Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 92 | 2. November 2023

Trilateral Call for Research Proposals on “Future Proofing Plants to a Changing Climate”

Joint Call in Plant and Crop Sciences for Researchers in Germany, the UK and the USA

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) together with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UKRI-BBSRC), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) is pleased to announce the launch of a trilateral call for research proposals on the topic “Future Proofing Plants to a Changing Climate”.


Climate change is challenging the sustainability and resilience of our agri-food systems, through long-term changes to temperature and rainfall, increased threats due to extreme weather events and shifts in pests and diseases. Plants overall need to be more resilient and adapt to these threats whilst crops need to continue meeting the demand for safe and affordable food for a growing population on less land and with greater resource use efficiency, in order to lower the impact on the natural environment.

How will international research collaboration help address the challenge?

To address this imminent challenge, we need accelerated approaches in plant sciences translating knowledge across different plant and crop species. This necessitates new ways of working, access to diverse, complementary expertise and greater research coordination across multiple geographical locations and agri-environments to deliver a deeper understanding of the genome-phenome-environment relationship in the context of climate change. Broad community building and matching of strengths and diverse expertise in research intensive nations can accelerate solutions and leverage upon national research investments.

Germany, the UK and the US have world leading capability in plant and crop sciences and together can drive greater coordination of research efforts beyond borders. Τhe programme will support collaborative research in the three countries.

Research themes

Proposals can address research questions which fit under

  • the ‘From molecules and mechanisms to field performance’ theme, or 
  • the ‘Programmable plants’ theme.

From molecules and mechanisms to field performance:

A multi-scale understanding of model and crop plant physiology has the potential to deliver a step change in our ability to understand genotype x environment interactions and their impact on phenotype. Current bottlenecks include the lack of tools that enable integration of existing plant physiological, cellular and genomics knowledge into whole farming systems understanding. The need to consider plants in real world contexts also extends to the influence of the plant microbiome and plant-soil interactions, where beneficial relationships play a role in plant resilience and resource use efficiency. Integrative research is needed to understand the links between plant genetics, metabolism/physiology and performance in complex and fluctuating environments. This requires bringing together observations from multiple scales, including molecular, cellular, physiological, organismal, and at the plant population level. Optimising traits in the context of abiotic and biotic challenges, such as water stress or pathogenic threats, often leads to trade-offs that have implications for performance. This is particularly true when trying to link insights from laboratory studies to field performance of crops. Research in this area should seek to develop or harness advances in modelling, machine learning and phenotyping, as well as a range of other multi-modal technologies, to deliver quantitative insights and potential strategies to optimise plant performance under different conditions, particularly in the field. 

Programmable plants:

The ability to ‘programme’ plants with predictable and novel characteristics and ideotypes suited to specific environments, will provide fresh insights into complex genotype-phenotype relationships and offer innovative solutions for agricultural adaptation to climate change impacts. Biotechnological and synthetic biology approaches are needed to accelerate plant research in this direction and deliver step-changes in our ability to control plant growth, developmental and stress responses more precisely. Areas that will benefit from further research include complex multigenic trait engineering in genomes and development of innovative techniques to control chromosome recombination for rapid and efficient implementation of pangenome diversity or crop wild relatives to enhance complex traits, such as encoding resistance to stresses like drought, flooding, salinity, temperature, or pathogens and microbial interactions. Furthermore, engineered approaches to reduce reliance on fertilisers and pesticides (e.g. such as nitrogen fixation and microbiome modulation), or enhanced carbon capture (e.g. improved sequestration in below ground tissues and photosynthetic efficiency), will strengthen resilience in more challenging and volatile climates and environments. Finally, development of new tools and methods that address current bottlenecks in engineering plant systems, plant transformation, or harness disruptive approaches such as those in plant synthetic biology, genome editing, speed breeding, and rapid phenotyping, will accelerate the pipeline of development of rationally engineered plant traits for a changing climate.

BBSRC as Lead Agency

The trilateral call will be managed by BBSRC as Lead Agency. Please note that detailed information about the call, the submission procedure, required documents etc. is available through the call guidance provided by BBSRC (see link below).

Please make sure to carefully review these guidelines prior to submission.


Proposals must address the priorities of the call and remain within the remit of BBSRC, DFG, NSF and USDA-NIFA. Each joint research project must consist of three (Germany, the UK and the US) national teams. Each national team must be led by one principal investigator eligible to apply to the respective funding agency. Funding will follow the funding rules of each individual agency. 

For the DFG, the eligibility requirements comply with the standard rules for DFG research grants and include members of universities of applied sciences (HAW). Scientists at non-university research institutions like Max Planck and Helmholtz Institutes should note the rules on the ‘duty to cooperate’.

