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Call status: Closed
Previous call: 4 December 2017 - 3 May 2018


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), in association with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is pleased to announce a call of up to £10 million to fund a second phase of Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB).

BBSRC and EPSRC wish to build on the successes of the current BBSRC NIBB by supporting a second phase of networking activities via a number of cross-disciplinary, community-building Networks as part of its continuing strategy in supporting Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE).

The continued expansion of IBBE approaches and expertise will underpin the development of a sustainable UK bioeconomy with the potential to maintain future energy security, create innovative bio-based products and increase the efficiency of a wide range of manufacturing processes, generating sustainable economic growth and creation of jobs.

The second phase of the BBSRC NIBB will continue to build capacity and capability in the UK supporting research and translation in biologically based manufacturing, with the aim of continuing to foster collaboration between academic researchers and business at all levels, in order to find new approaches though excellent research to tackle research challenges and help deliver key benefits in IBBE.

BBSRC has allocated up to £10 million for this second phase networking initiative and aims to fund a number of Networks, of varying scales, focusing on a broad range of fundamental and strategic challenges and questions facing the IBBE area. Networks will operate for up to five years and are expected to become self-sustaining beyond this.

Networks are also intended to be UK-wide and be open to participants from different disciplines and institutions.

Each proposal must explain the fit to the scope of Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy and demonstrate evidence of how they will connect with on-going excellent research in the UK to grow and develop the network.

This is a two stage call; Expression of Interest applications will be assessed in March 2018, and Full applications invited forward for assessment during Summer 2018. Networks will be expected to start 1 January 2019.

Applicants intending to submit an Expression of Interest must attend and present their proposed Network at the Community meeting being held in London on 17 January 2018.


In 2014, BBSRC (with support from EPSRC) committed £18 million to fund 13 unique collaborative Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB) as a means to develop a world-leading programme in IBBE for the UK.

The BBSRC NIBB have proved to be an outstanding success for the UK, playing an essential role in the emerging UK Bioeconomy, making the UK an attractive international locus for IBBE research and translation towards industrial application.

The second phase of the BBSRC NIBB will continue to build capacity and capability in the UK supporting research and translation in biologically based manufacturing.


BBSRC intend to establish a number of research networks to help to continue to deliver the vision for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy. The networks will be interdisciplinary, working across the engineering, physical, chemical and biological sciences research communities.

The objectives of this call are:

  • To support a number of Networks in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy and through them, continue to facilitate the development and growth of internationally competitive cross-disciplinary communities capable of undertaking innovative research and attracting further investment from UK and international sources.
  • To provide the resources to support proof of concept funding for a range of research projects identified by the Networks, ultimately leading to more competitive, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and integrative research proposals to BBSRC and elsewhere particularly in the areas of manufacturing, bioremediation and bioenergy.
  • To encourage the interaction between the academic research base and technology-deploying, associated value-chain and end-user businesses, promoting the translation of research particularly involving genomic, systems and synthetic biology.
  • To enable the supported Networks to provide the leadership to develop, in collaboration with business, challenges to be addressed though national and international competitive funding mechanisms taking their research further towards commercialisation.

A Phase II Network should cover the following:

  • Phase II Networks should include a range of activities and mechanisms to deliver the objectives of this call for proposals. Detailed plans for the governance structure, including the development, assessment and monitoring of proof of concept/flexible fund funding is an essential component of the proposal.
  • Networks will be encouraged to work across the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 1-4 with the aim of transitioning excellent fundamental research towards higher TRLs.
  • Each Network should have members from the relevant academic and business communities covering the disciplines of biology, chemistry and engineering. Networks should comprise a diversity of expertise and experience and may include international researchers, Government Departments and other stakeholders, as appropriate. Networks should include participation at all levels including, where appropriate, postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers as well as more senior members. Applicants should also consider the wider impacts of work undertaken by the Network and include representatives from the environmental, economic and social science communities.
  • Successful Networks are intended to be “open” in that participation by other interested members will be encouraged throughout the life of the Network in order to develop the community as it matures. How new members can join the Network should be described within the full proposal.

