£34M funding will create much-needed life science data commons

19 June 2023
Digital graphic of colourful dots coming together in uniformed lines on the right hand side

Plans to create a data commons for life science have been awarded £34million in funding from UK Research and Innovation. 

BioFAiR Logo

The development of BioFAIR, a collaborative virtual infrastructure to support the sharing and management of life science data, will help to connect biological data currently stored at different institutions and repositories. 

By bridging the gap between researchers, institutional data repositories, and existing data infrastructures, the project hopes to accelerate discoveries and innovation.

The funding forms part of a wider announcement of £72 million investment in new infrastructure projects from UKRI. The funding will provide world-class facilities and equipment in line with the ambitions set out in the government’s Science and Technology Framework.

The concept of BioFAIR came from ELIXIR-UK, the UK Node of ELIXIR, a European project to integrate life sciences data across the continent with the aim of facilitating the linking of data worldwide. 

The idea of BioFAIR was to create an infrastructure that enables the data and processing resources of ELIXIR and other partners to be delivered to researchers across the UK. 

The ELIXIR-UK member institutions - including the Earlham Institute, who act as the coordinating hub - will have a significant role in the development and delivery of BioFAIR alongside other partners.

The significant funding awarded by UKRI will be used to assemble and establish the core services for a data and analysis commons and help ELIXIR-UK to deliver its central mission - to enable the research community to better manage, share and analyse biological data.

The Earlham Institute acts as the coordinator for the UK ELIXIR node, with Director Professor Neil Hall as joint head of node alongside Professor Carole Goble from the University of Manchester.

Professor Neil Hall, Director of the Earlham Institute and Co-head of ELIXIR-UK, said: “Biology is increasingly becoming a data-driven science. Life scientists generate large and complex data sets, which have huge potential to transform our understanding of life on Earth - but only if we can make sense of all the data. 

“This new investment demonstrates the UK’s commitment to open and reproducible research and this will ensure that we can realise the enormous potential of life science data.

“Not only will BioFAIR empower researchers by providing the resources they need for better data management and analyses, but it will also ensure data is preserved beyond the lifespan of an individual research project so the most value can be extracted from it.”

The five-year funding of £34 million for BioFAIR is subject to business case approvals. The investment comes from UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund and Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) programme. 

The DRI programme was initiated in 2020. UKRI’s constituent councils are working together to create a federated, interoperable, interdisciplinary portfolio of DRI to serve the UK’s researchers and innovators.

Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and UKRI Champion for Infrastructure, Professor Mark Thomson, said: “Scientists working on research from life sciences to aircraft safety depend on access to the most advanced equipment and facilities.

“This £72 million investment in the UK’s research and innovation infrastructure will ensure the UK is at the forefront of scientific discovery. It will support our scientists in responding to major global challenges including net zero and food security.

“Five years on from the publication of UKRI’s Infrastructure Roadmap, this shows how we are taking a strategic approach to identifying the facilities the UK needs and how to support them.”

Notes to editors.

For more information, please contact:

Greg Bowker, Head of Communications, Earlham Institute (EI)

 +44 (0)1603 450 895 / greg.bowker@earlham.ac.uk


About the Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute is a hub of life science research, training, and innovation focused on understanding the natural world through the lens of genomics.

Embracing the full breadth of life on Earth, our scientists specialise in developing and testing the latest tools and approaches needed to decode living systems and make predictions about biology.

The Earlham Institute is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, as well as support from other research funders.

@EarlhamInst  /  Earlham Institute