Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Future-proofing plants to a changing climate: stage one

Apply for research grant funding towards future proofing plants for a changing climate.

Your proposal must involve UK, US and German researchers.

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

German applicants must be eligible for DFG funding.

US applicants must be eligible for NSF or USDA-NIFA funding.

Applicants may request between:

  • £300,000 to £800,000 (80% full economic cost (FEC)) for the UK component
  • €300,000 to €800,000 for the German component
  • $300,000 to $800,000 for the US component

The duration of your project can be up to three years.

Who can apply

Applications must include a project lead from the UK, Germany, and the US.

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this funding opportunity, applicants in the UK must meet the BBSRC eligibility requirements.

Institutions and researchers normally eligible for our funding include, but are not limited to:

  • higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • research council institutes (RCIs)
  • approved independent research organisations (IROs)
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs)

Applicants in Germany must meet the eligibility requirements of DFGs Individual Research Grants Programme (DFG form 50.01, PDF, 132KB).

Applicants in the US must meet eligibility requirements of NSF under the NSF Act of 1950, as amended, and other applicable authority, where applicable, or of USDA-NIFA at 7 U.S.C. 3157. You should contact NSF or USDA-NIFA if they have questions about which US agency is most appropriate.

Who is not eligible to apply

Applicants not based in the UK, Germany or the US are not eligible to apply.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

Scope

Climate change is challenging the sustainability and resilience of our agri-food systems, through long-term changes to temperature and rainfall, increased threats due to extreme weather events and shifts in pests and diseases. Plants overall need to be more resilient and adapt to these threats while crops need to continue meeting the demand for safe and affordable food for a growing population on less land and with greater resource use efficiency, in order to lower the impact on the natural environment.

How will international research collaboration help address the challenge?

To address this imminent challenge, we need accelerated approaches in plant sciences translating knowledge across different plant and crop species. This necessitates new ways of working, access to diverse, complementary expertise and greater research coordination across multiple geographical locations and agri-environments to deliver a deeper understanding of the genome-phenome-environment relationship in the context of climate change. Broad community building and matching of strengths and diverse expertise in research intensive nations can accelerate solutions and leverage upon national research investments.

Germany, the UK and the US have world leading capability in plant and crop sciences and together can drive greater coordination of research efforts beyond borders. Τhe programme will support collaborative research in the three countries with synergies expected to include:

  • a novel route to inter-agency funding, supporting world-leading researcher collaborations across international teams with complementary expertise
  • enabling multidisciplinary research approaches that build on areas of particular country strengths. For example, the UK’s strengths in systems biology and molecular modelling with Germany’s whole organism-level understanding and the US’s capacity to scale up modelling of crops and farming systems
  • providing strategies to close the knowledge gap between the genetic and physiological research at individual plant scale in artificial environments and the farming system level
  • achieving ‘sum of parts’ across complementary national research resources that can be brought to bear in new ways. For example, national facilities, datasets, and biological resources
  • reducing duplication of effort and embedding common data standards to enhance collaboration within the international research community
  • delivery of novel tools, methods and approaches that could be disseminated and adopted more broadly across the plant and crop sciences research community
  • access to wider international networks and training opportunities for early career researchers, strengthening national skillsets and enhancing future international leadership and collaboration within and across the three countries

Research themes

Applications are invited for projects within, or combining, the following research areas:

From molecules and mechanisms to field performance

A multi-scale understanding of model and crop plant physiology has the potential to deliver a step change in our ability to understand genotype x environment interactions and their impact on phenotype. Integrative research is needed to understand the links between plant genetics, metabolism/physiology and performance in complex and fluctuating environments. This requires bringing together observations from multiple scales, including:

  • molecular
  • cellular
  • physiological
  • organismal
  • plant population level

Areas that will benefit from further research include:

  • development of tools that enable integration of existing plant physiological cellular and genomics knowledge into whole farming systems understanding
  • considering plants in real world contexts. For example, the influence of the plant microbiome and plant-soil interactions, where beneficial relationships play a role in plant resilience and resource use efficiency
  • understanding the trade-offs that come from optimizing traits in the context of abiotic and biotic challenges, such as water stress or pathogenic threats, and the implications for performance
  • link insights from laboratory studies to field performance of crops

Research in this area should seek to develop or harness advances in:

  • modelling
  • machine learning
  • phenotyping
  • other multi-modal technologies

With the aim to deliver quantitative insights and potential strategies to optimise plant performance under different conditions, particularly in the field.

Programmable plants

The ability to ‘programme’ plants with predictable and novel characteristics and ideotypes suited to specific environments, will provide fresh insights into complex genotype-phenotype relationships and offer innovative solutions for agricultural adaptation to climate change impacts. Biotechnological and synthetic biology approaches are needed to accelerate plant research in this direction and deliver step-changes in our ability to control plant growth, developmental and stress responses more precisely.

