2021 Seed Grant Winners

Sign Up to be a Seed Grant Reviewer

Key Dates
Grant Program Launch: October 2021
Grant Workshop: November 10, 2021 (RSVP)
Grant Submission Deadline: January 2022
Grant Panel Reviews: February-March 2022
Winner Notification: Late March to Early April 2022

On this page:

Summary Information

  • Award Amount: $50,000
  • Award Duration: 18 months
  • Total Program Funding: Up to $1,000,000 annually
  • Funding Offices: Office of the Provost, Research & Innovation Office (RIO)

Program Description

Research & Innovation Seed Grants are specifically aimed to stimulate inter- and multidisciplinary work on research, scholarship and creative activity projects that either:

  1. explore new areas of research with high impact and future funding potential, or
  2. pursue research, scholarship, or creative activity of high impact to arts and humanities disciplines.

Seed grants support projects that take investigators in creative, and sometimes high-risk, high-reward directions including team development proposals for future large collaborative research projects. Proposed projects may take a variety of forms, but must represent an investment in the future research, scholarly, or creative vitality of the university.

Proposals are reviewed in categories designed to allow faculty from all disciplines the opportunity to compete successfully, even if their discipline is not traditionally connected to sponsored research. We encourage proposals from all disciplines at CU Boulder, especially those involving inter- or multidisciplinary collaboration and projects in emerging fields. Seed grant categories are listed below. Note Grand Challenge Our Space. Our Future. strategic initiative continues to span disciplines across campus. Applicants from all disciplines are encouraged to submit Grand Challenge-focused proposals under this category. RIO also encourages proposals and project activities that support diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Basic Physical Sciences
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Engineering & Applied Sciences
  • Geological & Environmental Sciences
  • Grand Challenge Our Space. Our Future.
  • Social Sciences & Professional Schools


All CU Boulder Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty, Instructors, Senior Instructors, and Career Track Research Faculty (i.e., Research Professors Series, Senior Research Associates* (SRA), and Research Associates* (RA)) who hold an appointment of half-time or greater are eligible to apply. The lead PI should be employed by CU Boulder. Co-PIs are allowed, and can be funded as long as they are CU Boulder faculty. Collaborators from other institutions are also permitted, but cannot receive funding from the program. *Postdoctoral Associates, Postdoctoral Fellows, and RA/SRAs in short-term, transitional postdoctoral training positions should not apply as the intent of this award is to foster new and innovative programs of research and scholarly inquiry that will be of long-term benefit to CU Boulder.

Additional eligibility information:

  • Applicants may submit no more than one proposal as a PI or Co-PI.
  • Seed grant recipients (lead PIs) from the past two years are not eligible to apply this year, but may serve as an unpaid co-PI on proposals the year after receiving their award. Like PIs, co-PIs may only be funded in one active seed grant. For instance, if someone serves as an unpaid co-PI in a 2020 project, they can be a paid co-PI for a 2021 project.
  • Projects with a major scientific or budgetary overlap with the PI's active research support are not eligible.
  • Projects with a primary focus on curriculum development are not eligible.
  • Faculty course or teaching buy-out is not an eligible expense.
  • Applicants with existing resources that could be used to fund their project are discouraged.
  • Applicants may request up to two weeks of summer salary in their proposal budgets. 

Application Process and Requirements

Seed grant proposals are submitted electronically through this application portal. Applicants self-select the proposal category in which the proposal will be reviewed.

Application Portal

Annual Timeline

October 2021 Program launch
January 2022 Proposal deadline
Late March - Early April 2022 Applicants notified of proposal status
July 1, 2022 Project funding available


  • Maximum Budget Request: $50,000
  • Co-PIs can be paid as long as they are CU faculty. Collaborators from other institutions may not be paid.

Project Duration: Up to 18 months.

Proposal Requirements

Proposals should use clear writing appropriate for non-specialists and make a strong case for the importance of the project to reviewers outside the discipline. Proposal documents should be in Arial 11-point type with at least 0.5" margins and should include the PI's name and the year of proposal within the document title (e.g., TFiez2020SeedGrant.pdf).

All proposals should include the components below in one PDF document and be clearly marked by section. Proposals that fail to comply with these requirements will not be reviewed.

