Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Work with US researchers: BBSRC-NSF/BIO lead agency 2022

Apply for funding to collaborate with US researchers on a single joint proposal.

You must be based at an organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

Your project should:

  • address the priorities of both BBSRC and NSF/BIO
  • provide a clear rationale for the need for a US-UK collaboration.

The full economic cost of your project, including the UK and US components, can be up to £2 million. BBSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost for the UK component.

The duration of your project should aim to be between three to four years, and must not exceed five years.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this funding opportunity, as set out in section three of the BBSRC research grants guide.

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

  • higher education institutions
  • strategically funded institutes
  • eligible independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments.

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

Check if you and your organisation are eligible for research and innovation funding.

US partners must be eligible for NSF/BIO funding.

Applicants based in other countries are not eligible to apply.

What we're looking for

2022 notice of intentions

This opportunity allows US and UK researchers to submit a single collaborative proposal that will undergo a single review process by the lead agency, on behalf of both NSF/BIO and BBSRC.

In 2022 to 2023, proposals will be accepted for UK and US collaborative projects in the areas of intersection between NSF/BIO and BBSRC as set out in the notice of intentions.

Proposals must address the priorities of both BBSRC and participating NSF/BIO divisions.

You must provide a clear rationale for the need for a US and UK collaboration, including the unique expertise and synergy that the collaborating groups will bring to the project.

The lead agency opportunity does not represent new funding. Proposals will be assessed in competition with all others submitted to the priority areas and agency programs identified in this DCL, and outcomes will be subject to both success in merit review and the availability of funds from both BBSRC and NSF/BIO.

Areas of focus

Proposals relevant to the following priority areas and agency programs are eligible to apply for this opportunity.

Biological informatics

Proposals should develop informatics approaches and cyberinfrastructure resources to enable novel and more effective use of data in biological research. Proposals should address important current or emerging challenges faced by researchers, supporting generation of new knowledge from biological data.

Proposals should clearly identify their relevance to one of two biological informatics focus areas, either:

  • research to design novel or greatly improved research tools and methods
  • the implementation of, scaling of, or major improvements to research tools, products, and services for biology applicable to a wide range of researchers.

Proposals can be in any bioinformatics research area within the remit of both NSF/BIO  and BBSRC. Proposals should clearly describe their potential to advance and enable data driven research undertaken by biological research communities primarily supported by both NSF/BIO and BBSRC.

Proposals must be aligned to NSF/BIO’s division of biological infrastructure informatics (innovation) or cyberinfrastructure (capacity) programmes, but not both. Principal investigators are advised to consult the appropriate programme officers of both agencies to ensure that their portion of the project is compliant with the targeted program.

Read more about:

Systems understanding of host-microbe interaction

Proposals are invited that take an integrative approach to address questions relating to infection and infection-like processes.

These host-microbe interactions, mediated through the immune response, can result in a range of pathogenic and non-pathogenic outcomes for the host, including interactions that could be neutral or beneficial. They may also have phenotypic consequences impacting beyond immune recognition and response, such as the impact of microbiome constituents on nutrient processing and physiological signalling.

More holistic studies of diverse and complex systems of infection biology in plants and animals will identify ways to harness infection biology to solve societal problems. This opportunity encourages studies that propose systems-oriented investigations that shape our understanding of infection and infection-like processes in complex multi-faceted scenarios. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • modulation of host-infectious agent interactions in response to varied environmental conditions
  • the influence of co-infection and the wider microbiome, both in initial responses and in influencing the dynamics of longer-term interactions
  • how changes to host physiology through the life course may alter susceptibility and resilience
  • factors that contribute towards fundamental shifts in the nature of infections, such as transitions between commensal, mutualistic and pathogenic outcomes.

Relevant areas of investigation include:

  • using genetically similar hosts or microbes that result in different phenotypic outcomes of infection
  • the use of comparative cross-species approaches to develop insights that have broad relevance across biological organisms.

Proposals must aim to progress knowledge of immunology in either non-human, non-mouse animals or plants. However, integration of a range of approaches and data across the host-microbe interface to develop new systems-level insights.

Read more about:


Proposals that focus solely on human or mouse immune systems will not be accepted.

Proposals that focus on industrial applications will not be accepted.

Synthetic cells and cellular systems

Can we design, build and control a synthetic cell or synthetic cellular system? Natural cells emerge from the coordinated operation of a large number of biomolecules with their environment.

One goal of synthetic cell research is to decipher the basic requirements of a living cell by understanding the myriad functions that make it resilient and adaptive. Similarly, synthetic approaches to build multicellular systems may reveal new mechanistic understanding of how both biophysical and biochemical intercellular interactions drive spatial organisation and emergent behaviour within cell populations.

Proposals are expected to focus on building a synthetic cell or cellular system to understand biology.

Synthetic cells might be:

  • protocells containing only the most basic cellular components that allow an understanding of the origin of life
  • artificial cells that contain both natural and synthetic cellular components
  • minimal cells that use natural molecules to build self-replicating cellular entities through ‘bottom up’ approaches.

