Strand 1 – Access To Facilities Trial
Theme 3: Low-cost custom Phenomics Funding Call

Strand 1 – Theme 3: Low-cost custom Phenomics Funding Call

PhenomUK Research Infrastructure is a £2.4 M Scoping Activity supported by the UKRI Infrastructure Fund. Launched in February 2023, this two-year project aims to define and pilot a nationwide distributed research infrastructure, with regional sites, which will enable new ways of working and cultural shift in the UK’s approach to plant phenomics. You can find out more about PhenomUK and the scoping activity at

The Access to Facilities pilot aims to identify challenges associated with accessing current infrastructure and expertise in a distributed network. The pilot will fund a number of activities that address these challenges.

Funding for access trials

In this round of funding, we invite applications that address the challenges of Low-cost custom phenomics. In this activity, we aim to support projects focusing on the development, application and/or replicability of low-cost, custom phenomics equipment. We are interested in supporting projects that take.

1. an existing piece of phenomics equipment developed at your institution and refine it to a point where it can be readily replicated by other research groups or institutions (i.e. instructions placed in an online repository with associated software)

2. an existing design published in a repository/manuscript by someone else and implement it your institution

For example, journals such as Plant Methods routinely publish articles on constructing low-cost equipment (e.g. doi: 10.1186/s13007-023-00981-8.). Other repositories exist that contain instructions for construction (e.g.

The goal is to enable researchers to conduct phenomics experiments at low cost at their own institutions and to enable the plant phenomics community to exploit these resources.

An application might include the development of custom sensors, imaging devices, or other phenomics tools. For instance, a group may have a proprietary phenomics kit and software tailored to their specific research needs. The objective is to transform this bespoke system into a more standardised and adaptable solution, allowing other researchers to implement it successfully in their respective environments. The proposed project should address technical challenges, such as standardisation of protocols, compatibility with different research settings, and user-friendly interfaces.

We want to find out what barriers exist to these sorts of activities. These may encompass technical considerations, software compatibility, accessibility of essential components, and the feasibility of implementation in diverse research settings. Additionally, logistical challenges such as ongoing support, equipment procurement, and cost implications will be important aspects to explore.

This is a community led project – if you have a good idea then please let us know!

Also, if the barriers to engaging are too high, again, please let us know. We might not be able to address them in the scoping trial, but we need to address challenges of a future large-scale infrastructure.

Download Proforma

Further Information

What can be funded?

We want to know the costs associated with operating a distributed phenotyping facility, so need details of all operating costs. Therefore, details should include

  • Costs for resources and access to manufacturing facilities (e.g. Makerspaces)
  • Time for technical expertise to create the equipment (e.g. Research Technical Professionals) or develop/improve software (Research Software Engineers)

Ineligible costs: Large items of equipment, activities performed outside the UK, training, publication costs.

In your application you should provide a full cost breakdown. Costs can include academic staff time at 80% FEC and 100% for everything else.

How much can I apply for?

We have deliberately not set a limit – but we expect most projects to be around £5,000. If your project is too expensive, we will discuss with you whether a smaller version would still be useful.

What’s the timescale?

For this call we are operating on a first-come, first served basis from the 28/03/2024. We will review applications as they are made and support those that we feel meet the aims of PhenomUK.

Who can apply?

You need to be based at a UK academic or research institution. Your team could contain academic staff, research technical professionals and early career researchers.

How do I apply?

Please fill in the proforma below. You then need to send this to PhenomUK (see contact details below)
If you have any queries or questions, please contact us.

How are decisions made?

The PhenomUK management board will review applications and let you know the outcome as soon as we are able. If we think the project needs amendment, then we will discuss this with you.
We expect that demand will exceed the funding available, but the number of applications in different areas will help define demand for different activities that can be addressed in the full infrastructure bid.

What will I need to deliver?

1. A short report which discusses the challenges and successes met by all members of the pilot and any lessons learned. We want to hear what went well, what issues arose and how they might be overcome.

2. For those projects that aim to develop equipment, placing the design/software in an online repository. A publication would be ideal, but PhenomUK is not currently able to fund publication charges.

Download Proforma

Contact Information

PhenomUK website: submit applications via email to

The Access strand is led by Prof Stephen Rolfe ( and Prof Tracy Lawson ( If you would like to discuss informally anything concerning the access pilots then please feel free to email us.

The Access strand is supported by Gemma Bray ( She will coordinate the access pilots once they are underway.

The PhenomUK UKPCPI project is led by Prof Tony Pridmore ( and managed by Claire Hayes (

If you are a potential provider of Phenomics Facilities and have not filled in our survey, please do so! See the ‘Tell us about your facilities’ link at To submit a shop front, please request a template from