2018 Research & Innovation Seed Grant Competition

2017 Seed Grant Winners

2018 Key Dates

  1. Grant Program Launch: November 1, 2017
  2. Grant Workshop: December 6, 2017; RSVP here
  3. Grant Submission Deadline: January 8, 2018 at 11:59PM MST
  4. Grant Panel Reviews: February-March 2018
  5. Winner Notification: Late March to Early April 2018

On this page:

Program Description

The Office of the Provost and the Research & Innovation Office are pleased to announce approximately $1 million is available to stimulate new and exciting areas of research and creative activity with high impact and return on investment potential. Research & Innovation Seed Grants (RISG), formerly the Innovative Seed Grant Program, are available up to $50,000 each, and of the $1 million, $250,000 is set aside to support Grand Challenge projects.

RISG support research, scholarly, or creative projects that:

  • Support collaborative interdisciplinary initiatives;
  • Take investigators in creative, and sometimes high-risk, high-reward directions including team development proposals for future large collaborative research projects;
  • Have tangible payoffs in terms of future funding, scholarly or artistic impact.

In 2017, a program record 112 proposals were received and 23 new grants for a total of $1.1 million were awarded to Boulder faculty across disciplines. Since 2006, RISG has awarded more than $11 million to 261 faculty researchers and research teams for research, scholarship, and creative projects.

Proposed projects may take a variety of forms but must represent an investment in the future research, scholarly, or artistic vitality of the university. Proposals are judged in categories designed to allow faculty from all disciplines with the opportunity to compete successfully, even if their discipline is not traditionally connected to sponsored research. Proposals can come from any discipline at the university with those involving interdisciplinary collaboration among CU faculty and projects in emerging fields being particularly welcome.  

As in 2017, RISG will again prioritize funding for and catalyze research relevant to the field commonly referred to as “Big Data” – that is, the generation, analysis, use, and application of large and complex datasets, requiring new and/or non-traditional tools for data collection, curation, analysis, transfer, visualization, querying, and protection/security. Big Data applicants should describe specific plans for Big Data including how the data will be mined and utilized.   

There is also an opportunity for faculty who would like to become part of the campus Grand Challenge Our Space. Our Future. to take the Challenge into new and exciting directions. Funding has been set aside for projects that branch out and strengthen the ongoing work and contribute to ensuring a global impact on Grand Challenge goals. These projects need to be distinct from, yet synergistic with, Grand Challenge projects already underway. Applicants interested should select the Grand Challenge review category in the application portal, and explicitly mention if their submitted proposal is in support of the Grand Challenge and how it will address and strengthen the goals of the university.

The full list of categories are: 

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Basic Physical Sciences
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Engineering & Applied Sciences
  • Grand Challenge
  • Geological & Environmental Sciences
  • Social Sciences & Professional Schools
  • Big Data: defined as research related to the “generation, analysis, use, and application of large and complex datasets, requiring new and/or non-traditional tools for data collection, curation, analysis, transfer, visualization, querying, and protection/security.”


All CU Boulder Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty, 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 more are eligible to apply.

*RA/SRA 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.

Each proposal should have a lead PI from CU Boulder. 2017 grantees cannot be co-PIs for the 2018 competition. Co-PIs are allowed and can be paid as long as the co-PI(s) are CU faculty and not at other institutions. Unpaid collaborators from other institutions are permitted.

Additional eligibility information:

  • Applicants may submit no more than one proposal as a PI.
  • Seed Grant recipients from the past two years are not eligible to apply this year.
  • 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 proposal are discouraged.

Application Process, Requirements, and Review

RISG proposals are submitted electronically through this application portal and reviewed by faculty volunteers. Applicants self-select the proposal category, which will determine in which category the proposal is reviewed. Winners will be notified in March or April and project funding will be available for use on July 1st of that year, and will terminate after 18 months.

