Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop basic technologies in sensing and imaging

Apply for funding to develop early-stage technologies in sensing and imaging.

You must be based at an eligible UK organisation. You must collaborate with organisations from other disciplines.

Your project must include two co-principal investigators. They must be from different research areas.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £225,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects must last between six and 18 months.

Update, 1 February 2021: Please note that all applications must be submitted on a single Je-S form.

Update, 16 December 2021: Please note that case for support requirement has changed from up to eight pages to up to four pages. This includes a diagrammatic workplan.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this opportunity and applicants from eligible UK-based organisations are invited, in accordance with standard UKRI practice.

See more details on eligibility.

Institutions and researchers normally eligible for UKRI funding include:

  • higher education institutions
  • eligible independent research organisations (IROs)
  • public sector research establishments
  • UKRI funded labs and facilities.

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

New collaborations and partnerships are encouraged, including across disciplines and sectors. The involvement of private sector partners is welcome. However, businesses cannot be funded through this opportunity. The nature of the collaboration and the role of the industrial partner should be made clear in the case for support.

Partnerships with international research groups, where they add value to the project through access to key facilities or in-kind contributions are encouraged. Funding will only be provided to UK eligible organisations, but international researchers can be named as project partners.

Please see council specific eligibility information for BBSRC (on behalf of all participating councils).

Principal investigators

The initiative takes a problem-driven, collaborative, multidisciplinary approach.

We expect the leadership of all proposals to demonstrate a breadth of high-quality expertise spanning at least two separate research disciplines. This opportunity requires two co-principal investigators with complementary expertise. We encourage applications from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, either as principal investigator or co-investigator.

Each proposal must identify the ‘problem owners’ (who can be from a variety of disciplines) and the technical ‘solution provider’ who should come from a different discipline to the ‘problem owner’.

Problem owner

This will be an individual who has a research problem that requires some novel technology development in order to overcome a major barrier to progress. They can be from a variety of research disciplines.

Solution provider

This will be an individual with the capability to develop a technical solution to the identified problem. They should come from a different research discipline to the ‘problem owner’.


Co-investigators from appropriate relevant research disciplines may also be included in proposals. As the first funder to sign the Technician Commitment, UKRI recognises the value of technical expertise to the UK research workforce.

For technicians working in higher education and research, across all disciplines, UKRI is committed to ensuring:

  • visibility
  • recognition
  • career development
  • sustainability.

As such, facility managers and research technical professionals who will play a significant role in technical or intellectual direction of the project are eligible to apply to this opportunity as co-investigators.

Learn about the Technician Commitment (

Demand management

For this opportunity specifically, an individual may apply only once as a principal investigator (problem owner or solution provider) and once as a co-investigator. In addition, there is a limit of two co-investigators per application and it must be clear from the application what contribution these co-investigators will make to the success of the application.

Institutions are encouraged to rigorously consider and prioritise applications submitted to this funding opportunity.

What we're looking for

This funding opportunity aims to accelerate the development of the next generation of tools and technologies that have the ability to make, measure and model the world around us.

In this pilot activity, we are limiting the scope of this opportunity to interdisciplinary proposals, which take a problem-driven approach to the development and application of basic technologies in sensors and imaging that will have an impact on UK:

  • science
  • society
  • the environment.

Incremental adaptations or improvements of technologies where previous proof-of-concept has already been demonstrated, including existing technologies already in use for comparable areas of research, are not in scope for this opportunity.

Imaging and sensing technologies are pervasive across multiple applications areas including:

  • human, plant and animal health
  • energy
  • robotics
  • transport
  • manufacturing
  • national infrastructure
  • the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • cultural heritage
  • security.

With rapid advances in sensitivity, resolution, speed, and signal processing, the UK is well-placed in these areas. This interdisciplinary investment is intended to accelerate fundamental ideas from conception to new capabilities.

This opportunity intends to support small and short ‘high risk and high reward’ interdisciplinary pilot studies directed towards the development of basic, underpinning technology where little to no preliminary data exist.

This initiative takes a problem-driven, collaborative approach to matching research problems with technical solutions. As such, the outcome of the application does not necessarily need to solve the research problem or be a fully-fledged tool, but could be a demonstration of proof-of-concept, or production of a prototype for further development.

Applications are expected to show how they will address basic sensing and imaging technology development that has the potential to:

  • result in transformative, enabling or critical technologies applicable across disciplines
  • contribute to fundamental knowledge, world class infrastructure or training the next generation across disciplines
  • enhance the environmental sustainability of the research base.


