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2019 Mission Agency Research Seed Program


The University of Tennessee’s Office of Research and Engagement (ORE) announces a call for proposals for the Mission Agency Research Seed Program. This program offers internal funds for University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) and UT Space Institute (UTSI) faculty and is intended to help generate competitive proposal submissions to federal mission agencies. ORE seeks to encourage faculty members to identify and pursue new funding targets.

An ideal project will apply for external funding and begin to generate manuscripts for publication no later than four months after the seed project ends. The goals of the program are to grow and diversify UT’s research portfolio, stimulate new research directions, and build a foundation for sustainable research funding. Key considerations include the likelihood that the project will attract new external research funding from mission-oriented funding agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, etc. (not the National Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health).


Proposals are invited from all UT and UTSI faculty.

The Principal Investigator (PI) must:

  • Be UT/UTSI faculty, including tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-trackresearch scientists
  • Have department and college approval to apply for internal funding, as evidenced by willingness to cost share in attached email or letter. (Non-tenure-track researchers must provide documentation from their department head indicating a long-term commitment to the PI and the PI’s ability to execute a future externally funded project at UT/UTSI that could extend beyond 2022.)
  • Be eligible to apply for external funding
  • Identify at least one funding mechanism from which they have not received funding
  • Note: Previous Research Seed grant awardees from any category who were lead PIs are ineligible to apply as lead PI for a new Mission Agency Research grant.

Both single- and multiple-investigator proposals are encouraged. Although external collaborations with universities or companies are encouraged, seed-funded projects may notbe used to support outside institutions. A faculty member may participate in multiple seed proposals but should serve as lead PI on no more than one application to the Interdisciplinary category and no more than one application to the Mission, Biomedical Research, or Community-Engaged Research categories.  An awardee may not apply for a new Mission Agency Research Program grant in subsequent years until they have submitted a proposal for external funding based on the previous award.

Budget and Project Duration

Award Amounts: One-year project:  maximum total budget is $45,000 must include a combined 20% cost share from the college/department ($36,000 ORE + $9,000 cost share). When eligible, ORE will provide $20K cost share funding per year on any resulting winning external proposals over $100,000/year.

Use of Funds: Funds may be used for any activity directly related to the research: salaries and benefits for research trainees (students, postdocs), some travel, research supplies, equipment/facility recharge, etc. Travel to federal agencies and proposer workshops is strongly encouraged and is likely to be an important element to successfully obtain external mission agency research funding.  Funds for travel are limited to federal agencies, proposer workshops, and other related visits.

Funds  will be available soon after awards are announced and will be provided to awardees on a cost-reimbursable basis.  Reimbursement requests may be submitted to ORE periodically as significant amounts are expended. Funds may not  be used for faculty salary, course buy-outs, administrative staff, seminar speakers, or conferences. Consultant costs may be considered under certain circumstances.  Project seed grants will be awarded in two phases: recipients will be awarded 50% of funds to initiate the project, with the remainder made available upon completion and approval of a brief midterm project status report. All funds must be expended by the end of the 12-month project period unless an extension is approved by the AVCRD and the contributing college/department.


The internal proposal submittal deadline is  November 14, 2018 at Noon (12 p.m.).  Awards will be announced March 1, 2019, and projects will have a start date of May 1, 2019.

Application Instructions

Online submission will include completion of the online application form (see below) as well as the following documents:  External Funding Strategy, Research Plan, Quad Chart, Budget, Current and Pending Support, CVs, and Cost Share Letters. Please upload all documents separately and not in one document. Please note that the Research Plan outline is based upon questions presented in the Heilmeier Catechism.

Instructions for Submittal: In addition to the online application form, combine these documents into one PDF in this order: External Funding Strategy, Research Plan, Quad Chart, Budget, References, Current & Pending Support, CVs, and Cost-Share Support Letters. Finally, submit a copy of the Quad Chart in a stand-alone PowerPoint format.

