NSF GERMINATION: Germination of Research Questions for Addressing Critical Societal Challenges

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary 

Engineers and scientists are capable of making enormous impact when they conceive and conduct fundamental research that addresses societal needs. Our world faces many critical challenges engendered in part by the expanding and aging world population, including meeting global needs for food, energy, water, land, and other resources, while respecting and maintaining the balance of our planetary ecosystem. Other notable challenges include addressing climate change; maintaining cybersecurity, privacy, and fairness in our increasingly connected world; and providing, maintaining and protecting infrastructure. All of these represent potentially large and fertile opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research to serve society.

The NSF Directorate for Engineering GERMINATION program aims to foster the development of pedagogical frameworks, platforms and/or environments to enable participants to formulate research questions and ideas with potentially transformative outcomes. The extraordinary response of the STEM research community to the COVID-19 pandemic, exemplified by the record-breaking speed of novel vaccine development, highlights the outstanding capabilities at all levels of the research enterprise. The GERMINATION program seeks to harness the immense capacities of academic researchers to similarly address other critical global challenges through supporting the development of new pedagogical approaches that train researchers to formulate and develop key research questions.

The GERMINATION program invites proposals to design, test, evaluate and implement pedagogical frameworks, platforms and/or environments that enable participants to formulate research questions and ideas that have the potential to address critical societal challenges. In order to catalyze development of novel approaches, while simultaneously expanding the reach of pilot approaches which are already exhibiting promise, two tracks will be supported in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022: GERMINATION Innovation and GERMINATION Expansion. GERMINATION Innovation awards will fund projects to design, test and evaluate previously unexplored pedagogical frameworks, platforms and/or environments that have the explicit goal of enabling the participants to formulate research questions with potentially transformative outcomes. Projects submitted to the Innovation track must use the EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposal type (see PAPPG Chapter II). GERMINATION Expansion awards will fund projects that focus on development, implementation and scaling of evidence-based strategies for achieving GERMINATION goals. Projects supported under the Expansion track should focus on scaling previously piloted approaches with demonstrated efficacy to a regional or national sphere of activity, and will likely involve development of new collaborative relationships to establish networks capable of implementation beyond the pilot institution.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST July 27, 2021

Sponsor Letter of Intent Deadline: 5:00pm MST August 27, 2021

Sponsor Application Deadline: 5:00pm MST October 29, 2021

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Proposal Type: GERMINATION Innovation or GERMINATION Expansion  
  • Project Summary (3 pages maximum): Please include the following: 1) goals and objectives; 2) rationale and context; 3) research team delineating each members’ expertise; 4) research and evaluation plan. See the full solicitation’s Section V.A. for additional details.
  • PI Curriculum Vitae
  • Budget Overview (up to 1 page): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6630/home


There is no constraint on the role of the Principal Investigator (PI) within the submitting organization. However, the proposal must document the PI’s experience with, and commitment to, leading a culture of change and the team’s experience in mentoring academics of the category that will be involved as participants in the proposed pedagogical framework, platform or environment.

Inclusion of appropriate social science expertise (e.g., organizational psychologists and evaluation professionals) in the leadership team is highly recommended.

Individuals may participate as either PI or co-PI in only one proposal submitted to this solicitation.

If an individual is listed as PI or co-PI on more than one proposal to this solicitation, all proposals in excess of the limit for any person will be returned without review in the reverse order received.

Limited Submission Guidelines

Only one proposal may be submitted by a single organization.

Award Information

Award Amount: $100,000 - $300,000 for GERMINATION Innovation; Up to $500,000 for GERMINATION Expansion

Award Duration: 1-2 years for GERMINATION Innovation; Up to 3 years for GERMINATION Expansion

Number of Awards: 4-5 GERMINATION Innovation; 4-5 GERMINATION Expansion

Review Criteria

In addition to NSF’s standard criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts, note the solicitation specific criteria below. The internal review committee will use these criteria as a guide when evaluating internal proposals.

  • Potential for Success, Sustainability and Scaling: How achievable and significant is the proposed framework, platform or environment? What are the prospects for sustaining this beyond the lifetime of the GERMINATION award? For GERMINATION Innovation proposals, how likely are the proposed approach(es) to be scalable and adaptable beyond the institution(s) involved in this initial study? For GERMINATION Expansion proposals, does the plan encompass a robust mechanism for scaling beyond a single institution?