Synthetic multi-cellular systems would couple engineering at a cellular level to the development of higher order spatially organised structures, through control of cellular interactions, geometries, movement and collective behaviours.

Read more about:


Proposals focused exclusively on building a synthetic cell as a biomanufacturing platform or as a therapeutic moiety will not be accepted.

Biomedically-focused proposals such as regenerative medicine and tissue engineering will also not be accepted.

Synthetic microbial communities

Microbial communities contain remarkable genetic, physiological and biochemical diversity, allowing them to flourish in environments all over the planet and in a variety of substrates and hosts.

While the means of harnessing individual microbes for biotechnological application are well established, in recent years researchers have begun to explore the wider properties and potential of more complex mixed microbial communities.

The study of natural microbiomes can be hampered by their inherent complexity and an inability to fully map how the functional properties of their constituents combine to deliver a collective phenotype.

Advances in synthetic biology and allied fields are enabling researchers to assemble and engineer synthetic microbial communities from a bottom-up perspective that have novel compositions, genetics and phenotypes.

This offers an alternative to natural microbiomes, allowing researchers to address more precisely fundamental questions about complex microbial communities while also providing routes towards novel bio-based solutions to societal problems.

Proposals are invited to support research that:

  • examines the underlying mechanisms or rules that can be used to inform the construction, maintenance and evolution of synthetic microbial communities, considering factors such as:
    • cooperative and competitive interactions within communities
    • emergent properties within these systems
  • examines how to design and control increasing complexity in microbial composition, behaviours and the genetic, metabolic, signalling and physical interactions that occur, as well as how these properties may change within differently spatially structured environments or as process are scaled to enable practical application
  • builds complex mixed synthetic communities with novel physiological and metabolic outputs, offering potential bio-based solutions that contribute to tackling global challenges such as:
    • production of novel biochemical cycles to enable more circular use of resources in the bioeconomy, biodegradation of recalcitrant or ‘forever’ chemicals’
    • development of biorenewable resources that could mitigate our impact on the environment and climate.

All proposals should expand our understanding of biological systems, even if an application is proposed.

Read more about:


Proposals focused exclusively on biomedical or therapeutic applications will not be accepted.

How to apply


You are recommended to discuss within your research team where you feel the largest proportion of research lies (typically, this means largest budget request) and agree on a proposed lead agency, either NSF/BIO or BBSRC.

Where advice is required about lead agency or fit of the proposal to the written notice of intentions, you should contact the lead agency inboxes (see contact details) to discuss the research project.

Lead agency staff will then confirm they will act as lead funding agency (and subsequently inform the other participating agency) or will consult with the other agency to identify a new lead funding agency prior to returning a decision to you. This is generally within 10 working days.

Stage one: intention to submit

Proposers should complete the intention to submit form, which outlines:

  • which agency will act as the lead (BBSRC or NSF/BIO)
  • the research proposed and how this aligns to BBSRC and NSF/BIO priorities
  • research teams involved
  • bottom line estimates of funding to be requested from the NSF/BIO and BBSRC (for NSF/BIO, bottom line estimates should include both direct and indirect costs).

You must use the intention to submit template (DOCX, 28KB). It should:

  • contain a project summary that does not exceed two pages
  • be saved as a PDF document
  • only be submitted to the lead agency.

BBSRC as the lead agency

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

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.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

We recommend you start your application early.

When applying, select ‘new document’, then:

  • council: BBSRC
  • document type: outline proposal
  • scheme: standard outline
  • call/type/mode: NSF/BIO expression of interest.

You must include ‘2022BBSRC-NSF/BIO’ in the title.

You can input ‘n/a’ to mark the objectives, impact summary and summary of the Je-S form as blank.

US investigators do not need to be included on the Je-S form.

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

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


BBSRC must receive your intention to submit by 21 September 2022 at 17:00.

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.

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

Your intention to submit and Je-S form will be shared with NSF/BIO through BBSRC’s secure extranet.


No CVs or impact summaries are necessary at this stage.

NSF/BIO as the lead agency

Where NSF/BIO is the proposed lead agency, your intention to submit (in PDF) should be emailed to

NSF/BIO must receive your intention to submit by 21 September 2022.

The intention to submit will be shared with BBSRC through BBSRC’s secure extranet.

Please see further guidance on the NSF/BIO website.

Stage two: full proposals

All information and documentation should be submitted to a single funding agency. For the purposes of managing the administration of the lead agency, full stage applications will be shared between BBSRC and NSF/BIO staff through BBSRC’s secure extranet.

Applicants who are invited to submit a research proposal will do so in accordance with the proposal preparation requirements of the lead agency. A detailed guidance document will be provided with the invitation to submit a full application.

The proposal should include descriptions of:

  • the proposed research (in the UK and US)
  • how the research aligns to BBSRC and NSF priorities
  • the rationale for a UK-US collaboration
  • the UK and US research team
  • the total resources for the joint project (that is, the funds requested from both the NSF/BIO and BBSRC). The appropriate budget forms will be provided with the full application invite.

