Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: Engineering Biology Missions Hubs and Mission Awards

Apply for 60-month Mission Hubs or 24-month Mission Awards in Engineering Biology.

This funding will develop an integrated research and innovation programme to deliver UK research capacity and capability, drive technology development and uptake, and stimulate innovation to tackle major challenges through a mission focus.

Engineering Biology is the process of taking concepts from synthetic biology and translating them into real-world impact. It is the design and fabrication of biological components and systems using engineering principles, spanning the modifications of natural systems to new forms of artificial biology.

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

This competition is part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) led National Engineering Biology Programme (PDF, 103KB).

Funding for this opportunity is subject to business case approval by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and HM Treasury.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change.

More information will be available on this page when the opportunity opens.

Who can apply

This opportunity will be open to eligible researchers at:

  • higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments

Check if you’re eligible for research and innovation funding.

Principal and co-investigators must meet our standard eligibility criteria, as outlined in BBSRC’s guidance for applicants.

Principal investigators or co-investigators based outside the UK are not permitted.

This opportunity has two strands; for each strand multiple applications by the same principal investigator are not permitted. A principal investigator may be a co-investigator on other applications. Co-investigators may participate in multiple applications.

Only include investigators who are essential for the delivery of the project.

The inclusion of researcher co-investigators is encouraged where they have made a substantial intellectual or technical contribution to the development of the proposal and will be engaged with the ensuing research. UKRI recognises the vital role that technicians make to research and innovation as per the UKRI Technician Commitment action plan, accordingly we strongly support the appropriate inclusion of skilled technical staff in grant proposals.

Potential applicants who are unsure whether they or their institution meet the relevant eligibility criteria are encouraged to contact us at

What we're looking for

More information will be available on this page when the opportunity opens.

To unlock the full potential of Engineering Biology, we will adopt a missions approach. Each mission will set inspiring and stretching targets which focus the efforts of academia, industry and other partners, on complex problems which require a coordinated approach for successful delivery.

UKRI is inviting applications for:

  1. Mission Hubs in Engineering Biology, maximum funding of £13.1 million (100% full economic cost (FEC)) for up to 60 months, with a further £1.15 million capital equipment available per proposal.
  2. Mission Awards in Engineering Biology, funding ranging from £0.6 million to £1.9 million (100% FEC) for up to 24 months, with a further 20% as capital per proposal.

UKRI will fund 80% of the FEC.

There will be a single funding opportunity comprising two funding options spanning both Mission Hub and Award opportunities, with a mandatory expression of interest closing 5 May 2023 and the deadline for full applications in July 2023 (to be confirmed).

Applications must be demonstrably in the field of Engineering Biology which UKRI defines as:

Engineering biology is the application of (rigorous) engineering principles to the design and fabrication of biological components and systems, from modifications of natural systems to new forms of artificial biology. It encompasses the entire innovation ecosystem, from breakthrough synthetic biology research to translation and application.

Engineering Biology mission areas

Each application to this funding opportunity must be focused on at least one of the following four Engineering Biology mission areas:

1. Engineering biology for food systems

Delivering a more productive, sustainable and secure agriculture and food sector.

This mission will address key challenges in agriculture and food including food and nutrition security, sustainability, and resilience. It will deliver transformative solutions that enable the agri-food system to be more sustainable, productive, diverse, resilient and healthy.

2. Engineering biology for biomedicine

Delivering new therapies and diagnostics.

Engineering Biology will provide new biologic therapies and new diagnostic tools. This will lead to improved health though prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. This mission would enable development of novel technologies and solutions. It will transform and enhance our toolkit by which we can diagnose, prevent and fight disease.

3. Engineering biology for clean growth

Delivering less carbon-intensive and more environmentally sustainable manufacturing processes and supply chains.

This mission will present bio-manufacturing solutions, create sustainable and renewable supply chains, and develop efficient and smart power generation and storage solutions, increasing productivity and reducing carbon emissions. It will contribute to achieving the UK government’s ambitious net zero targets.

4. Engineering biology for environmental solutions

Supporting the diagnosis and cure of environmental issues.

In this mission engineering biology technologies will be developed and applied to address challenges including bioremediation, waste management, carbon-capture, biomining, and resilient, biodiverse agri-environmental systems and ecosystems.

For this specific opportunity projects must positively demonstrate that they are addressing one or more of the four missions. Projects investigating disruptive approaches with broad applicability can be considered but must have a clear line of sight to at least one mission area.

Engineering biology opportunities: missions funds

You will be invited to submit applications to the following opportunities for hubs or awards.


A maximum funding of £13.1 million (100% FEC) for up to 60 months, with a further £1.15 million capital equipment available per proposal

A hub should drive research and innovation (existing or new and novel) towards tangible mission-oriented impacts, including both commercial and societal. Fundamental research may feature as a part of the programme. However, this should not be the primary focus of any individual hub.

The hubs will be for up to five years and UKRI will award up to £10.5 million (80% FEC), with a further £1.15 million capital available per proposal.

It is anticipated that one 60-month hub will be funded within each of the four mission areas (details above), subject to the review and assessment of the applications. In demonstrating the importance of the mission and how engineering biology can be exploited towards translation and commercialisation, we strongly encourage applications from consortia of suitable cross and multidisciplinary communities, seeking to work together to drive cutting-edge advances in engineering biology toward impacts in key sectors.

Appropriate consideration for industrial engagement and partnership on applications is anticipated, particularly on strands of research and innovation that are expected to have step-changing impact on markets and sectors.


Funding ranging from £0.6 million to £1.9 million (100% FEC) for up to 24 months, with a further 20% as capital per proposal.

