Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club: Innovation Hubs

Apply for funding to provide solutions for UK diet, health and nutrition challenges through an Innovation Hub.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for BBSRC funding.

You must be an academic with either:

  • experience of working with the food and drink sector, with a background preferably in diet, health and nutrition
  • previous funding relevant to this scheme
  • experience of managing devolved funding.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £1,937,500 (per Innovation Hub). Full details of the FEC breakdown are under the ‘what we’re looking for’ section.

We will fund projects for five years.

See ‘additional info’ for details on a Microsoft Teams Open Innovation Research Club (OIRC) collaboration platform, and collaboration and engagement workshops.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this opportunity.

We invite applicants from eligible UK-based organisations, in accordance with standard UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) practice.

Institutions and researchers normally eligible for UKRI funding include:

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

The Innovation Hub principal investigator (and host institution) must satisfy BBSRC’s standard eligibility conditions (as described in section three of the BBSRC research grants guide) and will be responsible for the development and directorship of the hub.

BBSRC expects only one co-investigator (also satisfying BBSRC’s standard eligibility criteria) to be named in the proposal if the hub is to be directed jointly. However, if this is not feasible for your application, please email with any queries related to the number of co-investigators eligible on the application. You must also indicate how you will support this within the Innovation hub programme management budget.

Joint applications from more than one institution are permissible, however applicants should note that impact account funding should be managed through the lead institution only. You are encouraged to consider the benefits to your community of a joint submission. You may also appoint an industry co-lead to recognise formal collaborations within the Innovation Hub.

An industry co-lead (individual business or a consortia of businesses) can be appointed as a project partner where recognised contributions are agreed prior to submission (for example, additional impact account funds and in-kind contributions).

We welcome bids with partnerships, including from individual businesses or from consortia, as co-leads. The industrial applicant should have a research and development or manufacturing site in the UK. In exceptional circumstances, where there is no existing capability in the UK, BBSRC may consider the opportunity for businesses outside of the UK to be involved in awards. This will require discussion in advance and is on a case-by-case basis. Please email with any queries related to appointing an industry co-lead on an application.

Wider industry engagement (beyond formal co-leads) is strongly encouraged.

Industry can be a project partner, collaborator, subcontractor, or hold dual role status (BBSRC research grants guide section 2.49 to 2.57). Their appropriate appointment will be dependent on their role within the Innovation Hub.

What we're looking for

The Diet and Health OIRC will support strategic, collaborative research and development between businesses and academic researchers, along with other users of research, policy makers and wider stakeholders.

Awards will be supported up to a maximum of five years duration (60 months).

Applicants must have a start date of no later than 1 November 2022 and complete by October 2027.


BBSRC will invest up to £11 million over five years to deliver solutions to diet and health challenges in the UK.

The first phase of investment will provide up to £9.68 million to support five Innovation Hubs in strategically relevant areas of BBSRC’s diet and health remit:

  • understanding the interplay between food components and human physiology
  • improving health and nutrition through biofortification
  • biological, social, and psychological determinants of food choice and eating behaviour
  • development of functional foods and beverages
  • understanding how food and beverages deliver improved nutrition across the life-course.

Each Innovation Hub will have a budget of £1,937,500 (100% FEC), which comprises:

  • an impact account of £312,500 (100% FEC) per year
  • a hub management budget of £75,000 (100% FEC) per year is to be used to support and enable the leadership of a hub.

All three types of award made through an impact account will be supported by BBSRC at 80% FEC.

Impact account funds should not be claimed through the main grant and will be added to successful grants during post-award. Funds will be paid in arrears upon completion of projects.

There will be a second tranche of funding allocating around £3 million to the Diet and Health OIRC across the lifespan of the award. This will support an annual cross Innovation Hub collaborative research and innovation funding opportunity (from 2023). This annual opportunity will be used to catalyse and drive multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration across all the Innovation Hubs.

Impact accounts

Each Innovation Hub will benefit from an impact account. This can be implemented flexibly and strategically to support the specific research and innovation areas and communities related to each hub.

