Strategic longer and larger grants: frontier bioscience 2021-2022

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Apply for funding for frontier bioscience research that addresses significant fundamental questions in bioscience.

Projects must have the potential to produce a distinctive contribution to bioscience knowledge. They must improve our understanding of the fundamental ‘rules of life’ that govern biological systems.

You can apply if you are a researcher based at an eligible organisation.

You must apply for over £2 million. We will fund this at 80% full economic cost.
Projects can be up to five years in duration.

Who can apply

This opportunity is open to eligible researchers at:

  • higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • research council institutes (RCIs)
  • approved independent research organisations (IROs)
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Check if you’re eligible for research and innovation funding.

Principal and co-investigators must meet our standard eligibility criteria, as outlined in section three of our grants guide.

In addition to our standard eligibility criteria, the team of applicants (PI and Co-Is) must demonstrate that, collectively, they have the capability to realise the objectives of an integrated programme of work at the required scale and complexity of a strategic longer and larger grants (sLoLa) project. Key indicators will include:

  • a track record of making internationally important research contributions relevant to the proposed project. This may be evidenced through a variety of different measures of peer recognition and success, which may include but are not limited to:
    • publications
    • conference presentations
    • development
    • implementation of novel technologies
    • patents
  • a recent track record (within the last 10 years, excluding career breaks) of significant financial support from major funding bodies. This excludes research equipment grants, studentships and grants that have not been competitively awarded
  • a track record demonstrating the capability of the principal investigator to effectively lead and manage teams. This should be evidenced through their role in specific projects or programmes, and professional development undertaken in leadership or project management.

Inclusion of early career researchers as research co-investigators within teams is encouraged. Evidence of significant accomplishments commensurate with their career stage should be provided and they will be expected to contribute distinctive expertise to the proposal.

In such cases, the principal investigator must also commit to the mentoring and career development of the early career researcher and demonstrate previous successful experience of this.

Applicants are encouraged to consider the expectations laid out in the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, to which UKRI-BBSRC is a signatory.
The principal investigator must not already be a PI on an existing sLoLa (unless the grant is in its final year). Multiple applications with the same PI are not permitted.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

UKRI-BBSRC is committed to encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion by eliminating unlawful discrimination in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and encouraging applications from research teams exploiting the strength of diversity in the wider UK research and innovation community.

Applicants are expected to consider these issues from the earliest stage of building their teams through to the delivery of awarded projects. Consideration of equality, diversity and inclusion is important for all applications to UKRI-BBSRC for funding, and we expect particular care to be taken for larger projects involving multiple co-applicants such as those supported through the sLoLa scheme.

What we're looking for

Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery is a strategically important long term objective of the UKRI-BBSRC delivery plan.

The 2021-22 sLoLa funding opportunity invites proposals focused on frontier bioscience leading-edge discovery research that addresses significant fundamental questions in bioscience.

Proposals are expected to be ambitious, fully integrative programmes of work and have the potential to lead to a major advance in our understanding of the ‘rules of life’ which govern living systems.

Funding available

The indicative budget for this opportunity is up to £16 million, subject to the quality of applications received.

Proposals must be over £2 million (100% full economic cost project value) and can be up to five years in duration.

We anticipate awarding between three and five grants in the 2021-22 round.

It is anticipated that awarded grants will start in the latter half of 2022.

Scope

Understanding living systems and how they function is at the heart of bioscience research and innovation.

Curiosity-driven research at the limits of our current understanding has a strong record of revealing, or rewriting, fundamental ‘rules of life’. Research of this nature can lead to transformational developments within the life sciences, as well as more broadly stimulating social and economic benefits and contributing to the UK’s international competitiveness.

In the 2021-22 sLoLa grants, we are seeking to support cutting-edge, innovative and ambitious research that addresses key fundamental questions in bioscience.

We welcome applications working across any scale of biological organisation and particularly those employing quantitative, multi-scale approaches that integrate bioscience research from different sub-fields.

To produce major advances, proposals are expected to employ (or develop) the latest technologies, methods and approaches that will result in world-leading capability in bioscience within the UK.

There is no requirement for proposals to address our responsive mode priorities.

Requirements

Proposals must fully address the scope of the sLoLa scheme, clearly demonstrating a primary focus on generating a significant advancement in fundamental bioscience knowledge.

The work to be undertaken must be primarily within UKRI-BBSRC remit. We encourage multidisciplinary proposals but we strongly advise potential applicants to contact us before submission if significant aspects of the proposal are outside of our remit.

Proposals must provide a clear justification for the necessity for funding through the sLoLa scheme to deliver the programme of work. The proposal must demonstrate overall coherence, connectivity, coordination and integration of the work to be carried out, to the extent that the work could not be undertaken through funding a series of separate smaller awards.

A strong case must also be made regarding how the proposal will enhance the UK’s international position in the area of investigation.

Exclusions

In addition to its focus on research excellence, UKRI-BBSRC takes a strategic approach to investment, considering the overall balance of our portfolio in world-class bioscience research.