Areas that will benefit from further research include:

  • complex multigenic trait engineering in genomes
  • development of innovative techniques to control chromosome recombination for rapid and efficient implementation of pangenome diversity or crop wild relatives to enhance complex traits, such as encoding resistance to stresses like:
    • drought
    • flooding
    • salinity
    • temperature
    • pathogens
    • microbial interactions
  • engineered approaches to reduce reliance on fertilisers and pesticides (such as nitrogen fixation and microbiome modulation), or enhanced carbon capture (such as improved sequestration in below ground tissues and photosynthetic efficiency)
  • development of new tools and methods that address current bottlenecks in engineering plant systems to accelerate the pipeline of development of rationally engineered plant traits for a changing climate. For example:
    • plant transformation
    • plant synthetic biology
    • genome editing
    • speed breeding
    • rapid phenotyping

Duration

The duration of this award is up to three years.

We expect funding outcomes will be announced in October 2024.

Funding available

  • BBSRC has earmarked £6.5 million of its budget for this activity, subject to executive approval. Funding will be available for up to 12 research projects, with a duration up to three years
  • DFG have earmarked budget of €4.7 million plus 22% overheads (€5.7 million in total), representing the ability to co-fund up to 12 projects
  • NSF intends to commit up to $8.6 million over the three years of the programme, subject to the availability of appropriations (NSF-Plant Genome Research Program intends to commit $7 million and NSF-Plant Biotic Interactions intends to commit another $1.6 million)
  • USDA-NIFA intends to commit up to $2 million for this activity, subject to the availability of appropriations and executive approval

All proposals are to adhere to the budget restrictions of the funding opportunity:

  • UK applicants will adhere to BBSRC’s eligibility rules and guidelines as set out in the BBSRC guidance for applicants
  • German applicants are to adhere to DFG’s eligibility rules
  • US applicants are to adhere to NSF or USDA-NIFA’s eligibility rules. If necessary, NSF and USDA-NIFA will provide guidance on respective funder suitability to US applicants. Applicants should contact NSF or USDA-NIFA for advice.

Proposals should adhere to the following country-specific requirements:

  • UK budget requests should be within the following range £300,000 to £800,000 (80% FEC)
  • German budget requests should be within the following range €300,000 to €800,000
  • US budget requests should be within the following range $300,000 to $800,000

What we will not fund

Projects involving cannabis are excluded from this funding opportunity.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage the UK teams to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

How to apply

Overview of the application process

The ‘Future proofing plants for a changing climate’ funding opportunity is comprised of two mandatory stages. The UK project lead will be responsible for assembling all the information required for each stage from the wider team and this will be submitted using the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service by their research organisation.

As each stage of the funding opportunity you will be able to access the corresponding Funding Service page to submit your application using the ‘Start application’ button on this page.

Stage one: expression of interest stage

Project leads will be required to complete a short application using the Funding Service. The application will require the following information:

  • a short summary describing the proposed project and how it aligns to the funding opportunity
  • details of the UK, US and German applicants involved in the project
  • approximate costings for the UK, the US and German components

Stage two: full stage

The full stage is only open to applicants who have been invited to submit following stage one.

The research team will provide a full description of their project idea, people involved, and other information including letters of support, management plans, and full justification of resources using the Funding Service.

Separate budgets and budget justifications will be required for each agency. All budget items must conform to the national rules applicable to each applicant. Further information on what is required will be provided with the invitation to submit a full proposal following stage one.

DFG submission

A copy of the full proposal including the CVs and publication lists of the applicants must be provided by the German project lead to DFG after submission to BBSRC.

The UK project lead is to provide a PDF copy of the application that has been submitted to BBSRC full proposal stage to the German project lead who will upload this application to the DFG’s submission portal ‘elan’.

Further details of Stage two can be found on the UKRI funding finder.

UKRI Funding Service

BBSRC will run this funding opportunity on the new Funding Service on behalf of the involved funding agencies. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

Your team can be led by either UK, German or US applicants, or may involve co-leads from the three countries. Please indicate roles within your proposal.

For administrative purposes, the project lead (lead UK applicant) is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all international team members and project partners to contribute to the application where appropriate.

Only the lead UK research organisation can apply to UKRI, joint submissions involving multiple UK research organisations must be made using the same Funding Service application.

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email support@funding-service.ukri.org
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:

Deadline

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any deadlines that may be in place within your research organisation.

Stage one: expression of interest

BBSRC must receive your outline by 6 February 2024 at 4:00pm UK time. You will not be able to submit an expression of interest after this time.

Stage two: full stage

Only applicants who are invited by BBSRC may submit a full stage submission.

The full stage will open shortly after the expression of interest stage closes.

BBSRC must receive your full proposal by 22 May 2024 at 4:00pm UK time. You will not be able to submit a full proposal after this time.

DFG must receive a PDF copy of the application that has been submitted to BBSRC full proposal stage, including the CVs and publication lists of the applicants within one week after the closing date of the full proposal submission to BBSRC, by 29 May 2024. The German project lead will upload this application to the DFG’s submission portal ‘elan’.

Further details of Stage two can be found on the UKRI Funding Finder.

Personal data

Processing personal data

BBSRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your Funding Service account and the registration of your funding applications.
We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

BBSRC, as part of UKRI, will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with DFG, NSF and USDA-NIFA so that they can participate in the assessment process.

