Global ties boosted as UKRI backs bioeconomy competition

UKRI continues to champion international collaboration as it supports the US NSF Global Centers competition for a second successive year.

Building on the success of the inaugural US National Science Foundation (NSF) Global Centers programme in 2023, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) welcomes the opportunity to collaborate as part of the prestigious 2024 competition.

Global Centers 2024

The theme for Global Centers 2024 is ‘addressing global challenges through the bioeconomy’.

From plants to animals to microorganisms, the bioeconomy focuses on harnessing biological resources from nature to help us live more sustainably.

It aims to promote sustainable economic development by increasing resource efficiency while minimising the impact on the surrounding environment.

Worldwide collaboration

This year’s competition sees the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, working hand in hand with funding agencies from five partnering nations, including:

  • the US’ NSF and National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH)
  • Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
  • Finland’s Research Council of Finland (RCF) and Business Finland (BF)
  • Japan’s Science and Technology Agency (JST)
  • Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology (MSIT) and National Research Foundation (NRF)

UK funding

BBSRC will award up to £8.5 million to UK researchers joining international consortia with the most compelling competition proposals.

Over four to five years, the Global Centers program anticipates awarding five to seven teams from the 2024 competition.

With up to £1.7 million competition funding per UK winning team, global consortia will be given a unique opportunity to create prominent, enduring global centres of excellence that:

  • facilitate exceptional research at the forefront of science and innovation
  • support the education and development of a diverse, world-class research workforce
  • include and engage the full spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent
  • promote long-term international collaboration

Global research partners will be supported by their respective country’s funding agency (NSF, NEH, NSERC, SSHRC, RCF, BF, JST, MSIT and NRF).

Investing in ambition

We are keen to receive submissions with a bold vision and high impact potential. The successful consortia will be those that best articulate how they will leverage global interdisciplinary partnerships to foster novel breakthroughs that can be translated into real world, bio-based solutions.

Global Centers 2024 invites proposals under two overarching categories:

Leveraging biodiversity across the tree of life to power the bioeconomy

This category encompasses research on all manner of organisms, how they interact and the application of comparative genomics to identify similarities and differences that can be harnessed in novel biotechnologies and biomanufacturing processes.


This includes using the design-build-test-learn process in biology to facilitate iterative biological engineering. It allows researchers to test large-scale genetic designs and incorporate state-of-the-art approaches at the interface of artificial intelligence and statistical sciences to enhance the design process.

Driving UK priorities

Beyond the all-important collaboration with our international partners, Global Centers 2024 is also making a major contribution in driving some of UKRI’s biggest priorities.

Working with international collaborators, the Global Centers initiative is helping address UKRI’s building a green future strategic theme. This year’s bioeconomy focused competition theme will help accelerate the green economy by supporting research and innovation essential to achieving net zero in the UK by 2050.

UKRI’s participation in Global Centers 2024 is also key in supporting the UK’s national vision for engineering biology. With its power and transformative potential, engineering biology is mission-critical in tackling some of the world’s most complex challenges.

By convening some of the world’s finest researchers and innovators, Global Centers 2024 is helping the UK unlock pioneering solutions that could transform our society, economy and environment.

Unwavering commitment

UKRI CEO, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

The NSF Global Centers 2024 competition marks a significant milestone in our partnerships with the international scientific community. In addition to the support provided through funding, it aims to create a global network united behind a shared ambition.

Through this competition we are demonstrating our unwavering commitment to research and innovation that has the power to transform societies and economies for the better.

Sustainable global solutions

Dr Amanda Collis, BBSRC Deputy Executive Chair, said:

This year’s competition is more than an opportunity. It is a call to action for UK bioscientists to work in global partnerships to advance the bioeconomy. Our goal is to catalyse innovative research that delivers practical, sustainable bio-based solutions to the pressing challenges facing our planet.

Shared values

NSF Director, Sethuraman Panchanathan, said:

The Global Centers 2024 competition is a testament to NSF’s commitment to global partnerships that are advancing critical innovations in the bioeconomy and enabling new solutions to some of our most important global challenges.

I am especially excited about the range of international partners that are working together on this project. The shared values that underpin our commitments to robust research collaborations are fostering new breakthroughs and supercharging innovation at the frontiers of the bioeconomy.

Competition now open

Global Centres 2024 is open for applications. The deadline for submissions is 11 June 2024 at 4:00pm.

Visit the NSF Global Centers program page for more information or email any questions about this year’s competition to

Top image:  Credit: Arndt_Vladimir, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.