Working with iGEM Teams: Information for SYNENERGENE Partners

Working with iGEM Teams: Information for SYNENERGENE Partners

Dear SYNENERGENE Partners,

Note: Calls/Invitations should be published as soon as possible, ideally by early May.

During the recent Mutual Learning Workshop in Brussels, many of you were introduced to iGEM for the first time, and heard about the iGEM-SYNENERGENE partnership. I had questions from many of you about the opportunities for partner institutions and third parties (e.g. ECSITE members) to cooperate with iGEM teams. Here you can find more information about working with iGEM teams, as well as some ideas for collaborative projects.

Visit the SYNENERGENE pages on to see the announcement and Calls/Invitations that are presented to iGEM teams.

Please note that the details of the iGEM-SYNENERGENE partnership are subject to change. 2014 is the first year of collaborations with iGEM teams, and we will have to see what type of response we get, and evaluate what works and what doesn't work.

Types of Work

We envision iGEM teams working with SYNENERGENE partners in two ways:

  1. 1. Contributions to a partner's occasional event or activity. You may publish an open Invitation on, to invite interested teams to contact you. If iGEM team members must travel to carry out the Contribution, the partner institution should furnish money for travel and accommodations out of its own SYNENERGENE-allocated budget for platform activities.
  2. 2. Grant-Funded Collaborations, in which iGEM teams develop their work as part of a SYNENERGENE partner's long-term program of activities. This more substantial work will be funded by grants of 5.000 Euros per team, out of the SYNENERGENE-iGEM Fund. Partners are welcome to furnish additional money out of their own SYNENERGENE-allocated budget, if they deem it desirable or necessary. You will publish an open Call for Proposals on, and teams will submit proposals to a committee for evaluation.

The criteria for supporting iGEM teams should include the quality of their proposals -- that is, the soundness of the ideas offered by the teams about the work they would like to perform, including a work plan that looks doable. Another important criterion is that the work proposed by the teams should offer interesting and realistic opportunities for collaboration with SYNENERGENE Partners. Conversely, Partners should be prepared to actively engage in collaborative activities with iGEM teams as a basis for their own work. The teams will be required to report their activities to the iGEM Foundation, including a justification of expenses for the funding they have received.

How to publish an Invitation/Call

To get an idea of what a Call for Proposals might look like, you can read the Rathenau Instituut's first Call for Proposals. Note the following features:

  • The very beginning of the text is exciting and welcoming.
  • Requirements and deadlines are clearly stated.
  • Because the text is long, a summary/abstract (not the same as the Introduction) has been provided for the page listing all Calls/Invitations. Also, secondary text (such as the example scenarios and the description of Real-Time Technology Assessment) has been placed in "click to expand" boxes.
  • The call is fairly open and non-specific, but gives examples of the type of project envisioned.

Generally, you should keep your text short and to the point. Break up long blocks of text with sub-headings, bullet points, and the like. The Rathenau's call is very long -- we imagine that most calls/invitations will be shorter, and some may even be only a paragraph long and not require a summary.


Begin working on your call/invitation now -- remember, you will need time to get it published, time for teams to notice and respond to it, (if applicable) time for the selection committee to choose among team Proposals, and time to deal with logistics before actual work begins. If you are doing a Grant-Funded Collaboration, your Call should be published by early to mid May. If you are doing a Contribution, you can publish the Invitation any time you want, but we encourage you to publish at the beginning of summer, so there is enough time to actually carry out the work involved.

When you have a rough draft of what you would like to publish, contact Kelly Drinkwater (kelly AT igem DOT org) to have your content placed on iGEM's website. Be prepared for at least one round of editing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How specific must our Call/Invitation be?

Ultimately, it is your decision as SYNENERGENE Partner to write a general or a specific call/invitation. However, extensive experience with iGEM teams shows that their creativity is essentially unlimited, and one can obtain the most excellent ideas by giving them room to exercise that creativity. We recommend that you make your call/invitation fairly open and non-specific, but give a few brief concrete examples of what work your collaboration might perform. (A few sentences or bullet points will suffice; you need not go into great detail.) Once iGEM teams see your general scheme and your brief examples, they will use them as fodder for their own brainstorming, and you may be astonished by what proposals you receive!

We represent a third-party institution, such as a science museum, that is a member of ECSITE but not itself a SYNENERGENE partner. May we work with iGEM teams under this program?

Yes! Talk to ECSITE for details.

May we work with teams outside the EU, or geographically distant teams?

Yes -- part of the purpose of SYNENERGENE is to have a strong international component. The feasibility will depend on the specific project you have in mind. You can imagine that some collaborative projects could be done almost entirely via email or phone, with only some iGEM team members traveling to the partner's location for the culminating event of the collaboration. Some other collaborative projects might require frequent face-to-face meetings or physical visits to companies, schools, environmental locations, etc, and these would be less suitable for a geographically distant team.

We are already friends with a particular iGEM team and wish to work with them. Must we offer a Call/Invitation that is open to all teams?

If you will do a Grant-Funded Collaboration, you must offer a Call for Proposals that is open to all teams (or perhaps all teams within a certain geographic area -- see the previou6s question). This is to ensure fair distribution of the limited number of Grants available through the SYNENERGENE-iGEM Fund. However, if you will do a Contribution, you may choose whether to offer an open Invitation or to approach directly a specific team.

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