For more information on how NSF uses personal information, visit NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Privacy Act and Public Burden Statements. In general, all proposals, reviews and so on are confidential, only the public award abstract is published.

Please see the DFG’s data protection notice on research funding.

Publication of outcomes

BBSRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at Awarded research grants.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Summary

Word limit: 5

Guidance for writing a summary

Please write N/A in this section.

Core team

List the key members of your UK team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

German applicants

Word limit: 350

Please provide the following details of the German applicants on this application:

  • name
  • institute
  • job title
  • role in project (for example, project lead or project co-lead)
  • email address

Please also indicate who the lead German applicants will be.

DFG will use this information to confirm applicant eligibility.

Please do not include details of German applicants in the ‘Core team’ section.

US applicants

Word limit: 350

Please provide the following details of the US applicants on this application:

  • name
  • institute
  • job title
  • role in project (for example, project lead or project co-lead)
  • email address

Please also indicate who the lead US applicants will be.

NSF and USDA-NIFA will use this information to confirm applicant eligibility.

Please do not include details of US applicants in the ‘Core team’ section.

Vision

Word limit: 750

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the fields or areas
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, or generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context, and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy, or the environment

Within your vision you should:

  • describe how your application addresses the ‘future proofing plants to a changing climate’ scope of the funding opportunity
  • provide the overall aims and objectives of your research, typically as a small number of bullet points
  • describe your aims in the context of relevant prior work by your team and by the wider bioscience research landscape
  • highlight features that are particularly original or unique

Approach

Word limit: 750

How are you going to deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is clear how your team and research environment will contribute to each work package
  • is clear how relevant previous work from each international partner will be built upon and progressed (if applicable)
  • describe the overall research effort needed to fulfil the programme of work and explain how this will be organised in relation to and the UK, the US and German international partners delivering them

Research area

Word limit: 50

What three phrases best describe the science area, or areas, covered in your proposed research project?

Resources

Word limit: 500

What are the estimated overall cost and staffing full time equivalent (FTE) estimates for the UK, German and US components of the project?

What the funders are looking for in your response

  • overall estimates for costings and staffing FTE
  • clear separation of UK, German and US costings, in GBP, EUR and USD respectively
  • the UK component may request between £300,000 to £800,000 (at 80% FEC)
  • the US component may request between $300,000 to $800,000
  • the German component may request between €300,000 to €800,000
  • a detailed calculation and breakdown of resources is not required at this stage

For example:

UK team:

Total cost estimate 400,000 GBP BBSRC contribution
0.2 FTE project lead time, 1.0 FTE PDRA, 0.5 FTE technician

German team:

Total cost estimate 300,000 EUR DFG contribution
0.2 FTE project lead time or 1.0 FTE doctoral researcher

US team:

Total cost estimate 500,000 USD NSF or USDA-NIFA contribution
0.2 FTE project lead time 1.0 FTE PDRA or 1.0 FTE doctoral researcher

Total funder contribution estimate

1,200,000

Project partners

Word limit: 500

Please provide details of any additional project partners who will contribute to the project (outside of the core UK-German-US collaboration). This might be either providing cash or in-kind resources, or other collaborative contributions.

This section includes any:

  • industry partners
  • unfunded collaborators
  • policy or third sector involvement in the proposal

Please provide this information in a bullet point list.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your stage one application using the following process.

Internal review

The funding agencies associated with the funding opportunity will review your application to confirm:

  • the proposed research is within the remit of the associated funding agencies
  • the proposed research is within the scope of the funding opportunity
  • the estimated resource costs are within the funder and overall budget requirements

Timescale

We aim to complete the stage one assessment process by the end of February 2024.

Feedback

You may receive feedback on your stage one application.

Sharing data with co-funders

We will need to share the application (including any personal information that it contains) with DFG, NSF and USDA-NIFA so that they can participate in the assessment process.

For more information on how NSF uses personal information, visit NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Privacy Act and Public Burden Statements. In general, all proposals, reviews and so on. are confidential, only the public award abstract is published.

Please see the DFG’s data protection notice on research funding.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

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.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact the funding opportunity team at trilateral_plants@bbsrc.ukri.org

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org
Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find out more information on submitting an application.

If you have questions specific to the German component of your application, please contact:

DFG Head Office

Dr Catherine Kistner, Life Sciences II

Email: catherine.kistner@dfg.de
Phone +49 228 885-2803

Tanja Zdebel, Life Sciences II

Email: tanja.zdebel@dfg.de
Phone +49 228 885-3105

If you have questions specific to the US component of your application please contact: dbipgr@nsf.gov

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact: trilateral_plants@bbsrc.ukri.org

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

• individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
• declaration of interest
• additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
• conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
• the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Updates

  • 31 January 2024
    Link added to the stage two funding opportunity in the 'how to apply' section and also the 'related opportunities' section in the sidebar.
  • 8 November 2023
    Related links added to the DFG, NSF and USDA-NIFA funding opportunity pages.

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