Whilst the types of award are fixed, each Innovation Hub can determine the balance and timing of awards as required to best support their areas.

BBSRC expects any impact account processes to be delivered in a fair and transparent manner.

The impact account may not be used to support:

  • indirect or estates costs at the research organisation
  • any costs relating to intellectual property protection including but not limited to registering, maintaining, or supporting patents or property rights
  • equipment with a value of £10,000 or more
  • undergraduate or postgraduate activities or training, or core PhD training including tuition or bench fees.

Eligible costings

BBSRC will fund all costs at 80% FEC unless stated otherwise, in accordance with the BBSRC grants guide.

Certain Innovation Hub costs are eligible at FEC (100%):

  • Innovation Hub Manager salary: this is an additional role on the project that provides programme level administration support (this is not a principal investigator or co-investigator). They will be responsible for day-to-day Innovation Hub management. This is part of the hub management budget
  • costs for supporting and facilitating meetings and events can be requested and associated costs should be justified. These costs can be requested at 100% FEC. Cross-hub networking will be initiated by an OIRC coordinator, therefore should not be included in the proposal.

Funding related to the impact account will be added to the grant in post-award and should be claimed in arrears after the completion of projects, therefore you do not need to specify costings within the main grant.

You should however indicate how you plan to strategically use the impact account funding in relation to the designated theme, and any rationale for the weighting of the funding.


Each Innovation Hub is expected to:

  • support research and translation activity that bridges the gap between bioscience research and translation within the strategic themes developing solutions to diet and health challenges
  • provide thought leadership and build critical mass in each strategic area, by convening and catalysing partnerships
  • broker partnerships with businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), government departments and the devolved administrations to leverage further funding and ensure co-design of projects that can be utilised by the sector, and subsequently inform UK policy
  • effectively co-ordinate an impact account that can be used flexibly to support business interaction, feasibility awards and talent development as required for the specific theme:
    • business interaction vouchers (BIV): small awards (up to £50,000 BBSRC funding per project) to initiate, develop and enhance collaboration between academics and industrialists within diet, health and nutrition. These projects will prime partnerships and build trust between academics and industry to help progress beyond the BIV funding and will last no longer than six months. Contributions from businesses are not required but are encouraged where possible.
    • Feasibility Awards Collaborative Research and Innovation (up to £100,000 BBSRC funding per project): to enable translation and commercialisation activity to help bridge the gap towards later stage innovation. These awards must have matched cash or in-kind contributions from the business partners
    • Flexible Mobility Awards: support the mobility of people such as technicians, early career researchers, industrialist researchers, and broader (taking an equality, diversity and inclusionaI approach), to new environments to develop new skills and assess how to translate research outcomes into economic impact. Awards will be up to £100,000 BBSRC funding per project and last up to nine months, with industry providing cash or in-kind contributions for the duration of the award. Additional support can be provided by project partners to extend the length of secondment beyond nine months.

Innovation Hub membership

For Innovation Hub membership:

  • hubs will be expected to define a membership and what being a member will offer, for example access to workshops, advance notice of opportunities and connectivity to the wider programme. There cannot be a membership fee or subscription fee
  • you do not need to be a member of a hub to apply for impact account funding, but if you do receive funding, this would come with the expectation that you would then become part of the hub community as members
  • organisations can be members of more than one Innovation Hub
  • you do need to be a member to access the annual collaborative research and development funding opportunity.

Strategic themes

The Innovation Hubs should seek to understand how:

  • foods, nutrients and whole diets influence cellular processes
  • these influences affect overall health outcomes
  • responses vary between population groups, individuals and across the life course.

You are encouraged to work with the food and drink sector to establish specific challenges within each theme. Each Innovation Hub must address one of the key strategic themes. The examples included under these headings are for reference and are not comprehensive of all research challenges in these strategic themes.

Understanding the interplay between food components and human physiology

Food components are any substances that can be ingested and have a physiological effect on the human body. This can include:

  • dietary compounds and metabolites
  • dietary fibre
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • proteins
  • emulsifiers
  • fats
  • sugar
  • water and alcohol
  • several food components, including flavouring compounds and the active ingredients of many plants, which can impact food intake and affect gastrointestinal function and metabolism.

