SYNENERGENE Calls for Proposals/Delft Bergen

Take your iGEM Project to the next level!

Funded Collaboration

Partners: TUDelft and Bergen University

Due date: May 15th 2015
Questions: contact Matti Sonck, M.M.Sonck (AT) tudelft (DOT) nl

What kind of new applications could your project idea lead to, and how would these applications transform the world around us? Would you like to take your project to the next level by exploring this with experts, policymakers, and the public, and would you like to get support and funding throughout this entire process? Is your iGEM team looking for an exciting Human Practices challenge? If your answer is "yes", your team might be an excellent candidate for our Call for Proposals.


TUDelft’s section of Biotechnology and Society and Bergen University’s Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities are partners of SYNENERGENE, a four-year collaborative project funded by the European Commission, aimed at fostering Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in synthetic biology. In order to examine how SynBio can be optimally embedded in society, both these SYNENERGENE partners aim to conduct "Real-Time Technology Assessments" of potential SynBio applications. To this end, we seek collaboration with iGEM teams, and we will focus on promising ideas for SynBio applications as developed in iGEM projects. Teams can conduct real-time technology assessment in the Human Practices component of their project, and will be supported by SYNENERGENE partners throughout the process. Teams can apply for support and funding by submitting to us proposals.

Rewards and support

In 2014, eight iGEM projects received financial and academic support to develop exciting projects. In views of this success we are repeating this year!

Awarded teams will receive €5.000 each. Teams will be assisted in their work by contact persons at TUDelft and the University of Bergen, providing them an excellent way to work on the Policy and Practices dimension of their project through real-time technology assessment, and to enhance the overall quality of their project.


For this second call we are especially looking for projects that will address two themes: biorefineries and/or intellectual property and other aspects of an 'open biology'. Proposals relating to one or both of these themes are given special preference, but ideas for other themes are also more than welcome! We hope for proposals from teams in the Energy, Environment, Manufacturing, Health & Medicine, Policy & Practices or Entrepreneurship tracks. Teams from other tracks whose projects are related to the themes are also welcome to participate.

  1. Towards Bioeconomy: Biorefineries

    Bioeconomy means transition to a more diverse and sustainable use of bioresources, while reducing the dependence on depleting, fossil resources. This may lead to the emergence of a wide spectrum of bio-based products, such as bio-based fuels, chemicals, plastics, materials, pharma products, and fertilizers. Biorefineries are central facilities in enabling sustainable processing and manufacturing of bio-feedstock into such products. Sustainable resources for a biorefinery could include for example different non-food and waste biomasses, carbon dioxide emissions recycled back in the production, together with waste heat and renewable electricity.

    The potential of bio-based production is enormous, but advances in today’s processing technologies, and even the adoption of completely new technologies, are needed for biorefineries. In this, biotechnology is among the key enablers. The biorefinery concept also raises challenging questions of scale and organization. How could SynBio tackle the challenges associated with the transition to bioeconomy? How would you, as iGEM team, contribute to the necessary innovations in products and processes in biorefineries? How would you ensure benefits on the level of people, planet and profit?

  2. Open Biology and Intellectual property

    Synthetic biology is often referred to as an iconic case of open biology. Open and sharable tools, protocols, software, repositories and biological parts have been developed over the years with the aim of making biology more accessible and easy to engineer. Issues of Intellectual property (IP) are key to open science. For instance, some may argue that open forms of property rights that enable sharing and interoperability may enable faster innovation. Openness may also enable more inclusion of publics and the public good in biological designs and applications. However, openness in biology might also present some challenges. In the particular context of your iGEM project: How may openness lead to faster innovation? How open should biological research and designs be? Should an open source ethics be applied all along the research process or should it mainly concern tools, results or applications? We encourage students to envision the ethical, legal and social challenges that might come with ‘openness’ in biology.


