Eligibility Criteria


  • Applicants must hold a PhD conferred between 1st July 2011 and 1st July 2019, i.e. no more than 8 years’ post-PhD research experience on the closing date for the applications
    o   Applicants still enrolled in their PhD program can apply, as long as there is reasonable reason to believe that their PhD will be conferred by 1 July 2019.
    o   Allowances will be made for career interruptions.
    o   Space is provided to note career interruptions on the CV Template provided
    o   Eligible career interruptions are defined as: carer’s responsibility; disruption due to international  relocation for post-doctoral studies or other research employment not exceeding three months per international relocation; illness; maternity or parental leave; unemployment and/or non-research employment not concurrent with research employment
    o  Periods of career interruption must occur between the PhD award date and the closing time for submission of applications.
  • For University-hosted applicants: The scheme is open to researchers at Academic Levels A and B. In exceptional circumstances funding for a level C position may be approved for a truly outstanding candidate. Applicants must apply at the same or higher academic level to that which they are currently employed (i.e. applicants cannot apply at a lower academic level).
  • The program is not intended to subsidise currently-employed positions. Applicants who hold a tenure-track/continuing/tenured/ permanent/faculty/indefinite position are not eligible to apply.
  • Applicants currently holding Fellowships must relinquish the current Fellowship before taking up a CSIRO Synthetic Biology FSP Fellowship.
  • It is a requirement that no Project IP will be encumbered by restrictions or claims of ownership/licence rights/other by a Partner, Co-Sponsor or other Third Party. Funding from other sources which is subject to such encumbrances therefore cannot be used to provide matching funding to support the application.
  • Applicants may be Australian or international; international applicants will be responsible for ensuring that they are eligible to apply for a visa to work in Australia.
  • For the duration of the appointment, Fellows are expected to reside in Australia and be employed by an Australian Host Organisation.
  • It is a requirement that applicants address project ethical and social licence to operate aspects adequately in the application form.

Host Organisation

The Host Organisation nominates the applicant. The Host Organisation will physically host the Fellow for some or all of the Project and will be financially responsible for the Fellow and the Project. The Host Organisation will usually be an Australian University; however other Australian research agencies will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Host Organisations must be located in Australia.

The Host Organisation is required to provide cash funds that match or exceed the CSIRO funding. Funding may also be sourced from industry or other partners to support the 1:1 matched funding requirement however there must be no encumbrances on the Intellectual Property developed under the project. Encumbered funding therefore cannot be used to provide matching funding to support the application. A Certification and Financial Commitment must be completed by the Host Organisation as part of the application form; non-Host Organisation funds commitments must be underwritten by the Host Organisation. Applications that do not provide a financial commitment from the Host Organisation will not be assessed. Proposals must be submitted through the Research Office (or similar) of the Host Organisation.

The Host Organisation will negotiate a financial and intellectual property agreement (Cooperation Agreement) with CSIRO, and will be responsible for managing the finances of the project and for ensuring that the project is executed according to the project plan. A milestone plan must be attached to the Proposal application and will be appended to the Cooperation Agreement. The Host Organisation will be responsible for supporting successful Fellows through any necessary relocation processes (including visa applications etc.).

A contract including Cooperation Agreement and milestone plan must be in place prior to starting the project and transfer of funding. In certain cases, contracts may be negotiated in parallel with assessment of the proposals to ensure their timely conclusion and allow initiation of the project as soon as feasible after the award is made. This is purely administrative and does not imply that the proposal in question will be successful. Please contact synbiofsp@csiro.au for a draft Cooperation Agreement.


For the purposes of this Call, synthetic biology is defined as the design and construction of biological parts, devices, and organisms, usually based on DNA-encoded componentry; and their application for useful purposes. Projects must aim to deliver an outcome through the engineering of biological systems, typically through the engineering of genetic componentry, commonly in a high throughput manner. This may include biobrick-like components (not necessarily using the BioBrick standard design rules) and/or development of technologies underpinning synthetic biology tool construction or application, and/or social science projects examining social/ethical/legal/regulatory etc. aspects of synbio. Proposals that do not have identifiable synthetic biology components will be disqualified as being out of scope. The only exceptions are projects falling under the Maximising Impact Application Domain (see Domain details below); these projects must still demonstrate a broad capability development applicable in the synthetic biology domain.

