Published: April 24, 2017

Selection of 2017 Innovative Seed Grant Program winners

Tara Knight, Arts & Humanities Category
Sound Planetarium: Sonifying a Universe of Data

  • A Grand Challenge affiliated project, Sound Planetarium will incorporate virtual reality, galactic sounds and other astronomical phenomenon to provide a sensory experience of the cosmos.

Sara Sawyer, Big Data Category
A Machine Learning Approach for Predicting Cellular Targets of the Dengue Virus Protease

  • To Sawyer’s knowledge, she is the first to use machine learning to guide rapid discovery of virus biology, which holds potential for existing diseases such as MERS, Ebola and Zika as well as future diseases.

Jingshi Shen, Biomedical Sciences Category
Identify new therapeutic targets of cancer immunotherapy

  • The project will design safer and more effective immunotherapies using CRISPR genetic screens.

Stephen Becker, Engineering & Applied Sciences Category
Blind Structured Illumination Photoacoustic Microscopy with Compressed Sensing

  • Becker will use light and ultrasound to provide high-quality images through and inside of biological tissue.

Torin Clark, Engineering & Applied Sciences Category
Identifying Biomarkers of Sensorimotor Adaptation to a Spaceflight Analog Environment

  • The project will identify biomarkers during a mimicked space flight environment to improve the health and safety of astronauts.

Katharine Suding, Geological & Environmental Sciences Category 
The Boulder Apple Tree Project

  • Suding will research apple trees and orchards that once covered Boulder as a model for urban planning as it relates to green infrastructure. 

See the full list of 2017 awardees.

The CU Boulder Innovative Seed Grant Program (ISGP), now in its 11th year, recently announced more than $1.1 million in seed funding through 23 grants, with a focus on interdisciplinary ventures that take investigators in high-risk, high-reward directions. This new round of funding is especially significant in light of the return on investment the program has demonstrated in recent years.

The 2017 awards, announced by the CU Boulder Office of the Provost and Research & Innovation Office (RIO), are funding 23 grants for up to $50,000 each, including $240,000 for five projects supporting work directly connected to the CU Boulder Grand Challenge. The program stimulates new and exciting areas of research and creative work on the CU Boulder campus, as highlighted by a small sampling of the 2017 Innovative Seed Grant Program winners, listed to the right.

About the 2017 program

The 2017 program featured a record 112 applications, which were reviewed by 49 faculty volunteers, including previous ISGP recipients.

The selected projects represent an investment in the future research and scholarly or artistic vitality of the university and demonstrate promise for expansion of the project goals. The awardees come from disciplines across the university—with several of the ventures involving interdisciplinary work that will foster collaborative interaction among CU faculty—as well as disciplines not traditionally connected to sponsored research.

In addition to funding specifically earmarked to further strengthen the campus Grand Challenge, this year’s ISGP had a special category for big data projects.

Impact on faculty and campus

The ISGP, which has now provided more than $11 million to 261 faculty for innovative projects, has demonstrated an impressive return on investment, especially given the full impact of successfully funded projects requires a number of years to capture. As such, meaningful results from ongoing 2016 ISGP projects aren’t yet available, but results from the 2015 and 2014 programs are telling.  

Five projects from the 2015 ISGP that received a combined $249,985 in seed funding have already received more than $6.5 million in additional funding, equating to $25.08 for every $1 invested by the program. Of the nine total 2015 projects that have concluded, results include one invention and 19 published manuscripts. An additional eight projects are still underway and likely to add to these already significant outcomes.

The 19 winning projects from the 2014 ISGP received a total of $850,000 and have yielded 17 manuscripts and two inventions. Seven of these projects that totaled a combined $323,811 in seed funds have resulted in more than $5.57 million in external funding, translating to a $16.21 return for each $1 contributed.

Outside of financial returns, other ISGP impacts on the campus are immeasurable. New data, partnerships and research directions are often achieved, opening up opportunities that may otherwise not come to fruition. Additionally, funded projects provide graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and other investigators with critical research development and creative work experiences.

The 2018 program

ISGP submissions are generally requested early in the spring semester with reviews taking place in February and March and selections announced in early April. Specific dates for the 2018 program will be announced later in the fall.  

For more information on this program and other funding opportunities, visit the Research & Innovation Office website or subscribe to the bi-weekly RIO Bulletin