2021 Directed Funding Opportunity

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO)-funded Agile BioFoundry (ABF) consortium is overseeing a Directed Funding Opportunity (DFO) for industry and academic partners to utilize ABF capabilities.

This funding opportunity provides resources for partners to collaborate with ABF’s investigators for developing novel microbial hosts, augmenting titer, rate and yield of bioproducts, and creating new capabilities and approaches to improve the Design-Build-Test-Learn biomanufacturing cycle.

Proposals will leverage the consortium’s world-class capabilities to address challenges in biomanufacturing, as identified by the successful applicants from industry and academia.

This opportunity funds competitively-selected Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) between BETO laboratory consortia and partners from industry and academia.

Up to $4 million will be available for this call. We anticipate that approximately five projects will be selected with a project duration of up to two years.

Refer to the Agile BioFoundry FY21 Directed Funding Assistance Info and Instructions document for complete details, submission deadlines, and proposal template. Each applicant is required to submit a brief project abstract and subsequently participate in a conference call with the ABF team, ahead of submitting an application.

Please also see Frequently Asked Questions below.

Abstract submission has closed. After submitting an abstract, each applicant must participate in a 30 minute discussion with ABF’s principal investigators. Contact us at [email protected] for any inquiries about this opportunity.

Proposals must be received no later than Friday, April 9th, 2021 at 5 p.m. PST.

Frequently Asked Questions

Applicants must submit their proposals by Friday April 9th at 5pm PDT. Reviewers will not consider submissions after that time; there is no appeals process. For proposals submitted on time, accompanied with the applicants’ acknowledgement of the application requirements, ABF will proffer a technical review for feasibility, commentary regarding ABF relevance, and other relevant information, which will accompany the application for external review. ABF has selected external reviewers for their subject matter expertise and their independence from (i.e. no conflicts of interest with) the applications to be reviewed. The external review sub-group will score and offer their written evaluations for each project proposal, based on its own merits. Once scores are normalized across external reviewer groups, the ABF will then select only from the ranked list of top-scoring projects that together constitute 1.5-fold of the available funds for the FY21 DFO. Final decision-making will be based on ABF strategic priorities, project portfolio building, and resource availability at the ABF Labs that would perform the proposed work. The ABF will then communicate to all applicants the results of the proposal selection process, approximately three months after the submission deadline, including external reviewer feedback for all applicants, and next steps for selected applicants.

No. All awarded funds will be spent within the participating National Laboratories, with applicants directing  how resources and expertise within the ABF are applied within the collaboration. 

Proposals should be well-aligned with the missions of DOE and ABF, supporting the growth and proliferation of the US biomanufacturing sector. Specifically, the project should support the mission of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO): Developing and demonstrating transformative and revolutionary sustainable bioenergy technologies for a prosperous nation. More information on BETO’s Strategic Plan can be found here.

While there are no special topics for this directed funding opportunity, applications should specifically reference capabilities that the Agile BioFoundry offers, for example (but not limited to) artificial intelligence, -omics analysis, microbial host onboarding and development, biosensor development, bioprocess engineering, and techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment. Refer to https://agilebiofoundry.org/capabilities/.

Applicants are expected to commit a minimum of 20% cost share. Example calculations:

  • Total project budget not exceeding $2.5M. For a total project budget of $625K, DOE funds would be at most $500K and the applicant would contribute at least $125K cost share. Total budget = DOE contribution + cost share. Cost share >= 0.20 * total budget. Expressed in another way, the cost share >= 25% DOE contribution.
  • Projects exceeding $2.5M total budget. The maximum DOE contribution is $2M. For a project with a total budget of $2.8M, for example, the applicant would need to contribute at least an $800K cost share. 

Most substantive contributions to the project will count as cost share, such as but not limited to labor, travel, materials, equipment, organisms, enzymes, pathways, data, or direct funds in. The collaborating organization will submit periodic cost share reports to account against their cost share commitment. Cost-share may not be derived from U.S. Federal Government funding streams.

Yes. Each proposal should articulate the set of major tasks of the project, using the table provided in the template or via a similar format.

No, but the milestones should be used to enable proactive project management, with clearly defined goals, metrics, and timelines. This is likely to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Certain challenges and risks called out in the proposal, where the applicant identifies a risk as a potential impasse, may necessitate a go/no-go milestone. 

For all projects, per the non-negotiable CRADA terms, the successful applicant shall have the option to select from an exclusive license or a non-exclusive license to IP developed as part of the project. For details, please review the CRADA document here (MS Word format): https://agilebiofoundry.org/work-with-us/

Preference will be given to proposals whose applicants are willing to share their findings
(including data, lessons learned, developed methods and software, etc.) with future ABF projects. 

Yes, feel free to email [email protected] to ask general questions about the ABF or questions specifically regarding this DFO. Representatives are available to discuss over a phone call as well – if you’d like to speak with someone, please note this in your email.

The ABF team will append all DFO-related questions, along with their answers, to this FAQ as we receive them.

Microbial hosts that the ABF currently works with on a regular basis comprise the following:

  • Pseudomonas putida KT2440
  • Aspergillus niger
  • Rhodosporidium toruloides
  • Aspergillus pseudoterreus ATCC 32359
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 13032
  • Clostridium carboxidivorans
  • Bacillus coagulans
  • Zymomonas mobilis
  • Clostridium tyrobutyricum
  • Acinetobacter baylyi  ADP1
  • Pichia kudriavzevii 
  • Clostridium ljungdahlii
  • Clostridium autoethanogenum 
  • Cupriavidus necator 
  • Bacillus sp.

The ABF is interested in expanding into work with additional hosts.

Yes, both of these capabilities are available at LBNL, NREL, and PNNL.


Applicants should add the following to their proposal: “We certify that _Applicant_Organization_Name_ will adhere to the outlined terms in the application instructions regarding Unique Lab Capabilities, Open Data Share, Cost Share, Agreements, Reporting, and Release of Information.”

Applicants must also acknowledge the DFO program requirements, as part of the application process, by way of this form. All successful applicants must enter into the non-negotiable CRADA work agreement prior to project kickoff.

Please breakdown ABF resource estimates by National Lab.

No. The prescribed page limits include materials for applications. No appendices will be considered. The ABF neither encourages nor discourages letters of support and other similar documentation, but they must reside within the application page limits, as described in the application instructions.

Domestic academic institutions and incorporated companies are eligible to apply. For other cases, such as for entities based outside the United States, applicants should review eligibility guidelines typical to US Dept. of Energy Funding Opportunities (see recent example, Section III). Please contact the ABF at [email protected] if your eligibility requires further clarification.

Proposals should be well-aligned with the missions of DOE and ABF, supporting the growth and proliferation of the U.S. biomanufacturing sector. As part of the proposal, each applicant should make the case for the appropriateness of this funding for the proposed project. See also BETO’s strategic plan.

No, ABF investigators you are already working with may participate on a DFO-based project, if their capabilities and available resources fit the needs of the proposed project.

Yes, with the following requirements: 1) the equipment must not be counted as contributions on any other federal award, 2) the equipment is not paid for by the federal government under another federal award, unless that equipment is exempt from being used as cost share under the federal award, 3) the value of loaned equipment must not exceed fair rental value. The collaborator should provide appropriate supporting documentation at the time of the cost share declaration, during execution of the project.  

Help us better inform the entire community. The ABF will append answers to your DFO-related questions here. Please contact us at [email protected].

The ABF is supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.