
  • letters of support for institutional support and any project partners (mandatory)
  • equipment quotations (see guidance)
  • additional letters of support (optional)
  • business case (not needed, but you must attach a blank document).

BBSRC recommends the use of typefaces Arial, Helvetica or Verdana. A strict minimum font size of 11 must be used for the entire case for support, justification of resources and CVs (excluding text on diagrams and the use of mathematical symbols). A minimum of single line spacing and standard character spacing must be used. Margins must not be less than 2cm.

You should discuss your application with your relevant procurement and finance officers prior to submission, particularly bearing in mind the EU tender and procurement rules.

Applicants should detail how staff roles will support the use of the equipment and how they will be supported in their careers. Please refer to the UKRI statement of expectations for technology and skills specialists.

If you expect the expenditure to be challenging within the given time constraints regarding grant duration or start date (for example, because the equipment may require an export license or involves lengthy customisation or construction times) you must contact BBSRC before submitting an application.

In order to ensure compliance with basic requirements of the opportunity, you should refer to the ALERT 2021: Pre-submission checklist (PDF, 50KB) and all associated guidance before submitting your application. Once the application has been submitted, no further modifications can be made.

Requesting more than one piece of equipment

If you are requesting more than one piece of equipment, please contact bbsrcalert@bbsrc.ukri.org and provide a one-page summary document outlining the following:

  • what it is you are proposing, what research it will enable and how the equipment pieces come together to form one platform
  • how much each component will cost, what the total cost for the platform will be and who the suppliers are
  • what the advantages and disadvantages are compared to any single piece off-the-shelf alternatives in terms of cost and research potential
  • how the technology would be managed centrally
  • who will install or assemble the equipment (for example in house or the supplier)
  • what plans for long term maintenance are in place
  • how broad and diverse access to the equipment would be ensured.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed by a multidisciplinary panel of experts covering scientific, managerial, technical and user aspects of equipment provision and management. External reviews will not be sought.

Assessment criteria

The following assessment criteria (not listed in order of priority) will also apply.

Impact of the investment

This includes:

  • the research enabled
  • the benefit to or involvement of a wider user community
  • the anticipated extent of usage.

Scientific quality and strategic relevance

Scientific quality and strategic relevance of the proposed research to be conducted using the equipment.

Arrangements for the management and support of the equipment

In particular the arrangements to secure the expertise in its operation and to provide access to the equipment and expertise in its use.

Arrangements for managing access to the equipment and the prioritisation of its use

Award holders will be expected to put arrangements in place for providing advice and support to others wishing to assess the potential of the technology for their own research.

Provision for development

Provision for staff development, training and sustainability for staff employed to operate and manage the equipment, including the professional development of technical and support staff will be part of the assessment by the panel and will inform the final score.

The contribution the investment will make to the physical research infrastructure

The contribution the investment will make to the physical research infrastructure in the applicant institution or institutions and in the UK (for example, how the equipment will complement related infrastructure and equipment) and the broader environment in which the equipment will be placed (for example, lab space, running costs, technical support, scientific expertise, data management).

Capability to deliver

Evidence of the capacity to deliver excellent research and where possible experience directly relevant to this opportunity, for example a track record in managing facilities is strongly encouraged. Where applicants do not have prior experience, they should be able to clearly demonstrate their potential relevant to these points.

Value for money

This includes the credibility of the financial and management proposals. Contributions from the host institution or institutions and other external sources are welcome but not mandatory.

Ethical and societal issues

Consideration will also be given to any ethical and societal issues that may be raised by the proposal.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

Email: bbsrcalert@bbsrc.ukri.org.

Please provide as much information as possible in your email to ensure a rapid response.

Ask a question about eligibility

Email: eligibility@bbsrc.ukri.org

Get help with Je-S

Any queries regarding the submission of proposals through Je-S should be directed to the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times: Je-S opening times

Additional info

Eligibility for future new investigator schemes

If you are successful in your application as a principal investigator for ALERT, you will still be eligible for a new investigator scheme. This is because there are no postdoctoral research assistant costs associated with the ALERT scheme that would disqualify you.

Issue registering a researcher co-investigator in Je-S

If you have been unable to enter a figure of zero in Je-S for the researcher co-investigator’s salary, entering a nominal value of 0.01 should fix this issue.

Supporting documents

BBSRC research grants guide

ALERT 2021: Opportunity guidance (PDF, 77KB)

ALERT 2021: Additional guidance (PDF, 128KB)

ALERT 2021: Pre-submission checklist (PDF, 50KB)

ALERT 2021: Justification of resources (PDF, 45KB)

ALERT 2021: Equality impact assessment (PDF, 47KB)

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