Up to £10 million is available for this call and it is expected to support a number of Networks of varying sizes focusing on a broad range of fundamental and strategic biologically based questions and challenges facing the IBBE area. Funding awarded to each Network will depend on the size of the community, proposed activities and degree of business engagement.

Networks will be expected to demonstrate clear strategic relevance to IBBE and address most or all of the following requirements:

  • A portfolio of existing grant support relevant to the Network research area (including BBSRC and other sponsors).
  • Demonstrable evidence of business interest in the Network research area.
  • A track record of successfully working with business and translation of relevant research with business (from TRL 1 to TRL 4).
  • A critical mass of researchers (academic and business based) involved in the Network research area.
  • Well established international links.

Expected outputs of the Phase II Networks:

The main outputs are expected to include:

  • Improved community interactions (academic and business) through communication and co-ordination across a number of major research areas relevant to IBBE.
  • Wider cross-disciplinary integrative participation (bioscience, chemistry and engineering are the minimum disciplines to be covered) to address major research areas but also including environmental, economic and social sciences.
  • Establishment of the UK as an internationally recognised partner of choice in each research area by formation of a nucleus of like-minded people, deploying genomic, systems biology and synthetic biology approaches.
  • Deployment of community expertise to construct high quality grant proposals for a range of opportunities both nationally and internationally, using genomics, synthetic and systems biology approaches.
  • Preliminary experiments to explore ideas and generate initial data to construct competitive grant proposals through proof of concept funding, encouraging participation from different disciplines as well as business, leading to grant proposals for national and international funding opportunities
  • Provide important links between business and academic researchers, extending knowledge exchange with business, promoting translation of research in the IBBE area and leading to proposals to relevant support schemes.
  • Provide input into UK (and EU) policy, by providing evidence and expertise as appropriate.
  • Support personal development of Network members through participation of individuals at all levels and providing all members with exposure to other disciplines and research communities.

Each Network will be expected to disseminate the outcomes of its activities widely and appropriately (e.g. though meetings, web pages, newsletters or published reports). Each Network’s Principal Investigator (PI) will also be expected to play a leading role with BBSRC, providing BBSRC with advice on issues related to the subject of the Network, promoting opportunities in IBBE, including presentations and dissemination of information at meetings such as grant holders’ workshops.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

There is a two stage application and assessment process:

  1. Expression of Interest - via Je-S, including the proforma provided.
  2. Full proposals - via Je-S

The template Expression of Interest proforma is available from the application downloads (below).

Please complete all sections and upload to Je-S.

Applicants submitting or planning to submit an Expression of Interest will be required to attend and present their ideas at a Community meeting on 17 January, in London, to gain community support and backing for their proposal.

Registration for the community meeting is via Key Survey here and closes 5 January 2018, 16:00.

Expressions of interest will be assessed by an expert panel comprising representatives of the national and international community. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a full stage proposal based on the expert panel recommendations.

Expressions of interest (with their initial and potentially limited information) will be judged by the expert panel on the strength of their approach to meeting the objectives of the BBSRC NIBB call. Particular significance will be placed on a robust and appropriate governance structure and flexible fund allocation mechanism. The Panel will recommend proposals for support based on the above criteria while ensuring a broad portfolio (both scientific and business) of Networks relevant to the UK.

At Expression of Interest stage, applicants must provide top level figures for funds required to support the network activities, but are not required to provide a detailed justification of resources. However, applicants should describe why a network of the proposed scale is justified.

Expression of Interest proformas must be submitted via Je-S by 24 January 2018, 16:00.


The Network PI (and host Institution) must satisfy BBSRC’s standard eligibility conditions (as described in Section 3 of the BBSRC Grants Guide) and will be responsible for the development and directorship of the Network. Up to five Co-investigators (also satisfying BBSRC’s standard eligibility criteria) may be named in the proposal if the Network is to be directed jointly. Guidance will be provided by BBSRC as to the required role of any Co-I listed on the grant. Co-I’s must have a specific role which should be described in each case.

Any industry collaborators supporting the Network with a cash or in-kind contribution (such as a clear role on any advisory board) should provide a letter of support.

