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Strategic Longer and Larger grants: Frontier bioscience 2020/21

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Call status: Call launch
Webinars: 12 May 2020, 10:00
                 21 May 2020, 14:00
Registration deadline (mandatory): 30 July 2020, 16:00
Outline applications deadline: 10 September 2020, 16:00
Full application (invite only) deadline: (TBC)

Funded through responsive mode


Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery is a strategically important long term objective of the UKRI-BBSRC Delivery Plan. The 2020/21 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 the ‘Rules of Life’ which govern living systems. 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 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 2020/21 call.

Proposals must address the scope of the call and be predominantly within our remit. It is anticipated that awarded grants will start in the latter half of 2021.


Understanding living systems and how they function is at the heart of bioscience research and innovation. Curiosity-driven research at the limits of our current understanding has a strong record of revealing, or rewriting, fundamental ‘Rules of Life’ which can lead to transformational developments within the life sciences, as well as more broadly stimulating social and economic benefits and contributing to the UK’s international competitiveness.

In the 2020/21 sLoLa call, we are seeking to support cutting edge, innovative and ambitious research that addresses key fundamental questions in bioscience. We welcome applications working across any scales of biological organisation, and particularly those employing quantitative, multi-scale approaches that integrate bioscience research from different sub-fields. 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 UKRI-BBSRC remit. We encourage multidisciplinary proposals but we strongly advise potential applicants to contact us before submission 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, UKRI-BBSRC takes a strategic approach to investment, considering overall balance of our portfolio in world-class bioscience research. Proposals in areas in which there is already substantial UKRI-BBSRC investment, particularly existing sLoLa-scale awards or research in areas covered by current UKRI-BBSRC Institute Strategic Programme grants, are therefore likely to be at a competitive disadvantage in this call and may be excluded at the registration or outline stage (see downloads and external links for list of currently active >£2 million UKRI-BBSRC grants).
  • 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 UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, are excluded.  However, work that is potentially impactful within one or more of the UKRI-BBSRC Strategic Challenges set out in the UKRI-BBSRC Delivery Plan - bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food, bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth, bioscience for an 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 UKRI-BBSRC or other 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 the latter half of 2021.


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 and downloads).

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, the team of applicants (PI and Co-Is) must demonstrate that, collectively, they have the capability to realize the objectives of an integrated programme of work at the required scale and complexity of a sLoLa project. 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 researchers,Research 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 also commit to the mentoring and career development of the early career researcher, and demonstrate previous successful experience of this. Applicants are encouraged to consider the expectations laid out in the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, to which UKRI-BBSRC is a signatory.

The Principal Investigator must not already be a PI on an existing sLoLa (unless the grant is in its final year). Multiple applications with the same PI are not permitted.

UKRI-BBSRC is committed to encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion by eliminating unlawful discrimination in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and encouraging applications from research teams exploiting the strength of diversity in the wider UK research and innovation community.  Applicants are expected to consider these issues from the earliest stage of building their teams through to the delivery of awarded projects. Consideration of equality, diversity and inclusion is important for all applications to UKRI-BBSRC for funding, and we expect particular care to be taken for larger projects involving multiple co-applicants such as those supported through the sLoLa scheme.  

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 after the live sessions. For more information, see:

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 completing either the online survey or submitting the word document linked below.  We encourage potential applicants to submit a registration as early as possible in order to allow sufficient time for consideration of any feedback and development of their outline. Call registrations submitted after 30 July, 2020 16:00 will not be accepted.

    Call registration is intended to ensure outlines are appropriately targeted to this call and to provide an early indication of the level of demand, team composition, and research areas. UKRI-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.

    You can register for the 2020-2021 sLoLa call now using either of the following methods:

    1. By completing this online survey and following the submission instructions contained therein
    2. By downloading the word document Word format registration survey, appending the PI’s name to the filename, and sending the completed document to

    Please only submit your registration once, using either of these methods.

  1. 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 10 September 2020, 16:00.

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

    Please note that only overall indicative costs are requested at the outline stage of assessment. Changes to project costs are permitted between the outline and full stages, so Research Organisations are advised take a pragmatic approach to estimating costings at the outline stage.

  2. 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.

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

UKRI-BBSRC has taken the decision to proceed with the 2020/21 sLoLa call, recognizing this is against the backdrop of significant changes to normal working practices due to the covid-19 pandemic. We have adjusted both the timing and timelines of the call to ensure applicants have significantly more time to respond to this opportunity. Please note that there is now deliberate overlap between the extended registration period and the opening of the Outline call stage, allowing applicants who are ready to proceed at pace whilst also providing additional flexibility for those who require it.

Deadlines for the full stage of the call will be updated as soon as we are able. We will continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the research and innovation community and if necessary,will take appropriate action to respond to emerging issues as this call progresses.  However, we hope that during the course of the sLoLa call in 2020 and 2021 we can return to a more normal situation.

Applicants should note the stages involved and their corresponding deadlines:


Activity Deadline
Call webinars 12 May 2020, 10:00
21 May 2020, 14:00
Registration deadline (mandatory) 30 July 2020, 16:00
Outline call stage opens 1 July 2020
Outline application deadline 10 September 2020, 16:00
SLC meeting to assess outline proposals November 2020
Outcomes and feedback to successful applicants December 2020
Full application (invite only) deadline TBC
Assessment of full proposal  TBC
Interviews by Strategic Lola Committee TBC

Related calls: responsive mode multidisciplinary