Access keys

Skip to content Accessibility Home News, events and publications Site map Search Privacy policy Help Contact us Terms of use

TRDF: Transformative Research Technologies

Copyright: kentoh/iStock/Thinkstock

Support for early-stage development of cutting-edge research technologies

Medical Research Council website

Call status: Open
Application deadline: 17 September 2019, 16:00


Novel technologies continue to revolutionise life sciences research. The 2019 TRDF call aims to pump prime the next generation of cutting-edge enabling research technologies with the potential for transformative impact in life sciences research (both biological and biomedical). It will support applications for early stage technology development and research into the development of novel techniques and technologies based on new advances in fundamental engineering, physical and life sciences that have the potential to enable transformative step changes in research capability. A fast-track peer review process will operate to enable researchers to respond rapidly to emerging challenges and opportunities.

The call has an indicative total budget of up to £3 million, subject to the quality of the applications received. The budget includes significant co-funding from UKRI-EPSRC and UKRI-MRC.

Applicants are advised to contact the office to discuss their application and/or if they are unsure whether their application would fit the scope of the call.


The aim of the call is to support the early-stage development of cutting edge, high-impact transformative research technologies based on new advances in fundamental engineering, physical and life sciences which are essential to sustaining the vibrancy of life sciences discovery research in the UK. These technology developments should offer the potential of a step-change in the state-of-the-art for the given field.

This call intends to support small and short 'high risk/high reward' pilot studies directed towards development of a new technology where little to no preliminary data exists. The outcome of the application does not necessarily need to be a fully-fledged tool, but could be demonstration of proof-of-concept, or production of a prototype for further development.

We are partnering with UKRI-EPSRC and UKRI-MRC for the 2019 call; collectively we aim to encourage transformative technology development across a broad range of disciplines and to enable interdisciplinary collaborative working. Projects may have relevance to core bioscience and/or Technology Touching Life (TTL), a cross-Council initiative to champion research at the interface between the scientific remit of UKRI-BBSRC, UKRI-EPSRC and UKRI-MRC.


Applications are expected to focus on one or more of the following:

  • Transformative technology development that has the potential to result in innovative and potentially disruptive new technological capabilities applicable to the life sciences. This includes technologies with potential broad utility across both biological and biomedical research communities, as well as technologies that may only have utility within one research community
  • New advances in engineering and physical sciences research that aim to establish proof-of-concept with a clear trajectory towards a new life sciences research technology in the short term
  • Radical innovation that has the potential to deliver a step change in current technological capabilities in aspects such as accuracy, precision, resolution, throughput, and breadth of application to facilitate new research discoveries
  • New software tools and algorithms to address key data analysis challenges in life sciences research. These must demonstrate genuine innovation and originality.

All applications are expected to outline how the research might deliver a substantial improvement versus the current state-of-the-art applicable to the relevant field(s) of research and how the project could broadly enable new avenues of life sciences discovery research. Applicants must also outline the extent of the potential impact outside of their own specific research programme.


Proposals in the following areas will not be accepted:

  • Platform technologies that are generically applicable to multiple research domains, rather than life sciences research
  • Applications with a focus on answering a research question instead of developing cutting-edge technology to do so. These applications could be better suited to Responsive Mode
  • Incremental adaptations/improvements of technologies where previous proof-of-concept has already been demonstrated, including applications with existing technologies already in use for comparable areas of life sciences
  • Medical/clinical devices (being developed for end-point clinical utility rather than basic research purposes) and Healthcare Technologies (including biomedical engineering for diagnostic or therapeutic application)
  • Large scale infrastructure, or direct application of off-the-shelf technology to research.
  • Community databases and data infrastructures. These applications could be better suited to the Bioinformatics and Biological Resources (BBR) Fund
  • Technologies for translational applications. The focus for this call is on technologies for the discovery research community
  • Applications that exceed the cost and/or duration limits described for this call (see below).

Applicants are strongly advised to contact us if they are unsure whether their application would fit the scope of the call.

UKRI-BBSRC reserves 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. If required, expert advice from at least two members of the panel will be sought regarding fit to scope, noting that this will not be an assessment of the quality of the proposal.

The 2019 TRDF call has an indicative budget as detailed in the call information. We encourage research organisations to consider the scope and eligibility of potential applications to the call, and prioritise appropriately, prior to submission. 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 will only be a single TRDF call in 2019. The call has an indicative total budget up to £3 million, subject to the quality of the applications received. The budget includes significant co-funding from UKRI-EPSRC and UKRI-MRC as part of the commitment to collaborative working, including through UKRI and the Technology Touching Life (TTL) initiative.

Applications must be between 6 and 18 months duration and are not expected to exceed £150,000 (£187,000 100% FEC).

Further information is available in the FAQs and the ‘guidance notes’ document (see application downloads below). For any enquiries, please see below for contact details.

Please note: we anticipate that the 2019 TRDF call may receive a high level of interest. Prospective applicants are invited to consider carefully whether their application is within the remit and scope of the call, and should clearly articulate how the proposed project addresses the scope of the call. If in doubt, applicants are strongly advised to contact the office to discuss their proposed project.


Standard eligibility criteria, as set out in the UKRI-BBSRC Grants Guide Section 3 (see downloads), apply. Applications from organisations and/or individuals that are not eligible will be rejected without reference to peer review.

Further information is available at: UK Research and Innovation: Eligibility for funding.

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

Research technical professionals

UKRI-BBSRC recognises the value of technical expertise to the UK research workforce. The potential for staff development and training (including post-docs, technical and support staff) will be assessed by the panel. UKRI-BBSRC particularly supports recognition of the contributions of research technicians and technology and skills specialists, and encourages applicants to cost them appropriately on applications. Please refer to the UK Research and Innovation statement of expectations for technology/skills specialists and see our page: Research technicians and technology and skills specialists.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted through the Je-S system by 16:00 on 17 September 2019.

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

  • Select New Document
  • Select Council: UKRI-BBSRC
  • Select Document Type: Standard Proposal
  • Select Scheme: Standard
  • Select Call/Type/Mode: 2019 Tools and Resources Development Fund
  • Select ‘Create Document’

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

We advise applicants to read our grants guide (see downloads) before completing their application and to consult the 'how to apply' download for detailed guidance on how to apply.

Application downloads

TRDF: Transformative Research Technologies - Guidance notes (PDF 167KB)

You may need to download additional plug-ins to open this file.

Assessment process


UKRI-EPSRC and UKRI-MRC will observe the assessment process and nominate panel members to support the assessment of interdisciplinary science.

Fast-track assessment

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.

Please note:

  • Applications will be fully assessed by the expert panel. Applicants will not receive reviewer comments and there is no PI rebuttal stage
  • The panel will assess the applications against the criteria for assessment (see below) and provide the funders with a recommended rank-ordered list of applications
  • 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 applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Scientific excellence, which includes
    • Broader novelty, innovation and potential utility of the proposed research technology
    • Significant potential for broader impact on the life science community
  • Fit to the scope of the call
  • Economic and social impact
  • Timeliness and promise
  • Novelty of the research
  • Industrial and stakeholder relevance
  • Value for money
  • Potential for staff development and training, including post-docs and RTPs


Call opens 17 June 2019
Application deadline 17 September 2019, 16:00
Panel meeting mid-November 2019


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: research technologies multidisciplinary