Total Fund: £300K (anticipated)
Eligible Activities: Small to medium sized collaborative research projects, case studies, and training initiatives that seek to provide evidence or capability in Network priority areas.
Maximum Award: Stream A: up to £30k (or higher with previous agreement with the FSRN); Stream B: expression of interest for future projects with scope to be determined.
Opening Date: 17 August 2022
Closing Date: 3 October 2022
Decision made: 17 October 2022 (anticipated)
Award completion date: no later than April 2024

What is this opportunity?

We are establishing the UK Food Safety Research Network as a community that connects partners between food industry, academia and government to consider and apply science to improve the safety of foods in the UK.

This BBSRC and FSA co-funded network looks to address microbial risk in the food chain, with the goal of introducing new capability, knowledge or skills to help reduce these risks.

We are now making funding available to establish meaningful ongoing collaborations between partners exploring shared challenges, to identify promising areas of impactful activities, and to achieve our ambition of establishing a longer term sustainable collaborative network.

We aim to act as an innovation hub to catalyse and fund research, development and training projects. These projects are cross-sector and/or cross-disciplinary centred around food safety challenges and opportunities.

We have gathered feedback from partners across the food system that is prioritised into three areas as guide points for collaborative projects within the Network:

Apply for funding (Stream A) or express your interest in applying for future funding (Stream B) of your food safety research or training ideas using this application form.

Please note, as part of commitment to supporting innovation we are presenting a streamlined application process to rapidly identify and fund ideas and collaborations.

Who is this for?

We have a very broad view on who can impact the safety of foods, and the Network welcomes project ideas from partnerships formed from across the food sector:

  • from primary producers to distributors to retailers; and
  • from academic researchers that have expertise in areas such as microbiology, data sciences, and social and economic sciences; and
  • from government and policy organisations that have roles in food regulation and the establishment and training on best practices.

Funding is available for current Food Safety Research Network members and must represent a collaboration between an academic lead applicant eligible to receive BBSRC funding AND at least one non-academic partner. Multiple academic and non-academic partners are encouraged where it benefits the project.

The lead awardee must be a UKRI-eligible organisation and will receive the award. Please contact the Network management team for further information on eligibility.

What types of projects are we interested in?

This first call has two streams – applications for projects that are ready to be rapidly funded and initiated (Stream A), as well as an opportunity to put forward an expression of interest for project ideas that are not yet fully formed and that will be developed in subsequent Network community forums (Stream B).

Where applications are being made to rapidly fund projects, in this first call we are looking to fund small to medium sized collaborative research projects, case studies, and training initiatives that seek to provide evidence or capability in Network priority areas during and beyond the lifetime of the network.

These awards are being made to:

  • establish a new relationship or extend relationships between food industry, food and health policymakers and academia; and/or
  • improve interactions between the collaborating partners, and/or;
  • lead to new research and innovation projects and activity relevant to the Network’s remit.

New collaborations will be prioritised within funding decisions. Funded activities can take a wide variety of forms, and we encourage applicants to use novel approaches to explore high-risk areas in support of achieving the Network’s goal of creating innovative and sustainable partnerships relevant to food safety.

Some example projects are shown below, please note these are shown only as examples – we welcome new and different ideas and approaches for projects, particularly if they are focussed on the network priority areas.

  • Exploratory projects, such as proof-of-concept projects that test the effectiveness of new interventions to reduce microbes such as Campylobacter or Salmonella in food products or food production settings. Such projects could include the application of bacteriophages or testing of biocides in the context of challenging harbourage sites.
  • Other projects may favour knowledge synthesis or pump priming projects that seek to start to understand the microbial risk of new food products such as plant-based foods or the new technologies used to produce these foods such as vertical farming, and then seek to educate other producers, regulators or consumers on those risks.
  • Other projects may seek to understand why there is an established and continued risk in food categories such as ready-to-eat foods and then develop customised training or intervention pathways that enable food producers of those categories and consumers to lessen the food safety risk. Training could take the form of a webinar and online resources to support broad and sustained impact beyond the lifetime of the Network. All project categories can support the placement or secondment of project members and early career researchers between project sites to gain first-hand experience in the operations of different sectors of the food system, or research facilities or government organisations.

How much and what resource is available in this first round of applications?

We intend to make approximately £300K of the Network’s resources available in this first call. Individual projects can be up to £37.5K at 100% full economic cost inclusive of VAT. We will then fund 80% of this full economic cost under standard UKRI research grant terms and conditions. All awards will be made and funds distributed by Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB) in its role as coordinator of the Food Safety Research Network.

NOTE: In this first call, in Stream A we are open to receive applications requesting more than £37.5K – please contact the Network management team to discuss your application ahead of submitting if you intend to request >£37.5K.

Funding requirements specific to this call are:

  • Awards will be paid in arrears to the lead awardee. The lead awardee will be responsible for disseminating funds to other partners on their award.
  • Equipment (of any cost) is not an eligible cost.
  • A maximum 20% of costs may be subcontracted, however, facility access charges can be included outside this limit.
  • In-kind contributions from project members should be described in the application form, with in-kind contributions expected for access to facilities, some staff time, and use of existing infrastructure.

In all other regards, eligible costs align with usual BBSRC requirements. Please contact the Network management team to clarify the status of any costs should you be uncertain.

How will applications be assessed?

All applications will be assessed by a review panel comprising key stakeholders in the Network. The panel will consider each proposals strengths against three scoring criteria:

  1. Strategic fit – does the proposed activity align with the objectives of the Network?
  2. Delivery – will the proposed approach efficiently and effectively deliver against its stated aims?
  3. Impact – will the project deliver near term and sustained impact aligned with Network objectives to improve food safety across the sector?

These criteria will be used to assess and determine proposals to be funded within the available budget for this call. We reserve the right to undertake a shortlisting process, and where necessary ask for the lead applicant (and partners if they wish) to attend a short (1-hour) on-line presentation of their proposal and Q+A session with the panel.  The same criteria will be used for both steps.  The criteria are available here.

It should be noted that the criteria the panel will use to assess applications is shown at this stage to ensure applicants are aware of the decision-making process for funding. The criteria are a guide for the panel, and we will use the three elements to provide qualitative feedback to successful and unsuccessful applicants.  Where significant issues or positive points are raised by an application that are not captured in the criteria, we reserve the right to take these into account during the decision-making process.  We will provide feedback on any additional element considered.