Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Ageing across the life course interdisciplinary research network

Apply for funding to develop a new interdisciplinary network for ageing across the life course research.

You must be:

  • eligible for UKRI funding
  • at lecturer level, or above, at a UK research organisation.

The network is expected to:

  • address a challenge related to ageing across the life course, from pre-conception to old age
  • increase collaboration between a range of disciplines and stakeholders, including non-academic communities.

Funding lasts two years. We will fund most networking activities at 100% full economic cost.

Up to 25% of the budget can be used by the network for ‘pump-priming’ activities, for example, small feasibility studies. These activities are funded at 80% full economic cost.

Update, 6 October 2021:

  • clarified guidance on ‘exclusion criteria’ in ‘what we’re looking for’
  • added ‘PhD stipends’ as an ineligible cost
  • attached ‘topics covered in webinar’ document to ‘additional info’.

Who can apply

Lead applicants must be UK-based and of lecturer level, or above, from any UK research organisation. Please see eligibility for UKRI funding.

One UK principal investigator (PI) will act as the network director. There will be two to five UK-based co-investigators (Co-I), one of whom will act as co-director to assist the network director in the leadership of the network.

One Co-I must be an early career researcher (for the purposes of this funding opportunity, an individual who started their independent research career after 31 August 2016) who:

  • has a proven track record of research in their own discipline
  • should be at a different research organisation than the director.

All PIs and Co-Is, except the early career researcher Co-I, must meet the standard BBSRC eligibility criteria as per the BBSRC research grants guide.

We encourage a coverage of investigators from across the skills pipeline.

Investigators should come from a minimum of three different research organisations.

Research organisation regional diversity within a network is encouraged.

Applications from organisations or individuals that are not eligible will be rejected without reference to the review panel.

Applicants may be the PI or Co-I on only one application to this funding opportunity. This must be considered before applying and not after the publication of successful proposals.

Other network members may be involved in any number of applications provided they have the capacity to meet these commitments.

Applicants who are not based at UK institutions are not eligible to apply for this opportunity, but can be network members.

BBSRC Discovery Fellows, PhD students or postdoctoral fellows with a 100% full economic cost (fEC) commitment to a project are not eligible as applicants.

What we're looking for

BBSRC and MRC seek to establish a group of challenge-led, interdisciplinary research networks that will bring together novel and diverse groupings of researchers and stakeholders. The aim is to enhance collaboration, building interdisciplinary communities and knowledge exchange in the field of ageing research.

Research in this area has tended to take a reductionist view, focusing on single aspects of the ageing process. There is now a need to integrate expertise and knowledge across disciplines in order to deliver a better understanding of the trajectories that underpin the ageing process across the life course.

Integrative approaches leveraging the expertise of molecular, cellular, organismal and population level research offer the potential to identify key ageing pathways, biomarkers and intervention strategies.

Linking across disciplines will enable a broad spectrum of researchers to work together to understand how we might:

  • increase healthspan and quality of life in old age
  • address health inequalities
  • strengthen overall resilience.

Applicants are therefore encouraged to include a diverse range of disciplines and stakeholders to ensure the outcomes and impacts of work undertaken by the network are maximised, including representatives from:

  • environmental sciences
  • physical and engineering sciences
  • economic and social sciences.

Wider engagement with stakeholders from industry, the charity sector and individuals with lived experience is also encouraged. It is anticipated representatives from these types of organisations would be involved as project partners, network members or external advisory group members.

We strongly encourage applicants to think creatively and to form networks around key challenge areas in the ageing field.

Applicants may wish to consider aligning their network to one of the research themes listed below, but these do not represent an exhaustive list:

  • the mechanistic basis of lifespan and healthspan
  • ageing immune system
  • cognitive health
  • extrinsic factors that impact on healthy ageing.

These awards can be used flexibly to support a range of relevant and justified activities and should be used in such a manner as to best address the challenge.

Exclusion criteria

We will not fund networks that are:

  • focused solely on age-related disease or pathologies
  • based solely on existing collaborations or existing networks.

Problems associated with the ageing process may end up causing disease, but the focus of the network needs to be on understanding the biological mechanisms of the challenge area and not on an age-related disease, for example, dementia.

Looking at early signs of an age-related disease is also not acceptable, as this is focused on disease.