Some of the research challenges relevant to this area include:

  • understanding how dietary compounds and metabolites, dietary fibre, amino acids, proteins, emulsifiers, fat, sugar, alcohol, and nutrients in combination impact on absorption and uptake, influence our ability to digest food, and its effect on host metabolism and energy balance
  • the role of food components in boosting immune function
  • investigating how to influence and optimise food structure, including the effects of manipulation on food composition and stability, to inform new food processing strategies
  • ingredient research (including the manipulation and design of ingredients, substitution of ingredients, novel ingredients, additives or preservatives, milling, and raw ingredient combination)
  • studying phenotypic responses (weight, blood pressure, plasma cholesterol, or glucose levels) to a specific diet low fat or Mediterranean diets), depending on the genotype of the individual
  • the characterisation of all gene products affected by food components, and their metabolic consequences
  • how food components or nutrients in combination may elicit hypersensitivities and allergic responses, which could be more prominent in novel ingredients due to cross-reactivity.

Improving health and nutrition through biofortification

Biofortification is a process of increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through plant breeding, transgenic techniques, or agronomic practices. Biofortified staple crops, when consumed regularly, have the potential to generate measurable improvements in human health and nutrition.

Some of the research challenges in this area include:

  • understanding nutritional efficacy of biofortified crops for targeted populations and across the life-course
  • minimising nutrient losses and developing effective strategies for post-harvest nutritional retention
  • developing robust biomarkers to enable accurate measurement of nutritional status
  • understanding agronomic traits to improve nutritional outcomes
  • understanding how to influence nutritional bioavailability and bioaccessibility within foods in order to derive improved health benefits
  • examining the effectiveness and consumer acceptability of the use of biofortified crops as a means to combat micronutrient deficiencies.

Biological, social and psychological determinants of food choice and eating behaviour

Food choices are influenced by an array of factors including physiological mechanisms, such as signals to the brain from the gastrointestinal tract and adipose tissue. These affect not only hunger and satiety, but also our motivation to eat particular nutrients and the reward we experience from eating.

Some of the research challenges in this area include:

  • strengthening memory and brain functions by understanding the nutritional needs of a healthy brain
  • understanding links between consumption and sensory signals that are received by the brain from the entire body, including the gut
  • understanding palatability, taste, texture, and satiety
  • understanding how gender, ethnicity, age, and lifestyle can influence choices about food intake and dietary patterns
  • understanding the link between food and the formation of unhealthy dietary habits and behaviours.

Investigating the role of functional food and beverages to improve health and recovery

Functional food and beverages can deliver additional or enhanced benefits over and above their basic nutritional value. These are generated around a functional ingredient, including probiotics, prebiotics or plant stanols.

Some of the research challenges in this area include:

  • understanding how prebiotics, probiotics and nutraceuticals can deliver human health benefits, including improved recovery from exercise or recovery from illness
  • studying fluid balance and hydration
  • studying how food components impact on muscle and bone metabolism.

Understanding how food and beverages can deliver improved nutrition across the life-course

This area links to all the strategic themes outlined above and looks to determine how conventional and novel food components change biological and physiological processes across the life-course.

The research challenges in this area are:

  • understanding how to combat cognitive and mental health impacts through better understanding of nutrient effects
  • the role of food components in healthy ageing
  • understanding how maternal nutrition and nutritional modulation during the neonatal period and other critical developmental stages influence later life health outcomes
  • generating new knowledge on the associations between food components and how the ageing processes impact on homeostasis and physiological function. This includes musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, immune, cognitive, circadian and sensory systems.

Out of scope

The following would be considered out of scope:

  • research focusing on food manufacturing
  • research and innovation focusing on specific diseases or interventions
  • consumer behaviour (where not linked to specific biological challenges)
  • challenges addressing net-zero and sustainability.

