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Instructions to Applicants

For convenience, the Instructions to Applicants outlined below are also available for download with the Application Documents.

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 modeling, 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 and protecting ecosystems. 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, Assembling Innovative Biosystems and Maximising Impact (see Funding Rules for details). In addition, there are three Application Domains where we are focussing our research program: Environment & Biocontrol, Chemicals & Fibres, and Endosymbionts & Organelles (see Funding Rules for details).

The FSP is supporting a number of activities, including the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellowships. Fellowships will be funded for three years.

Projects and Project Structure

Research projects must demonstrate an ability to build Australian capacity in synthetic biology. Inter-institutional collaboration is encouraged (in addition to the University and CSIRO partners). Interdisciplinary collaboration and international collaborations are also encouraged. Industry involvement is not a requirement, but is welcome if it supports and aligns with the project. Financial co-sponsorship from collaborative partners (in addition to the 1:1 matched funding from the Partner Organisation) 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
  • 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.

Identifying your Host Organisation and CSIRO Mentors

Applicants must identify a host organisation Mentor(s) (normally senior academics) and a CSIRO Mentor(s) who will work together to support the Fellow. The SynBio FSP will assist in identifying suitably qualified Mentors where required, both within the University system and within CSIRO. Applicants may enquire directly to the SynBio FSP ( with a brief project outline and the FSP will provide a list of potential candidates. 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.

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 collaborator 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.


Applications must be submitted by email (see How to Apply). Applications will be assessed against the Selection Criteria. 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.

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

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

Potential host organisations will be identified as early as possible and contract negotiations will be initiated in order to minimise delays after award of Fellowships. This may occur prior to announcement of successful proposals, and should not be taken as an indication that any proposals submitted from that organisation will be awarded.

Important Dates

Applications open:                          8th February 2017

Applications close:                          27th March 2017 – 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time

The following are indicative dates, and may change subject to numbers of applications received:

Notification of outcomes:             13th April 2017

Fellowships begin:                          By 1st November 2017

Next: Funding Rules