Instructions to Applicants

The full Call for Application guidelines are also available for download on the Application Documents page.

Background: the SynBio FSP

Synthetic Biology (SynBio) is the design and construction of biological parts, devices, and organisms, usually based on DNA-encoded componentry; and their application for useful purposes. It is becoming widely recognised that SynBio is the next transformative technology. SynBio is an emerging interdisciplinary field representing the convergence of diverse domains, such as biotechnology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, systems biology, physics, chemistry, computer engineering and informatics, electrical engineering, and genetic engineering, among others. SynBio involves modelling, writing, and printing DNA code for the design and fabrication of new biological parts, devices, systems, and machines, as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems. SynBio has potential applications in areas as diverse as manufacturing, human health, agriculture, mining and environmental remediation. Because of SynBio’s transformative nature, Australia must develop a strong SynBio ‘Research Ecosystem’ or it will lose competitiveness in almost every industry, including traditional areas such as agriculture.

The SynBio FSP provides a platform comprised of a capability core with the skills suitable to continually develop and improve the SynBio tool box. The FSP will work closely with domain specific researchers and technologists to design, fabricate, and construct the novel, fit-for-purpose biological assemblies and machines across CSIRO and with research partners to deliver outcomes and impacts for the nation. The core Science Domains (capability areas) of the FSP are Integrative Biological Modelling, Engineering Novel Biological Components, and Assembling Innovative Biosystems (see Funding Rules for details). In addition, there are five Application Domains where we are focussing our research program: Environment & Biocontrol, Chemicals & Fibres, Foundation Technologies, Health, and Maximizing Impact (see Funding Rules for details). The FSP is supporting a number of activities, including the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellowships.

Projects and Project Structure

Research projects must demonstrate an ability to build Australian capacity in synthetic biology. Interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international collaborations are encouraged. Industry involvement is not a requirement, but is welcome if it supports and aligns with the project, and mutually agreeable intellectual property arrangements can be reached. Financial co-sponsorship from collaborative partners will be viewed favourably, but is not a requirement.

Tips for your proposal

  • Proposals that focus on a narrowly defined application without providing actual or potential platform technology development (technologies with broad applicability) in synthetic biology will not be scored well
  • Conversely, proposals that include development of platform technologies with multiple different applications will be scored well
  • Proposals that link with third parties (national/international; outside of the host organisation and CSIRO) to access expertise and capacity are encouraged as long as Project IP will not be encumbered by a third party
  • The Fellow should ideally be bringing new capability to the synthetic biology field in Australia. This capability should be competitive on an international scale
  • Projects within scope, but that appear to be continuations of long standing projects, will be given greater scrutiny than those that clearly articulate their novelty, and may not be considered distinct enough to be supported. Projects that are associated with, but are demonstrably novel and distinct from current projects, are eligible
  • Systems biology is not synthetic biology, although the two technologies are often used together. Projects that are clearly systems biology focussed with no capacity development in synthetic biology will not be funded.
  • Mentor letters are an important part of the application package. The Mentor’s commitment to the Applicant and the project should be clear in the letter, as well as highlighting the relevant expertise of the Mentor.

Identifying your Host Organisation and CSIRO Mentors

Applicants must identify a host organisation Mentor(s) and a CSIRO Mentor(s) who will work together to support the Fellow. The SynBio FSP can assist in identifying suitably qualified Mentors where required, both within the University system and within CSIRO. The SynBio FSP encourages applications supported by mid-career Mentors (equivalent to academic C and D level). Applicants may enquire directly to the SynBio FSP ( with a brief project outline.

Applicants should discuss their project with the proposed Mentors; it is expected that the mentors will assist in development of the project with the applicant, but that the ideas and intellectual ownership of the project belong to the Fellow. Mentors from both the Host Organisation and CSIRO are expected to actively participate in the project and bring relevant and useful expertise to the collaboration. The Mentors will also be expected to participate in Project IP discussions via an IP Committee and to read and endorse milestone reports. The SynBio FSP will facilitate a “mentoring best practise” process for all successful candidates and their mentors to ensure projects are well supported from commencement.

CSIRO Support

The CSIRO Mentor will provide added technical and intellectual expertise to support the project. CSIRO resources and facilities will also be available to the project through this collaboration. Some applicants/host research groups/mentors will already have formal or informal associations with an appropriate CSIRO Mentor. Groups with pre-existing relationships will not be given priority over new collaborations; however, there will be a greater onus on the new collaborative partners to demonstrate that there is a genuine potential for collaboration. Conversely, groups with pre-existing collaborations will have a greater onus to demonstrate that the research project is novel and not a continuation of a currently-funded project. The SynBio FSP will work with the Applicant to identify a suitably-qualified mentor(s) if required. Applicants may enquire directly to the SynBio FSP ( with a brief project outline and the FSP will provide a list of potential candidates for the applicant to contact.


Applications must be submitted by email (see How to Apply for complete list of documentation); receipt of applications will be acknowledged. Applications are first assessed against the eligibility criteria. Only eligible applications will proceed to merit assessment stage. Eligible applications are then referred to the selection committee (Assessors) for assessment against the Selection Criteria. The Assessors will be gender balanced consistent with the Government Board Diversity Target. Assessors will be required to declare any real or perceived conflicts of interest during the assessment process. Assessors will not assess applications where conflicts of interest are identified. During the proposal assessment phase, reviewers may request further information from the Applicant or from independent technical experts in the science and research sector.

CSIRO is committed to developing and maintaining a culture that respects, values and actively pursues the benefits of a diverse workforce. The selection process will at all stages reflect this aim by considering gender balance and research output relative to opportunity.

Feedback will be provided for all proposals. Unsuccessful applicants have the right of appeal against administrative processes employed in the selection process, but not against assessment outcomes. Final project details for successful applications may be modified according to feedback by agreement between the SynBio FSP Executive and the Applicant.

Contract negotiations for the Cooperation Agreement will be initiated as soon as provisional offers are made. The Cooperation Agreement is subject to reasonable negotiation between the Host Organisation and CSIRO. The terms of the contracts must be agreed by the contract deadline below, or the Fellowship offer will be withdrawn.

Important Dates

Applications open:                                     14 December 2018

Applications close:                                     1 March 2019 – 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time

The following are indicative dates, subject to change depending on the duration of the assessment process:

Notification of outcomes:                          29 March 2019

Deadline for contract agreement:             24 May 2019


Next: Funding Rules