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Building Collaboration at the Physics of Life Interface

Copyright: Sergei Golyshev on Flickr by CC 2.0
Medical Research Council website

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 11 December 2018 - 12 February 2019


This is the first of two calls for proposals from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Physics of Life Strategic Priority Fund to support internationally leading research that requires collaborative, interdisciplinary working to address key challenges at the interface of physics and the life sciences. This call will fund high-quality proposals that demonstrate deep integration of cutting edge experimental, theoretical and/or computational physics with life sciences research to advance our understanding of living systems in biological or biomedical contexts.

This UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) call, led by EPSRC with support from BBSRC and MRC, is making available up to £15 million, to include £13.2 million of resource funding and £1.8 million of capital funding. This call is open to staff of UK institutions who are eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)as well as Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs). Multi-institution applications are permitted.

Applicants interested in applying to this call must complete the intention to submit form on the call website by 16:00 on 15 January 2019. This information will primarily be used to manage potential conflicts when selecting the panel. Applicants will receive an email from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) by 16:00 on Friday 18 January 2019 confirming our expectation that they will submit a full proposal. Full proposals must be submitted by 16:00 on 12 February 2019 and will be assessed directly by an interdisciplinary expert peer review panel from across the physics and life sciences communities.

We envisage high demand for funding, therefore we strongly discourage the premature submission of proposals which may benefit from further development in anticipation of the second Physics of Life call, which will be of a similar scale. Submissions to this call will count towards the EPSRC Repeatedly Unsuccessful Applicants Policy. Further information about the policy can be found at:  EPSRC: Repeatedly Unsuccessful Applicants Policy


This Physics of Life call builds on momentum created by the communities supported by EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC pump-priming for work at this interface via the Physics of Life Network (PoLNet, Understanding the Physics of Life: The Physics of Life Network, and investment in Technology Touching Life UK Research and Innovation: Technology Touching Life. For context, applicants may find it useful to browse the PoLNet website and Roadmap for Understanding the Physics of Life Understanding the Physics of Life: Roadmap for Biological Physics. However, applicants are not required to respond to areas identified by PoLNet and should refer solely to the call text to gauge the suitability of their proposal for this call. Applicants do not need to be a current member of PoLNet or similar managed activity, or hold UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding, to be eligible for this call.

The Physics of Life Strategic Priority Fund programme is a unique opportunity for researchers who are working, or looking to work, in a truly integrated manner at the interface of physics and the life sciences, under a mechanism designed to better facilitate interdisciplinary research in the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) landscape. This call aims to support high-quality, cutting-edge, internationally leading research that requires collaborative, interdisciplinary working, using experimental, theoretical and/or computational physics to unlock our understanding of living systems in biological or biomedical contexts. Research relevant to human, animal, plant or microbial systems is eligible and projects may work within or across length scales, from molecules to complex organisms.

Proposals must demonstrate deep integration of research questions, approaches and outcomes across the team of investigators. The proposed research challenge must be of sufficient ambition that neither physics nor biology alone can address it and requires integration of expertise from two or more disciplines. Proposals submitted to this call must include novel physics research which is in remit for the EPSRC Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics portfolio, integrated with applications within BBSRC and/or MRC remit. Proposals must integrate these disciplines to yield impact which is greater than the sum of their parts.

The following are excluded from the call:

  • Proposals that do not demonstrate both physics and life sciences expertise within the team of applicants
  • Proposals that are focussed on physics without application to the life sciences (biological and/or biomedical)
  • Proposals from the life sciences that do not integrate physics research within the programme; for example, solely employing standard biophysical techniques or chemical biology approaches
  • Proposals which employ mature spectroscopy, microscopy, imaging, scattering and cell manipulation techniques where the methodology is not being further developed using a physics approach
  • Proposals primarily focussed on 'big data' approaches; for example, genomics, machine learning and AI
  • Proposals primarily focussed on acquisition of research equipment
  • Proposals primarily focussed on the development of new instrumentation. The development of novel approaches and tools is, however, encouraged where this is in support of a compelling life science research question that addresses the scope of the call (see above).

Institutions must take a strategic overview of the proposals submitted by their staff. Institutions must not submit a number of largely overlapping proposals nor request multiple items of the same equipment. This call should be used as an opportunity for the institution to enable cross-departmental collaboration in Physics of Life research by bringing together the most appropriate expertise.

Collaborations with industry, clinicians and other relevant stakeholders should be fully explored where appropriate to the research being undertaken, but are not a general requirement.

Funding available

The UKRI Strategic Priority Fund is awarding up to £15 million, to include £13.2 million of resource funding (funded at 80% FEC) and £1.8 million of capital (funded at 100% FEC). It is anticipated that this funding will support between five and eight collaborative projects of 3 years’ duration. Proposals requesting more than

£3 million of funding are not permitted in this call. Grants will commence on 1 April 2019 and end on 31 March 2022. Strict expenditure profiles for each grant holder will be agreed before the successful grants commence.

UKRI aims to support innovative and ambitious collaborations. The amount of funding requested by the applicants must be commensurate with the work to be undertaken and their ability to deliver. Applicants are encouraged, but not required, to contribute funding or resources and seek leverage from external sources; however this will not form part of the assessment process.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

The full call text, including additional information on the call and how to apply are available on EPSRC's website. EPSRC: Building Collaboration at the Physics of Life Interface.

Please note, there are two mandatory stages. An intention to submit must be provided via the embedded form on the call page on the EPSRC website by 16:00 on 15 January 2019, followed by the submission of a full proposal by 16:00 on 12 February 2019.

Header image copyright: Sergei Golyshev on Flickr by CC 2.0

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