The Sustainable Crop Production Research Grant




The Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development programme is a joint multi-national initiative of the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Department for International Development (DFID), together with (through a grant awarded to BBSRC) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in the USA, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of India's Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).  The purpose of the programme is to support high-quality basic and strategic biological and biotechnological research to improve the production of major food crops in developing countries.



The focus of the programme is on research to understand and counter the effects of abiotic (drought, temperature, salinity, nutrient deficiency etc) and biotic stresses (pathogens, pests, weeds) - including combinations of stresses - that constrain food crop production in developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.


Emphasis will be placed on the following staple crops:

1.     Cassava

2.     Maize

3.     Rice

4.     Sorghum

5.     Wheat


A proportion (~15%) of the available funding will be allocated for work on other important crops but support is unlikely to be provided for research on 'niche' crops with the potential to enhance the livelihoods of only small groups of people.


Research supported through this programme must be of excellent scientific quality and demonstrate clear development relevance. Projects are also required to provide the basis for forging mutually-beneficial scientific partnerships between the UK and developing countries.


The aims of the programme are:


(i)      to enhance the livelihoods of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by generating underpinning knowledge that will contribute to improving the sustainability of food crop production, particularly by small-holder farmers, and thereby reduce hunger and poverty and increase food security;


(ii)     to forge mutually-beneficial partnerships between researchers in the UK and developing countries that create trans-national added value through meaningful intellectual collaboration, and enhance the scientific capabilities of southern partners for the longer term.


There are two components to this call for proposals:


(i)      Standard Research Grants (SRGs) led by a Principal Investigator (PI) from any eligible institution.


(ii)     Projects for Emerging Agricultural Research Leaders (PEARLs), under which a small number of grants (probably between five and ten) will be awarded specifically for projects of four years' duration where the lead PI (a "PEARL Fellow") is an early-to-mid career scientist from a developing country of Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia.  Unlike SRGs, PEARLs will include funding to cover the full-time salary costs of the lead PI for the duration of the project.  Applications from women would be particularly welcomed.


Applicants should indicate clearly on the cover sheet of their outline proposal whether it is an application for a SRG or a PEARL award.


This new programme builds on and, with others, extends an ongoing collaboration between BBSRC and DFID, through which two successful joint initiatives based on partnerships between researchers in the UK and developing countries have been previously funded:  Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development ( and Combating Infectious Diseases of Livestock for International Development (




All research supported through this programme must be relevant to understanding and countering the effects of abiotic and/or biotic stresses that constrain the production of major food crops  in developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka).  Proposals must involve, as a minimum, one eligible scientific partner from the UK and one from a developing country, but there is no restriction on the number or location of other research institutions that may participate in a proposed project, or on the location of the host institution of the researcher responsible for its overall scientific leadership.  Developing country partners are not restricted to institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, provided that the research to be undertaken is relevant to the needs of countries in one or both of those regions. 


The programme is open to all UK researchers who are normally eligible to apply for funding from BBSRC and/or DFID, and to non-UK researchers of equivalent status based in recognised higher education institutions or other research institutions, or in other "not-for-profit" organisations with a credible and relevant research capacity.  In India, the programme is open to all researchers who are eligible for DBT funding, including those employed by institutes of the ICAR, universities, other recognised research institutions, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with relevant scientific expertise.  Proposals initiated and led by researchers based at institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia would be particularly welcomed.




Funding available for the programme is expected to be up to £20M, of which up to £2M will be for PEARL awards.  No limit is being set on the cost of individual projects.  Where necessary, and scientifically justified, support may be requested for SRGs of up to five years' duration ; PEARL awards will be of four years' duration.  All projects will be expected to start as soon as possible after 1 April 2012.


Funding from BBSRC, BMGF and DFID will be combined in a "common pot", from which grants will be awarded by BBSRC.  Funding from the Government of India will be managed independently by DBT, and available (only) to all Indian institutions that are eligible for funding by the Department.  However, allocation of all of the funding for the initiative - both from the "common pot" and from DBT - will be determined by a single peer-review and assessment process, managed by BBSRC on behalf of all of the funding partners.


Indian institutions involved in successful proposals will be eligible to receive DBT's standard allocation of funds for their components of the projects, which will be paid to them directly in rupees in accordance with the Department's normal financial practice.  This arrangement will apply to all participation by Indian institutions in projects funded by the programme, either where the project is led by the Indian institution, or where it is a partner in a project led by an institution in another country.  Funding of all other (UK and non-UK) institutions will be awarded and administered by BBSRC from the "common pot", and will be subject to BBSRC's usual terms and conditions for research grants (, together with other conditions agreed with its funding partners for this programme, including additional reporting requirements.  (All research funded through the programme must comply with relevant legal, regulatory and ethical requirements in the country in which it is to be undertaken.)  Grants will be awarded by BBSRC to the institutions of principal investigators which, where relevant, will be responsible - and accountable - for disbursing approved funds to partners in other institutions.  Awards, which will be paid in £UK sterling, will be cash-limited, and no additional funding will be provided to compensate institutions outside the UK for subsequent exchange rate fluctuations. 


UK institutions will be eligible to receive the standard allocation of funds for their component of a project, which is normally 80% of the full economic cost (FEC) of the proposed research.  Further information about FEC is available on BBSRC's website (  UK applicants who are unfamiliar with FEC are advised to contact their institution's finance office for further guidance.


For non-UK institutions (except those in India), the programme will support, in full, all of the direct costs of the research, plus a variable overhead on staff costs as follows:


(i)      for institutions in developing countries (as defined according to the OECD-DAC List of Recipients of Official Development Assistance at 1 March 2011), a maximum overhead rate of 50% of total salary and salary-related staff costs (directly allocated and directly incurred); or:


(ii)     for institutions in any other countries, a maximum overhead rate of 20% of total salary and salary-related staff costs (directly allocated and directly incurred).


Researchers employed in institutions of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are eligible to participate in the programme as co-applicants, but not as a lead principal investigator, subject to appropriate justification of the added value that such participation would bring to the programme over and above their core-funded activities. 


SRGs (but not PEARLs) may include requests for funding of doctoral research studentships for individuals from developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, but proposed studentships must be presented in the context of a wider proposal for a research project.  (Proposals that seek support only for studentships will not be accepted.)  Requests for studentships must demonstrate the value that would be added by the studentship to the project as a whole, particularly in terms of the contribution it would make to enhancing the scientific capacity of southern partners for the longer term.  Studentships must be of four years' duration, concurrent with the associated research project (which must also be of four years or longer in duration).  Students must be residents of developing countries, but there is no restriction on the location of the institution(s) at which a studentship may be held.  However, the funders would not expect a student to spend the entire period of four years outside the country of the southern partners of the project with which the studentship is associated.  Detailed guidance on the costing of requests for studentships will be provided, in due course, to investigators who are invited to submit full applications.  (Funding would be provided to cover all of the costs of a studentship, including travel, living and laboratory expenses associated with time to be spent by the student working in another country away from his or her "home" institution.)


Outline proposals must be submitted by 15.00 Greenwich Mean Time (16.00 British Summer Time) on 31 March 2011.

For more info email to:


The NGO Funding Consultants


The Vegan Organization for Social Justice Worldwide

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