Standardisation in Synthetic Biology

Systems biology and synthetic biology are scientific fields with potential to transform our way to understand and interact with nature. Synthetic biology combines knowledge and tools from biology and engineering for the design of biological systems that are thus programmed to do what we want them to do, be it for pharmaceutical products (e.g. active pharmaceutical agents or enzymes), in the environment (e.g. bio-pesticides), or industry (e.g. biochemicals).

Standardisation in electric and mechanical engineering has underpinned the success of global industrial production. However, the question remains about how much of this can be imported into the biological domain. Standards for the biological components used by synthetic biology will facilitate creating the blueprint of a given component with identical representation methods. This could bring major advancement in biotechnology and strengthen European leadership in future biotechnological research and production.


Proposals will be based on equivalent standardisation experiences that can be imported into the biological realm along with a thorough analysis of the functions of live systems that can be amenable to standardisation, generating new approaches where previous experiences do not apply. It will involve a dialogue with experts of the relevant disciplines on the necessary steps to set up principles for understanding, measuring, refining and, to the extent possible, standardizing the engineering of biological systems in support of their broad application in different industrial sectors. Standardisation will be considered in the following fronts: designation of the component/part, specifications, methodologies involved and assembly. Proposals will take into consideration worldwide actions to create synergies and partnerships between leading EU and international scientists, engineers and industrialists.

Proposals will include Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) elements regarding the ethical dimensions and the environmental impact of products issued from synthetic biology research.

In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation (COM(2012)497), international cooperation is particularly encouraged.

Proposals submitted under this topic should include actions designed to facilitate cooperation with other projects; to enhance user involvement; and to ensure the accessibility and reusability of data produced in the course of the project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU up to EUR 2 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

  • A list of the most urgent standardisation needs via current practice leading to homogeneity in research and production;
  • Identified scientific research gaps whose elucidation would accelerate standards-driven biological engineering;
  • A realistic strategy based on research programmes, resources, facilities and structures needed to sustainably support the establishment of and compliance with standards for synthetic biology in the EU in the medium to long term.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • Open Innovation
  • International cooperation
  • Open Science
Application date
Humanities : Philosophy, Theology and religion
Social sciences : Environmental Sciences, Law