Applicants should demonstrate how bringing together researchers based in Germany, the UK and the US will add value and advance research. It is expected that each partner substantially contributes to the common project. This also includes taking on organisational responsibilities. The division of responsibilities should be reflected in the amount of funds requested by each partner. Projects should be integrated but do not have to be symmetrical, in the sense that neither the sums requested, nor the items requested have to be identical on the German, UK and US sides. However, we would expect the work packages to be delivered reasonably equally. 

The duration of the projects will normally be, and must not exceed, 36 months.

Application procedure

The call will be managed in a two-stage application process by BBSRC as Lead Agency. Submission of an expression of interest at the first step is mandatory. Full proposals are by invitation only, following expression of interest feedback. All applications must be submitted in English.


  • Expression of Interest opening date: 2 November 2023
  • Expression of Interest closing date: 6 February 2024 
  • Full stage opening date: TBC – February 2024
  • Full stage closing date: 22 May 2024

The UK principal investigator must submit an expression of interest through UKRI’s Funding Service at the latest by 6 February 2024 at 16:00 (UK time).

Expression of interest should outline:

  • the research proposed,
  • research teams involved,
  • estimates of funding to be requested from BBSRC, DFG, NSF and USDA-NIFA, 
  • project summary including Background, Programme of work, Contribution of the German, UK and US teams, and Relevance of the work to the call scope,
  • planned collaboration with industry, if applicable. Please note that collaboration with industry will require a specific Cooperation Agreement. If applicable, please contact the DFG Head Office prior to submission of your expression of interest.

The expression of interest should not exceed 2 pages.

Full proposals must be submitted by the UK principal investigator to the UK Research and Innovation Funding Service (see link below). In addition, the Principal Investigator of the German team will have to upload the proposal to DFG’s elan system one week after the closing date of the full proposal submission to the UKRI Funding Service at the latest (i.e. by 29 May 2024). In elan, submission of two documents, the proposal and CV(s) is mandatory. For the latter, please upload the CVs of all PIs and the ‘DFG Lead Agency procedure Project Data Form’ combined in one PDF document.

Assessment of applications

Expression of interest

Eligibility check by funding organisations (check whether proposed research fits within the participating agencies’ remit, the scope of the call, and whether the proposed researchers and institutions meet the agencies’ funding eligibility requirements)

Full proposal

  • Formal check by funding organisations
  • Evaluation by three external expert peer reviewers
  • Opportunity for consortia to submit a response to the reviews 
  • Evaluation by a joint expert panel in light of the reviews and principal investigator response

Funding recommendations from the panel will be subject to approval by BBSRC, DFG, NSF and USDA-NIFA, taking into account the availability of funds. The agencies will fund the proposals recommended for funding in the order identified by the panel. 

It is expected that in the region of 12 awards will be made under this funding opportunity (subject to proposals meeting the criteria and quality standards). In this context, applicants are asked to contact their respective funding agency in case their planned budget exceeds a certain amount. Applicants from Germany are requested to contact the DFG Head Office prior to submission of their expression of interest in case they would like to apply for more than €1M for the German project part.

Notification of results

Applicants will be informed in writing of the decision and, where applicable, of the subsequent administrative steps according to the respective national regulations.

Grant holders are requested where possible to keep their project components synchronous and initiate their grants in a timely manner.

Please note that according to a resolution of the DFG General Assembly, as of 1 August 2019, DFG funding may only be awarded to institutions that have implemented the guidelines laid down in the Code of Conduct for Safeguarding Good Research Practice in their own regulations in a legally binding manner. This means that also for international proposals, funding from the DFG can only be received if the guidelines for safeguarding good research practice (see link below) have been implemented by the German applicant´s institution. If you have any questions on this subject, please contact the Scientific Integrity team at the DFG Head Office (see contact below). Further information regarding the implementation can be found on Research Integrity website (see link below).

The DFG strongly welcomes proposals from researchers of all genders and sexual identities, from different ethnic, cultural, religious, ideological, or social backgrounds, from different career stages, types of universities and research institutions, and with disabilities or chronic illness.

Further Information

Detailed information, especially on the application documents and evaluation procedure, should be carefully reviewed and is available on:

Please download all application documents from this website.

Full proposals must be submitted by the UK principal investigator to the UK Research and Innovation Funding Service:

Eligibility requirements of DFG (DFG form 50.01)

The elan system (for submission of DFG parts of full proposals only) can be accessed at

Please note the DFG’s data protection notice on research funding, which can be viewed and downloaded at

If necessary, please also forward this information to those individuals whose data will be processed by the DFG due to their involvement in your project.

Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice – Code of Conduct 

Information on the implementation of the Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice (Code of Conduct) 

Contact of the DFG´s Research Integrity team (Good Research Practice)


DFG Head Office:

Call Secretariat: