Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Transforming UK food systems through trade

Apply for funding to support 1 interdisciplinary research project, for up to 2 years, to model the suite of factors that influence food imports to the UK market, and the associated interventions that could be implemented to transform the UK food system to improve the dietary health of UK citizens and the health of the environment.

Your project must be led by a UK-based researcher at a research organisation eligible for BBSRC funding or an eligible public sector research organisation.

Your project can be led by any discipline and relevant economics expertise must be represented in the team.

We held a webinar on 31 October 2022. Please see the ‘additional info’ section to view the recording.

Who can apply

Researchers from any discipline within UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) remit are encouraged to apply.

All proposals to this funding opportunity must be led by a researcher based at an eligible UK research organisation. As this funding opportunity is being administered by BBSRC, please see the BBSRC guidance for applicants for eligibility requirements and co-investigator eligibility requirements.


Project teams must be interdisciplinary and demonstrate relevant economics expertise. It is expected that proposals to this funding opportunity will be multi-institutional (2 or more). Collaboration with researchers with relevant expertise at non-UK institutions can be facilitated through sub-contracting, however this is not mandatory.

Businesses, civil society and government (local, devolved or national) are also all strongly encouraged to co-design and test findings of the research for this funding opportunity. While not eligible to lead on an application, or to receive funding directly from UKRI, stakeholders from businesses, civil society or government are encouraged to be included on proposals as project partners or sub-contractors.

Detailed information about project partners and sub-contracting can be found in the BBSRC guidance for applicants.


Sub-contracting costs will be provided up to 80% full economic cost unless they fall within the full economic cost exception (see guidance for applicants).

An organisation or individual can now act as both a project partner and sub-contractor, however this must be fully justified and will be subject to peer review.

Public sector research establishments (PSREs)

PSREs with 10 or more researchers with PhDs (or equivalent) are eligible to lead on an application. If PSREs wishing to apply have not previously applied for UKRI funding and are not currently designated independent research organisation status, they will be required to complete an eligibility form.

To ensure you have the required research capacity, systems and controls in place to manage the research and grant funding, see the guidance on eligible public sector research establishments.

PSRE applicants should contact Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund at the earliest opportunity to discuss their interest in applying:

Institutions are limited to leading on 1 application to this funding opportunity. However there are no constraints on the number of applications co-investigators, project partners or sub-contractors are able to be involved in.

What we're looking for

Transforming UK Food Systems Programme

The Transforming UK Food Systems Programme is an interdisciplinary research programme that will help transform the UK food system within a global context by addressing 2 over-arching questions:

  1. If we put healthy people and a healthy natural environment at the heart of the food system, what would we eat, how would we encourage people to eat it, and where would that food come from? What would we grow and manufacture in the UK and what would we need to import?
  2. In delivering this transformed food system, what interventions would be needed across government, business and civil society?

This programme will consider the complex interactions between health, environment, economic and behavioural factors across the food system, while taking into account wider needs for different groups in society.

The programme will foster a joined-up approach linking nutritionally healthy and accessible diets with sustainable food production and supply. It will deliver coherent evidence to enable concerted action from government, business and civil society to:

  • help achieve dietary health
  • support the population to achieve or maintain a healthy weight
  • help achieve net zero emission goals
  • reduce health inequalities

The programme has so far funded 15 research projects and 1 centre for doctoral training, tackling challenges across the food system, joining up aspects from production through to consumption.

Following analysis of the programme’s funded portfolio, the role of trade and associated fiscal interventions (for example, tariffs and subsidies) in food system transformation was identified as underrepresented across the funded projects. This area has the potential to act as a big lever in driving food system transformation, and would add value to the previously funded portfolio, therefore this funding opportunity has been launched to fund a project in this area.

Current funding opportunity

This funding opportunity will support 1 research project, up to £680,000 at 80% full economic cost and up to 2 years in duration. The project will model the suite of factors that influence food imports to the UK market, and the associated interventions that could be implemented to transform the UK food system to improve the dietary health of UK citizens and the health of the environment.

This recognises that the UK imports approximately 46% of the food it consumes (UK food security report 2021: theme 2: UK food supply sources 2021) therefore transforming the UK food system will need consideration of the foods that we might need to import.

The research funded in this funding opportunity, along with the projects funded in the first and second opportunities, and the Centre for Doctoral Training, will contribute to the delivery of the overall programme aims.