Eligible costs

Up to £10 million is available from BBSRC to support Phase II BBSRC NIBB.

Funding is intended to cover the operating and supporting costs of the network as well as the Proof of Concept projects. Funding can be requested to cover:

  • Investigator salaries - The Director of the Network should be the named PI on the proposal and under full economic costing may request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent developing and directing the Network. Requests may also be made for up to five co-investigators to assist the Network’s Director in this. Co-Investigators must have a defined role within the Network to justify their inclusion. The time spent on directing and managing the Network should be reasonable and is not expected to form the majority of costs of the proposal. The salary costs of Network members should not be included in the proposal.
  • Administrative support - Costs can be requested for an appropriately skilled Network Manager(s) (full or part-time) to be responsible for activities such as the day-to-day Network management, event coordination, and website development for the Network.
  • Network events/activities - Costs for supporting and facilitating meetings and events can be requested and associated costs should be justified. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about proposing a range of activities which would stimulate knowledge sharing and collaboration building across departments, organisations, and disciplines.
  • Flexible fund - Proof of concept funds or flexible funds for allocation by the Network may also be requested. These funds can be used for projects ranging from feasibility studies or to provide preliminary data through to desk-based studies (e.g. the value of different substrates and products, the theoretical yields of different metabolic pathways) and visits to learn new techniques. Activities should not duplicate already available funding streams. Flexible funds should be used to address key issues in the area of the Network that are relevant to IBBE which should strengthen the quality, collaborative (including industry involvement) and cross-disciplinary nature of future innovative and novel grant proposals to BBSRC (and elsewhere). How these project proposals will be assessed and selected for funding and how the projects’ progress and outcomes will be monitored should be clearly described.

Full proposal assessment criteria

The expert panel will be asked to prioritise the Full proposals based on the following:

  • Governance structure to manage and deploy resources
  • Leadership and inclusivity - using and deploying appropriate community interactions across the academic discipline-supply and value chain business axis, across the career span and encompassing social, environmental and economic issues.
  • Financial resources requested and how these will be deployed over lifetime of proposal
  • Management of resources including staff, funding, relationships and support mechanisms and how outcomes of activities are recorded and communicated
  • Communication tools to ensure regular contact with community and recruiting new members
  • Promotion of the UK to an international community - use resources to increase profile of UK IBBE community worldwide.
  • Impact - able to demonstrate a track record and impact in their field.

Additional grant conditions

The resulting Networks will be expected to provide BBSRC with an invitation to all events and information on flexible fund projects (via the mailbox).

Representatives from the Networks will be expected to attend relevant grant holders’ workshops when requested and be accountable to their communities; describing how the resources had been deployed, the progress made and the plans for subsequent years.

Data is required from the BBSRC NIBB for grant monitoring purposes. There is a requirement for BBSRC NIBB activities to be reported quarterly but information should be updated throughout the lifetime of the BBSRC NIBB as and when relevant. The extranet used by the current BBSRC NIBB will continue to be the main portal for data from BBSRC NIBB Phase II.

Peer review

Expressions of interest (with their initial and potentially limited information) will be judged by the expert panel on the strength of their approach to meeting the objectives of the BBSRC NIBB call. Particular significance will be placed on a robust and appropriate governance structure and flexible fund allocation mechanism. The Panel will recommend proposals for support based on the above criteria while ensuring a broad portfolio (both scientific and business) of Networks relevant to the UK.

The assessment of the full proposals is by expert panel alone (no external peer review) and may involve the use of an interview between the Panel and the PI and any Co-investigator(s).The Panel will use the criteria detailed above to assess the full proposals.


Stage Date
Call opens 4 December 2017
Community meeting 17 January 2018
Expression of interest deadline 24 January 2018, 16:00
Full proposals deadline (invite only) 3 May 2018, 16:00
Assessment of full proposals Summer 2018
Research grants awarded October 2018
Projects start 1 January 2019


Catherine Gilmore

01793 413225


Rod Westrop

01793 413332

Related calls: collaboration energy industrial biotechnology industry