All questions regarding the BBSRC remit can be emailed to

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system before 16:00 on the day of the deadline. Refer to the Je-S handbook for guidance on submitting your application.

To submit your application, please follow these steps:

  • log in to Je-S
  • select council: BBSRC
  • select document type: standard proposal
  • select scheme: standard
  • select call/type/mode: ‘The Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club Innovation Hubs’.

What to include

You must complete all mandatory sections of the Je-S pro forma. The Je-S system only allows one principal investigator to be named, therefore any co-principal investigators must be listed as co-investigator on the Je-S pro forma and must then clearly be identified within your application.

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.

In addition to the Je-S pro forma, the following documents must be submitted:

  • case for support (maximum eight pages)
  • justification for resources (maximum two pages)
  • capability to deliver (maximum two pages)
  • data management plan (maximum two pages)
  • workplan (maximum one page)
  • cover letter (maximum two pages)
  • letter of support for any project partners (no maximum pages)
  • exceptions spreadsheet.

Case for support (up to eight pages)

This should address all aspects of how the proposed hub will deliver, manage and govern the expected outputs as described in relation to the assessment criteria included in the funding opportunity text. Figures, diagrams and a management plan are included in this eight-side limit.

You should outline how the impact account funding could be used to strategically support the specific hub areas. For example, if there is a strong need for development of skills and talent, a focus might be applied to awards from the impact account in this area, which could change over time.

The approach is intended to be flexible and at the application stage it is the strategic priorities and outline which are important. You do not need to request the impact account funds through the proposal, as it will be added to successful grants during post-award and will be paid in arrears.

Capability to deliver (up to two pages)

Instead of a track record section within the case for support and accompanying traditional CVs, we invite applicants to submit a two-page capability to deliver document.

This part of the application should act as a narrative which explains how the team’s relevant experience and expertise, as well as the institutional environment in which the research will take place, demonstrates their ability to successfully deliver the proposal.

A CV that simply lists past positions, publications, and funding will not adequately support an application.

You should draw on a breadth of examples which illustrate how you have contributed to new ideas, hypotheses and tools, as well as how they have contributed to:

  • teams and collaborations
  • the research community
  • the industrial community
  • government policy
  • wider society.

You should describe only a selection of outputs and, in each case, clearly explain the relevance to your ability to deliver the proposed project.

All teams should describe contributions across the levels below including, where applicable, how the team has worked together across these levels to deliver impact. The relative size of each section will vary depending on the relevant skills and experience of each applicant.

If an industry co-lead is included in the application, we would also expect them to be represented in the following.

Eligibility criteria

State the current position of each principal investigator and co-investigator on the grant, indicating how they meet the eligibility criteria as outlined within the BBSRC research grants guide

How have you contributed to the generation and flow of new ideas, hypotheses, tools or knowledge?

Examples might include:

  • contributions to and skills acquired from past research projects
  • key outputs such as data sets, software, and research and policy publications.

In each case, the relevance to delivering the proposed project should be summarised

How have you contributed to research teams and the development of others?

Examples might include:

  • project management
  • supervision
  • mentoring or line management contributions critical to the success of a team or team members
  • where you exerted strategic leadership in shaping the direction of a team, organisation, company or institution.
How have you contributed to the wider research community?

Examples might include:

  • how you have contributed to wider collaborations and networks across disciplines, institutions or countries, commitments such as editing, reviewing and committee work
  • positions of responsibility
  • activities which have contributed to the improvement of research integrity or culture
  • examples where you have shown visionary strategic leadership in influencing a research agenda.
How have you contributed to industry, policy and wider societal challenges?

Examples might include:

  • engagement across the public or private sectors or with the wider public
  • past research which has contributed to policy development or public understanding
  • other impacts across research, policy, practice and business
  • other examples of and how you have ensured your research reaches and influences relevant audiences.
How will your institutional environment help to deliver the project’s objectives?

Examples might include:

  • availability of specialist equipment
  • the availability of facilities
  • training provided in specific skills relevant to the project
  • local links into key commercial partners.
Additional information

Any additional relevant information you wish to include in support of your capability to deliver, which may include further information about:

  • key qualifications and relevant positions
  • secondments
  • volunteering
  • other relevant experience such as time spent in different sectors.

