Environmental Biotechnology Network

Proof of Concept (PoC) Awards

The 4th PoC Call 2023 is now closed.

Opened: 1 June 23. Closed: 15 August 23. Notification: end November ’23.

PoC funding is designed to encourage and support cross- and multi-disciplinary projects at technology readiness levels 1 to 4. Individual projects should last no longer than 12 months and act as a springboard for future further research. Industry partners are not required, but industry support is welcome, where it adds value to the project.

The total funding available (over 5 year duration of the Network to 2024) is £750K. Two funding strands are now available: Desk-based study (max. £25K*) and a Single discipline (max. £50K*). If you would like to know whether your proposed bid or activity falls within EBNet’s remit, further details on our themes can be found here.

*Note that the funding provided by EBNet will be £20K and £40K respectively, as these awards are at 80% FEC.

Important Supplementary Information for the 4th Call

The EBNet 4th PoC Call aims to support a diverse range of EB research projects. This open call offers 2 strands of available funding – up to £25K for desk-based study, and up to £50K for a single-discipline. In a change to prior calls, no £100K cross-disciplinary research funding is available.

In 2022/3 important changes were made to the PoC Guidance and Application – we have moved to a “double-blind” process. Please familiarise yourself with the changes which are intended to focus attention on the project merits and remove any potential sources of bias. In practice for applicants, this means taking care to separate all “identifiers” into section A of the application whilst omitting them from section B. We appreciate your assistance in this and welcome informal queries in advance of the deadline.

We recommend applicants familiarise themselves with the list of projects which have already received support here, as topics which have already attracted substantial funding are likely to be regarded by the Assessment Panel as already adequately represented. To be clear, all projects within the broader EBNet remit will be considered in this open call. Where aspects of your project might reasonably be considered to fall under the remit of a sister-NIBB, the core alignment to EBNet should be made apparent to reviewers. For help and advice on any questions of process or remit, do contact the Network Managers to discuss your project well in advance of application.

Multiple Applications.

Applicants are welcome to be a named PI (once) and Co-I (once) in up to 2 (max.) applications in the 3rd Call. Whilst we appreciate that active research groups may have interests in multiple topic areas, and might collaborate or advise in some capacity in several bids, we request that specific named researchers restrict themselves to being a named PI/Co-I in a maximum of 2 bids per call. Contact the Network Managers in advance with queries.

Previous Calls

Our first PoC call opened on 2 March 2020, with a closing date of 24 April 2020, which was extended to 15 May 2020 due to Covid-related delays. Thirty-three bids were submitted. Five projects were awarded in August 2020.

Our second POC call opened on 1 March 2021 and closed on 29 April 2021. Twenty five bids were submitted. Four projects were awarded in August 2021.

Our third open, double-blind POC call opened on 1 March 2022 and closed on 16 May 2022. The call was Twenty bids were submitted. Three projects were awarded in 2022.

Our fourth and final open, double-blind POC call opened on 1 June 2023 and closed on 15 August 2023. Bids are still being processed.

Further details on previously awarded PoC and BIV projects can be found in the Outcomes section of this website.

POC Process

Reflections on the move to a double-blind Proof of Concept Call

Recent criticisms within academia and a strong focus on EDI initiatives have highlighted anxieties about inequalities in the workplace. Our diverse research community needs to be assured that we take inclusion seriously and aim to safeguard the quality of funded research by eliminating, wherever possible, opportunities for bias in our processes. With these concerns in mind, the Environmental Biotechnology Network (EBNet) moved to a ‘double-blind’ system for our 2022 Proof of Concept funding call.

The purpose of a double-blind system is to remove ‘identifiers’ from the review/decision-making process, leaving the scientific proposal to stand or fall on its merits. Identifiers can be gender or status specific (he/she/Dr/Prof), or provide other identifying information based on location.

EBNet tackled this issue by amending its application, sift, review and assessment panel processes.
In initial discussions, the Executive Group noted that it may still be possible to identify applicants simply from their research interests. Nevertheless, at the award stage, the attribution of several bids came as a surprise to panel members. With such a small sample size, no statistical analysis of the impact on outcomes is possible. We felt, however, that although it is impossible to prevent assumptions and inadvertent bias completely, the double-blind process made assessors more aware that they should be striving against this, making the process worthwhile for future calls.

The complete report on the process is available here.