Proposals in the following areas will not be accepted:

  • applications unrelated to the development of basic technologies
  • applications falling wholly within one specific research domain
  • applications without a problem-driven focus
  • incremental adaptations or improvements of technologies where previous proof-of-concept has already been demonstrated, including applications with existing technologies already in use for comparable areas of research
  • community databases and data infrastructures.

Funding available

Applications must be between six and 18 months duration and are not expected to exceed £225,000 (100% full economic costing). UKRI will contribute 80% full economic costing (up to £180,000).

Applicants can request equipment if necessary to the proposed research; there is no defined upper limit on what proportion of the requested cost falls into a particular category within the overall limit of £225,000.

However, applications that use the bulk of their resources purchasing and commissioning equipment are invariably classed as ‘development of generic platform technologies,’ which are outside the scope of the call. Applicants are expected to fully justify the need for any resources that are requested (including equipment).

Equipment will be funded at 100% fEC, however please note that this is not a call for standard capital lab equipment.

Demand management

In the event that the intent to apply stage shows that this opportunity will be significantly oversubscribed, UKRI reserves the right to apply further demand management measures at an institutional level. This may include considerations around remit, fit to the scope of the call, and portfolio balancing across councils.

How to apply

Please consult the detailed guidance on how to apply for full details of the attachments required.

Intent to apply

It is mandatory to submit an intent to apply. This must be a basic outline of your proposed application, which clearly identifies the ‘problem’, ‘problem owner’, and ‘solution provider’ in the survey monkey form.

Submit your intent to apply.

This must be submitted by 16:00 on 30 November in order to be considered eligible for this opportunity.

Full application

Full applications should be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S) by 16:00 on 3 March 2022.

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

  • ‘new document’
  • council: UKRI-BBSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: UKRI Basic Technologies
  • ‘create document’.

Applications must be submitted via a single Je-S form.
We are asking applicants to only submit:

  • case for support: up to four pages including a diagrammatic workplan
  • justification of resources: up to two pages
  • capability to deliver: up to two pages
  • data management plan: maximum one side of A4.

The Je-S system only allows one principal investigator to be named, therefore the co-principal investigator roles must be clearly identified within the outline. The principal investigator named on the Je-S form will, for administrative purposes, be the initial point of contact for liaison with UKRI during the lifetime of the award.

We advise applicants to read the following downloads for further guidance:

  • BBSRC grants guide
  • capability to deliver guidelines under additional information/supporting documents.

How we will assess your application

Fast-track assessment

Applications that fit the remit of the opportunity will be assessed through a single stage, fast-track panel assessment process. The streamlined nature of the assessment will use a multidisciplinary panel with appropriate expertise reflecting the nature of this opportunity.

Applications will be fully assessed by the expert panel. Applications will not be sent to reviewers and therefore applicants will not receive reviewer comments. There will be no principal investigator rebuttal stage.

The panel will assess the applications against the criteria for assessment and provide the funders with a recommended rank-ordered list of applications.

Applicants should ensure that sufficient details of their 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 panel will assess proposals against the following criteria.

Scientific and technical excellence

Specific objectives of the project demonstrate excellence, novelty, and appropriateness of the proposed activities. The scientific merit of the project and its potential to make a significant contribution to advancement of the area.

Strategic value

Fit to the scope of the opportunity and application of research organisation capabilities and expertise. The timeliness of the project.

Social and economic impact from the proposed research

Potential scale of impact, link to possible end user applications, and developing technologies to provide solutions to end-user problems or challenges.

Capability to deliver

The capabilities and sustainability of the assembled research teams to deliver the proposed research.

Environmental sustainability

Proactive steps taken to minimise environmental harm. Applicants should consider how they can enhance their environmental and equality, diversion and inclusion (EDI) contribution throughout the project, for example by avoiding and reducing carbon emissions as much as possible through consideration for low carbon travel options and virtual attendance to conferences.

Portfolio balance

There is no expectation that the funding will be allocated equally across councils. However, balance across disciplines, organisations, the existing landscape and strategic drivers are all portfolio factors that will be taken into account. UKRI will seek recommendations from the panel on portfolio balance.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

Email: (on behalf of all participating councils)

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

There was a community webinar on 15 November about this funding opportunity.

Watch the webinar recording on Zoom (passcode: Ye0a^uPx)

Supporting documents

Capability to deliver guidelines (PDF, 78KB)

Webinar questions and answers (PDF, 146KB)

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