Each selected iGEM team will develop two different kinds of future scenarios relating to their project and its applications:

  • Application scenarios

    Application scenarios offer detailed and realistic descriptions of how SynBio applications could be fully deployed and embedded in society, including: design criteria for the products proposed, target manufacturers and users of the products, the needs and costs involved, legal issues of patenting, regulatory requirements, potential safety, social and ethical implications, and available or conceivable alternatives.

  • Techno-moral scenarios

    A techno-moral scenario is a story, artwork, or other tool to stimulate imagination, reflection and debate about ways in which SynBio applications may transform our society through wider impacts, including ethical, legal and social issues.

SYNENERGENE partners will take up the scenarios as a starting point for an interactive process of technology assessment, involving a variety of stakeholders and iGEM team members in workshop settings. The ultimate aim of these workshops is to develop socially robust agendas for SynBio innovation. The scenarios will also be used by SYNENERGENE partners as a tool in organizing public debates on the future of SynBio. Please expand the boxes below to read more about the scenarios that selected iGEM teams will deliver, and about the envisaged process of Real-Time Technology Assessment.

Click to read more about scenarios...
Application Scenarios

To develop application scenarios, you must identify and specify the practices and conditions in which particular SynBio applications envisaged by your team might be produced and used. What do these practices look like, who is involved in what role, and how will these practices be changed and affected by the new applications? Knowledge about the experiences and visions of actors involved in these practices is vital for the development of application scenarios. Curious? Check out the scenarios of Groningen, TU Darmstadt and Bielefeld-CeBiTec, which collaborated with the Rathenau Instituut last year.

Techno-Moral Scenarios

While application scenarios focus on the concrete prospects and challenges of a specific SynBio application, "Techno-Moral Scenarios" highlight the wider ways in which a future SynBio application may transform society. Techno-moral scenarios explore the ways in which new technologies may challenge and shape what we want, how we relate to each other, and how we relate to the world. Thus, they invite audiences to imagine and evaluate ways in which particular SynBio applications might change our world, our ideas, values and ideals. For an example of fully developed techno-moral scenarios, consider this series of short stories ('vignettes') published by the Rathenau Instituut, one of which was contributed by the UCL 2012 team). Or perhaps even better, check out some of the techno-moral vignettes of teams that collaborated with the Rathenau Instituut last year: Wageningen UR, TU Eindhoven and LMU Munich.

Click to read more about Real-Time Technology Assessment...
Real-Time Technology Assessment

Based on collaboration with selected iGEM teams, a process of real time technology assessment involves the following four steps:

  1. Selected iGEM teams develop application and techno-moral scenarios that will be taken up by SYNENERGENE partners as a starting point for stakeholder and public engagement with the future of synthetic biology.
  2. SYNENERGENE partners organize interactive processes of mutual learning and assessment, by involving scientists and engineers (including members of iGEM teams) in workshops with industry, end users, policy makers, and civil society groups. In these workshop discussions, the scenarios will be confronted with critical societal perspectives, thus providing valuable input to enhance the viability and success of ideas for SynBio innovation developed by iGEM teams.
  3. The input from the workshop discussions will be used by SYNENERGENE partners to further develop the scenarios into proposals for socially robust and responsible agendas for innovation. These agendas may serve as a source of inspiration for future research in iGEM and in the wider SynBio community. Therefore, these agendas will be promoted through the SYNENERGENE network, publications in scientific and professional journals, and in contacts with European and National Research Councils.
  4. Techno-moral scenarios will be used by SYNENERGENE partners as a tool in organizing public debates about potential futures for SynBio innovation in society.

Proposal and application

Interested iGEM teams may submit a proposal (2 page A4, one thousand words maximum), including:

  1. A description of the intended SynBio project
  2. Potential applications of the project
  3. An indication of practices, actors, regulations and impacts that will be addressed in application and techno-moral scenarios.

Please send your proposal to synenergene (AT) igem (DOT) org by May 15th 2015.

More information

If you need more information or have any questions, please contact Matti Sonck, M.M.Sonck (AT) tudelft (DOT) nl

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