Researchers from any discipline within UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) remit can lead an application. Project teams must be interdisciplinary and include economics expertise, and it is expected that proposals to this funding opportunity will be multi-institutional (2 or more). Collaboration with researchers with relevant expertise at non-UK institutions can be facilitated through sub-contracting, however this is not mandatory.

Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF)

SPF has been established to:

  • drive an increase in high-quality interdisciplinary research and innovation
  • ensure that UKRI’s investments link up effectively with government departments’ research priorities and opportunities

Proposals must therefore consider and describe how their research also addresses:

  • government policy research needs at national and regional scales
  • access to healthy diets and maintaining healthy weight
  • health inequalities
  • environmental sustainability
  • emerging challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis

The successful project will be expected to:

  • work with the Programme Director, (Professor Guy Poppy) and the UKRI SPF Food Systems team
  • participate in wider programme network events to add impact to the overall Transforming UK Food Systems SPF portfolio

Proposals are expected to be complementary to, but not spin-offs from, projects previously funded in the Transforming UK Food Systems SPF portfolio.


In this funding opportunity we are inviting interdisciplinary research proposals investigating the suite of factors that influence food imports to the UK market, and the associated interventions that could be implemented to transform the UK food system to improve the dietary health of UK citizens and the health of the environment.

Recognising the global nature of food supply chains, proposals are expected to tackle at least one of the following areas, ensuring that the lens is focused on the UK food system, and transformation for health and sustainability:

  • the role that food imports should play in transforming the UK food system for healthy people and a healthy environment
  • the role of fiscal interventions such as tariffs and subsidies and how these might impact areas such as food production, food manufacturing, supply chains, food prices and consumer behaviour
  • the economics, market forces and attitudes associated with imported commodities and insights on how this translates into food products produced for, purchased and consumed by consumers
  • the real and perceived risks, trade-offs and benefits associated with food imports in terms of securing a healthy, safe, accessible, affordable and sustainable food supply
  • the impact of externalities on food imports to the UK market, such as food prices, global factors, market forces, and the impact of these on the health of the UK population and of the environment

Proposals tackling multiple of these areas are strongly encouraged. All proposals must be set in the context of the wider food system, taking into account the environmental and health impacts, synergies, trade-offs and unintended consequences, even if these are not actively researched.

Proposals should be interdisciplinary, with disciplines from across the whole UKRI remit encouraged, and the team must demonstrate that they include relevant economics expertise.

It is recognised that work looking at transforming the UK’s food supply from other countries will have social, economic and environmental implications for all the countries involved.

The social, economic and population health implications for the UK are in scope, however, these impacts on other countries are not, and should not be actively researched within proposals.

The environmental impact of the UK’s demand on other countries, and trade with other countries, is included within the scope of proposals.

Research exclusions

Applications will be rejected before peer review for proposals which:

  • are not focused on transforming the UK food system for healthy people and a healthy environment
  • are not focused on foods consumed in the UK
  • are looking at the social, economic and health impacts on countries other than the UK
  • are focused solely on food safety

How to apply

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

You can find advice on completing your application in:

Submitting your application

Proposals must be submitted by the deadline of 14 December 2022 4pm UK time. Electronic acknowledgements will be sent to the principal investigator and submitting organisation.

Applicants should select the following from the Je-S menus:

  • log in to Je-S
  • select ‘Documents’
  • select ‘New Document’
  • select council: BBSRC
  • select document type: Standard Proposal
  • select scheme: UKRI
  • select call/type/mode: Transforming UK Food Systems through Economic Interventions 3rd Call
  • select ‘Create Document’ and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the form


Please complete and submit:

  • Je-S pro-forma: fill in as is specified on the document page. Mandatory sections:
    • project details
    • investigators
    • objectives
    • impact summary
    • resource summary
    • summary
    • attachments
    • proposal classifications
  • case for support (max 8 pages): see case for support section
  • justification for resources (max 2 pages): all resources requested (directly incurred, directly allocated and exceptions, including principal investigator and co-investigator time) must be fully justified. For items that would ordinarily be found in a department (including non-specialist computers), justification must be provided both for why the items are required for the project and why they cannot be provided from the research organisation’s own resources (including funding from indirect costs from grants). It is expected that the research organisation will provide computers and laptops for the principal investigators and co-investigators and other research staff on continuing contracts
  • data management plan (max 1 page): any environmental data generated within the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) remit must adhere to the NERC data policy, and costs for data management, archiving and curation at an appropriate environmental data centre must be costed into the proposals. For other data, please see research council specific policies:
  • a CV (maximum 2 pages per CV): required for all named applicants and named research staff only. CVs are not required for named technicians. Combined into a single PDF
  • proposal cover letter: applicant’s declaration of interests must be included in the proposal cover letter. Please see conflicts of interests
  • diagrammatic workplan (max 1 page): diagrammatic workplan representing timelines and milestones. Cannot be used to extend the case for support
  • letter of support (any number): all letters combined into a single PDF document if possible. Head of department (or equivalent), collaborators, project partners’ and sub-contractors
  • facility form (optional, but required for some facilities)

