The European Science Foundation is gearing up for its own synthetic biology research programme. EuroSynbio will become a theme under the foundation's Eurocores scheme assuming ten or so national funding agencies come up with the necessary promises of money by December 10. If that happens, the first calls for proposals will be published on December 20, with the first projects expected to get underway at the beginning of 2010.
Funding levels for Eurocores programmes typically run at around €5m to €10m. If it goes ahead, EuroSynbio will run for four years and will cover three main areas. One marks a key difference with the approach to synthetic biology that we could call the "MIT school" and the "European school". The MIT school tends to work on the basis that biology can be made so modular that you can assemble parts into a living system and they will work as is. The European school assumes that evolution is always there and will attempt to modify whatever system you build. Researching into the problems raised by evolution is not isolated to Europe but I've heard it discussed more here than in the US.
The first research focus in EuroSynbio then will be to look at "system assembly and molecular and cellular complexity in the context of Darwinian evolution".
The second focus concentrates on computational design tools and the third on the "social context", just in case you didn't think there were enough studies on ethics, governance and public dialogue in this business already.