Biomakespace Forum

Public Engagement Seed Fund (closing date 1 July 2016)

(Jenny Molloy) #1

This came out through the University, might be useful for funding some kit for workshops/training in the biomakespace if people who are associated with the University have ideas! It has to be based on research at the University…

Public Engagement Seed Fund

Closing date: Friday 1 July 2016, 6pm

The Public Engagement team is pleased to launch a new and exciting opportunity that gives University of Cambridge researchers the chance to apply for small grants to undertake innovative, research-focused public engagement activities.

We are looking for novel projects based on contemporary research at the University of Cambridge which aims to do one or more of the following:

Reach a specific target audience
Develop a partnership with a community of interest
Create an innovative activity for Cambridge Science Festival or Cambridge Festival of Ideas
Note: If you plan to build on an existing public engagement project you must demonstrate how this grant will support a significant new development or change in direction.

Applicants can apply for grants ranging from £300 - £3,000. Proposed projects can take a variety of formats, provided a clear rationale is given regarding the appropriateness of the method of engagement adopted, and how the necessary resources and expertise will be secured.

Activities must take place by the end of March 2017. Upon completion of the project, applicants must submit a short concluding report including thorough evaluation. Successful applicants will be supported by the University Public Engagement team with appropriate advice and training.

Please download and complete your application form and submit it to by Friday 1 July 2016. Applications will be assessed by a selection committee, and applicants will be notified by the end of July. Research students and postdocs should receive permission from supervisors before applying.

Applicants should get in touch with the Public Engagement team to discuss a potential application before submitting. Please email

(Jenny Molloy) #2

Hi Alll

Great chat about this last night and thanks to @mj365 for putting together an initial doc to discuss this! I added it to the google drive and it is open for editing (link). The notes from last night’s meeting are here - mostly we discussed the priorities of the fund and idea for activities e.g. making use of the BioBuilder programme and aiming to get some Bento Labs.

Suggestion is that we meet up over the weekend to discuss this further and @mj365 has kindly suggested coffee and pastries at 11am on Sunday at Jesus College. @mar83 @Chris might be interested!

(Miranda (Robbins)) #3

I’m in Buckingham on Sunday - happy to meet Saturday or make bullet points of my notes from meeting Dr Charlotte Carroll at the Public Engagement office… sorry to miss the pastries :slight_smile:

(Miranda (Robbins)) #4

Just some points that came up when I met with them

  • Make the project specific

  • Have a specific research topic this engagement will address - you(us) as a researcher should gain as much from the event as the audience you target for your research.

  • Remeber it is engagement not outreach or they will tell us to apply to different funding

  • If we can say without this funding the event/equipment would not happen - or we have £x but without them giving us £y we cannot do it, they will be more interested to help

  • It is possible to apply for over the budget if good reason is given.

I think they were the main points…

(Matt) #5


Just noting some To Dos discussed in the Sunday Meeting:

Contact Jim Ajioka re: Arsenic Biosensor project and work that could be done by the public - Jenny
Contact Anton and Bernardo re: Bioluminescence project and work that could be done by the public - Matt & Chris
Contact BentoLab to discuss delivery times and bulk discounts - Jenny
Download the Public Engagement Fund Form and draft answers to each question - Anyone
Finalise workshop outline - Everyone
Contact Public Engagement Team with our idea and get feedback - Ola

(om259) #6


Matt, did you add the notes you’ve been taking yesterday to the google doc ( or did you upload the partially filled application form anywhere?
Sorry, I’m a bit unsure how the communication goes here :wink: (the chat and the forum and the google docs)


(Matt) #7

Hi Ola!

I just pasted a draft of the form into the google doc you linked to. I wrote it as if everything is all figured out, but its very much up for discussion! For example, it’ll be interesting to hear what comes out of Jenny’s talk with the Arsenic Biosensor group, and I will try to get some more info from the bioluminescence folks soon.

It would be great to hear your thoughts (and Jenny’s and Chris’), maybe put comments or edits on the google doc for now but use discuss for keeping a conversation going?

I’m also collecting lots of new websites and accounts and still a little bit lost too!


(Jenny Molloy) #8

I added @mj365 to the Google Drive so you can upload the application form into the ‘Public Engagement’ folder - sorry for the delay! I see you’ve copied it into the original doc, which also works!

@om259 we’re still working out the easiest ways to communicate but generally:
Chat: Internal, informal, short
Discuss: Public, longer
Drive: Internal document store, anything where real-time collaborative editing is helpful
Website: All public information where there’s no need for real-time collaborative editing (but it can all still be edited)

We are hoping to get all these systems onto a single sign-on soon and it will be a bit easier at that point!

(Jenny Molloy) #9

@mj365 I just spoke to Bernardo and he thinks the bioluminescence could make a really nice project for this application. He is happy to look over ideas but doesn’t have very much time to contribute - maybe you could share the google doc with him and Anton?

