Future of NBAF

During 2019/20, NERC recommissioned a new environmental omics facility under open competition. NBAF will therefore be ramped down in 2020–2022 as it completes its existing projects. Its successor, the NERC Environmental Omics Facility (NEOF), will begin operations in October 2020. NEOF will be provided by the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, and like NBAF, will be managed by the British Geological Survey (BGS). The University of Liverpool will provide expertise and technology in the areas of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics. The University of Sheffield will provide a visitor facility for laboratory training, sample preparation and environmental DNA analysis, and lead on phenomics to supplement other omic approaches. The capability and training provided by the two sites will be highly integrated.

The recommissioning provided an opportunity to reimagine the omics support required to support world-class NERC science. A central principle is to add value to the work of NERC scientists, and our ambition is for NERC science to be an international leader in environmental omics. This involves not just providing the analytical capability, but helping to build a community of skilled scientists with the ability to apply the very latest technologies to their own research. As NEOF comes online, we will introduce some significant enhancements relative to NBAF, particularly in the provision of training to build capability within the community, in our investment in pilot projects to help users trial new technology and test adventurous ideas, and in the projects undertaken in our visitor facility.

All grant-funded projects that planned to use NBAF will continue to be supported as before. In the majority of cases, projects using NBAF-Edinburgh will continue to use that facility, but in some cases where a project has yet to start the service may switch to Liverpool. Edinburgh Genomics will remain open for business once NBAF-E closes and will continue to provide genomics services for research collaborators and customers across academia, government and industry.   

We are aware that many users are currently preparing standard grant applications for the coming NERC Discovery Science round. If you have already started a conversation with NBAF-Edinburgh about your requirements then please continue with this and upload the quotation/technical assessment to JeS, as normal. If you have sequencing requirements and you have yet to contact NBAF for a quote, please contact Liverpool (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/genomic-research/contact-us/enquiry-form/)
or for the visitor facility contact Sheffield (via d.a.dawson@sheffield.ac.uk), as appropriate.

We are continuing to discuss and receive applications for training in our visitor facility in Sheffield (although it is not possible to confirm start dates at this time due to COVID-19). A major benefit of NEOF is that we will be able to increase our direct support for the DNA sequencing required by PhD students as part of their training in Sheffield. NEOF will also be introducing an enhanced suite of workshop-based training in omics designed to address the needs of the NERC community.