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Strategic Longer and Larger grants: Frontier bioscience

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Call status: Closed
Previous call 14 May 2019 - 23 January 2020

Please note this is the now closed 2019-2020 sLoLa call. For details of the open 2020-2021 sLoLa call, please see: Strategic Longer and Larger grants: Frontier bioscience.

Funded through responsive mode


Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery is a key theme in the Forward Look for UK Bioscience. The 2019/20 strategic Longer and Larger (sLoLa) call invites proposals focused on frontier bioscience: leading-edge discovery research that addresses significant fundamental questions in bioscience. Proposals are expected to be ambitious and have the potential to lead to a major advance in our understanding of living systems and how they function, the ‘Rules of Life’. We anticipate that innovative approaches, methods or technologies will be used to produce a significant and distinctive contribution to bioscience knowledge.

Proposals must provide a clear justification for the need for funding through the sLoLa mechanism, demonstrating a coordinated and fully integrated programme of work that could not be undertaken through a series of smaller awards. A strong strategic case must also be made regarding how the proposal will enhance the UK’s international position in the area of investigation.

The indicative budget for this call is up to £16 million, subject to the quality of applications received. Proposals must be over £2 million (100% FEC project value) and can be up to five years in duration. We anticipate awarding 3-5 sLoLa grants in the 2019/20 call.

Proposals must address the scope of the call and be predominantly within our remit. It is anticipated that awarded grants will start in late 2020.


Understanding living systems and how they function is at the heart of bioscience research and innovation. Curiosity-driven research has a strong record of revealing fundamental ‘Rules of Life’ that can lead to transformational developments within the life sciences, contributing to the UK’s international competitiveness and ultimately leading to a broad range of social and economic benefits.

In the 2019/20 sLoLa call, we are seeking to support cutting edge, innovative and ambitious research that addresses key fundamental questions in bioscience. We welcome applications across all biological scales, including multi-scale approaches. 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.


  • Proposals must fully address the scope of the sLoLa call, clearly demonstrating a primary focus on generating a significant advancement in fundamental bioscience knowledge
  • The work to be undertaken must be primarily within our remit. We encourage multidisciplinary proposals but we strongly advise potential applicants to contact us beforehand to discuss the application if aspects of the proposal are outside of our remit
  • Proposals must provide a clear justification for the necessity for funding through the sLoLa scheme in order 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.


  • In addition to its focus on research excellence BBSRC takes a strategic approach to investment, considering overall balance of our portfolio in world-class bioscience research. Research in areas in which there is already substantial BBSRC investment, particularly existing sLoLa-scale awards or research in areas covered by current BBSRC Institute Strategic Programme grants, is therefore likely to be at a competitive disadvantage in the call and may be excluded at the registration or outline stage (see downloads and external links)
  • 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 Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Work that is potentially impactful within one or more of the strategic challenge areas set out in the Forward Look for UK Bioscience (sustainable agriculture and food, renewable resources and clean growth, integrated understanding of health) is not excluded, but the primary driver must be to make fundamental advances in biological knowledge
  • Proposals that fall within the context of BBSRC/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.


  • Proposals must be over £2 million (100% FEC project value, net of any industrial contribution) and can be up to five years in duration
  • It is anticipated that awarded grants will start in late 2020.


This call for proposals is open to eligible researchers at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Research Council Institutes (RCIs), and approved Independent Research Organisations (IROs). Full information about organisational eligibility is available on the UK Research and Innovation website (see external links).

Principal and Co-Investigators must meet our standard eligibility criteria, as outlined in our grants guide, section three (see downloads section).

In addition to our standard eligibility criteria, applicants (PI and Co-Is) must demonstrate that they have the capability to successfully manage and deliver a programme of work of the proposed scale and complexity. 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, key note conference presentations, development and implementation of novel technologies, and 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/project management.

Inclusion of Early Career Researcher (ECR) 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 provide a commitment to the mentoring and career development of the ECR, and demonstrate previous successful experience of this.

The Principal Investigator must not already be a PI on an existing LoLa or sLoLa (unless the grant is in its final year).

How to apply

The call launch is supported by a webinar (two dates available) that will present an overview of the call followed by an opportunity to ask questions. A copy of the material presented will be provided on the call website. For more information, see:

Presentation: sLoLa call webinar (PDF 630KB)

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

  1. Call registration

    Potential applicants (Principal Investigators) must register their interest in the call by 14 May 2019 by completing the Key Survey below. Call registration is intended to ensure outlines are appropriately targeted to this call and to provide an early indication of the level of demand. 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 (max. word count 250)
    • The anticipated objectives of the programme (max. word count 150)
    • A brief explanation about why a sLoLa grant is required to address the research challenge (max. word count 150).

    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.

    Key Survey: The 2019 - 2020 sLoLa registration form (read our Terms of use: Key Survey).

  2. Outline stage

    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 and must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) System by 30 July 2019, 16:00.

    Outline proposals will be assessed by the BBSRC Strategic LoLa Committee (SLC).

    Financial information provided at the outline stage is indicative and may be changed if your proposal is invited to the full stage.

  3. Full stage

    Only proposals shortlisted by the SLC will be invited back as full proposals. Proposals must be submitted through the Je-S System.

    Full proposals will be assessed in two phases:

    • External peer review and assessment by our Responsive Mode Research Committees
    • Proposals rated highly by the Responsive Mode Research Committees will be shortlisted for further assessment by the SLC. The SLC will consider the assessment carried out by the responsive mode Research Committees and conduct interviews with shortlisted applicants. The SLC will make a final funding recommendation to BBSRC.

Application downloads

2019/20 sLoLa call: Guidance for applicants (PDF 109KB)

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sLoLa call 2019: Frequently asked questions (PDF 114KB)

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Assessment criteria

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

  • Research excellence
  • Importance and transformative potential
  • Added value of funding via sLoLa grant
  • Ability to deliver and leadership quality
  • Management strategy
  • Resources

Application deadlines

Applicants should note the stages involved and their corresponding deadlines:


Activity Deadline
Call webinars 15 April 2019, 11:30-12:30
2 May: 11:00-12:00
Outline call stage opens 4 June 2019
SLC meeting to assess outline proposals 8 October 2019
Outcomes and feedback to successful applicants October 2019
Assessment of full proposal (responsive mode Research Committees) 19-20 May 2020
Interviews by Strategic Lola Committee 29-30 June 2020

Related calls: responsive mode multidisciplinary