Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Partnerships to address crop pest and diseases in UK agriculture and horticulture

Get funding for projects to test approaches and develop strategies to improve the understanding, management and control of crop pests and diseases that present a significant threat to crop production in the UK.

You must:

  • be based at a UK institution eligible for funding (standard eligibility criteria applies)
  • include an industrial partner in your proposal.

Grant duration is three to six months.

Proposals should bring together businesses to partner with academic researchers for discovery research and innovation activities addressing crop pests and diseases of direct relevance to farmers and growers.

Standard grant costs are allowed. BBSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

You must be based at a UK institution eligible for funding in accordance with standard UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) practice. Standard eligibility criteria applies.

Institutions normally eligible for UKRI funding include:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations
  • UKRI-approved public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Check if your institution is eligible for research and innovation funding.

To be eligible as a principal investigator or co-investigator you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • be resident in the UK at the time of the application (meaning you spend 183 or more days in the UK in the tax year)
  • be moving to the UK to take up an already agreed contract at an eligible organisation and remain in the UK for the duration of the proposed project (the contract must not be dependent on the outcome of the application).

You must also:

  • be employed by (or scheduled to move to) the eligible research organisation submitting the proposal
  • hold a research staff appointment at the organisation at academic lecturer level or equivalent, resourced from the central funds of the organisation.

If you are not employed by the submitting organisation (and not in receipt of funding by non-eligible organisations) you may still apply, but only if you have an existing written formal arrangement with the organisation confirming that the research will be conducted as if you are an employee at lecturer level or equivalent, but without salary costs.

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

More detailed guidance on organisational and individual eligibility guidelines can be found in section three of the BBSRC research grants guide.

If you have any further questions about eligibility, please email BBSRC at eligibility@bbsrc.ukri.org

What we're looking for

UK farmers and growers identify crop pests and diseases as a priority for innovation and a significant threat to production. Worldwide, it is estimated that 20% to 40% of crop yield is lost to pests and diseases.

UK agriculture faces increasing pressure from pests and diseases, due to a combination of:

  • new non-indigenous threats
  • emerging resistance to chemical controls
  • pressures on the availability of plant protection products.

Innovation-driven research is needed for novel controls of crop pests and diseases to improve the resilience of agriculture and horticulture while reducing environmental impacts and supporting biodiversity.

BBSRC’s strategic framework for sustainable agriculture identifies research and innovation in crop pests and diseases as a priority for investment.

More recently, the ten-year roadmap for UK plant science, published in March 2021, identified the sustainable protection of plant health as one of the four ‘big research questions’ for the UK.

You are invited to propose projects to test approaches and develop strategies to improve the understanding, management and control of crop pests and diseases that present a significant threat to crop production in the UK.

Proposals should bring together businesses to partner with academic researchers for discovery research and innovation activities addressing crop pests and diseases of direct relevance to farmers and growers.

Applications will be assessed for scientific quality and relevance to industry.

You are encouraged to read the strategic guidance for applicants in the ‘additional info’ section below. It has been developed in consultation with farmers and growers to list crop pests and diseases that present a significant threat to crop production in the UK. Applications targeting these species are likely to be highly relevant to industry.

Challenge areas

This list of challenge areas is not comprehensive, nor should they be siloed. The scope is solutions-focused. Research and translation activities that cut across the challenge areas are encouraged.

You should explore at least one of the following challenge areas:

  • fundamental study of the biology of pests and diseases. This includes:
    • studies of host-pest interactions
    • population biology and epidemiology
    • diversity and abundance studies
    • mechanisms of infection and dispersal
  • prevention and biosecurity. This involves studies and approaches to prevent pest incidence and proliferation, including, but not limited to:
    • genetics of crop and host tolerance and resistance
    • novel cultural and rotational approaches
    • habitat and environmental management to maximise the presence of natural enemies
    • approaches to limit the introduction and spread of pests and diseases
  • detection and forecasting. This relates to studies that develop new approaches and applications for detection, monitoring and forecasting of crop pests, including, but not limited to real-time and remote sensing, development of novel sensors and molecular diagnostics, and the integration of these new tools into forecasting and decision-support applications
  • novel control. This is the development of new approaches that provide new control solutions for crop pests, including chemical, biological and genetic interventions
  • development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches. This involves the development of proof-of-concept for novel IPM approaches that combine prevention, detection and control to deliver truly integrated solutions, including approaches that integrate pest and disease control and modelling and simulation of IPM systems.

You may investigate weeds as part of the pest and disease complex, for example, where controlling the weed is an effective route to controlling the target pest as part of an IPM approach.