Bento Labs expect to ship in Nov 2016 and will get back to us about a potential discount.

(Matt) #10


Great news, thanks @jmolloy. I just shared the google doc with them, including a new one. I tried to show how the workshop could include a range of different constructs but keep the same format (Workshop idea). We might be able to use the bioluminescence and the biosensor chromoproteins.

Also, I found an example of a high school lesson plan using bioluminescent plasmids in E.coli . Could be a useful reference.

(Matt) #11


Here are some notes I took during our skype meeting yesterday:

Meeting with Rebecca Jones with the Public Engagement Team

Total funds available = £7500 (aiming for £3000 might be ambitious)
They’re flexible on funding 10 small or up to two large projects, so £3k is not out of the question)
It would be worth having a contingency for if we only get enough funds for <5 Bento Labs.
It is worth mentioning that we’ve negotiated a discount.

Key features a successful bid will have:
-new and innovative
-money is usually requested to put on an activity but people also ask for equipment
-we may at the moment sound too strong/organised and not needy enough (as the BioMakeSpace is likely to happen regardless of the outcome of this application)
-a well costed budget would be valuable
-Becky has experience of working with a BioHackSpace in the states that collaborated with the creative art community
-My suggestion of using Target and Access groups as a ‘named’ audience group was probably not ideal as PE team don’t really want to be recruiting students for Cambridge, they’d rather be helping disadvantaged schools, or creating new opportunities for those that don’t have them. - (I think Jenny’s idea re: adult learners will appeal to the PE team a lot and fits more with the nature of a molecular biology workshop, but we should try to research such groups soon)
-we should think about how we would recruit participants for the BentoLab workshops
-we should emphasise the longevity of the BioMakeSpace project.
-we should emphasise that the public engagement arm of this would not happen without a cash injection
-its worth mentioning the space/logistical/ease of use/safety/portability aspects of the BentoLab
-we can submit to Becky for critique - currently aiming for send it on Tuesday 28th June
-A science festival event is a bonus but not essential
-don’t rule out longer public engagement such as 3 day workshop or molecular biology practicals on multiple days
-we might be more likely to get funded if we can suggest ways in which other funding sources are supporting, so they’re getting more for their money

In summary Becky was very helpful and supportive of the BentoLab idea and the BioMakeSpace project in general. She also offered to critique our application before submission and suggest other funding sources if we don’t get this one.

(Matt) #12

I had a quick look for what is on offer in terms of adult education in biology in Cambridge, sadly not much, but this might help us make a case for the PE fund.
The closest thing at Cambridge Regional College is a BTEC in Industrial Biology skills, costs ~3k and lasts 36 weeks, which is quite an investment.

Cambridge University has a Genetics Course
this has no practical aspects based on the online summary and still costs nearly £2k

Hills Road only offers Biology for 6th formers, despite hosting many other adult education courses:

(Jenny Molloy) #13

Thanks @mj365!

In addition, Cambridge Regional College has an “access to science” course to help people go on to higher education

"Study any three from Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. This pathway also includes a compulsory science practical project which can be tailored to your chosen HE course and your interests (biological / cosmetic / environmental / pharmaceutical or physical, to name a few). Former students on the programme have progressed onto a wide range of courses such as zoology, marine biology, biochemistry, dietetics and physics at universities across the UK. "

Maybe Ola’s contact knows of more.

(om259) #14

My contact (hehe) used CCSS to do biology A levels in a year and then went to Uni

(om259) #15

I did a bit of application editing, I’ve inserted the details of the workshop from Matt’s @mj365 outline

(om259) #16

Working on the final PE seed fund application if anyone wants to pinch in! Submission seadline is tomorrow 5pm.

(Jenny Molloy) #17

We unfortunately didn’t get the grant, but we did get some very positive feedback! Any ideas of where to submit to fund these activities welcome!

Here is a link to the grant proposal.

I must say that your proposal was scored very highly by the selection panel, with only a few concerns raised:

  • It was not clear how the Biomakerspace was funded or how membership was organised. Your most recent email to me answering my questions to this was very helpful, but subsequently the panel felt that with other streams of funding potentially going into this, the contribution of the Seed Fund would not be significant, and perhaps other more suitable sources of funding could be pursued instead.
  • The panel felt that there could have been a stronger link to specific research projects and wanted a little more detail on how engagement would affect researchers and their specific projects
  • Evaluation was highlighted as a weaker section of the proposal, with traditional methods opted for rather than more novel, tailored approaches.

I hope that’s helpful. The panel did also highlight several strengths of the application including

  • having identified a well-defined, under-served, target audience
  • the longevity of Bento labs and their efficiency for demonstrations in multiple venues
  • the overall quality in answers to questions.

Sorry that your application was just pipped to the post, but we do hope you will still be interested in applying to our future grants.