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Guidelines for business interaction vouchers

1.         What are BBSRC NIBB Business Interaction Vouchers?

BBSRC NIBB Business Interaction Vouchers (BIVs) are to encourage and support collaboration between academics and industrialists within the E3B: Metals in Biology BBSRC Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB).

The vouchers will help resource small, confidence-building activities between an academic partner and industry-based partner(s) that are likely to:

  • Instigate an interaction
  • Test the potential for a substantive interaction
  • Lead to new research technology transfer projects

2.         How much funding is available?

The Network has been awarded £200K (at 100% fEC) and is expecting to make awards of up to £10K (at 100% fEC) over the lifetime of the Network. This must be matched by a cash or in-kind contribution (at least 80% fEC) from an industrial partner(s) based in the UK. BIVs are awarded at 100% fEC (including VAT). Funding is paid to the academic partner who is tackling a problem of industrial relevance.  

3.         Who is eligible to apply for the vouchers?

Funding is only available to:

Vouchers will be counted as de minimis aid. Industrial partners should ensure they are not in breach of de minimis rules by accepting the Innovation voucher and will agree this before the application is submitted.

Business interaction vouchers should focus attention on UK-based partners where there is benefit to the UK research base and the UK economy. In exceptional circumstances, where there is not a UK company to exploit the research, a business interaction voucher may be awarded to an overseas partner company. The application should provide a clear justification for working with an overseas partner company and outline how the project will lead to building international collaborations, how the project will be taken forward leading to inward investment and the benefit back to the UK.

4.         What activities will the voucher scheme support?

Funds will support a collaboration that can be any defined piece of work by an academic partner relevant to industrial partner(s) for up to 6 months duration. New collaborations will be prioritised, however, existing collaborations will be prioritised too if it aids going up the technology readiness level (TRL). The work must be relevant to the remit of the Network including industrial biotechnology and bioenergy as defined by the BBSRC.

Examples of projects include generating new experimental data, data analysis, technical consultancy, a literature review and extended exchange visits. The vouchers are not intended to fund PhD students (details and nature of consultants will be subject to University and RCUK guidelines) or be used for equipment purchase.

Priority will be given to proposals that meet one or more of the following:

  • Aid technology transfer
  • Work towards solving a technical problem for industrial partner(s)
  • Adapt an existing technology for a new application

5.         When are the funding calls?

The funding calls will remain open for the lifetime of the Network. The call for applications for the BIVs will be advertised on the E3B: Metals in Biology Network website and by email to members as well as other outlets such as twitter (@METALSBBSRCNIBB) to ensure wide coverage of the opportunity. 

6.         What is the application process?

The applicant should complete an application form available on the E3B: Metals in Biology Network website (when a BIV call is open) or by request to the Network Manager: [email protected]

In brief, the application form asks for the following details:

  • Applicant details (including details about the industry partner company)
  • Project details (including technology readiness levels)
  • Finance details (including details of the industry contribution) 
  • Any ethical or social issues
  • A letter of support from the industry partner and a CV of the PI 

The completed application form, short CV, letter of support and Annex B (if relevant) should be emailed as a pdf to the Network Manager: [email protected].

All applications will be acknowledged within 3 working days. 

The Network Manager will check the application meets the criteria and has the required information, however if this cannot be easily remedied (within 3 working days) then the application will be returned and will have to be resubmitted. The Network Manager will contact the academic principal investigator’s Research Office to confirm eligibility of applicant to receive BBSRC funding.

Companies House search for industrial partners will include confirming the presence of a UK-base, the incorporation date (to see how long the company has been trading) and if accounts have been filed on time. Further due diligence checks may be made when academic partners are also company directors. Durham University’s due diligence process (based on UKRI recommendations) will be followed for overseas partners. 

7.         What is the review process?

The E3B: Metals in Biology Network Executive Group (EG), together with representatives from the Management Board (MB) and other members as required, will evaluate applications. Recommendations will be authorised/approved by the EG. The Chair of the MB will review the award recommendations pre-submission to the BBSRC for approval. All awards are subject to retrospective oversight from the MB.

