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Tools and resources development fund: Bioimaging

Copyright: BBSRC

Support for development of novel tools, methods and technologies as well as bioinformatics tools and computational approaches in the field of bioimaging

Medical Research Council website

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 27 September 2016 – 23 November 2016

See awarded grants and panel membership in the downloads section.


Our Tools and Resources Development Fund (TRDF) aims to pump prime the next generation of tools, technologies and resources that will be required by bioscience researchers. It is anticipated that successful grants will not exceed £150k (£187k FEC) and a fast-track, light touch peer review process will operate to enable researchers to respond rapidly to emerging challenges and opportunities.

TRDF 2016

Please note that the 2016 call for TRDF is not divided into two parts as in previous years but has a single themed call instead.

The 2016 TRDF call has a specific focus on bioimaging, incorporating technological development as well as software, bioinformatics and data analysis tool components of previous TRDF 1 and 2 calls. Applications not related to bioimaging for the biosciences will be considered out of scope for the 2016 TRDF call.

The TRDF Bioimaging call has an indicative BBSRC budget in the region of £2M, subject to the quality of the applications received. BBSRC will support bioimaging relevant to research challenges across our portfolio.

In addition, both EPSRC and MRC will consider co-funding TRDF applications that demonstrate innovation at the interface between the engineering and physical sciences and the health and life sciences. EPSRC will co-fund applications that demonstrate significant fundamental innovation in the engineering or physical science approaches being developed (total indicative budget up to £1M). MRC will co-fund applications that also demonstrate significant relevance to basic biomedical research challenges (total indicative budget up to £300k). Applicants should identify the potential use cases and pathways to impact of proposed technologies to both life and health sciences research challenges.

Further information is available in the FAQs and the guidance notes document. For any enquiries please see below for contact details.



Imaging within life and health sciences research, or bioimaging, is an area of significant interest for BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC. Cutting edge bioimaging technologies play a crucial role in advancing basic discovery science, enabling scientists to generate fundamental insight into living systems (microbes, plants, animals and humans) which can have translational outcomes in both biological and biomedical science that contribute to well-being and the bioeconomy.

Bioimaging is performed across a range of length scales, from high-voltage cryo-electron microscopes used in structural biology to study biomolecules, to enormously powerful super-resolution microscopes that can break the light diffraction barrier to monitor sub-cellular processes, through to whole organism imaging used to monitor physiological and pathophysiological processes. It is a fast developing field with new techniques, improvements in core equipment and enabling technologies, data management and image analysis continually advancing the boundaries of scientific endeavour.

Advances in quantitative methods for imaging and image analysis have widened the scope of what imaging as a technology can enable in terms of scientific discovery. However improved technological approaches are still needed to enable measurements inside cellular compartments and to study dynamics, further enhancing the resolution, sensitivity, precision and image quality of techniques such as super-resolution, Raman and electron microscopy. Progress will also be enabled by the development of detectors, lasers, multi-channel measurement techniques and probes, new labelling (or label-free) methods, strategies for novel in vivo and real-time bioimaging including non-perturbative imaging techniques, and approaches to bridge gaps in length scales experienced using current imaging technologies (e.g. multimodal methods). The development of software for data management and image analysis is recognised as another very important need, including methods to integrate image data with other data types.

The 2016 TRDF call has been designed with a bioimaging focus as an opportunity to respond promptly to the increasing requirement for technological and software advances, and recognising the important role of engineering and physical sciences research in addressing these challenges.

Below are some examples of technology development challenges that are considered to be in scope and out of scope, respectively.

In scope, innovative new approaches for:

  • Imaging at cellular and sub-cellular scales, e.g. light and EM microscopy
  • Imaging of tissues and whole organisms, e.g. by CT, photo-acoustic or thermal imaging
  • Imaging to support analytical techniques, e.g. chemical imaging
  • Software and analytical tools to enable bioimage acquisition, management and/or analysis
  • Strategies for classification and feature extraction from bioimages, e.g. employing machine learning

Out of scope:

  • Applied medical imaging (i.e. technologies for direct clinical use)

Please contact us if you are unsure whether your application fits within the scope of the call (see contacts below).


This call intends to:

  • Support small or short-duration, pump-priming (pilot) projects that enable excellent science in the field of bioimaging
  • Encourage development of novel tools, technologies and methods (including novel software tools and computational approaches) relevant to bioimaging
  • Develop and translate new and potentially disruptive fundamental engineering and physical sciences approaches into technologies relevant to life and health sciences research challenges
  • Promote new collaborations between researchers from different disciplines directed towards the goals of the call

Applications may often involve interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. It is important that TRDF Bioimaging applications demonstrate appropriate collaborative connections and relevance of the technology to the generation of new knowledge in life and health sciences research.

It is anticipated that grants of up to £150k (£187k FEC) will be made. Applications for projects should be between 6 and 18 months duration. Industry collaboration is welcome, if appropriate to the application.

A number of different types of applications within the area of bioimaging are eligible for consideration.

  • Early concept, exploratory investigations of new tools, technologies and resources. The key feature of a successful 'early concept, exploratory' research project application is a technology or methods oriented approach that is enabling and adventurous, and encapsulates the concept of 'high-risk/high reward'. Funded projects are expected to test the 'high-risk, high reward' concept and, where successful, demonstrate proof-of-principle
  • Rapid access to, and novel deployment of, the very latest cutting edge technology. It is anticipated that these applications would include collaboration with the technology provider
  • Radical, novel modifications to existing tools, technologies and resources to facilitate new biological understanding and an expansion in use
  • New approaches to the analysis and interpretation of research data in bioimaging, including development of software tools and algorithms. Of particular interest will be applications that address challenges arising from emerging new types of data and known problems associated with data handling (e.g. the extraction of data from challenging biological images)
  • New frameworks for the curation, sharing, and re-use/re-purposing of bioimaging data, including community approaches to the sharing of bioimaging data, e.g. the development of standards. This could include coordinating UK input into international standards development activities

Applications should be novel and adventurous and be aimed at developing new tools. This fund intends to support genuine early concept development, particularly where little pilot data exists.

