National Science Foundation Global Centres

Call for proposals: Bioeconomy

Research topics

The bioeconomy is the share of the economy based on products, services and processes derived from living systems. It includes the research results, data, infrastructure, workforce capacity and innovation that enable the discovery, utilization and alteration of living organisms, their constituent components, and their biologically related processes. Bioeconomy is built on the foundation of biotechnology and biomanufacturing, and in addition to biological science and engineering, includes research in other fields, such as the social and behavioural sciences, humanities, ethics, geosciences and chemistry.

Research investments to advance biotechnology serve both to accelerate scientific discovery and to enable the harnessing, engineering and rational modulation of biological systems to create goods and services that contribute to the agriculture, health, security, manufacturing, energy and environmental sectors of the global economy. Other fields can also help us determine what biotechnologies we need; research in the geosciences, at the poles, and in fields like chemistry help us understand the processes and issues we can use biotechnology to solve. Some examples include genome sequencing, gene editing like CRISPR, synthetic and engineered biology, biosensors and artificial intelligence based on neurological principles.

NSERC and SSHRC would welcome the involvement of Indigenous Peoples, their uniquely valuable connection to Canada’s ecology, and their incorporation of traditional Indigenous knowledge in research.

Canadian researchers may suggest research topics that include the full range of disciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches that address the bioeconomy. Please refer to the NSF website for the full description of topics accepted by the NSF and other partner funding agencies. A reminder that Canadians must collaborate with at least one NSF-eligible US-based researcher and that the proposal submitted to NSF must focus on a clear research area within the given themes and topics related to the bioeconomy (refer to sections D1a to D1d of the NSF program literature for more information). All proposals must integrate the two crosscutting themes into the proposed work.

Topic 1: Leveraging Biodiversity Across the Tree of Life to Power the Bioeconomy.

Examples of research in this field may include but are not limited to biodiversity, plant genomics, precision agriculture, green economy, metabolomics, genomics and genetic sequencing; data for the bioeconomy, socio-economic impact assessment; Indigenous knowledge; historical and cultural ecology; biocomputing; the intersection of AI and biotech; and quantum sensing in biotech.

Topic 2: Biofoundries, also called the Design-Build-Test-Learn process.

Examples of research in this field may include but are not limited to synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, rapid prototyping of biological designs through automation and AI, use of the design, build, test, learn cycle, ethical considerations, governance, and social implications.

Crosscutting Theme A: Public engagement and co-generation of research activities to strengthen the global science and technology enterprise.

A multi-pronged approach to address this priority might include centre-scale investments to bring experts together to address human-centred solutions to societal problems; inclusion of public engagement and co-generation requirements in funding of bioeconomy-related activities; and implementation of innovative approaches to engage more of the public, with a focus on the next generation, in developing new biotechnology solutions to problems like climate change, hunger, waste and disease.

Crosscutting Theme B: Workforce Development and Education.

Efforts in this area could include enhancing diversity and equity within biotechnology and biomanufacturing research and development expanding investments in equity-focused science, including social justice, environmental justice, and equity-advancing efforts, to advance better, more equitable outcomes.

For a full explanation of these themes, please see the NSF website.

For research proposals that involve Indigenous Peoples or groups, you are encouraged to consult the Tri-agency Indigenous Research guidelines.

Collaborating outside the natural sciences and engineering fields

This initiative recognizes the need to include the social and behavioural sciences and the humanities as these fields, often working alongside natural sciences and engineering, have important contributions to inform the bioeconomy and its impact on society. We encourage the participation of researchers and research collaborations from outside the natural sciences and engineering fields who have relevant research topics. Researchers may be either applicants or co-applicants if they meet the NSERC eligibility requirements.

What's next?
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Application deadline
June 11, 2024, 8:00 p.m. EST

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