There is no need to provide information about career breaks and part-time working, for example. However, if there are any details you do wish panel members to consider in their assessment of the proposal, they may be included here.

Justification of resources (up to two pages)

Your justification of resources should include details of all resources being requested in your application. You should explain why they are necessary to your project. All resources requested (directly incurred, directly allocated and exceptions, including principal investigator and co-investigator time) must be fully justified. See more information on justification of resources

Project partners (formal letter of support or combined letter of support)

If agreements have been made for a formal collaboration with an industry project partner as a co-lead on the application, you should provide a separate letter of support document and highlight their contributions within the cover letter. For wider letters of support from industry who are interested in engaging the Innovation Hub, a combined letter of support document should be submitted.

Industry can provide a letter of support to highlight how the Innovation Hub will address industry needs and indicate willingness to engage through the hub. Details of any potential cash or in-kind contributions are not required on submission from these wider industry stakeholders.

Data management plan (maximum of two pages)

If you are seeking research grant funding from BBSRC, you must submit a data management plan. This should include concise plans for data management and sharing as part of the research grant proposal, or provide reasons why data sharing is not possible or appropriate. Find out more information on the data management plan.

Work plan (one page)

This must be a diagrammatic work plan representing timelines and milestones. This cannot be used to extend the case for support. Find out more information about the diagrammatic work plan

Proposal cover letter (two pages)

The declaration of interest must be included in the proposal cover letter. Please see more information on the declaration of interests for applicants (PDF, 67KB). Details of the named project partners (industrial co-leads) should be included in the proposal cover letter defining your role in the Innovation Hub and the contributions you are providing.

Exceptions spreadsheet

Fully outline the exception costs that are permissible for the Innovation Hubs. Travel and subsistence, and other directly incurred costs may be supported at 100% on the main grant. This should be added in Je-S under ‘other attachment’.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed through a two-stage process of external peer review and assessment panel.

You will be given the opportunity to nominate reviewers, as well as having an opportunity to respond to all reviewer comments. The application, reviewer comments and rebuttal will be shared with a bespoke panel comprised of academics and industry members relevant to the strategic themes listed in the funding opportunity. This panel will make the final funding recommendations.

Proposals will be assessed by the reviewers and panel against the following criteria.

The panel meeting for this funding opportunity will take place in August 2022, with successful applicants being informed in September 2022.

Fit to scope of the funding opportunity

The proposals must align with one of the five strategic themes outlined in the funding opportunity text and contribute towards strengthening the diet and health community by building capacity and capability in industry-relevant areas.

Capability to deliver

Proposals should demonstrate that they have a team that comprises the full breadth of relevant skills and expertise (across disciplines and sectors) needed to achieve the expected outcomes.

Leadership, management and governance

The proposed activities supported through these awards must have appropriate and effective management and governance structures in place in order to manage and deploy resources associated with the Innovation Hub.

Bespoke impact account opportunities must have appropriate and effective governance and management in place to ensure robust and transparent use of funding with regular monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of Innovation Hub activities.

The proposal should indicate how the impact account will be used strategically in relation to the designated theme and the rationale for the weighting of the funding.

Impact and engagement

The proposal must demonstrate the potential economic and societal impact as a result of the proposed activities and how the Innovation Hub intends to bridge the gap between bioscience research and translation and provide thought leadership for the UK within the strategic theme.

The proposal must also outline how the range of impact account activities will foster partnerships and knowledge exchange between stakeholder communities, particularly with businesses.

In particular, it must outline how industry (including SMEs) engagement and partnerships will be built and maintained through the lifetime of the award. The proposal must also address talent development including reference to the commercial skills required in the UK in the strategic theme.

Value for money

The proposal must demonstrate that the proposed Innovation Hub activities will be undertaken in an efficient and effective way.

The impact account is an annual budget and it is expected that this budget is fully utilised annually and all budget management matters are undertaken in a timely manner, along with an outline of how any potential risks will be mitigated.

