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Surpassing evolution: achieving a step-change in the efficiency of photosynthesis


  • National Science Foundation (NSF) from the USA

Funding total

£6.15M jointly from NSF and BBSRC.

No. of projects we funded


List of awards


The key objective of the Ideas Lab is to stimulate completely innovative and transformative research proposals for the enhancement of photosynthetic efficiency through an intensive 5 day workshop.

Key aims

The Ideas Lab will develop proposals that could lead to a step-change in our knowledge, rather than incremental advances through multidisciplinary teams, which in addition to scientists from a traditional biology background, may also include researchers from any other discipline which may help to shed light on the topic, including: physics, engineering, mathematical modelling, computer science, chemistry.

Members of the photosynthesis research community and specialists in other areas including but not limited to bioenergetics, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, modelling, and systems biology are also strongly encouraged to participate.

The aspiration is that mixing researchers from diverse backgrounds will engender fresh thinking and approaches that can be brought to bear on this long-standing problem. In addition, by bringing together the best researchers from the US and the UK, the intention is to form strong transatlantic alliances, where the resulting synergies from the expertise of each partner, allows for significant added value.

This activity encourages proposals that have the potential to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of photosynthesis beyond current limits. While numerous efforts to increase photosynthetic efficiency have been made, few gains have been realised. Nevertheless, an increasingly detailed picture of photosynthetic mechanisms has been obtained. The emergence of new integrative bioscience including areas such as functional genomics, metabolic flux analysis, and synthetic biology bring novel strategies that can position scientists to surpass those limits.