Proposals must align with one or more of the five Application Domains and must involve capacity development in one or more of the four Science Domains (see details below). In addition, proposals that use established synthetic biology techniques but do not demonstrate development of new capacity in the synthetic biology field will not be funded.

2019 Program Priority Areas

Application Domain Priorities

The priority areas for the 2019 Fellowship round are the Health & Medicine and Maximising Impact Application Domains (see below for details). However, we will consider Proposals across all five Application Domains.

Technical Priority: BioFoundry Use
Biofoundries provide high-throughput combinatorial assembly and analysis of DNA components and engineered cell strains as an integrated facility with Design-Build-Test-Learn components. Design is performed using a variety of computational approaches and software tools, and DNA-encoded components that are contained in virtual and physical libraries of DNA parts. For the Build-Test arms, the BioFoundry comprise three major equipment elements: (1) DNA/RNA/protein manipulation using state of the art liquid handling robotics (2) Semi-automatic identification and selection of clone colonies, and (3) High-throughput growth and analysis of strains/lines.

The SynBioFSP is supporting biofoundry development at The University of Queensland (Australian Foundry for Advanced Biomanufacturing) and Macquarie University (Australian Genome Foundry). These facilities are intended to become nationally available to the R&D community. Effectively utilising such facilities required a conceptual shift from standard bench molecular biology approaches to high-throughput roboticised alternatives. We are therefore strongly encouraging applications that include a BioFoundry component. Access may include residential periods to be trained on equipment use and/or a service-based model. Testing can be performed either using local Foundry facilities or at the user’s home lab. Enquiries about project suitability and costings can be made by email to SynBioFoundry@csiro.au.

The FSP program is a space for development of basic science and foundational technical capability, and does not necessarily require commercial/industrial outcomes. However, it will be considered a positive where a path to market is articulated in parallel with a project scope that fulfils the requirement of SynBio capacity building. As noted, an industry partner may or may not be identified as part of the proposal. Notwithstanding this, applications marked commercial-in-confidence cannot be assessed and will be excluded.

Strict word limits and page limits apply. Proposals that exceed word or page limits will not be assessed. Arial 10 point font is used where text is entered in the form; do not change the font style, font size, or external box margins. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that word limits and page limits are not exceeded.

Responsible Research

As with other interventionist technologies, social and ethical considerations are critical in the development of synthetic biology applications, to ensure that the technology being developed serves community needs. The SynBio FSP is built on a philosophy of responsible development, striving for ethical outcomes and working within the bounds of social and cultural appropriateness and acceptance. We therefore ask the proponents to identify any ethical issues that could affect the delivery of the project outcomes or arise as an unintended consequence of the work done. Ethical considerations include, but are not limited to: dual use issues, effects of environmental release of gene drives, impacts on social equity and sociocultural considerations, etc. In this section the proponents should consider the broader implications of their work, in line with the Maximising Impact Science Domain.

A multidimensional understanding of public values, governance and policy is essential for maximising the impacts of the work that originates in the FSP, and projects need to demonstrate that their outcomes have the potential to be socially appropriate. This may not be possible at the inception of a project; however, a plan for early community engagement will be critical for some projects, although the extent and nature of such engagement is clearly outcome dependent. Please include details of how socio-environmental needs will be considered during the project.

Projects will not be scored on ethical or social considerations, but failure to adequately address these issues will disqualify projects from FSP funding.

Application Domains

Our research program is focussed around five Application Domains:

Foundation Technologies

For SynBio to progress and deliver on its promise, a dependable set of tools and building blocks is required. Projects in the Foundation Technologies Application Domain are developing these components across a range of organisms and systems. One of several focus areas is plastids (mitochondria and chloroplasts) and endosymbionts, which offer some extremely attractive features as delivery vehicles for novel ‘code’ to repurpose eukaryotic cells. This program of work will focus on developing the tools and technologies necessary to engineer novel systems and deploy highly desirable traits.