The proposal must demonstrate that the resources requested are essential to deliver world-leading, innovation-driven research and development collaborations (over the lifetime of the hub).

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Business Interaction Unit


David O’Gorman, Senior Portfolio Manager, Business Interaction Unit, BBSRC


Sarah Neely, Portfolio Manager, Business Interaction Unit, BBSRC


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

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Additional info

BBSRC are launching a Microsoft Teams OIRC collaboration platform which will encourage networking and co-design of Innovation Hubs. To be added to the platform, please email

BBSRC is also hosting two Innovation Hub collaboration and engagement workshops on Tuesday 26 April 2022 and Thursday 28 April 2022.

Find out more and register for a workshop:

What are Innovation Hubs?

Innovation Hubs are expected to provide thought leadership for the UK across the strategic remit they cover, through advancing research and innovation, helping to build the community and capacity across the UK.

Each Innovation Hub has an academic Hub Lead who is responsible for ensuring the hub and its members deliver the aims and objectives associated with their specific strategic theme.

Innovation Hubs have a budget within their impact account allocation each year to use to support the delivery of a range of activities and three types of award. These enable academic researchers, businesses, and other users of research to collaborate within the strategic remit of the hub. The flexibility helps to ensure activities and opportunities can be tailored to specific needs of the Innovation Hub area.

How do Innovation Hubs differ from DRINC funding?

The Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC) was first established in 2008 to support pre-competitive research that investigates the link between diet and health.

The Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club will build upon past investment and move previously funded research towards later stage innovation and encourage an open and inclusive platform for collaboration.

Providing an open innovation platform

Innovation Hubs will provide open innovation platforms across the full breadth of the strategic investment scope for academic researchers, businesses, and policy makers to interact and collaborate, whilst also providing a bespoke mix of funding opportunities for those that do choose to be involved and engage.

Providing thought leadership

Innovation Hubs will provide thought leadership for the UK and advance pre-competitive collaborative research and development (CR&D) in these strategic areas and inform industry and policy strategy within the thematic area.


DRINC was a collaborative opportunity with other UKRI funders, therefore scope was broad, whereas The Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club Innovation Hubs projects and activity should primarily sit within BBSRC’s remit.

We envisage that the annual cross hub CR&D opportunity will have a broader scope to recognise wider industry and policy needs linked to diet and health.

Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club Steering Group

The Steering Group is responsible for the strategic direction of the Diet and Health Open Innovation Research Club and is accountable for strategic oversight of the aims and objectives of the overall investment.

The Steering Group will have strategic oversight for investments, activities and outcomes of the programme, and how these link to continually evolving strategy and policy needs at a national level.

Diet and Health OIRC co-ordinator

BBSRC will appoint a Diet and Health OIRC co-ordinator, who will be responsible for encouraging dissemination and networking across the full breadth of the Open Innovation Research Club.

The Diet and Health OIRC co-ordinator will work with each Innovation Hub separately and collectively to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas and enable opportunities to showcase impact of investments and the OIRC programme as a whole.

The co-ordinator will also play a key role in leading the scoping and delivery of the annual CR&D opportunities.

Flexible Mobility Awards

Flexible Mobility Awards can be requested to encourage mobility of early career researchers (ECRs) between institutions and industry.

The Flexible Mobility Awards can only be used to support employed researchers or technicians. Academics that have attained lecturer or equivalent status, or PhD students who have recently submitted their thesis and have not yet secured a postdoctoral research associate role, are not eligible for this scheme.

The award can be used to support researchers to undertake short-term secondments and research collaborations. Neither the benefitting staff nor activities undertaken need to have been funded by BBSRC or based on BBSRC-funded research but must be within the remit of the Innovation Hub.

Previously, these awards have been used in a variety of ways, including:

  • supporting the specific needs of individual researchers or technicians
  • providing new opportunities outside of those available on their current programme or project
  • providing exposure to new ways of working and working environments
  • increasing understanding between industry and academia.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 397KB)

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