Information for Researchers, No. 65 | July 24, 2023

BBSRC-UKRI-DFG Lead Agency Agreement: Pilot Call on the “Integrative Microbiome”

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is pleased to announce the launch of a bilateral pilot call together with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UKRI-BBSRC) for research proposals on the “Integrative Microbiome”.

Research theme: Integrative microbiome research

This joint DFG-BBSRC funding opportunity invites collaborative research proposals which aim to answer fundamental functional questions related to how phenomena mediated by microbiomes operate. The integrative microbiome is a research area that resolves to combine the investigation of complex communities of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, archaea, protists and viruses) with their relationship and influence on environments which they are associated with. It examines the microbiome as a whole and considers the functional interconnections between microbial, host and wider environmental factors.

One of the biggest challenges in the integrative microbiome field is to move beyond correlative or associative studies to investigate the functional mechanisms underpinning these interactions. This includes how the constituents of microbial communities interact with each other, how the environment affects microbial population dynamics and how the microbiome influences its host and vice versa.

Proposals which are only associative or correlative in nature and do not have a clearly articulated plan to dissect the functional underpinnings of any microbiome-associated effects will be excluded.

Applications might be expected to take a range of complementary approaches, and multidisciplinary proposals are encouraged. This includes proposals that are integrated across scales ranging from community ecology, organismal physiology, tissue, single-cell and molecular level interactions. In addition to fundamental research in laboratory model systems, applications in areas involving microbiomes associated with non-human animals including livestock and companion animals, plants including crops, soil or other human-managed ecosystems (greenhouses, aquaculture facilities etc.) are encouraged to apply.

New tools and technologies are enabling the functional dissection of integrative microbiome interactions at an unprecedented level of detail and generating vast amounts of quantitative data. Correspondingly, the development or adaptation of existing technologies or analysis approaches including bioinformatics and mathematical modelling will be supported, provided this will lead to the underpinnings that answer the fundamental bioscience questions posed within the project.

The principal aim of proposals submitted under this opportunity should be the generation of new fundamental knowledge relating to the function of the integrated microbiome. Through building joint UK-German capability and capacity in integrative microbiome research, the BBSRC and the DFG ultimately expect to establish the fundamental knowledge and evidence needed to enable scientifically robust management and utilisation of these complex microbial communities in a range of contexts in the longer term.

Examples of key challenges

  • Probing the role of variation and heterogeneity in microbiomes, within and between individuals (single-cell, microfluidics etc.).
  • Establishing artificial minimal microbiomes as experimental models in the laboratory to test the effects of perturbations in a controlled context such as gnotobiotic systems, organoids, rhizoboxes and hydroponics.
  • Developing an understanding of the integrative microbiome in a dynamic context across a time series including longitudinally and/or intergenerationally.
  • Understanding the physical structure of microbiomes and how this influences functional relationships.


Proposals must address the priorities of the call. Each joint research project must consist of a German and a UK team. Each national team must be led by one principal investigator eligible to apply to the respective funding agency. Applicants in the UK must meet the BBSRC eligibility requirements. Applicants in Germany must meet the eligibility requirements of the DFG’s Research Grants Programme (DFG form 50.01). Please note that the rules for funding eligibility apply to all applicants from Germany, including the duty to cooperate for non-university researchers. Any duty to cooperate for DFG applicants at non-university research institutions can only be fulfilled through cooperation with a partner at a German university/higher education institution (see DFG form 55.01).

Funding will follow the funding rules of each individual agency.

Applicants should demonstrate how bringing together researchers based in Germany and the UK will add value and advance research. It is expected that each partner substantially contributes to the common project. 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 and UK sides. Teams should ensure there is a plan for effective delivery and coordination of research across the partners.

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

Proposed lead agency

This bilateral call will be managed via a Lead Agency Procedure. Applicants are expected to agree on a proposed lead agency (either BBSRC or DFG) and state this wish at the expression of interest stage.

Please make sure to carefully review the guidelines for proposal preparation and submission provided by the lead agency and by the partner agency prior to submission.

Application procedure

The call will be managed in a two-stage application process. The first stage, the submission of an expression of interest, is mandatory. Regardless of which agency is proposed as lead agency for the proposal stage, the expression of interest will be submitted to BBSRC. Proposals are to be submitted by invitation only, following expression of interest feedback. All proposals must be submitted in English.

Submission of stage one – expression of interest

The UK principal investigator must submit an expression of interest through UKRI’s Electronic Submission system (TFS). It is not possible for German investigators to submit the expression of interest, even if the DFG is the proposed lead agency; there will be a dedicated section to state whether BBSRC or DFG will act as lead agency for the proposal.

Expression of interests can be submitted between 24 July and 10 October 2023 at 4 pm (UK time).

Expression of interest should include:

  • outline of the proposed research
  • research teams involved
  • the project duration (up to 3 years)
  • estimates of the anticipated funding to be requested from BBSRC and DFG
  • proposed lead agency

The expression of interest only provides brief summary information for both agencies to review.

