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Priority areas

All sLoLa applications must address at least one of the strategic research priorities for responsive mode grant applications, which are described on our website (see related links).

Where appropriate, as well as addressing one or more of our strategic research priorities (see related links), proposals are welcomed which also address the Council's 'building partnerships' priorities (collaborative research with users, research to inform public policy or increased international collaboration).

For the 2014/15 outline call, there will be a focus on the following specific strategic areas:

Veterinary Vaccinology
Immune system function across the lifecourse
Role of epigenetics in health across the lifecourse
Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE)

For further information on industry involvement in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) proposals see this section below.

The Research Complex at Harwell

Where relevant, we encourage sLoLa proposals to locate research teams (for either part of, or the entirety of the award) at the Research Complex at Harwell (external link), utilising the available expertise of the Oxford Protein Production Facility UK (external link), CCP4 and other co-located groups. See our facilities and resources page for all services.

Research conducted at RCaH could benefit from access to the multidisciplinary expertise and the large STFC facilities such as Diamond, ISIS and the LSF. Prospective applicants are encouraged to discuss their resource requirements with the RCaH Director, Professor Simon Phillips,, before submission.

Veterinary Vaccinology

We wish to highlight veterinary vaccinology in this 2014/15 sLoLa call with an emphasis on approaches that will lead to development of the next generation of vaccines.

We welcome applications that focus on multidisciplinary approaches and generic technologies for producing vaccines; novel tools and technologies; and/or diseases which constitute major threats to animal health where there is a lack of an effective vaccine.

Areas of particular interest include:

  • identifying determinants and biomarkers for vaccine-induced protective immunity
  • novel and effective adjuvants
  • improved vectors for delivery
  • new vaccinology technologies e.g. for delivery, thermostabilisation and vaccine production
  • novel immunological reagents and tools necessary to progress vaccine research

All applications:

  • that are developing generic technologies must demonstrate proof of concept in terms of protection against disease
  • that are focused on a specific disease, must provide justification for the need for the vaccine, limitation of any current vaccine and evidence of the economic impact of the disease in the UK
  • should take a multidisciplinary approach
  • should bring together key UK groups and establish an effective collaboration that can contribute to a long term network
  • should demonstrate potential industrial interest - working with industrial partners is strongly recommended

We especially welcome approaches that bring together expertise from the human and veterinary research communities, a 'One Health' approach, to contribute to the programme of research.

Eligibility: Normal sLoLa eligibility applies to this strategic area.

Please contact Dr Sadhana Sharma, email:, if you have any questions regarding the fit of your proposed research to the strategic area.

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Immune system function across the lifecourse

Proposals are encouraged that examine the role of the immune system across the lifecourse as an important component of healthy ageing. Immune system alterations have, in particular, been implicated in the development of frailty in elderly people. We seek to encourage approaches to better understand the processes of the ageing immune system that can then inform strategies to promote healthy immune system function throughout the lifecourse. In particular, we welcome proposals that aim to develop a better understanding of:

  • the key mechanisms of immune system homeostasis across the lifecourse, including moderating factors such as environment, nutrition and lifestyles
  • the relationships between the immune system and inflammatory responses across the lifecourse
  • the relative significance of age-related changes in immunity, including immune responses to vaccination
  • the impacts of broader physiological changes across the lifecourse on immune system function

Proposals are particularly encouraged that seek to:

  • link key UK groups and seek to develop effective multidisciplinary collaborations
  • develop a systems approach to key research challenges
  • exploit high throughput data approaches and other new ways of working
  • foster collaboration with industrial partners

Eligibility: Normal sLoLa eligibility applies to this strategic area.

Please contact Dr Louisa Jenkin, email:, if you have any questions regarding the fit of your proposed research to the strategic area.

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Role of epigenetics in health across the lifecourse

In the context of our Ageing research: lifelong health and wellbeing, we welcome applications that focus on the role of epigenetics in healthy physiological systems. We particularly seek to encourage proposals focussed on:

  • understanding the relative influence of epigenetic mechanisms during key stages of physiological development
  • understanding the role of epigenetic mechanisms in influencing physiology in later life, and possible implications for maintaining and promoting healthy systems across the lifecourse
  • understanding the extent to which epigenetic changes may be influenced, moderated or reversed (e.g. by environment, nutrition or lifestyles), and what potential may exist to influence epigenetic processes for maintenance and promotion of health across the lifecourse

Proposals are particularly encouraged that seek to:

  • link key UK groups and seek to develop effective multidisciplinary collaborations
  • exploit high throughput data approaches and other new ways of working
  • foster collaboration with industrial partners

Eligibility: Normal sLoLa eligibility applies to this strategic area.

Please contact Dr Louisa Jenkin, email:, if you have any questions regarding the fit of your proposed research to the strategic area.

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Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE)

IBBE is widely recognised as having a significant role to play in the transition of the UK to a low carbon economy through the development of new and less carbon intensive products and more efficient processes. IBBE will play an important role in enabling the UK to meet the ambitious targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. The expansion of IBBE approaches will underpin the development of a sustainable UK Bioeconomy with the potential to maintain future energy security, create innovative bio-based products, increase the efficiency of a wide range of manufacturing processes generate sustainable economic growth and create jobs.

We support research in IBBE which underpins the processing and production of materials, chemicals (including pharmaceuticals and biopharmaceuticals) and bioenergy through the sustainable exploitation of biological resources such as the tissues, enzymes and genes of algae, marine life, fungi, microorganisms and plants to facilitate the use of renewable feedstocks including crop wastes, municipal wastes, perennial biomass and solar energy.

Fundamental bioscience when applied to challenges in IBBE can help overcome current limitations in technology development through increased understanding of the underlying biological processes and the development of novel biological resources. As such, basic bioscience is well placed to address the barriers to real-world application of low carbon technology. Projects which aim to take significant steps towards the translation of research, should consider the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst (launching in late January 2014).

Aims of IBBE

Through strategic investment in world-class bioscience, we aim to fund cross-disciplinary research which contributes to fundamental new understanding of biological products and processes that underpin the development of sustainable manufacturing routes to high value products, platform chemicals and sustainable bioenergy. To realise this goal, we wish to:

  • encourage the application of cutting-edge technologies such as genomic, systems and synthetic biology approaches to tackle research challenges and help deliver key benefits in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy
  • encourage world-class researchers to apply their expertise to IBBE
  • encourage the use of cross-disciplinary approaches to integrate biology with other disciplines including chemistry, engineering, mathematics and computational modelling and wherever possible, a consideration of the related environmental, economic and societal challenges
  • increase the UK's capacity to undertake basic and strategic research in IBBE through increasing the critical mass of trained staff in UK Universities and Institutes
  • increase the opportunities for collaboration with industry and government, which enable the development and translation of novel discoveries into new products and processes for economic benefit

In this 2014/15 sLoLa call BBSRC encourages proposals that seek to increase understanding and exploitation of:

Innovative routes to fine and platform chemicals (including biofuels), with a particular focus on research which explores:

  1. elucidation and/or manipulation of novel and/or important biosynthetic pathways, including by synthetic biology approaches
  2. integrating bio- and chemo- catalysis to add value to bioproduction of chemicals
  3. understanding and manipulating challenging cellular and enzyme systems (e.g. anaerobic systems)
  4. enzyme characterisation leading towards improved biocatalysis, including structural biology and studies of enzyme mechanism to support the implementation of a, b and c above
  5. development of novel biocatalysts by discovery and/or design, including metagenomic approaches, to support the implementation of 1,2 and 3 above.

Mechanisms for enhancing cellular productivity, with a particular focus on research which:

  1. expands application of genome-scale metabolic modelling and associated techniques, including synthetic biology, to industrially relevant (or exploitable) organisms
  2. addresses the challenge of product toxicity including the molecular basis of toxicity and mechanisms to overcome toxicity
  3. develops understanding of how to enhance substrate or product flux into or out of the cell or system
  4. develops understanding of how to overcome limitations caused by problems of cofactor balancing in engineered pathways
  5. addresses fundamental barriers to achieving increases in productivity towards systems with near theoretical carbon yields

Research must be undertaken with a focus on IBBE relevant enzymes, pathways and/or systems to be accepted under the Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy strategic area.

Eligibility: To further encourage applications within IBBE Principal Investigators applying in this area who do not meet the formal track record requirements (see eligibility details) will be considered eligible provided they can clearly explain how their previous experience demonstrates the appropriate competence to conduct the proposed project.

Please contact Dr Colin Miles, email:, if you have any questions regarding which funding scheme is most appropriate or the fit of your proposed research to the strategic area.

Industry involvement in IBBE proposals

Applicants submitting proposals under the Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy strategic area are strongly recommended to engage with industrial partners. Examples of industrial engagement on a project could include but are not limited to; cash contributions, materials, access to equipment or facilities and staff participation in research or on a project management committee/scientific advisory board.

Industrial involvement is not compulsory and we do not stipulate a specific degree of participation. However, it is encouraged and should be appropriate to the research proposed to ensure the successful delivery of the project.

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