To indicate that the proposal is to be considered under the lead agency management plan, you must preface your project title with ‘BBSRC-NSF/BIO’.

For projects involving human participants or animals, you will be advised about both NSF/BIO and BBSRC policies, and will be advised to consult with appropriate staff at NSF/BIO or BBSRC prior to submitting a proposal.

The proposal will be submitted by established programme deadlines or target dates determined by the lead agency.

For BBSRC, all full proposals must be submitted to BBSRC responsive mode 23RM1. We anticipate the full proposal closing date to be January 2023.

For NSF/BIO, most proposals may be submitted at any time after the full proposal is invited, but must be submitted by February 2023 to ensure timely review for the 2023 fiscal year.

How we will assess your application

There is a two-stage application process.

Stage one: intention to submit

The intention to submit will be shared with the non-lead agency to check for eligibility. Namely,  whether the proposed research fits within the participating agencies’ portfolio, the scope of the notice of intentions, and whether the proposed researchers and institutions meet the agencies’ funding eligibility requirements.

The intention to submit will also be used to gauge proposal pressure by programme and assist programmes with budget planning.

Feedback on your intention to submit will be provided three weeks after the submission deadline on 21 September 2022.

Stage two: full proposals

Full proposals (both the UK and US components) will undergo a single peer review process lead by either BBSRC or NSF/BIO, depending on where the proposal is submitted.

Proposals will be reviewed in competition with other unsolicited proposals or with proposals received in response to a specific opportunity by the lead funding agency. That is, proposals submitted to the lead agency management plan agreement will not undergo a special review process.

Proposals will be reviewed in accordance with the lead agency’s review criteria. While not identical, NSF/BIO and BBSRC ask reviewers to evaluate the proposed project on both its scientific or intellectual merit as well as its broader or societal impacts.

Read the description of the NSF/BIO merit review process.

Read the BBSRC research grants guide for more information on BBSRC’s assessment process.

When BBSRC is the lead agency, all proposals submitted will be assessed by the four responsive mode committees in the usual manner, and in competition with all other proposals submitted to responsive mode.

You should indicate as normal which committee is likely to be best able to assess the work proposed. Full applications must be received through 23RM1 following an invitation from the intention to submit phase.

Funding decision

After the reviews are received, program directors from the lead and non-lead agencies will discuss the potential outcomes. Afterwards, the lead agency will use its usual internal procedures to determine whether a proposal will be awarded or declined. In the case of:

  • NSF/BIO: an award requires a formal recommendation by the program officer and then concurrence by the cognisant division director. NSF/BIO’s division of grants and agreements will review the proposal from a business and financial perspective. NSF/BIO’s funding decisions are subject to the availability of funds. Only the NSF/BIO grants officer can make commitments on behalf of the foundation or authorise the expenditure of funds
  • BBSRC: funding recommendations from panels are received by research council officers who, taking into account the availability of funds, will fund those proposals recommended for funding in the order identified by the panel.

Proposers will be advised whether their proposal has been recommended for funding or will be declined by the lead funding agency. Proposers will receive copies of the unattributed reviewers’ comments and, where applicable, a panel summary.

Once a proposer has been notified of a pending award, the non-lead researcher associated with the project must submit a copy of the proposal to the non-lead agency so that each agency has complete documentation of the overall proposed research project.

If a proposal is recommended for funding, the US organisation will be supported by NSF/BIO and the UK organisation will be supported by BBSRC. NSF/BIO and BBSRC staff will review budgets to ensure that there are no duplications in funding.

Because the participating organisations have different funding cycles, it is possible that some projects will have delayed start dates in order to wait until funds become available.

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

NSF/BIO team


BBSRC eligibility enquiries


Include ‘NSF/BIO lead agency’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five to 10 working days.

BBSRC international collaborative agreements


Include ‘NSF/BIO lead agency’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

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Additional info

Memorandum of understanding

NSF/BIO and UKRI have signed a memorandum of understanding on research cooperation.

The memorandum of understanding provides an overarching framework to encourage collaboration between US and UK research communities and sets out the principles by which jointly supported activities might be developed.

The memorandum of understanding provides for a lead agency arrangement whereby proposals may be submitted to either NSF/BIO (through or or UKRI (through Je-S).

Award conditions and reporting requirements

NSF/BIO and BBSRC will clearly state in award notices and any related documents that awards resulting from this activity were made possible by the BBSRC-NSF/BIO lead agency opportunity.

Awardees will be expected to comply with the award conditions and reporting requirements of the agencies from which they receive funding.

Researchers will be required to acknowledge both NSF/BIO and BBSRC in any reports or publications arising from the grant.

Requests for extensions will be considered by the funding agency using standard procedures. Requests for changes to awards will be discussed with other involved funding agencies before a mutual decision is reached.

Supporting documents

Intention to submit template (DOCX, 28KB)

UK partner budget proforma (for full proposals only) (DOCX, 114KB)

US partner budget proforma (for full proposals only) (DOCX, 112KB)

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