Format: Single-spaced, 12-point font with one-inch margins. Proposals should include the following sections:

  1. Online Application Form—(see form below)
  2. External Funding Strategy—No more than three pages single-spaced.
  • PI(s) must target at least one funding mechanismthat they have not received funding from in the past.
  • Strategy should address the following questions:
    • What specific federal mission agency or private funding opportunity (not NSF or NIH) will be targeted?
    • Who is the intended Program Manager/Officer?
    • What correspondence or interaction has been made or is planned with the Program Manager/Officer or federal agency? (Includeemails and a description of interaction when possible.)
    • What is the proposed timeline and target deadline for applying for external funding?
  • NOTEProjects without an external funding strategy will be returned without review.
  1. Research Plan (four-page limit):
    1. Objectives and Significance. What are you trying to do?
      Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon. Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make? State goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s). Explain the high-level importance of the problem or critical barrier that the project addresses. (Related review criteria: Merit and Significance)
    2. Current State of the Art. How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
      Briefly explain the current state of the art.Point out scientific challenges and limitations down to the root cause(s) and explain at the most granular level possible. Quantify whenever possible.
    3. Approach: What’s new in your approach?
      Describe your overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the project’s objectives. Address how your approach overcomes the root cause(s) of the challenge(s) you identified in the previous section. Start at the granular level. Specific details are helpful. (Related review criteria: Feasibility and Approach)
    4. Innovation/Differentiator. Why do you think your approach will be successful?
      Highlight the innovative nature of your proposal. Starting with the root cause of the challenges and limitations described earlier, how is your approach better? What differentiates your proposed research from the state of the art?  Is it a first? How might it revolutionize research and advance your field? Why hasn’t it been done before, and what leads you to believe that now is the optimal time? (Related review criteria: Innovation and Differentiators)
  1. Quad Chart (one-page limit—see quad chart example template)
  2. Budget with breakdown of cost categories
  3. References (one-page limit)
  4. Current and Pending Support for PI and senior personnel (see PI Current and Pending Support List template)
  5. CVs – Two-page limit per investigator

Department/college/other unit willingness to cost-share –Attach email or letter from all Department Heads (departments), Associate Deans for Research (colleges), and/or leaders of other university units who are committing cost-share to the project.

Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed by UT faculty, staff, and possibly federal funding agency program managers. Deans and/or department heads of the PI and co-PI’s may also be asked for input on the importance of the project for their college or department. Evaluations will be based on these major criteria:

  1. Merit and Significance: Will the proposed project advance research in the field? Does it challenge the current state of art? Will is overcome a barrier to advancing research in this field and broaden the horizon for future research? Is this a major question or problem?
  2. Feasibility and Approach: Are the proposed research plans, methods, and analyses appropriate? Will the methods and analyses achieve the objectives of the project? Are adequate resources (expertise, tools, equipment) included in the proposal?
  3. Innovation and Differentiators: Does the proposal leverage new theories, tools, or applications that will advance the field? Will the project shift the current paradigm in the field? Are technical or intellectual innovations included in the proposal? Does the PI leverage individual or institutional differentiators? (Criteria double-weighted in review.)
  4. External Funding Strategy: Does the project align with the funder identified? Is it reasonable to expect that in addition to alignment, funds will be available in the future (i.e. targeted program is not sun setting and is of continued interest to the funder)? Is the PI viable from target funder’s perspective? Is there potential alignment with other funders not mentioned in the proposal? (Criteria double-weighted in review.)

ORE Programming Requirements

Awardees are strongly encouraged to work with an AVCRD staff member on the External Funding Strategy and to take part in at least one of the AVCRD workshops or training sessions during the period of performance.

Progress Tracking and Reporting

Awardees are expected to submit at least one external proposal based on the research. Awardees must submit a brief interim report (template to be provided) to release the remaining 50% of the funds and a final project report within 60 days of the award period end. The final report should include results of the research, new funding targets identified during the process, efforts underway to obtain external funding, and efforts to generate publications. Awardees requesting a two-year project period will be closely reviewed after 12 months to ensure adequate progress is being made. Lack of timely reporting may result in exclusion from future awards. PIs are responsible for tracking expenses associated with the award. For more information or questions, please contact  AVCRD@utk.edu.