Existing collaborations and networks

An existing collaboration is one that is already established and might have recently worked and published together. We understand groups of people will have previously worked together, but we want collaborations to be novel, or expand upon what has already been achieved and bring in new expertise and disciplines to address the challenge area.

Networks that include members who have worked together should aim to draw in new members who are yet to work together and look to incorporate members from a wider geographical area. It is important that you justify why you want to work with an existing collaboration and how you are bringing in new expertise.

Outcomes and outputs

Your network should:

  • build a new interdisciplinary ageing research community, by:
    • drawing in a broad range of disciplines
    • attracting new expertise and partners to strengthen the UK ageing research base
  • increase collaborations between:
    • academic communities
    • industry
    • policy makers
    • charities
    • health practitioners
    • civil society
  • integrate ageing research communities to:
    • gain new knowledge
    • broaden science disciplines
    • develop a more holistic approach to ageing research
  • understand barriers to research innovation
  • ensure widespread inequalities across the life course are considered and addressed
  • deliver a tangible output relevant to the challenge being addressed (for example, white paper, framework for future activity, position statement)
  • position collaborative groups to apply for future research funding opportunities.


Strong leadership and an inclusive approach to bringing innovation, building capacity and a diverse collaborative research community must be demonstrated.

A proactive and enthusiastic leadership team is an essential component of a successful network.

Networks should be inclusive and open and may grow and develop over the period of the award where this is relevant to the challenge.

Network management and governance

The network director must be the PI of the application. The network must have a co-director who must be a Co-I of the application.

The PI and Co-Is should all be involved in the management of the network and should have defined roles. A network manager is strongly encouraged

External advisory group

The network must have an external advisory group. The external advisory group should act as a ‘critical friend’ to the network, providing unbiased advice and support.

The membership of the proposed external advisory group should be detailed in the full proposal and include cross-sectoral and stakeholder representation. An expanded table of initial external advisory group members should be submitted using the template provided (see ‘additional information’).

No salary costs should be requested for members of the external advisory group.

Eligible costs

The full economic cost of the network project can be up to £200,000. We will fund 80% of this, except the network manager salary and network event costs. We will fund these costs at 100%.

Salaries and support costs

The director of the network should be the named PI on the proposal and under full economic costing (at 80% of full economic cost) may request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent developing and directing the network.

Requests can also be made for:

  • one co-director who will be named as the Co-I to assist the network’s director in this role
  • up to four other Co-Is.

It is envisaged that staff costs will not form the majority of costs of the proposal and should be reasonable.

Costs can be requested for an appropriately skilled network manager (full or part-time) to be responsible for activities such as:

  • the day-to-day network management
  • event coordination
  • website development for the network.

As a community support role, the salary of the network manager can be requested at 100% fEC. The costing should be included in the ‘100% full economic cost exceptions spreadsheet’ in the ‘FEC exceptions’ tab, with all details included above the ‘DI- Staff (i.e., Network Manager, please fill…)’ subheading.

Recruited network managers or other administrative staff must be based permanently at an eligible UK institution in order to be eligible for salary costs.

No general estates and indirect costs should be claimed in association with the network manager’s role.

No other salary costs should be included.

These costs should be justified in the ‘justification of resources’ document.

Salary costs for members of the external advisory group or network members should not be included in the proposal.

Network events

Costs for supporting and facilitating network meetings and events can be requested at 100% fEC. These costs should be justified in the ‘justification of resources’ document.

No general estates and indirect costs should be claimed in association with network events.

Salaries and network event costs will represent the ‘core grant’.

General estates and indirect costs are not eligible for inclusion in the ‘core grant’ except where they relate to the PI or Co-Is salaries.

Costs requested at 100% fEC should be detailed in the ‘100% full economic cost exceptions spreadsheet’ (see additional information section below) and entered under the ‘exceptions’ heading on the Je-S form.

Some examples of networking events are:

  • conference
  • public dialogue
  • workshops
  • training
  • webinars.

Pump-priming funds

Pump-priming funds for allocation by the network should also be requested. The amount should be indicated and justified in the ‘justification of resources’ document.

These funds can be used for a range of projects, including:

  • feasibility studies
  • proof of concept studies
  • generation of preliminary data
  • method development
  • tool or technology development
  • desk-based studies
  • lab exchange
  • discipline and sector hopping
  • writing policy documents
  • commissioning reports and analysis
  • early career research training.

