Surpassing Evolution: Transformative Approaches to Enhance the Efficiency of Photosynthesis

Status: Archived

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 22-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after October 4, 2021. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 22-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.

A Joint Ideas Lab Activity Between NSF And BBSRC


Photosynthesis is the basis of energy capture from the sun in plants and algae and has the potential to be harnessed for major increases in biomass yield - whether that is for bioenergy, production of renewable chemicals or boosting crop yields for food. Increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis is likely to provide solutions for the food, energy, and environmental challenges of the future. While numerous efforts to increase photosynthetic efficiency have been made, few gains have been realized. Nevertheless, an increasingly detailed picture of photosynthetic mechanisms has been obtained.  The emergence of new integrative bioscience including areas such as functional genomics, metabolic flux analysis, and synthetic biology bring novel strategies that can position scientists to surpass those limits. This solicitation encourages proposals that have the potential to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of photosynthesis beyond current limits. 

The key objective of this joint activity between the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the UK is to stimulate innovative and transformative research proposals for the enhancement of photosynthetic efficiency. The proposals funded through this activity will include ideas that could lead to a sea-change in our knowledge, rather than incremental advances. The proposals will be generated in an Ideas Lab by multidisciplinary teams, which in addition to scientists from a traditional biology background may include researchers with expertise in physics, engineering, mathematical modeling, computer science, chemistry or any other discipline which may help to shed light on the topic. Members of the photosynthesis research community and specialists in other areas including but not limited to bioenergetics, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, modeling, and systems biology are strongly encouraged to participate.

The aspiration is that mixing researchers from diverse backgrounds will engender fresh thinking and approaches that can be brought to bear on the long-standing problem of increasing efficiency of photosynthesis.  In addition, by bringing together the best researchers from the US and the UK, the intention is to form strong transatlantic alliances, where the resulting synergies from the expertise of each partner, allows for significant added value.

US and UK researchers can submit preliminary proposals via FastLane for participating in the Ideas Lab in which a set of multidisciplinary ideas will be developed. These will be submitted as full proposals. Alternatively, US researchers who cannot or do not desire to participate in the Ideas Lab can submit full proposals directly in response to this solicitation. Collaboration among researchers from USA and UK is strongly encouraged in the full proposals.  International research collaborations between the researchers from USA and from UK are strongly encouraged in the full proposals.

Program contacts

Mark Brodl (703) 292-7879
Robert Burnap (703) 292-7582

Awards made through this program

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