Environment & Biocontrol

SynBio has the potential to revolutionise our capacity to control our environment by modifying the resilience of species under threat, altering the capacity of insects to vector human disease or controlling populations of invasive species. Australia’s unique geographical and regulatory environments, combined with CSIRO’s world class capabilities in the environmental and biocontrol sciences, give CSIRO considerable competitive advantage in this area.

Projects in this program of work will contribute to a world class capability in delivering environmental and biocontrol solutions based on SynBio technologies.

Chemicals & Fibres

SynBio will have a significant role in providing substantial and disruptive technologies to our traditional industries, including chemical and fibre manufacture. In future, manufacture of many chemicals will be achieved via biological routes, this will include new chemicals that are currently unobtainable or impractical via traditional chemical syntheses. Many traditional fibre production systems and chemical manufacturing processes will be supplanted by more efficient and intensified biological systems and processes through SynBio, and new or highly modified versions of extant fibres and chemicals will become accessible through the advanced bioengineering capability of SynBio. To compete Australia must become leading in these areas as they relate to Australia’s traditional economic strengths.

Projects in this program of work will contribute to a world class SynBio capability in delivering production and manufacturing innovations in the fibres and chemicals space.

Health & Medicine

The emerging tools of SynBio have the potential to advance medical breakthroughs and deliver new health innovations. SynBio may help solve some of the most difficult global health challenges with alternative approaches to vaccine and drug creation, diagnostics, and combinations of interventions within a single biological system. Projects in this program of work aim to design new synthetic biology tools and platforms that could further global health research.

Maximising Impact

Synthetic biology applications are potentially disruptive and include genetic alteration of living cells. In order to deliver impact from these technologies, an understanding of socio-environmental needs and impacts is critical to the successful development and deployment of appropriate, acceptable and socially responsible SynBio solutions. Research aligned with the Maximising Impact Application Domain includes projects examining multidimensional understanding of public values, acceptance and decision-making (individual and societal); community engagement; environmental risk assessment; general technology risk assessment; ethical considerations; governance and regulatory issues; and policy and legal framework/considerations; and science communication.

Experimental Science Domains

Three broad science domains have been identified as critical for the FSP, and capability that supports these areas are in scope for FSP supported projects. Note that projects aligned with the Maximising Impact Application Domain are not required to align with the three science domains listed below.

Integrative Biological Modelling

Predictive modelling of biological systems is essential for the successful development of SynBio products and for the deployment of many SynBio solutions. Such modelling could include:

  • Molecular modelling of biomolecules including genetic circuits, proteins and genome architecture (particularly in response to the introduction of new genetic elements)
  • Modelling at an organismal level, including predictive metabolic and phenotypic modelling
  • Population modelling: for example, modelling the proliferation of gene drives through a population
  • Ecosystem modelling to understand the risks and outcomes of introducing SynBio interventions in the environment
  • Integration of modelling at different levels of organisation.

Engineering Novel Biological Components

Biology has provided a vast array of functional components that can be integrated in to new SynBio circuits, devices etc. However, novel functionality may be required for some applications; for example, tuneable genetic logic gates, novel organic synthetic chemistry steps, or tissue/life-stage specific genetic switches. Such novel biological components could include:

  • New genetic switches, circuits and logic gates that control spatial, temporal, tissue-specific and other conditional gene expression
  • Novel functional proteins, including sensors, enzymes and structural proteins
  • Non-model chassis organisms, including bacteria, fungi, yeast, plants, and animals as well as eukaryotic organelles and endosymbionts.

Capabilities that support the engineering/evolving/discovery of new biological components are in scope for SynBio FSP projects.

Assembling Novel Biosystems

Novel Biosystems are engineered biological systems, including living organisms, ecosystems and complex in vitro systems and devices. Capability that contributes to this area includes:

  • Gene delivery and genome editing, particularly in non-model organisms
  • Physiological, genomic and genetic understanding of target organisms
  • Genetic, genomic, transcriptomic, metabolomics and phenomic tools and systems approaches for assessing outcomes of engineering (and feedback to modelling approaches).

Priority biosystems may be targeted; where a clear and pressing need can be articulated, but where clearly identified technology gaps are present.

Next: Selection Criteria