You are encouraged to consider how the outputs of your application may generate preliminary findings that underpin high quality proposals to UKRI and other funding opportunities for collaborative research and innovation, or to de-risk direct industry investment and commercialisation.

Project collaborators

We encourage:

  • new collaborations and partnerships, including across disciplines and sectors
  • the involvement of private sector partners
  • partnerships with international research groups, where they add value to the project through access to key facilities or in-kind contributions.

Business partners will be crucial collaborators in the grant proposals. Businesses must be UK-based or have UK-based research activity. They may encompass a wide range of stakeholders, including:

  • farmers and growers
  • businesses
  • innovators
  • agronomists
  • practitioners
  • data management service providers.

Businesses cannot be funded through this opportunity. A 50% contribution will be required from business partners, either individually or as a consortium, for each award. This contribution must include at least 10% as a cash contribution, in which case the remaining 40% could be made as in-kind contributions.

Funding will only be provided to UK eligible organisations, but international researchers can be named as project partners.

Partners and subcontractors

Collaborators are eligible to act as either project partners or subcontractors.

A ‘project partner’ is a third-party person who is not employed on the grant, or a third-party organisation, who provides specific contributions either in cash or in-kind, to the project.

A ‘sub-contractor’ is a third-party individual not employed as staff on the grant, or a third-party organisation, who is subcontracted by the host organisation to deliver a specific piece of work.

Collaborators can be ’dual role’ and may act as a project partner on parts of a project and a sub-contractor on others, but this must be fully justified.

Funding available

Your proposed research can be three to six months in duration and should not exceed £50,000 (80% full economic cost).

We expect projects to commence between 1 January 2023 and 1 October 2023. Projects must end before 31 December 2023.

You should select a specific start date for the project that will be most suitable for the crop pest or disease that the project will target.

The total budget available for this funding opportunity is £2 million and the funders anticipate funding approximately forty projects.

Cash and in-kind contribution

Contributions from business partners must be at least 50% of the total value of the award. These contributions may be in the form of both cash and in-kind contributions.

The minimum cash contribution is 10% of the total value of the award, in which case the in-kind contribution would be at least 40% of the total value of the award. As an example, for a typical grant of £50,000, the contributions could be £5,000 in cash and £20,000 in-kind.

Contributions from business partners can exceed these requirements.

BBSRC is happy to discuss contribution details prior to submission.

Responsible innovation

You are expected to work within the UKRI framework for responsible innovation.

You should consider and implement plans for responsible innovation throughout the research project, and include details of these plans in the application, including specific actions that will be taken.

International collaboration

If you plan to include international collaborators in your proposal you should view our trusted research guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

BBSRC recognises that excellence in science requires diversity and equality to promote innovation and creativity. To do so effectively, all available talent must be harnessed. We expect equality and diversity to be an integral part, at all levels of research practices as a part of our funding portfolio.

We want to ensure that equality principles are applied to all funding activities, and consider that no one should be excluded or hindered from a career in science because of their protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010, including:

  • age
  • civil partnership or marriage
  • disability
  • ethnic background
  • pregnancy or maternity
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

We are committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow you to design a package that fits your research goals, career and personal circumstances. Therefore, these aspects should be strongly ingrained into the projects proposed for this opportunity.

One common approach is to reference institutional strategies and policies related to equality, diversity and inclusion and indicate that the prosperity partnership would be delivered in alignment with these activities.

Learn more about our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

How to apply

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Applying using Je-S

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: crop pest and diseases 2022.

Please prefix your proposal title with either ‘horticulture’ or ‘arable’ to aid with panel selection.

You must select the standard opportunity to ensure that your proposal is submitted to the correct funding opportunity. Proposals submitted to the standard rapid response scheme will not be accepted.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application.

BBSRC must receive your application by 16:00 on 3 August 2022.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

What to include with your application

As well as the Je-S application form, the following documents must be submitted:

  • case for support (up to four sides of A4)
  • justification for resources (up to one side of A4)
  • CVs for all named applicants and named research staff only (up to two sides of A4 each)
  • letter of support for any project partners (no page limit)
  • eligibility form (up to half a side of A4, submitted as ‘other attachment’).

Case for support

Your case for support should outline the following:

  • the scientific case and strategic value of your project
  • the timeliness and potential impact of the project
  • the challenge that is being addressed
  • an overview of how your proposed activities will progress towards solving the challenge
  • a work plan, if desired.

Your case for support should also detail:

  • the role of your industrial partner
  • the nature of their collaboration.

An industrial partner is mandatory.

Justification of resources

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.

CVs

CVs are required for all named applicants and named research staff only. These must be no more than two sides of A4 per person and should be submitted as the attachment type ‘CV’.

