DOE Bioimaging Research Approaches for the Bioeconomy & the Environment

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary

DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research unit seeks innovative applications to advance fundamental research or use-inspired technologies of new bioimaging or sensing approaches. Fundamental research to enhance spatial and temporal resolution, measurement speed, long-term sample stability, selectivity, sensitivity, or chemical specificity of bioimaging technologies are desirable. Proposed research should demonstrate a comparative advantage over state-of-the-art techniques or identify biological characteristics that cannot currently be measured. Quantum enabled technologies are allowed but not required in this FOA.

Applications can be submitted under one of two subtopics: 1) fundamental imaging or sensing research from concept to validation or 2) evaluation of biological hypotheses or questions with feasible, use-inspired prototypes. Under subtopic 1) applications could evaluate, untested concepts, and theoretical models, develop novel experimental prototypes and validate measurement accuracy against known technical or biological validation standards. Under subtopic 2) research of experimental prototypes of instruments and methods that will include demonstration of feasibility leading to hypothesis-driven biological experimentation to demonstrate value to the user community. This FOA does not solicit late-stage optimization after initial prototype research, or engineering development of resources, or equipment.

Subtopic 1: Concept to Validation

Projects can begin at the conceptual (pre-experimental) stage and move through validation by comparing technical performance and biological measurements against accepted standards. This stage is too early to investigate new biological questions until proven accurate and reproducible. The intent of the first subtopic is to include applications that might not yet have experimental demonstration of feasibility but hold promise of significant impact if successful. These high-risk high-reward applications might reside completely within a scientific and technical field of research and are not required to demonstrate novel biological utility. However, validation against already characterized synthetic or biological samples in BER-supported bioenergy and environmental research should be included. Measurement should be compared to known or “gold-standard” targets measured by competing methods. 

Demonstration in living systems is not required, but systems must have future impact on in situ imaging, measuring, or modeling for plant- and microbial-based bioenergy research. Proposed projects should hold promise for significant advances in imaging or sensing and must include plans to manage the high risk inherent in testing novel concepts and techniques. These “highrisk/high reward” projects might have no preliminary data to support the concept making feasibility challenging to evaluate for scientific merit. However, reviewers will be instructed to evaluate merit based on the future significance of the potential for success and the risk-reward balance when evaluating the applications for consideration of funding. In all applications it is expected that the future significance for biological investigations in fields of study supported by BER will be described. 

Subtopic 2: Prototypes for Biological Hypothesis Research

Projects can begin with use-inspired experimental prototypes that will be tested for technical and biological validation but cannot include development to field-ready demonstration prototypes. In addition to technical research and testing, projects must include research to evaluate an untested biological question or hypothesis. Optionally, collaboration with external biological investigators can be included towards evaluating biological hypotheses. The intent of the second subtopic is for technically feasible research that can be tested to demonstrate utility for biological users. Public dissemination of research results can provide demonstration of value to the BER research community and generate interest in adoption of new technologies. 

Demonstration in living systems is not required, but technical systems must have future impact on in situ imaging, measuring, or modeling of plant- and microbial-based bioeconomy or environmental research. Applications should demonstrate an advantage over current techniques or measure new biological characteristics that could not be accessed with existing approaches. Further, evaluating untested biological hypotheses is required to demonstrate project significance to bioenergy, bioeconomy, or environmental research. Multidisciplinary teams of physical and chemical scientists, plant biologists, microbiologists, and engineers are encouraged to develop high impact imaging and sensing approaches that are inspired by well-defined biological hypotheses. Optional funding for collaboration with investigators outside of the PIs laboratory can be requested in the application for out years two and three. In all applications it is expected that the future significance for biological investigations in fields of study supported by BER will be described. 

Please reference the full solicitation for complete details.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST December 18, 2023

DOE Pre-Application Deadline: 3:00pm MST January 9, 2024

DOE Application Deadline: 9:59pm MST March 5, 2024

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • SubTopic (select one):  
    • Subtopic 1: Concept to Validation
    • Subtopic 2: Prototypes for Biological Hypothesis Research
  • Pre-Application (2 pages maximum): Include: 1) a list of all known senior/key personnel at the applicant institution and all team member institutions; 2) list of Collaborating Institutions Including Sub-Recipients; 3) PI Names and Job Titles at the Collaborating Institutions Including Sub-Recipients; 4) subtopic area and the research area(s), specified in the DOE solicitation, primarily addressed by the proposed work; 5) a description of the novel or innovative aspect of the proposed work.

To access the online application, visit:


The PI on a pre-application or application may also be listed as a senior or key personnel, including in any role on a proposed subaward, on an unlimited number of separate submissions. See the full solicitation for eligibility details.

Limited Submission Guidelines

Applicant institutions are limited to no more than two pre-applications and two applications as the lead institution.

Award Information

Anticipated Number of Awards: 6-8

Period of Performance: 3 Years

It is anticipated that award sizes may range from a total of $600,000 to $2,350,000. Typically, awards have been less than $750,000 per year, with a median award size between $500,000 per year and $700,000 per year.