Building on existing strengths and emerging opportunities in engineering biology, these awards will also align with the four mission areas. They are not expected to be integrated with pre-existing hubs nor affiliated with applications submitted to the hubs opportunity above, but will be expected to act as sites of distributed research and innovation excellence, exploiting the potential of engineering biology and potentially focused on growing capacity and capability, in support of the four missions.

The awards will be for up to two years and UKRI will award funding in the range of £0.5 million to £1.5 million (80% FEC), with a further 20% as capital per proposal.

In comparison to the 60-month hubs, it is anticipated that these 24-month awards would have a focus on shorter-term developments for engineering biology in the UK. For example, a focus on the testing of existing technological solutions in new and novel contexts, or the establishment or growth of a new or nascent community and capabilities to create a platform for future UK growth. After 24 months, we anticipate that applicants will be able to demonstrate how the outcomes from this could serve as a springboard towards future opportunities.

How to apply

A mandatory expression of interest stage must be completed before it closes on 5 May 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

This expression of interest will require information about your proposed idea, a summary description of aims and objectives and details of the team and project partners. Failure to complete the expression of interest will mean any full proposals submitted will automatically be rejected.

Expression of interest form

Further information to support application to this funding opportunity will be provided when this page is updated.

How we will assess your application

The assessment of applications will be a two-stage process:

  • expression of interest
  • full proposal

Stage one: mandatory expression of interest for Mission Hubs and Mission Awards

Information provided as part of the expression of interest will not be formally assessed. UKRI will use this information to:

  • check eligibility, remit and fit to funding opportunity scope
  • anticipate expected submission levels
  • identify panel members

In the event of high demand for this funding opportunity, UKRI reserves the right to introduce demand management measures during the assessment process.

Stage two Mission Hubs: expert panel review with interview

Proposals will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts and candidates will be invited to an interview by the panel in 2023.

Full details of the interview process will be sent to candidates before the interviews. The interview will assess whether the proposed hub meets the assessment criteria sufficiently.

The panel may recommend conditions for UKRI to impose before funding is awarded. Based on the panel’s recommendations, UKRI reserves the right to seek further information from the applicants before awarding funding.

Feedback will be provided following interview.

In the event of this funding opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, UKRI reserve the right to modify the assessment process.

Stage two Mission Awards: expert panel review and prioritisation

All proposals which meet the eligibility criteria will be sent to external peer reviewers for their comments. When a sufficient number of quality reviewer comments have been received, the principal investigator will be invited to submit a response to the reviewers’ comments, if the application gains enough support.

UKRI will then convene a panel for those competitive applications invited to principal investigator response. The panel will rank the proposals drawing on the assessment criteria using the applications, reviews and principal investigator responses. UKRI will decide, based on the advice of the panel, which applications to support.

Feedback will be provided following the panel meeting.

More information on how we will assess full applications will be published when the full opportunity opens in April 2023.

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

If you have any queries regarding the remit of engineering biology opportunities, please do get in touch via or contact the following individuals.

Jamie Parkin, BBSRC


Karen Davies, EPSRC


Graham Campbell, MRC


Simon Kerley, NERC


Gordon Ford, Innovate UK


Include ‘Engineering Biology Missions’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

Additional info

Mission hubs and awards webinar

A webinar was held on 18 April that provided an overview of the Engineering Biology Mission Hubs and Awards opportunities, outlining the missions and providing more information on eligibility and how to apply.

There was also a question and answer session following the main presentation with a panel that included representatives from BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC and NERC.

View a recording of this webinar on Zoom.

To view the webinar, please enter the passcode: 9^+Gyq27

Please note the presentation commences one min 30 seconds from the start of the recording.

UKRI collaboration

The funding opportunity will be led by BBSRC on behalf of the funders, however, please do not interpret BBSRC’s delivery of this opportunity as a limitation to the scope nor remit of the funding opportunity. Engineering biology spans the remit of UKRI and not just one specific council.

The funding opportunity has been developed in partnership with:

  • Innovate UK
  • MRC
  • NERC

As these opportunities are part of the overall National Engineering Biology Programme (NEBP), we also recognise the close collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Ministry of Defence) as partners in the NEBP.

Scope: definition of engineering biology

Applications must be demonstrably in the field of engineering biology.

What is Engineering Biology?

Engineering Biology is the process of taking synthetic biology concepts and translating them into real-world solutions. It is the design and fabrication of biological components and systems, from modifications of natural systems through to artificial biology. For the purposes of UKRI activities, engineering biology refers to:

  • the development or use of synthetic biology, using engineering principles, to design and fabricate biological components and systems
  • the adoption of synthetic biology into industrial processes
  • the development of tools and technologies that specifically support synthetic biology

Consequently, engineering biology encompasses the entire innovation ecosystem, from breakthrough synthetic biology research to translation and application.

Synthetic Biology can be described as the design and construction of novel biologically based parts, devices and systems, as well as redesigning existing natural biological systems for useful purposes. It incorporates the principles of engineering (for example modularity, abstraction and orthogonality) into classical biotechnology.

Building on past funding opportunities, the following bullet points will help applicants identify whether they are within scope of engineering biology:

  • is the project demonstrably and predominantly engineering biology?
  • if the project is not demonstrably engineering biology, will this work enhance the field of engineering biology? For example, development of a solely computational approach that will revolutionise engineering biology design of experiment
  • if the work is building on pre-existing engineering biology expertise and knowledge, how is this project going to further the impact, through translation and commercialisation?

Supporting documents

UKRI Engineering Biology Overview (PDF, 103KB)

Royal Academy of Engineering ’Engineering Biology: A priority for growth’ (PDF 1,720KB)

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback.