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Sustainable Tropical Agricultural Systems Programme

Copyright: Neil Palmer, CIAT on Flickr by CC 2.0
ESRC website

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 13 July 2018 - 11 October 2018


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) are pleased to announce a new UK-Colombia programme in sustainable tropical agricultural systems supported by the Newton-Caldas Fund.

Proposals for the pump-priming phase of this call will be developed at a Project Scoping Workshop to be held at CIAT Headquarters in Cali, Colombia, on 30 October - 2 November 2017. Applications for academic participation in this workshop are now open.

The specific aims of the UK-CIAT Sustainable Tropical Agricultural Systems Programme are to:

  1. Fund high quality development-relevant research focussed on the resilience and sustainability of tropical agricultural systems containing pulses and/or tropical forages, which will contribute to the sustainable economic development and welfare of Colombia and wider.
  2. Forge mutually-beneficial partnerships between researchers in the UK and CIAT on pulse and/or forage-based tropical agricultural systems that contribute to food security through international collaboration in agricultural research for development.
  3. Support truly interdisciplinary projects combining at least two of the biological, environmental, and economic and social sciences.

The call will be managed as a two-stage process with the first stage being awards for pump-priming proposals. Applications to the pump-priming stage will be developed and assessed at the Project Scoping Workshop. Attendance at this workshop is a requirement for leading an application. The second stage of funding (opening in 2018) will build on successful pump-primed projects.

Scientific scope

The funders aim to support innovative underpinning, strategic or applied interdisciplinary research that will promote economic development, improve social welfare and enhance livelihoods in Colombia to maximise food security (ref 1). This will be achieved through improving human and farmed animal nutrition and increasing the resilience and sustainability of tropical agricultural systems in Colombia containing pulses and/or tropical forages. Projects will align with, and build on, CIAT’s current research portfolio and outputs of the projects may also have benefits outside of Colombia. This call will support high quality research focused on the following key crops:

  • Tropical forages
  • Pulses.

In addition, research supported in this call must also fall within one or more of the following research areas:

  • Resilience to climate change and climate variability
  • Understanding, assessing and managing the interactions between different elements of the agricultural ecosystem and how they affect production and other essential ecosystem services
  • Production of safe, nutritious food for humans and animals to develop sustainable food systems.


The UK funders have up to £2.9 million available for this call and have allocated up to £900,000 for the first stage to support eligible UK participation. CIAT will provide matched support from their current portfolio. In the second stage of this programme, pump-priming award holders will be invited in autumn 2018 to submit proposals for two years of extension funding.

Project Scoping Workshop

Proposals for the pump-priming phase of this call will be developed at a Project Scoping Workshop to be held at CIAT Headquarters in Cali, Colombia, on 30 October - 2 November 2017.

Only academics invited to participate at the Project Scoping Workshop will be eligible to submit pump-priming proposals to this call.


Applications are invited from individual researchers who can contribute to the project scoping workshop and the resulting research projects. Up to 40 participants in total (around 20 from the UK and 20 from CIAT) will be identified to take part. Participants will be chosen to allow equal representation from the UK and CIAT, and an appropriate balance between disciplines.

Expressions of interest are invited from UK academics eligible to receive funding as Principal Investigator from BBSRC, ESRC or NERC.

Projects funded under the Sustainable Tropical Agricultural Systems Programme must:

  • fit the remit of the call, and address at least one of the research areas outlined above. Proposals which address more than one of these research areas will be particularly encouraged
  • focus on, or be applicable to, tropical agricultural systems containing pulses and/or forages that are relevant to, and part of, the livelihood of communities in Colombia
  • contribute to improving food security through delivering greater resilience and sustainability for crops grown in Colombia
  • involve a bilateral UK-CIAT team and demonstrate a true collaboration and partnership between eligible researchers at UK based research organisation(s) and CIAT
  • be genuinely interdisciplinary in nature, combining at least two of the biological, environmental and, and economic social sciences.

Proposals will be permitted to include academics not present at the project scoping workshop as Co-Investigators, providing there is scientific rationale to justify their inclusion.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

Applicants should complete an expression of interest proforma, alongside an up-to-date CV. Completed applications should be sent to stating your name, institution and ‘STAS EoI’ in the subject line.

The deadline for applications is 6 September 2017, 16:00.

In order to participate, applicants must be available to attend for the 3.5 day duration of the project scoping workshop from 30 October - 2 November 2017 (excluding travel time) and be able to travel to Colombia.

Assessment criteria

Expressions of interest to attend the project scoping workshop will be considered by the funders and non-participating experts. The final decision regarding UK participation at the workshop will be made by the relevant research councils.

Overall, the funders will seek to ensure a balance of expertise and UK institutions are present at the project scoping workshop. Their assessment will be based on the specific criteria outlined below:

  • Relevant expertise and experience
  • The ability to develop creative research ideas in a collaborative environment
  • The potential to contribute to interdisciplinary research relevant to the call scope
  • The ability to work in a team across academia
  • The ability to communicate and engage with a diverse range of stakeholders.

Please ensure you fully complete all sections of the expression of interest proforma, as this is the only information on which potential project scoping workshop attendees will be selected. It is therefore important that you provide evidence of the expertise that you will bring. Please note that the funders will not be able to give individual feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

The Newton Fund

Our involvement in this call is funded by the Newton Fund. The Newton Fund is an initiative intended to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and emerging knowledge economies. It was launched by the UK Chancellor in April 2014, and now has a total UK investment of £735 million over the course of seven years to 2021, with partner countries providing matched resources within the fund.

The Fund forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ODA funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee list. Newton Fund countries represent a sub-set of this list.

More information about the Newton Fund can be found on the Newton Fund website (see external links) or in the UK government’s Newton Fund policy paper.


Stage Date
Expression of interest deadline 6 September 2017, 16:00
Notify applicants of outcome of expression of interest stage Mid-September 2017
Project Scoping Workshop 30 October - 2 November 2017 at CIAT, Colombia
Pump-Priming projects to start April 2018
Submission of extension proposals 11 October 2018
Extension project to start April 2019


  1. “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Future generations are implicitly included in “all people at all times” and this requires food systems to be sustainable. (Global Food Security Strategic Plan, 2017).

Header image copyright: Neil Palmer, CIAT on Flickr by CC 2.0

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