Criteria for assessment will include:

  • Quality of science
  • Relevance of application to remit of the Network including industrial biotechnology and bioenergy (defined by the BBSRC as a set of cross-disciplinary technologies that use biological resources for producing and processing materials and chemicals for non-food applications. These resources can be derived from the tissues, enzymes and genes of plants, algae, marine life, fungi and microorganisms)
  • Potential industrial relevance (Responsible Research and Innovation, RRI)
  • Potential for building longer-term relationships
  • Value for money

8.         How and when will the award be paid?

The academic, co-applicant(s) and industrial partner(s) will agree a start date and will need to have a signed agreement in place prior to the project commencing. IP and collaboration agreements will be drawn up by the respective partnering organisations (academia and industry) and the Network Manager will require evidence that these are in place before releasing funds. 

A formal offer letter (including award Terms and Conditions) will be issued to the successful applicant. A final expenditure claim must be submitted by 31 December 2023 along with the final project report. Funds will not be released from the BBSRC until the expenditure claim and report are submitted. 

Funds will be transferred at 100% fEC from the BBSRC to Durham University on final project costs once a project has been completed. BBSRC will make the payment to Durham University in the next available pay run. The University will then transfer the funds to the awardee.

9.         What reporting will be required?

A project completion form (authorised by the industrial partner for use in the public domain) including a final expenditure statement (authorised by the University) must be submitted by 31 December 2023 and should be sent to the Network Manager ([email protected]). 

A form will be emailed to each PI.

Briefly, the project completion form should contain: 

  • Summary of the project outcomes 
  • Future plans 
  • Testimonial(s) ideally from the industrial partner(s)
  • Image (with legend) related to the science 
  • List of outputs eg papers, patents, new products or processes, prizes, collaborations etc
  • Technology Readiness Level (TRL) for research pre-funding (see BBSRC definition of TRLs), for research post-funding and details of how the funding has helped to advance the TRL of the research (if applicable)
  • Financial details of the actual spend of the project

The report will be used to create a case study available in the public domain (eg Network website and BBSRC publications) 

A full audit trail must be in place for all incurred expenditure on the project. BBSRC will not expect to see this evidence, but it should be in place and can be checked if the RO is subject to a funding assurance visit.

The EG will approve all reports. In the case of conflict of interest the MB Chair or nominee will review such reports.

The awardee should acknowledge the support of the BBSRC award BB/S009787/1 on papers and other forms of media communications including press releases, conferences and media appearances.

The awardee will act as an ambassador for the science area represented by the Network and the wider UK Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy sector by attending and contributing to events within relevant areas at the request of BBSRC. 

10.       What data protection and data sharing polices are in place?

Please read the E3B: Metals in Biology Network privacy notice before completing an application form. Contact the Network Manager: [email protected] if you have any questions.

Copies of proposals will be made available to the E3B: Metals in Biology Network evaluation panel in confidence. They will use information provided in the application for processing the proposal, the award of any consequential funding, and the payment, maintenance and review of the voucher funds. In order to meet the BBSRC obligations for public accountability and the dissemination of information, details of awards may also be made available on the research councils’ websites and other publicly available databases, and in reports, documents and mailing lists.

BBSRC will use this information for research-related activities, including but not limited to, transfer of funds, statistical analysis in relation to evaluation of the BBSRC NIBB, study of trends and policy and strategy studies.

To meet the Research Councils’ obligations for public accountability and the dissemination of information, details of grants (including successful BIV awards) may also be made available on the Research Councils’ web sites and other publicly available databases, and in reports, documents and mailing lists.

11.       Who do I contact if I have any questions about the application process?

If you have any questions please contact the Network Manager: metals.bbsrcnibb@ksvf48durham-ac-uk

Please note that UKRI issued updated guidelines for full economic cost grants on Nov 3rd 2022.