Project partners

Project partners should provide a letter of support. This is required for industrial and international partners who are not seeking funding from this opportunity.

Eligibility form

You should complete an eligibility form for principal investigators and co-investigators. The form is available as a download under the ‘additional information’ section.

Co-principal investigators

The Je-S system only allows one principal investigator to be named, therefore the co-principal investigator roles must be clearly 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.

For further guidance, see the BBSRC research grants guide.

Intellectual property

We expect that collaboration agreements and arrangements for the management of intellectual property (IP) will be in place before the project starts.

We will not specify terms for collaboration agreements or IP arrangements but expect any agreements to recognise the amount of public funding being invested in the programme.

You may wish to consult the Lambert Toolkit guidance published by the Intellectual Property Office (GOV.UK).

Guidance for panel members

The panels will be run in accordance with BBSRC peer review policy and principles.

Panel members will have access to the opportunity document and the documentation submitted to BBSRC (case for support, justification for resources, capability to deliver, and letters of support).

Panel members will be asked to refer to the assessment criteria as described earlier and the reviewer forms will reflect this.

Guidance on journal-based metrics

As part of our commitment to support the recommendations and principles set out by the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), UKRI reviewers and panel members are advised not to use journal-based metrics, such as journal impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an investigator’s contributions, or to make funding decisions.

The content of a paper is more important than publication metrics, or the identity of the journal, in which it was published, especially for early-stage researchers.

Reviewers and panel members are encouraged to consider the value and impact of all research outputs (including datasets, software, inventions, patents, preprints and other commercial activities) in addition to research publications.

We advise our peer reviewers and panel members to consider a broad range of impact measures, including qualitative indicators of research impact, such as influence on policy and practice.

How we will assess your application

Fast-track assessment

If your application fits the remit of the opportunity, it will be assessed through a single stage, fast-track assessment process. This will be undertaken by a multidisciplinary panel with expertise appropriate to the opportunity.

Applications will not be sent to reviewers. Therefore, you will not receive reviewer comments. There will also be no principal investigator rebuttal stage.

We will convene two separate panels for arable and horticultural crops so that there is appropriate expertise available to assess your application.

Your application will be assessed against the criteria for assessment as outlined below. The expert panel will create a recommended rank-ordered list of applications based on the assessments.

Your case for support should include sufficient details, approaches and methods for your proposed project. This is so that it can be assessed by scientists with relevant, but not necessarily specialist expertise.

You should expect to be informed in November 2022 of the outcome of funding decisions.

Assessment criteria

The panel will assess proposals against the following criteria.

Scientific and innovation potential

This includes the:

  • specific objectives of the project and whether they demonstrate excellence and originality
  • appropriateness of the proposed activities
  • scientific merit and innovation potential of the project
  • project’s potential to make a significant contribution to advancement of the area.

Industrial and stakeholder relevance

This includes the:

  • extent to which the application fits the scope of the opportunity
  • demonstrated relevance to the needs of the agricultural and horticultural sectors. Please consult the ‘strategic guidance for applicants’ document in the ‘additional information’ section.

Timeliness and potential impact

This includes the:

  • potential scale of impact
  • applicability to possible end user applications
  • potential to build a foundation for further investment.

Capability to deliver

Assessment is based on the capabilities and sustainability of the assembled research teams to deliver the proposed research and other activities.

Collaboration agreement

Any collaborative project funded through this initiative must have a signed collaboration agreement between the partners before the start of any grant.

UKRI attach great importance to the dissemination of research findings and the publishing of information about the research they support in the public domain. However, all dissemination and publication must be carried out in the manner agreed in the project’s collaboration agreement.

You should be familiar with UKRI requirements relating to the exploitation and impact of standard research grants as explained in in section RGC 12 of the UKRI terms and conditions for research grants.

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

Mary Jenkinson-Finch – Portfolio Manager, Sustainable Agriculture and Food, Business Interaction Unit

Email: business.unit@bbsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘pest and diseases’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within 10 working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Additional info

Responsible innovation

Responsible innovation creates spaces and processes to explore innovation and its consequences in an open, inclusive and timely way, going beyond consideration of ethics, public engagement, risk and regulation.

Innovation is a collective responsibility, where funders, researchers, interested and affected parties, including the public, all have an important role to play.

BBSRC is fully committed to developing and promoting responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor and to encourage our research community to do likewise.

Webinars

View a live recording of BBSRC’s recent webinar.

FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions received in the two webinars, or via email, about this opportunity can be found in the frequently asked question document (PDF, 102)KB.

Supporting documents

Strategic guidance for applicants (PDF, 101KB)
Eligibility form (DOCX, 15KB)
Equality impact assessment (DOCX, 40 KB)

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