Proposals in areas in which there is already substantial UKRI-BBSRC investment, particularly existing sLoLa-scale awards or research in areas covered by current UKRI-BBSRC institute strategic programme grants, are therefore likely to be at a competitive disadvantage and may be excluded at the registration or outline stage.

See a list of currently active UKRI-BBSRC grants over £2 million (PDF, 138KB)

Proposals that are not primarily motivated by fundamental advances in biological knowledge are excluded.

For example, proposals where the primary aim is to tackle a user-driven challenge from within industry, including areas covered by the UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, are excluded.

Work that is potentially impactful within one or more of the UKRI-BBSRC strategic challenges set out in the UKRI-BBSRC delivery plan are not excluded, but the primary driver must be to make fundamental advances in biological knowledge.

Proposals that fall within the context of UKRI-BBSRC or other UKRI programmes for strategic investment in bioscience that are driven by official development assistance (ODA) strategic aims (Global Challenges Research Fund and Newton Fund) are excluded.

How to apply

Attend a webinar

The opportunity launch is supported by a webinar (two dates available) that will present an overview of the opportunity followed by an opportunity to ask questions. A copy of the material presented will be provided here after the live sessions. Further information is provided below.

Webinar one: 11 May 2021, 10:00

Please register in advance.

Webinar two: 20 May 2021, 14:00

Please register in advance.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Application stages

We strongly encourage research organisations to consider the scope and eligibility of potential applications to the call prior to submission.

We ask that you prioritise appropriately owing to the small number of proposals that will be supported through the call.

We do not seek to implement an institutional cap for proposals, but will take such measures if required to moderate demand to a manageable level.

There are three mandatory stages to the application process.

Stage one: registration (now open)

Potential applicants (principal investigators) must register their interest in the call by completing and submitting an online survey.

We encourage potential applicants to submit a registration as early as possible in order to allow sufficient time for consideration of any feedback and development of their outline.

Registrations submitted after 6 July 2021 at 16:00 will not be accepted.

Registration is intended to ensure outlines are appropriately targeted to this call and to provide an early indication of the level of demand, team composition and research areas.

UKRI-BBSRC may contact research organisations that appear likely to submit large numbers of outlines with the aim of moderating demand if the need becomes evident.

Failure to register will preclude application to the call.

When registering, principal investigators will be asked to provide information about:

  • the anticipated team
  • evidence of prior funding indicating the research team is primed to undertake a larger-scale research programme
  • the scientific rationale for the proposed programme of work, including how it meets the frontier bioscience scope of the sLoLa call
  • the anticipated objectives of the programme
  • a brief explanation about why a sLoLa grant is required to address the research challenge.

A word document version of this survey is found in Additional Information below, should you wish to prepare your answers in this format before completing the online form.

No financial information is required at the registration stage.

After registering for the call, potential applicants may be invited to discuss with us:

  • how their proposal relates to the scope of the sLoLa call
  • their relevant track record
  • our wider portfolio and future strategy.

Some applicants may be advised that their proposal is unsuitable for the scheme.

Stage two: outline proposal

The outline stage is only open to applicants who have registered for the sLoLa call.

Proposals will consist of a six-page case for support.

Proposals must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) System.

The closing date for the outline stage is 31 August 2021 at 16:00.

When applying select:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: outline proposal
  • scheme: standard outlines
  • call/type/mode: 2021 Strategic LoLa Outlines.

Please note that only overall indicative costs are requested at the outline stage of assessment.

Changes to project costs are permitted between the outline and full stages, so research organisations are advised to take a pragmatic approach to estimating costings at the outline stage.

Stage three: full proposal (invitation only)

Only proposals shortlisted by the sLoLa committee will be invited back as full proposals.

Proposals must be submitted through the Je-S System. The opening and closing dates for the full stage are to be confirmed.

When applying select:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: responsive mode
  • call/type/mode: 2022 Strategic Longer and Larger Grants.

Please see the Guidance for Applicants document (PDF, 195KB) and the Je-S Handbook for additional information on how to apply.

How we will assess your application

Applications to the sLoLa scheme will be assessed with reference to the scope of the opportunity and against the following assessment criteria:

  • research excellence
  • importance and transformative potential
  • added value of funding via sLoLa grant
  • ability to deliver
  • management strategy
  • resources.

Outline applications

Outline applications will be assessed by the Strategic LoLa Committee (SLC) in an initial panel meeting. Highly rated proposals will be invited to make a full application.

Full applications

Full applications will be assessed in two phases.

Phase one:

  • external peer review and assessment by a multidisciplinary panel
  • highly rated proposals will be shortlisted for interview (phase two).

Phase two:

  • the SLC will conduct interviews with the shortlisted applicants
  • the SLC will make a final funding recommendation to UKRI-BBSRC.

Contact details

Strategic Longer and Larger grants team

bbsrc.lolagrants@bbsrc.ukri.org

Additional info

Two webinars supporting the call launch will be held on 11 and 20 May 2021. Please register in advance using one of the links below.

Register for the 11 May 2021 webinar (Zoom)

Register for the 20 May 2021 webinar (Zoom)

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Supporting documents

Press releases featuring past awardees:

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