This funding opportunity aims to foster collaborations and build capability across the BBSRC and NERC interface. It aims to achieve this through interdisciplinary projects that bring together a range of disciplines, including:
- environmental engineering
- molecular biology
- data science.
As a minimum requirement, all proposals are expected to have at least two principal investigators from different and relevant disciplines.
BBSRC and NERC are keen to encourage:
- research groups that blend the required talent and expertise
- a cultural diversity of stakeholders and researchers with novel, non-traditional perspectives
- applications that tackle research challenges with real world implications.
You should ensure the outputs of your projects will contribute to the:
- development of an integrated system-wide approach
- identification of innovative solutions that will inform and develop future agroecological practices.
These agroecological practices must reduce the impact of agriculture on the terrestrial, freshwater, atmospheric or marine environments and their diverse flora and fauna.
Your application can include:
- activities to build capability, including workshops that bring together different disciplinary and user perspectives
- small scale exploratory or scoping projects
- evidence syntheses
- plans to integrate and share datasets from different disciplines
- knowledge exchange activities.
However, you are not limited to the above and we would encourage creativity. You should always ensure that your application addresses a specific challenge with real-world implications.
What we wish to support
BBSRC and NERC wish to support applications that achieve the following objectives:
Build upon and be informed by previous investment
Investment can have been provided by BBSRC, NERC or other research funders. Research areas include:
- molecular sciences
- data sciences
- agricultural sciences
- environmental sciences.
Identify ambitious ‘real world’ challenges
‘Real world’ challenges should be within UK agricultural landscapes and where new interdisciplinary expertise could contribute to and propose agendas for future research.
Realise and define new research and innovative solutions for agriculture
Through your research and the interdisciplinary connections made, new agriculture research and innovative solutions might be realised and defined. Your aim should be to provide an enhanced understanding and knowledge of molecular changes that can be scaled up and implemented.
Build capability, increase capacity and create communities
These should have the potential to contribute to future funding opportunities, enabling longer-term, larger scale projects.
Develop the foundations of a research base
In the longer term, this research base will aim to input into UK policy. It will also aim to support evidence-based work to inform strategy, regulation and skills needs.
Initiate the development of new interdisciplinary expertise
In the future, this expertise should look to support knowledge exchange, translation, and commercialisation as necessary to facilitate impact.
Example research areas
Some example research areas are provided below to help you develop your ideas. These examples should not lead or limit the scope and ambition of planned applications.
Engineering biology solutions
There is potential to explore how biodiversity enhancement, pollution reduction or nutritional improvements could be built in through engineering biology solutions.
For example, you could look at developing ecological communities that have appropriate surface and subsurface physical and biological characteristics that promote or improve:
- agricultural production
- resilient and functional biodiversity
- soil health
- nutrient balance
- water quality.
You could develop or apply technologies that can rapidly detect, characterise and communicate changing biodiversity, nutrient levels or other relevant agrimetrics.
These should be capable of serving as persistent, integrated and highly sensitive sensor technologies. This is in order to identify vulnerabilities of otherwise resilient agri-ecosystems.
These approaches should have the potential to identify agri-ecosystem threats early and long before traditional observational sampling.
Measuring the flow of materials through the environment
There is a need for ecologically sustainable approaches that can track the location of applied pesticides, fertilisers or other synthetic chemicals through the agricultural systems in which they are applied and the wider environment in real time.
- reduce environmental pollution
- maximise the efficiency of the applied chemicals
- lead to improved application strategies.
For example, you may look at how wireless sensor nodes of micrometre size could monitor the way in which chemicals move through and persist in the environment.
This would be followed by recording the impact of spatially precise environmental conditions, such as temperature, other chemical conditions, humidity, and wind, on the transport of such chemicals.
This would inform an understanding of the agri-environmental interactions (for example, within soils) that could also inform the development of effective interventions.
New tools, technologies and methods to appraise the ecology and biodiversity of agricultural land
There is potential to consider future genetic and DNA tracing technologies and their ability to rapidly appraise the ecology of agricultural land holdings. These technologies offer the potential to provide more holistic and detailed information than species-focused ecological surveys.
Such technologies in the future could potentially detect all species in a specific area and would significantly change approaches to environmental policy, agroecological practice and decision-making.
In addition, there is growing demand for technical applicability in developing and deploying molecular biology and network theory. This is in order to uncover biodiversity patterns by integrating biodiversity assessments over space to capture catchment scale diversity.
For example, integrating sediment geochemistry with plant, animal and microbial DNA metabarcoding to capture the DNA of catchments.
You could explore the impact of changes made across the scales at a landscape scale, which may be understood by the development and innovation of new approaches through:
- tools and algorithms
- the application of existing approaches from other disciplines.
These data-intensive methods could enable computational dependent analysis, data integration and modelling. This could provide the capability to process the volume and complexity of research data arising from new transformative technologies.
Applications can be up to 12 months in duration and should not exceed £200,000 (100% full economic costing). UKRI will contribute 80% full economic costing (up to £160,000).
The funders anticipate funding five to 10 projects.
Applications must have a start date no later than June 2022 and cannot be delayed beyond this date for any reason.
Awarded grants will not receive extensions aside from exceptional circumstances, which fall under the Equality Act 2010.