To facilitate the panel assessment, we request that applicants clearly state within the case for support which of the types of enabling application listed above they consider their application addresses.

Please contact us if you are unsure whether your application fits within the scope of the call (see contacts below). Grants awarded under previous calls can be viewed using our Portfolio Analyser.


The following areas are excluded from the call:

  • Applications unrelated to bioimaging
  • Applications which are not technology or methods focused
  • Applications where the tools, technologies or methods will not be applied to a biological research challenge
  • Generic 'platform' technology development in the physical sciences
  • Incremental further developments in technologies where previous proof-of-concept has been demonstrated, including applications using existing tools and technologies available to comparable areas of biological sciences. Applications in this area should either be 'early-concept exploratory investigations' or 'radical, novel modifications'
  • Applications not within the specified areas or not meeting the specified expectations on project scale (including cost and duration). We reserve the right to withdraw applications that exceed the cost and duration limits described for this call prior to assessment

Projects may extend existing software resources; however, the call is designed to support novel tools and methods. Incremental improvement and maintenance of existing software that does not provide new functionality or significant performance improvements (e.g. by migration to an advanced computing environment) does not fall within the scope of the call.

Applications outside the remit of this call will be rejected at an early stage. Therefore we advise applicants to contact us to discuss potential project concepts (see contact below).


This call is open to all institutions normally eligible for BBSRC managed-mode calls, which include:

  • HEIs
  • Strategically funded institutes
  • Independent Research Organisations (IROs) approved by BBSRC

For the categories of eligible organisations see our Grants Guide, section 2 and for a list of IROs see the RCUK eligibility guidance.

All applicants must be eligible to apply for BBSRC funding. Details of the eligibility criteria can be found in our Grants Guide, section 3.

For queries about eligibility, please contact us before submitting your application.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

Applications should be submitted through the Je-S system by 23 November 2016, 4pm.

Applicants should select the following from the Je-S menus:

  • Select Council: BBSRC
  • Select Document Type: Standard Proposal
  • Select Scheme: Standard
  • Select Call/Type/Mode: Tools and Resources Development Fund 1 (TRDF 1)
  • Select ‘Create Document’

Applications involving two or more Research Organisations should be submitted via a single Je-S form.

Please note that all applications must have a start date no earlier than 1 July 2017.

We advise applicants to read our grants guide before completing their application and to consult the detailed guidance notes on how to apply.

Fast-track, light touch assessment

We reserve the right to reject applications, without reference to peer review, which are deemed to fall outside the remit and scope (including the financial scope) of this call. Applicants are strongly advised to contact us if they are unsure whether their application would be suitable for this call.

Applications that fit the remit of the call will be assessed through a single stage, fast-track panel assessment process, so that the high-risk exploratory ideas and novel technologies can be rapidly tested and/or challenged. The streamlined nature of the assessment will use a broadly-based, multi-disciplinary panel with appropriate expertise, drawing from the biological, biomedical and engineering and physical sciences.

Please note:

  • Applications will be assessed only by the expert panel
  • Written reports from additional referees will not be obtained
  • The panel will evaluate the applications against the criteria for assessment (see below) and provide the funders with a recommended rank-ordered list of applications based on the details contained within the case for support
  • Applicants should ensure that sufficient details of their expertise and track record, proposed project, approaches and methods are provided within the case for support to enable the application to be assessed by scientists with relevant but not necessarily specialist expertise
  • Feedback will be provided to all applicants within three months of being notified of the panel's decision

Assessment criteria

The assessment of applications will reflect the scope of the fund and will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Scientific excellence
  • Timeliness and promise
  • Relevance to BBSRC strategy and wider Research Council priorities
  • Economic and social impact
  • Industrial and stakeholder relevance
  • Value for money
  • Staff training potential

In addition, assessors will be asked to take into account the scope of the TRDF Bioimaging call as set out above, including the potential utility, novelty, and adventurousness of the proposed tool/technology development.


BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC are currently developing joint strategy directed towards 'Technology Touching Life'. EPSRC and MRC will observe the assessment process.

Complementary funding mechanism

Potential applicants are advised of the following alternative scheme that may be suitable for projects meeting the scientific criteria of the TRDF Bioimaging call but exceeding the cost and/or duration limitations of TRDF projects:

  • Responsive mode grants are awarded in response to unsolicited research applications in any area relevant to BBSRC's mission. Research projects funded under responsive mode, including projects under the “Technology Development for the Biosciences” priority area, are awarded no more than £2M fEC and can last up to five years. There are three annual responsive mode calls

The TRDF call is a small grants scheme and is not suitable for applications where the cost to the BBSRC is greater than £150k (£187k FEC). Applicants are strongly advised to resource projects appropriately to achieve the proposed objectives, and to justify these costs. For projects where the resource required exceeds £150k (£187k FEC), or the duration of the project exceeds 18 months, applicants are advised to contact us for guidance (see contact details below).


Call opens 28 September 2016
Application deadline 23 November 2016, 4pm
Panel meeting 14-15 February 2017
Earliest start date 1 July 2017

For enquiries relating to the call please use our email address below. Please include ‘2016 TRDF call’ in the subject header.


Tools and resources development fund

Please contact us for enquiries relating to the call, as well as for enquiries relating to alternative funding routes for technology development projects that do not fit within the parameters of this call.

Related calls: multidisciplinary research technologies bioinformatics