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What is the BREAD Ideas Challenge?

The BREAD Ideas Challenge is a call to the scientific community to identify the next big research foci for the BREAD program. The focus of BREAD, or Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development, is on novel, transformative, basic research with direct relevance and potential application to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. The awards made through the first three BREAD competitions can be found on the BREAD Awards page.


The fourth BREAD competition was announced through Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 13-035) and takes a novel approach to fulfill BREAD’s goals by using a two-stage process involving small cash prizes to stimulate new ideas and EAGER proposals to explore new, high risk, high payoff research stimulated by the prize-winning ideas. This is a pilot activity that will be evaluated to determine whether a prize approach has a different outcome from a regular competition without a prize component (e.g., attracts new ideas, addresses the need to engage individuals in developing countries, encourages international collaborations to address constraints facing smallholder farmers in developing world).


The BREAD Ideas Challenge is searching for new challenges related to its mission:

"…to support innovative basic scientific research designed to address key constraints to smallholder agriculture in the developing world."

In line with the BREAD mission, the BREAD Ideas Challenge seeks to identify those "key constraints" and research foci that, if addressed, could lead to significant benefit to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. BREAD is looking for creative, novel challenges and research foci that could be addressed by basic scientific research in any of the major fields supported by the BREAD program: crop sciences, microbes and insects, livestock and animals, soil sciences, weather forecasting, and technology development.


The BREAD Ideas Challenge is not for every idea. For example, the BREAD Ideas Challenge is not for:


Phase I

The first phase will comprise an Ideas Challenge offering up to 25 prizes of $10,000 USD each for the best ideas for innovative, potentially transformative research foci that, if successfully addressed, could eventually be of significant benefit to smallholder farmers in developing countries. Research challenges will be accepted in any area of basic research and technology development in all fields of biological and physical sciences and engineering as long as the proposed research challenge is consistent with the BREAD Program objectives. Ideas for research foci and challenges will be accepted between April 1 and April 30, 2013 from individuals who are graduate students, postdoctoral associates or faculty at an eligible institution (e.g., a university, college, or non-profit research organization including museums, research laboratories, professional societies or similar organizations that are directly associated with educational or research activities) in the U.S. or internationally. Ideas will be judged by a panel of experts, and prizewinners announced in May 2013.

Prize-winning ideas and prizewinners will be showcased on the BREAD Ideas Challenge web site, and on communications related to the BREAD Ideas Challenge, the BREAD Program, the Plant Genome Research Program, and the National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Biological Sciences.

Phase II

In the second phase, the BREAD program will accept Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals. The winning ideas from the BREAD Ideas Challenge will be focus areas for the second stage of the program, although all ideas within the scope of the BREAD Program will continue to be welcome.