  • Proposal/Project Plan: Describe the aims, significance, methods, and expected outcomes of the project, highlighting any new or creative directions, future payoff potential, or value/impact (especially in the case of arts and humanities proposals). For relevant disciplines, describe why the concept will be competitive for future external sponsor funding; identify specific external programs to be targeted for future funding requests. The maximum length is 5 pages, including tables, figures, charts, references, and any other supporting information.
  • Supplemental Materials (these materials do not count toward the 5-page proposal limit):
    • PI Curriculum Vitae: Up to 2 pages.
    • Abstract/Project Summary: Provide a concise summary of the project accessible to general audiences. Explain how the project will foster future research, scholarly, and creative vitality at CU Boulder. 350 words maximum; up to 1 page.
    • Co-PIs/Collaborators: Name, title, institution, unit/department, and role(s). Up to 1 page.
    • Budget and Budget Justification: Applicants are required to use this template for the budget. Budget requests are intended to support graduate students, postdocs, or undergraduates. Requests solely for faculty salary support are highly discouraged (as a point of guidance, RIO has not seen more than two weeks of PI salary accepted by past review panels). No overhead or indirect costs are allowed. Concisely provide a justification of the items requested in the budget. Particular attention should be given to justifying budget items that may not be obvious to reviewers who are familiar with (but are not experts in) your specific field. Up to 2 pages total (approximately 1 page for the budget and 1 page for the budget justification).
    • Honors, Awards, Representative Scholarly Work or Publications Relevant to Proposal: Highlight published work that directly addresses the PI’s ability to carry out the proposed project. Up to 2 pages.

Review Process

Faculty volunteers review proposals, provide comments, convene to discuss proposals and recommend proposals for funding. Proposals will be evaluated in three primary areas: 

  • Intellectual Merit: Merit and quality of research, scholarship or creative work; potential to contribute value to the respective discipline and advance knowledge (particularly factoring in the novel approach to concept(s) for relevant disciplines).
  • Impact: Potential to benefit discipline(s), society, or vitality of the university’s research, scholarship or creative work.
  • Inter- / multidisciplinarity: Potential to foster collaborations and partnerships across disciplines; team development for future collaborations.

The potential to attain future funding will also be a consideration in the review process for appropriate disciplines.

Note on Variability in Review Considerations across Disciplines: Please note that discipline-specific considerations will be taken into account during the review process. RIO understands that merit, impact, and success are defined differently across disciplines and that funding patterns vary by discipline; this variability will be considered during the review process. For example, potential to attain future funding is typically not weighted as heavily in the Arts & Humanities category.

Reviewer Sign-Up

Sign up here to serve as a reviewer for the Research & Innovation Seed Grant program.

Terms and Conditions

Seed grant recipients agree to the following conditions:

  1. Recipients will submit a final report to RIO no later than 30 days following the end of the award period. RIO staff will be in contact with report requirements and submission details.
  2. Recipients are highly encouraged to submit a proposal for external funding (for related work) within 18 months of being awarded a Research & Innovation Seed Grant.
  3. If a significant outcome of this seed grant award is realized at any time (e.g. acquisition of a grant, publication of a significant piece of work, an invention, a key creation or performance, etc.), recipients will immediately notify RIO in writing by emailing rioseedgrant@colorado.edu.
  4. If there is a change or absence (60 days or greater) in PI, recipients will immediately contact and provide a justification to RIO at rioseedgrant@colorado.edu.
  5. Recipients will serve on a Research & Innovation Seed Grant review panel for the following review cycle; this means recipients cannot be lead PIs or paid Co-PIs/collaborators on proposals submitted the cycle following the cycle in which they were awarded. Recipients may serve as unpaid co-PIs the following cycle. By accepting this award, recipients agree to score and provide written comments on assigned proposals before the review deadline and participate in an in-person review meeting. For any recipients on sabbatical or family leave during the review period, these recipients will serve as a reviewer the following grant cycle. If a recipient fails to serve as a reviewer during the next cycle, funds will be suspended.
  6. If the project entails any compliance issues such as IRB, IACUC, EHS, biohazardous material, etc., recipients certify that the appropriate compliance offices on campus will be made aware of the proposed activities before initiating any work.
  7. Awards will be made available through the financial office in recipients’ respective college/school/institute on the first day of July following award notification (not earlier), at which time project spending can commence. The budget office at the PI’s respective college/school/institute will set up the speedtype (account) number for the award. RIO will transfer the funds to the speedtype. Recipients are advised to contact respective budget offices for the speedtype in June following award notification. 
  8. The project duration is no longer than 18 months (July 1 [Year 1] – December 31 [Year 2]). No-cost extension requests of 3 or 6 months must be approved by the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation or the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research before the project termination date. No-cost extension requests should include a justification of why an extension is needed, how the funds will be used in the extension period, and the length of the extension request. No-cost extension requests should be sent to rioseedgrant@colorado.edu. Unused funds at the end of the project will be returned to RIO.
  9. If a recipient fails to fulfill any of the aforementioned conditions, RIO reserves the right to suspend funds.


Contact rioseedgrant@colorado.edu with any questions or comments.