Human Practice




Funding Guide


A Funding Report for iGEM Teams

Recent five years have witnessed a great explosion of iGEM teams all around the world. From Asia to Africa, Europe to America, new iGEM teams coming from various backgrounds emerge and merge into iGEM's big family. Such development process is like many other processes in this world, including population explosion and the growth of bacteria we have every day in the lab. Though the expansion of iGEM may seem infinite at this moment, it may soon reach its saturation level following the well-known Logistic model.


We've first collected the data of participating team numbers each year from 2004 to the present both worldwide and in each region (Asia, Europe and America). Then we fitted the data with logistic model and obtained each parameter value as follows.

Parameter N in logistic model represents the capacity of the region to accommodate iGEM teams, while r indicates the expasion rate of iGEM teams. In bacteria growth, the capacity of the environment is defined by a limiting factor, such as nutrition resources. The case for iGEM cannot be more similar. The limited nutrition resource in our case is the financial support for iGEM teams. No iGEM team can survive without proper funding. Moreover, funding may be dependent on factors such as the biotech industry and government investment in the field of synthetic biology. It's actually intuitive that the development of synthetic biology determines the funding resources, which control the fate of iGEM teams.

When development of synthetic biology is in its steady state, funding resources are almost fixed and are centered about certain level. With the assumption that the survival of team must depend on funding, the fixed funding resources couldn't support every team. Therefore, in contrast with an unlimited increasing number of iGEM teams, the participating team number would also be fixed around certain level.

However, with the emergence of regional jamboree, the current status and capacity might change. Just as what iGEM organizers have always said, that jamboree held in regions can host more iGEM teams. It's true that by splitting teams into three regions, now iGEM competition would be able to accommodate teams nearly as three folds as before. However, a more significant impact is actually on the side of iGEM teams. Jamboree held in regions could greatly cut down expenses for each team, thus the same amount of funding resource can now support more teams for participation.

To use our team expenses as an example, going to a world jamboree is almost four times more expensive than going to a regional jamboree. Suppose that as much as forty percent of regional iGEM teams would advance to the World Jamboree, the expectation of traveling and registering expenses for all iGEM teams would be


As jamboree expenses accounted for more than seventy percent of the whole team's budget, the expectation of budgets for all iGEM teams would be


Thus, besides other impacts, regional jamboree is economic and offers more seats for iGEM teams. The modified predictions of iGEM growth, considering the economic impact of regional jamboree, are shown below.

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However, grouping teams into regions can bring some funding problems too. For instance, some Chinese university departments offer funding only on the basis of the team's advancement to the world jamboree. Failure at the regional not only may fail to make ends meet, but also may be deadly to a young team's future funding prospect. As our recent survey result shows that the funding organization very likely attaches great importance to the team's competition history.

To solve the funding problem, there're clearly two main directions in front of us:

(1) The overall funding in society for iGEM projects or teams can be increased by further developing biotechnology and raising public awareness of synthetic biology. The former can be promoted a little by doing good iGEM projects, which should be of some value to the field or society instead of just having some fun. Human practice is surely one of the keys to the latter. For instance, our team's theme of human practice this year is to educate through entertainment, which creates a more relaxing and fun environment for the public to get to know synthetic biology.

(2) In order to advocate more iGEM teams in participation each year, instead of finding potential funding, one can also try to cut down team expenses. The economic impact of regional jamboree illustrated above might be a good example. Furthermore, through entrepreneurship, teams may also be able to keep balance by applying each year's project to industry and actually making profits out of it. Yet, not every team can be as fortunate and successful as that. Finally, speaking from a participating iGEM team, it'd save a lot if registration fees are lower and if iGEM organizers could negotiate with hotels and airlines to offer iGEM teams a lower sales prize.

Funding may not occur to be that big of a problem in regions where biotechnology industry prospers and develops rapidly. Yet sadly it's not the case in many other regions in the world. To engage more young intelligent people in synthetic biology and realize what they dream for, we should help each other out on the funding issue.