Please note that detailed information about the submission procedure and required documents is available through the call guidance provided by BBSRC (see link below).

Submission of stage 2 –proposals

If the DFG is the lead agency:

  • Please prepare the proposal according to the guidelines for the Research Grants Programme (DFG form 50.01, see link below).
  • The proposal must include a description of the full proposed research programme and research team and the total resources for the joint project (meaning the funds requested for the UK and German side).
  • Proposals must be submitted by the principal investigator of the German team via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. Please select “BBSRC-DFG Pilot 2023-2024_DFG Lead” under “Proposal Data”.
  • Enter a project acronym for your proposal. For each module, please only enter the funds requested from the DFG in the elan portal. Note that only Germany-based applicants should be entered as “applicants”. UK partners (and potential further international partners) should be entered as “cooperation partners”.
  • A CV for each of the applying individuals should be provided, formatted according to the DFG guidelines (see DFG template 53.200, link provided below). Please upload the CVs of all PIs combined in one PDF document.
  • A separate document should include a summary and justification of the funds to be requested from BBSRC.
  • Please note that the DFG will share the proposal and further submitted documents with BBSRC.

If BBSRC is the lead agency:

  • Proposals with BBSRC as lead agency must be submitted by the UK principal investigator to the TFS system of BBSRC.
  • The proposal must include a description of the full proposed research programme and research team and the total resources for the joint project (meaning the funds requested for the UK and German side).
  • Funding requests to the DFG must be made in accordance with the rules and requirements applicable to the Research Grants Programme and relevant funding modules. Please refer to the programme guidelines (DFG form 50.01, see link below).
  • Further details on the TFS application process will be provided with the invitation to submit a proposal.

In addition to the TFS application, a copy of the proposal that was submitted to BBSRC must be submitted to the DFG via the elan portal by the principal investigator of the German team within seven days after the closing date of the proposal submission at the latest (or the proposal mayotherwise be rejected for formal reasons). To do this:

  • Select the “BBSRC-DFG Pilot 2023-2024_DFG non Lead” call under “Proposal Data” in the DFG´s elan portal.
  • Enter a project acronym for your proposal. For each module, please only enter the funds requested from the DFG in the elan portal. Note that only Germany-based applicants should be entered as “applicants”. UK partners (and potential further international partners) should be entered as “cooperation partners” (please select “participating individuals”, “cooperation partners”). At least one cooperation partner from the UK must be specified.
  • A CV for each of the applying individuals should be provided. Please note that the CVs of each of the Germany-based applying individuals should be formatted according to the DFG guidelines (see DFG template 53.200, link provided below). Please upload the CVs of all PIs combined in one PDF document.
  • Please upload a full copy of the proposal that was submitted to BBSRC as one file (including any appendices, etc.) in elan.
  • It is compulsory to submit the “project data form” to the DFG (a template will be provided by BBSRC together with further guidance at the expression of interest stage). Please upload the form in elan under “Other Attachments”.

Assessment process

Expression of interest

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


  • Formal check by funding organisations
  • Evaluation by at least two external expert peer reviewers
  • If BBSRC is the lead agency: opportunity for consortia to submit a response to the reviews
  • Evaluation by an expert panel (BBSRC’s Responsive Mode Committees A-D or DFG’s Review Board, respectively) in light of the reviews and principal investigator response if applicable

Funding recommendations from the panel will be subject to approval by BBSRC and DFG decision bodies, taking into account the availability of funds. Funding can only be granted if both BBSRC and the DFG arrive at a positive decision.

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.


  • Expression of interest opening date: 24 July 2023
  • Expression of interest closing date: 10 October 2023
  • Full stage opening date: Anticipated October 2023
  • Full stage closing date: Mid-Late January 2024, exact date to be confirmed (Note: German partners using the elan system for the first time need to register with their complete personal and address details via elan until 9 January 2024 at the latest prior to submitting their application.)

  • Expected decision date: October 2024
  • Project start: Q4 2024 or Q1 2025

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 Research 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

Expressions of interest:

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

Please download application documents from this website.


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

If DFG is lead agency:

Guidelines Research Grants Programme (DFG form 50.01) – includes eligibility requirements:

Template for the project proposal:

Project Description – Project Proposal [09/22]

CV template – DFG form 53.200:

BBSRC CV guidance:

If BBSRC is lead agency:

For DFG applicants:

CV template – DFG form 53.200:

Arriving at a decision in DFG’s individual grants programmes:

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:

General inquiries about the BBSRC-DFG Pilot Call:

Proposals within the remit of Review Board 202 Plant Sciences:

Proposals within the remit of Review Board 203 Zoology:

Proposals within the remit of Review Board 204 Microbiology, Virology and Immunology:

Proposals within the remit of Review Board 207 Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine: