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UK-Mexico Newton Fund: Improving Mexican Crop Resilience to Abiotic Stress

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Call status: Closed
Previous call: 17 April 2018 - 19 July 2018


The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), in collaboration with the Mexican partners:

  • Science and Technology Council of Colima State (Cecytcol)
  • Science and Technology Council of Jalisco State (Coecytjal)
  • Science and Technology Council of Sonora State (Coecyt)

Are pleased to announce a call for collaborative proposals on improving Mexican crop resilience to abiotic stress. The purpose of the call is to build on the combined strengths of academic research groups within the Mexican states and the UK to work collaboratively on research that will address the challenge of abiotic stresses relevant to and in Mexican crops.

This call forms part of BBSRC’s Newton Fund activities and therefore requires the UK component of projects to meet Official Development Assistance (ODA) criteria alongside their scientific objectives.


Up to £3.2 million from BBSRC has been earmarked for this call to support the successful UK applicants, with funding of up to $5 million MXN from Colima, $5 million MXN from Jalisco and $20 million MXN from Sonora, to support successful Mexican applicants in their respective states.

Applicants are invited to submit bilateral collaborative research proposals comprising UK based researchers and researchers based in one of the three Mexican states; additional partners outside the lead state are possible but cannot request funding through this call.

Projects should be up to three years in duration. Applicants may request up to a maximum of £533,000 (80% FEC) on the UK side and up to $5 million MXN on the Mexican side. We envisage funding approximately one project with Colima, one project with Jalisco and four projects with Sonora.

Applicants do not need to request equal amounts from the Mexican state and the UK, but a balanced partnership in terms of research effort is envisaged. The funders also expect the costs on each side to accurately reflect the research effort to be carried out.

If you require funds to utilise Mexican National Research Facilities this must be discussed with the respective Science and Technology Council prior to submission.

All applicants must adhere to their specific funder funding rules for research proposals as set out in the relevant annexes.

Scientific scope

Environmental stresses such as heat, drought, salinity, soil acidity and frost can severely limit crop production. This call aims to address this challenge by enabling Mexican crops to be better adapted to diverse and changing environmental conditions through crop breeding and genetics, and/or a greater understanding of how the crop interacts with the environment and how this can be managed. The focus of this call is to address abiotic stress relevant to and in Mexican crops. Funders would like to see collaborative research proposals in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Crop genetics:
    • Understanding the genetic diversity of relevant crops with particular reference to genes which are affected by abiotic stresses
    • Accessing and utilising greater genetic diversity through analysis and interpretation of high coverage genomes, alongside understanding the genomic variation in underutilised varieties
    • Developing genetic tools and technology to help Mexican breeding programmes improve crop resilience to abiotic stress, such as research to understand the mechanisms that control recombination and access to genes (for example polyploidy, epigenetic regulation) and novel breeding technologies to access wider genomic diversity and allow greater control of gene flow
    • Understanding the link between genotype and phenotype and the environment in relation to abiotic stress traits, including phenotyping tools and technologies.
  2. Crop/environment interaction:
    • Understanding the role of the roots and the soil microbiome under abiotic stress
    • Understanding the role of soil management and cropping system/ practices on managing abiotic stress
    • Developing tools, technology and chemical interventions to improve crop resilience to abiotic stress.
  3. Precision, smart technology and data to address abiotic stress:
    • Smart technologies to detect and measure physiological traits of crops in relation to abiotic stress for example crop phenotyping
    • Development of novel tools and technology to improve the management of abiotic stress for example precision water application to crops to reduce net usage; improved water retention in soil and crops; sensing imagery to predict abiotic stress
    • Interpretation of real time data to model future outcomes and the development of digital based decision support tools to manage and reduce the effects of abiotic stress.

Proposals which address more than one of these research themes will be particularly encouraged.

Research that would not be in the scope of the call includes:

  • Crops which are not intended for production in Mexico
  • Biotic stresses for example pests, pathogens and diseases
  • Sequencing based projects not driven by significant research underpinning a biological hypothesis
  • Risk analysis and generation of risk models
  • Transfer of existing knowledge without any novel research
  • Policy interventions to encourage farmer behaviour.


Collaborative applications are invited from UK and Mexico-based researchers eligible to receive funding as Principal Investigator from BBSRC and the relevant Mexican state respectively. BBSRC will support the project costs for successful UK applicants and the relevant Mexican state will support the project costs for successful Mexican-based applicants within their state. Additional partners outside the lead state are possible but cannot request funding through this call.

The funders would like to encourage researchers to work in consultation or partnership with crop breeders, the farming industry, food industry and/or end users, where applicable. Under this call these organisation are not eligible to receive funding, however they may be included as project partners.

Principal Investigators are responsible for ensuring that they, and any Co-Investigators included on the application, are eligible. Applications involving any ineligible applicants (UK or Mexican) will result in the whole application being rejected without consultation.

All applicants must adhere to their specific funder eligibility rules for research proposals as set out in the relevant country and state annexes and should seek advice on eligibility from the relevant funder before submission of the application.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

For each proposal, the UK PI must submit an application using the Je-S system, jointly developed by and on behalf of the UK and Mexican state based researchers, as BBSRC are leading the peer review process for this call. A number of additional documents are required and detailed in the “Guidelines for applicants”. Two templates (‘Applicant list’ and ‘Application form (in Spanish)’) are available for download from this page and must be used as described. Please ensure you read the guidance and annexes in full.

Please note: All documents submitted to BBSRC will be securely shared with the relevant Mexican funding agency to facilitate peer review (eligibility checks and reviewer identification). All personal data will be processed in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 1998/General Data Protection Regulation and will not be shared with any other organisations or used for any other purpose inconsistent with peer review or research funding.

Assessment criteria

To be funded, proposals must be internationally competitive and at a standard equivalent to that normally expected to be supported by each funding organisation. ODA compliance will be determined on receipt of the application; non-compliance will result in the application being rejected. If you are unsure about whether your project is likely to be ODA compliant, please contact BBSRC ( in advance of submitting your application.

Key assessment criteria for the applications include:

  • Scientific excellence: novelty, importance, feasibility and timeliness of the proposed research
  • Significance and impact of the research on Mexican crop resilience to abiotic stress
  • The potential of the research to impact the economic and societal welfare of Mexico
  • Appropriateness and added value of the joint research partnership (including strength and clarity of the collaboration)
  • Appropriateness of the project structure proposed (including governance, arrangements for data management and sharing and management of intellectual property)
  • Potential for the collaboration to build capacity in partner countries
  • Value for money.

The final funding decision will be made jointly between the funding agencies and the Panel may be asked to consider scientific and state spread in order to achieve a balanced portfolio. For further information about the assessment process, please refer to the relevant assessment sections in "Guidelines for applicants", annexes 1-4.

The Newton Fund

BBSRC involvement in this call is funded by the Newton Fund programme. 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 or in the UK government’s Newton Fund policy paper.

Summary timetable

Call opens 17 April 2018
Web-based seminar 9 May 2018 (1600 BST; 1000 Mexico City)
Application deadline 19 July 2018, 16:00
Peer review End July 2018 - end September 2018
Panel meeting 17 – 18 October 2018
Announcing Early 2019

Last updated: 20 December 2018

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