It is envisaged that these funds will help to support the development of new interdisciplinary partnerships and foster the development of new approaches between network members.

Pump-priming funds will be funded at 80% fEC by the funders and should be allocated at 80% fEC for each project by the network’s host institution. It is anticipated that individual pump-priming awards will not exceed 25% of total requested cost.

The total amount requested for the pump-priming activities, including a component to cover estates and indirects, should be entered in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading on the Je-S form.

Ineligible costs

You cannot request:

  • salary costs for members of the external advisory group or network members
  • international travel and subsistence
  • overseas costs
  • equipment
  • relocation costs
  • publication costs
  • cost of any time spent in quarantine as a result of travelling on this grant
  • macro-coordination costs (to be decided separately)
  • PhD stipends.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted via the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S) by Wednesday 13 October 2021 at 16:00, using the following information:

When applying select:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: BBSRC and MRC Ageing Across the Life Course Networks.

Applications must be submitted on a single Je-S form. The lead PI organisation must submit the application.

Even though investigators must come from a minimum of three research organisations, it is important that you submit a single Je-S form, not multiple forms. Applications submitted on multiple forms will not be accepted.

Applications submitted on multiple forms will not be accepted

Applicants must complete all sections of the Je-S form.

Additional documents

Proposals must include the following documentation.

Applicants should note that under no circumstances should their application exceed the page limits described. Any submissions which exceed the stipulated page limits will be withdrawn.

Information about how to complete some of these documents is available from the BBSRC guidance for applicants.

Case for support

The case for support must not exceed eight sides of A4 (references, figures and so on must be included in the page limit). The following information should be included:

  • focus of the proposed network:
    • why have you chosen to focus the network on this challenge area and why is there a need for this network in the ageing field?
    • what are the expected outcomes and outputs of the network?
    • how does the network meet the scope of the call and how will the network achieve the desired outcomes?
  • the proposed network management structure and capability to deliver:
    • what will be the roles of the PI, Co-Is and external advisory group and why are they appropriate to support network management and delivery of network outcomes and outputs?
    • how will the network operate?
    • how will the network build an interdisciplinary community?
    • how will the network support capacity development for ageing research?
    • how will the network support diversity and be inclusive?
    • who will comprise the initial membership of the network?
    • how will new members be able to join the network?
    • what infrastructure exists to support the capability to deliver the activities and outputs of the network?
  • the proposed communications strategy:
    • how will the network engage with members and stakeholders?
    • how will the network engage members with a range of disciplines and experience?
    • what activities or events will the network organise?

Work plan

A diagrammatic work plan (maximum one side A4) including milestones and deliverables.

Justification of resources

A narrative description of the justification for all resources required for the network (maximum two sides A4).

100% full economic cost exceptions spreadsheet

Costs requested at 100% fEC should be detailed in the ‘100% full economic cost exceptions spreadsheet’ (see additional information section below). The calculated total value of exceptions must be entered under the ‘exceptions’ heading on the Je-S form.

Curricula vitae

The PI and Co-Is should provide their CVs (maximum two sides per CV) in one combined PDF document.

Cover letter

Applicants must use the cover letter to declare any conflicts of interests as per the UKRI declaration of interests guidelines (PDF, 341KB).

Letter of support

A letter of support should be provided by the Head of Department or equivalent from the lead Institution.

Table of external advisory group members

An expanded table of initial external advisory group members should be submitted using the template provided (see ‘additional information’).


Networks can request additional funding to macro-coordinate across all networks. You should:

  • clearly state if you would like to coordinate across all networks
  • detail how you have the capacity and capability to deliver this requirement
  • justify the additional resources required to coordinate this additional activity.

It will not affect your application if you do not wish to macro-coordinate (max two sides A4).

Please do not add the estimated costs for the proposed macro-coordination in this application, these additional costs will be agreed and issued following the outcomes of the funding opportunity.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed by an expert panel of senior independent academics and appropriate stakeholders in December 2021.

Assessment criteria

Applicants should consider carefully the following criteria which will be taken into account by the expert review panel when assessing proposals.

Fit to the funding opportunity


  • fit to the scope and aims of the funding opportunity
  • suitability of plans to account for inequalities in understanding mechanisms of ageing
  • likelihood of capacity development within ageing research
  • does the network embody the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion, with a mixture of experience and expertise demonstrated by:
    • inclusion of postdocs, PhD students, technicians
    • inclusion of non-academic stakeholders
    • diversity within the membership?