In the application portal, applicants must certify that if a project involves any compliance issues such as IRB, IACUC, EHS, biohazardous material, etc., that if awarded, the appropriate compliance offices on campus will be made aware of the proposed activities before initiating any work.

Proposals should use clear writing appropriate for non-specialists and make a strong case for the importance of the project to those 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., TFiez2018SeedGrant.pdf). Maximum budget requests are $50,000 per proposal for up to 18 months of work.

All proposals should include the components below in one PDF document and be clearly marked by section. Proposals not in PDF format and not clearly marked by each section will be considered incompliant and will not be reviewed.  

  • Project Title; this will be input in the application portal and does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit
  • Principal Investigator: name, title, email, and department; this will be input in the application portal and does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit
  • Curriculum Vitae for the PI: up to 2-pages and does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit);
  • Abstract/Project Summary: provide a concise lay summary of the project and explain how it will foster future vitality—research, scholarly, and/or artistic—at CU Boulder; 350 words maximum, up to 1-page (this does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit);
  • Co-PIs/Collaborators: name, institution, unit/department and role(s); up to 1-page (this does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit);
  • Budget and Budget Justification: this template is required for the budget. Budgets requests can be no more than $50,000 and are intended to support graduate students, postdocs, or undergraduates; requests solely for faculty salary support are discouraged. As a point of guidance, RIO has not seen more than two weeks of PI salary accepted by past review panels. Again, faculty salary requests are discouraged. No overhead or indirect costs are allowed. Concisely provide a justification of the items requested in the budget. Focus particular attention on providing a justification of budget items that may not be obvious to reviewers who are familiar with but are not experts in your specific field of research or creative work; the budget and budget justification should be no more than 2-pages (this does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit);
  • Proposal/Project Plan: briefly describe the aims, significance, methods, and expected outcomes of the project, highlighting how it involves a new and creative direction for researchers and has the potential for high future payoff. Proposals should also describe why the concept will be competitive with external sponsors and what specific external programs will be targeted for application. The maximum length is 5 pages, including tables, figures, charts, references, or any other supporting information.
  • Honors, Awards, Representative Scholarly Work or Publications Relevant to Proposal: highlight published works that directly address the PI’s ability to carry out the proposed project; up to 2-pages (this does not count towards the 5-page proposal limit).


Faculty volunteers review all applications, provide comments, and meet to discuss and rank the proposals. RIO relies on these volunteers to determine which proposals receive funding. Proposals will be evaluated in three primary areas: Intellectual Merit, Impact, and Interdisciplinarity & Expansion of Collaboration. 

  • Intellectual Merit: potential to advance knowledge, particularly factoring in the novel approach to concept(s)
  • Impact: potential to benefit discipline(s) and/or society
  • Interdisciplinarity: potential to foster collaborations and partnerships amongst various disciplines on new research, scholarly activity, and/or creative work

Terms and Conditions

ISGP 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. 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 by writing to rioseedgrant@colorado.edu.
  3. Recipients will immediately contact RIO (via rioseedgrant@colorado.edu), with a justification, if there is a change in PI, whether an absence or change in person.
  4. Recipients will serve on a Seed Grant review panel during the 2018 review cycle, which means recipients cannot be PIs or collaborators for the 2018 competition. The next review cycle deadline will be in February or March 2018 with in person review meetings. By accepting this award, recipients agree to score and provide written comments on assigned proposals before the 2018 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 be required to serve as a reviewer the following grant cycle. If a recipient fails to fulfill any of these conditions as a reviewer during the next cycle, funds will be suspended.
  5. 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.
  6. Awards will be made available through the financial office in recipients’ respective Colleges/Schools/Institutes on July 1, 2018 (not earlier), at which time project spending can commence. The budget office at the 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. 
  7. The project duration is no longer than 18 months (July 1, 2018 – December 31, 2019). 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.
  8. If a recipient fails to fulfill any of the aforementioned conditions, RIO reserves the right to suspend monies.


Contact Ryan Reeves:   rioseedgrant@colorado.edu