Case for support

The case for support must be a single document that includes the following sections. The suggested page lengths within the total page limit are indicative and applicants may use the overall space available in the case at their own discretion. The whole case for support document should not exceed 8 pages (inclusive of references, diagrams and tables). Submissions that exceed these pages will be withdrawn.

You should include:

  • track record and ability to deliver (1 to 2 pages recommended):
    • describe the contribution to the project of each named investigator (principal investigator and co-investigator), including a clear time commitment. This should be in the form of a succinct personal statement, providing evidence of the skills and expertise they will bring to the project based on significant prior research achievements and broader impacts
    • justify the contribution and added value each named collaborator, project partner or sub-contractor brings to the delivery of the programme
    • describe the leadership track record of the principal investigator demonstrating capability to lead the project, or support or mentorship where appropriate
    • describe the resources or facilities that will be available within the team and their institutions to underpin the research
    • describe a clear strategy for how the partnership will work together to deliver their goals and how they will grow and mature collaborations over the funding period
  • background:
    • introduce the topic of research and explain its academic and wider context
    • demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of past and current work in the subject area both in the UK and internationally
    • provide a summary of the results and conclusions of your recent work in the research area or areas relevant to the proposal
  • strategic relevance:
    • describe how your proposal contributes to the aims of the Transforming UK Food Systems Programme
    • describe how your proposal has the potential to transform the UK food system
    • describe how your proposed research is interdisciplinary and is takes a food systems approach
    • describe how the research has potential for environmental, health, economic and societal benefits for the UK
    • describe how the research addresses UK government research priorities
  • programme and methodology:
    • identify the overall aims of the project, the expected deliverables or outputs and the individual measurable objectives against which you would wish the outcome of the work to be assessed. This should refer to the objectives set out in the proposal form
    • detail the methodology to be used in pursuit of the research and justify this
    • describe the programme of work, indicating the research to be undertaken and the milestones that can be used to measure its progress. The detail should be sufficient to indicate the programme of work for each member of the research team
    • describe how the project will be managed to ensure effective working of the team, the award and research outputs and outcomes. The management approach should be appropriate to the nature and scale of the programme

How we will assess your application

UK Research and Innovation will perform an initial remit check and 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 and there will be no principal investigator rebuttal stage, however all applicants will receive feedback from the panel meeting.

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. This will be provided to the funders who will make final funding decisions

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

The successful project will be expected to start no later than April 2023.

Assessment criteria

All proposals will be assessed against the following assessment criteria.

1. Research excellence

The quality of the research in the proposal as a whole and its relevance to the aims of the funding opportunity.

2. Transformative potential

The extent to which the proposed research has the potential to help to transform the UK food system by providing strategies and evidence to drive change. This includes the feasibility of the research balanced against its stated outcomes, as well as value for public money.

3. Environmental, health, economic and social impact

The extent to which the research has the potential for environmental, health, economic and social benefits for the UK. This could be through for example, supporting interventions in previously funded projects or through developing a blueprint with stakeholders which if implemented could lead to policy changes in government and businesses, or wider societal change.

4. Ability to deliver and leadership quality

Proposals should demonstrate that their research team comprises the full breadth of skills and expertise (across disciplines and sectors) needed to achieve the expected outcomes, underpinned by an appropriate institutional environment.

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


Include ‘Food Systems Call 3’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within 5 working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info


We held the funding opportunity webinar on 31 October 2022, 2:00pm to 3:00pm UK time, on Zoom for the opportunity to ask questions.

View the webinar recording on Zoom
Passcode: 5.S1KP9d

About the programme

This funding opportunity is part of the wider £47.5 million Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Programme delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), in partnership with:

  • the Global Food Security Programme
  • ESRC
  • MRC
  • NERC
  • Defra
  • DHSC
  • Public Health England
  • Innovate UK
  • FSA

The programme is supported by UKRI’s SPF.

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