Feasibility of delivery


  • level of ambition
  • suitability of proposed outputs
  • feasibility of delivery within the two year timeframe
  • appropriateness of the communication and exchange plans to engage with members and stakeholders to accelerate impact
  • appropriateness of the requested resources.

Management and leadership


  • suitability of the director to lead the network (PI)
  • suitability of the co-director (Co-I)
  • suitability of the early career researcher (ECR)
  • reasoning behind the choice of the PI and Co-Is, including ECR, to coordinate this interdisciplinary network and support capacity development within the field of ageing research
  • how will the involvement in the management of this network support the career development of the ECR?
  • effectiveness of the proposed management structure and plans
  • appropriateness of the external advisory group

Novelty, innovation and potential impact


  • novelty of the proposed network
    • have the investigators worked together previously?
    • are the proposed disciplines and actors appropriate?
    • does the network include sectors or disciplines not normally associated with ageing research?
  • timeliness of the network
  • contribution the proposed interdisciplinary network will make to addressing the challenge area.

Strength of stakeholder engagement and wider participation


  • relevance and breadth of stakeholder involvement:
    • is the academic membership cross-sectoral?
    • is there support from different regions of the UK?
    • is there industry engagement?
    • is there engagement with stakeholders who can guide the development of outputs aligned to policy objectives?
  • links to international leaders or existing international networks
  • links to other relevant disciplines.

We will also aim to ensure thematic spread and national diversity across the funded networks.

Contact details

Additional info


The main objectives of this network funding opportunity are:

  • to support the delivery and advancement of ageing research
  • to facilitate improving healthspan and longevity.

Networks should:

  • be focused on a better understanding of the basic biological functions and processes contributing to negative trajectories which underpin poor health, frailty and the development of age-related diseases in later life
  • bring together different disciplines including but not limited to those in the ageing research field
  • integrate expertise and skills, linking across basic to translational research, to increase capacity and capability within the ageing research field
  • build coherence across existing activities and provide a coordinated framework for future research
  • ensure that inequalities are addressed within the proposed challenge-led area
  • have a clear line of sight towards realising outputs that will ultimately be of benefit to older people
  • engage with age-appropriate groups, patient groups and other organisations to identify key health, societal and economic concerns
  • engage with industry and other stakeholders to address societal needs and support translation
  • bring together experts to analyse gaps and identify research priorities to better understand ageing across the life course
  • support pump-priming activities to address research challenges and opportunities such as:
    • small pilot projects
    • early career researcher training
    • short-term people placements or exchanges to facilitate the development of new skills or expertise
  • develop an open access website or use a social networking platform as a focus for communication, including:
    • notice of meetings and workshops
    • publication of outcomes
  • consider collaboration and co-design of the network with a stakeholder organisation, although this is not a prerequisite
  • consider the contribution of physical and mental health, as well as socioeconomic status.


BBSRC and MRC will be holding an informative webinar to support this funding opportunity on Wednesday 22 September, 10:00 to 12:00.

Register to attend the webinar.

Conditions of award

Start date

The network award must start by 14 February 2022.

Monitoring and reporting the progress and outcomes of the network

The funded network will be expected to comply with all the following reporting criteria:

  • a representative from the funders (BBSRC and MRC) must be invited to join the network’s external advisory group and invited to attend external advisory group meetings
  • participate in network progress meetings organised by either the macro-coordinator or BBSRC and MRC
  • in addition to Researchfish inputs, BBSRC will request one progress report from the network after the first year and a final report one month prior to the cessation of this grant to present the key outcomes and impacts of the network (a proforma will be provided by BBSRC for this purpose)
  • disseminate the outcomes of the network’s activities widely and appropriately (for example, though meetings, web pages, newsletters, or published reports).

Network publicity

The BBSRC media office should be alerted to all publicity activities, press releases and so on, in advance of them being finalised and released:

Network branding

This grant has been co-funded by BBSRC, and MRC. As such, the BBSRC and MRC logos must be displayed prominently in all published material (for example, websites, leaflets, presentations and posters) and in all internal and external materials and communications. BBSRC and MRC logos and information on how to use them are available in the UKRI Brand Hub.

Supporting documents

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.