(i) Primary applicants should be students or staff at the University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre the Earlham Institute, though external team members are welcome and encouraged. If you are not from a participating institute but are interested in joining a team, post on our Hackster discussion page or submit a proposal through the process below and we’ll match people and projects.

(ii) Teams can be any size, including individuals if all other eligibility criteria are met.

(iii) Interdisciplinarity within the team is a judging priority but teams or individuals from the same background are not excluded.

(iv) Teams which span Norwich and Cambridge are highly encouraged and will receive two Biomaker Starter Kits and ability to use their discretionary funding for travel between the two sites.


(i) All proposals must lead to a publicly documented and open hardware design and prototype which demonstrates interdisciplinary thinking.

(ii) Except for Cambridge-Norwich team travel, the discretionary budget can only be spent on hardware, materials, consumables and biological reagents.

Application period: Monday 8 April to Monday 13 May 2019

Judging Criteria

Judges will evaluate the proposals based on the form submitted. They will give a higher priority to proposals which:

(i) Promote and demonstrate interdisciplinary working and exchange, with members of the team being highly likely to learn from each other.

(ii) Have a clearly articulated use case in biology. Synthetic biology, work with cell-free expression systems and plant biology are especially prioritised.

(iii) Involve interesting ideas for low-cost sensors and instrumentation.

(iv) Are feasible given the timing, costing and team proposed.

Additional credit will be given to applicants who have forged innovative partnerships with Cambridge or Norwich-based external partners and those who have agreements of matched funding for their projects.

Application Process


(i) Template application forms can be downloaded from this site. Completed applications should be emailed to biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk in an editable format such as .odt or .docx (not PDF). Attach any images separately to the email.

(ii) The full application should be no more than 3 pages, excluding any figures, photos and diagrams which should be inserted at the end of the document and referenced in the text. There are no word limits on any section apart from the 150-word summary.

(iii) For costing components and budget needed to complete the project, please use the following suppliers

(iv) Successful applicants for the 2019 Cambridge-Norwich Challenge will be informed by Friday 24 May.

Managing Funds


(i) Biomaker applications require a named institutional sponsor (usually a faculty member) and cost centre holder who can help arrange a suitable institutional account.

(ii) Ask them to raise an invoice addressed to the Accounts Office, Department of Plant Sciences, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EA. (Attn. Del Hawtin, dlh34@cam.ac.uk)

(iii) The description should be: Biomaker Challenge 2019: [Project Title].

This should be straightforward for teams with members based in the University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre or Earlham Institute. In case of any questions, please contact Alexandra Ting at synbio@hermes.cam.ac.uk. Funding will be distributed to your grant code in order to purchase materials. Once you have received your funding via your cost centre, you will be free to order your own materials and get going. Costs should be accounted for, and unspent funds may be reclaimed at the end of the Biomaker Challenge. 


(iv) Please be prompt in requesting your funding. You will be expected to present your work and have it fully documented on Hackster.io by Wednesday 30 October, one week before the challenge finale at the Biomaker Fayre on Wednesday 6 November 2019.

(v) Please find the original funding conditions attached. Review our expectations of you and what support you can expect from us. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if we can help you with the project or furthering its goals!


(vi) Each team will be provided with a Biomaker Starter Kit. Please make arrangements to pick up the Starter Kit in the Dept. of Plant Sciences by emailing synbio@hermes.cam.ac.uk. The Starter Kit will form a central platform for the training sessions that we will be providing.

What can teams expect from the Biomaker Challenge?

  • The Challenge Coordinator will be able to offer assistance and support in making the connections necessary for you to complete your project.

  • The Biomaker Meetups will be an opportunity to interact and help share skills and ideas.

  • We have set up a Hackster.io collection and discussion forum for all documentation and dialogue.

  • Advice will be available on openly licensing your output and the best way to make it shareable and useful to others.

  • Prizes will be awarded at the Biomaker Fayre in a variety of categories.

What does the Biomaker Challenge expect from teams?

  • Your hardware should be accessible and reusable. This means that you need to think about open licensing, standard file formats and clear, detailed documentation.

  • All projects should be documented on Hackster.io (software can be documented on Github and linked to Hackster) and ready to be exhibited on Wednesday 6 November 2019.

  • All teams are expected to exhibit at the Biomaker Fayre on Wednesday 6 November 2019.

  • At least one member from each team should attend the Biomaker training events though all are encouraged to attend.

  • You are encouraged to attend other meetings such Cambridge Science Makers, Cambridge Biomakespace Meetups, Norwich Biomakers Meetups and others from OpenPlant and the Synthetic Biology SRI.

Biomaker mixer and training events


The Biomaker Challenge requires interdisciplinary working. We are offering several opportunities in Cambridge and Norwich to meet potential collaborators from different disciplines and exchange ideas, knowledge and skills. To stay updated on Biomaker Challenge meet-ups in Cambridge and Norwich and other events hosted by the Synthetic Biology SRI and OpenPlant, join the Cambridge Synthetic Biology Meetup Group and the Norwich Biomakers Meetup Group

Pre-challenge info session & mixer, Cambridge
25th April 2019 at 18:00-20:00
This mixer will be a great opportunity to learn more about the challenge, pitch ideas, and meet potential collaborators before the application closes on 24 May 2019. All are welcome. These pre-challenge mixers will be a great opportunity to learn more about the challenge, hear from previous participants, meet other potential participants and share ideas before the application closes on 13th May. We have a great line-up of talks from previous participants.

Recommended Training Events, Cambridge
During the challenge, we will be hosting training events where teams can learn new skills, socialise, troubleshoot and get advice from other participants. Training topics will include: Introduction to Arduino and XOD, Getting started with your starter kit; 3D design and printing; Introduction to soldering; Documenting your project with Hackster; Details TBC.

  1. Monday 3rd June 2019

  2. Monday 10th June 2019

  3. Monday 1st July 2019

  4. Monday 8th July 2019

Pitches & Progress Reports, Cambridge
Monday 29th July 2019 - OpenPlant Forum, Murray Edwards College

Biomaker Fayre, Cambridge
Wednesday 6 November, Buckingham House Conference Centre, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
Public exhibition of projects and award giving: The Biomaker Fayre showcases projects created by individuals or teams from the biological and physical sciences, engineering, and humanities. The projects use the development of open source biological instrumentation and low-cost sensors using commodity electronics and DIY approaches.