W.M. Keck Foundation Research Program

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

The Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting projects in two specific areas (1) medical research and (2) science and engineering, that are distinctive and novel in their approach, question the prevailing paradigm, or have the potential to break open new territory in their field. Past grants have been awarded to major universities, independent research institutions, and medical schools to support pioneering biological and physical science research and engineering, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation or methodologies. 

Based on feedback from Keck to RIO, the foundation is seeking proposals that explain how a project is going to significantly change the world. Keck is interested in high risk, high reward, fundamental science and not so much in applied, developmental, or translational work.

Funding is awarded to universities and institutions nationwide for projects in research that:

  • Focus on important and emerging areas of research
  • Have the potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation or methodologies
  • Are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary
  • Demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm
  • Have the potential for transformative impact, such as the founding of a new field of research, the enabling of observations not previously possible, or the altered perception of a previously intractable problem
  • Does not focus on clinical or translational research, treatment trials or research for the sole purpose of drug development
  • Fall outside the mission of public funding agencies
  • Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in particular, is essential to the project’s success


Internal CU Deadline: 11:59pm MST May 13, 2024

Pre-Application Counseling Period: July 1 – August 15, 2024

Keck Phase I Application Deadline (by invitation only): 5:30pm MT November 1, 2024

Keck Phase II Application (Full Proposal) Deadline (by invitation only): 5:30pm MT February 15, 2025

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format unless otherwise noted)

  • Proposal Category (1) Medical Research or 2) Science and Engineering)
  • Concept Paper (use this template; 1 page, 12 point font, 1 inch margins, Microsoft Word format)
    • The concept paper should include: (a) an overview of the proposed project emphasizing any unique aspects and pilot studies (indicate area of emphasis for project – medical research or science and engineering research); (b) a description of the methodologies and key personnel; (c) a brief justification of the need for Keck Foundation support (why traditional support from federal sponsors cannot be obtained); and (d) an estimated budget broken down, if possible, by major areas, e.g., personnel, equipment, consumable supplies, etc. (budgets can be rough approximations at this stage).
    • If there’s room, the authors are free to add other details (e.g., background to put the research into perspective, description of the institution’s prominence in the field, etc.). Avoid illustrations in these single-pagers – the researchers will need all room for text. If a reference is necessary, abbreviate it as (Science, 323, 45, ’11). DO NOT USE (Jones et al., 2011).
  • Curriculum Vitae (up to 2 pages)
  • Research Stage Questions
    • Briefly describe the stage of this research (e.g., have you already begun this work? have you already published? have you collected any preliminary data?).
    • Have you submitted this project to a federal funder? If yes, please indicate the funder and funding opportunity, indicate whether you were awarded funding, and describe any feedback you received.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6962/home


There are no special eligibility requirements.

Limited Submission Guidelines

CU Boulder is limited to four concept papers in each program: 1) Medical Research and 2) Science and Engineering.

CU Boulder is limited to one Phase I application per category: 1) Medical Research and 2) Science and Engineering Research.

Award Information

Historically, research grants range from $500,000 to $5 million, but are typically $1 million or less.

Keck Application Process

If selected through the internal competition to apply on behalf of CU, there will be a pre-application counseling call between Keck and RIO between July 1 – August 15, 2024. To schedule this call, PIs must submit a one-page concept paper within one to two weeks of being notified of being an internal winner. Please be prepared for this quick turnaround at the time of submitting your internal application.

Keck wants applicants to demonstrate why the Foundation’s funding is essential for their projects and will want proof that federal funders have rejected the concept. If you are invited to submit a Phase I proposal, Keck will ask that you submit the name(s) of program manager(s) with whom you have had contact, along with their comments as to why you were turned down for funding. If you have any written reviews from a federal source that indicate why the proposal was declined, they will ask that you be prepared to include these as part of your Phase I proposal submission if invited by Keck. Please anticipate and plan accordingly.