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2018 NIH Preliminary Results Research Seed Program


The Office of Research and Engagement (ORE) is announcing a call for proposals for the new NIH Preliminary Results Seed Program. Proposals are due by December 13. The program offers internal funding to generate preliminary data needed to support a competitive National Institutes of Health research grant proposal (for example, R01 or R15). ORE seeks to support projects that encourage faculty members to identify and seek new funding targets at NIH.

The ideal project would apply for external funding through an NIH research grant 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 UT’s NIH research portfolio, stimulate new research directions, and build a foundation for more stable and sustainable research funding.


Proposals are invited from all UT Knoxville and UT Space Institute tenured and tenure-track faculty or with special permission from the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Development (AVCRD). Both single- and multiple-investigator projects are allowed and external collaborations are encouraged. A faculty member may participate in multiple proposals but should serve as lead principal investigator on no more than one. Previous NIH applications or awards are not required. An awardee may apply for additional NIH Preliminary Results Program awards after they have submitted an NIH research grant application corresponding to their first NIH Preliminary Results Program award.

Award Conditions

  • The maximum budget of $50,000 including a 20% combined cost share from the College/Department.
  • Projects will have a start date of May 1, 2018 with a maximum award period of 12 months.
  • Projects will receive 50% of funds to initiate the project with the remainder made available upon completion and approval of a brief mid-term report on project status.
  • All funds must be expended by the end of the 12-month project period. All unexpended funds will be returned unless an extension is approved by the AVCRD.
  • Awardees are required to apply for an NIH research grant (R01 or R15) within four months after the end of the seed project.
  • Awardees are required to participate in the Faculty Development Team’s NIH Proposal Writing Institute (PWI) to develop their research grant application, unless previously completed.

Use of Funds

  • Funds may be used for any activity directly related to the conduct of the research, e.g. salaries and benefits for students, postdocs, or research scientists, analysis, research supplies, equipment, etc.
  • Funds will be available almost immediately 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 salaries and benefits, administrative staff, course buyouts, seminar speakers, consultants, or conferences.
  • Although external collaborations are encouraged, funds may not be used to provide salary or fringe benefits to collaborators at external institutions.
  • Funds for travel are limited to NIH workshops or visits with NIH program officers, and meetings with external scientific collaborators. Please include in submitted budget.


The application deadline is December 13, 2017. Awards will be announced March 1, 2018, and projects will have a start date of May 1, 2018.

Application Format

Online submission will include completion of the form as well submitting the following documents:  NIH Funding Target, Research Plan, Budget, Current and Pending Support, and Biographical Sketch

  1. Online Application Form (see embedded form below)
  2. NIH Funding Target: No more than one page, single-spaced, with 12-point font with one-inch margins. Applicants should address the following questions:
    • What NIH institute (e.g., NIGMS, NIEHS) will the PI submit the planned research grant application to?
    • Which NIH study section (e.g., SBCA, GDD) is most appropriate to review the planned research grant application?
    • Who is the intended NIH program officer, and what correspondence has occurred or is planned with that person? (Include emails and/or a description of interaction, if applicable.)
    • What is the proposed timeline to obtain preliminary data and submit an NIH application?
    • Which research grant application (R01, R15) will the PI submit?Projects that do not indicate a specific research grant opportunity will be returned without review. [Word or Acrobat Format]
  1. Research Plan: No more than four pages, single-spaced, with 12-point font with one-inch margins. Note: References are not included in the page limit. [Word or Acrobat Format] Proposals should include the following sections:
    1. Specific Aims: State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will have on the research field(s) involved. List succinctly the specific objectives of the research proposed (e.g., to test a stated hypothesis, create a novel design, solve a specific problem, challenge an existing paradigm or clinical practice, address a critical barrier to progress in the field, or develop new technology).
    2. Significance: Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress that the proposed project addresses. Describe the scientific premise for the proposed project, including consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of published research or preliminary data crucial to the support of your application. Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields. Describe how the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field will be changed if the proposed aims are achieved.
    3. Innovation: Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms. Describe any novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions to be developed or used, and any advantage over existing methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions. Explain any refinements, improvements, or new applications of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions.
    4. Approach: Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Describe the experimental design and methods proposed and how they will achieve robust and unbiased results. Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims. If the project is in the early stages of development, describe any strategy to establish feasibility, and address the management of any high risk aspects of the proposed work.
    5. Need for Preliminary Results: Indicate preliminary data needed to provide a compelling basis for a competitive NIH research grant application and how you will obtain it within the 12-month seed funding project period.
  2. Quad chart – One page (see example quad chart template) [PowerPoint Format]
  3. Budget: Include breakdown of cost categories. [Excel Format]
  4. Current and Pending Support – (see example PI Current and Pending Support List template) [Excel Format]
  5. Biographical Sketch: Use current NIH format, five pages maximum. [Word or Acrobat Format]

Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed by UT faculty, staff, and possibly federal funding agency program managers. Key considerations include the likelihood that the project can be leveraged to obtain new externally-funded research from NIH. Evaluations will be based on three major criteria (listed in order of importance):

  1. The planned project’s responsiveness to the three main NIH review criteria (significance, innovation, and approach) if preliminary data needs were met.
  2. The feasibility of obtaining adequate preliminary data to provide a compelling basis for a competitive NIH Research grant application.
  3. Clear alignment with NIH priorities. Deans and/or department heads of the PI and co-PIs may also be asked for input on the importance of the project for their college or department.

Office of Research and Engagement Programming Requirements

Awardees are required to work with a staff member from the AVCRD Funding Strategy Planning Program (FSP2).  Awardees are also required to take part in at least one of the AVCRD workshops or training sessions during the period of performance unless they have completed one within the last 12 months.

Progress Tracking and Reporting

It is expected awardees will submit at least one external proposal based on the research.  Awardees are required to submit both a brief interim report (template provided to awardees) to release the remaining 50% of the funds and a final project report within 60 days after the award period end. The final project report should include the results of the research, and plans or efforts underway to obtain external funding. Lack of timely reporting may result in exclusion from future award opportunities. PIs are responsible for tracking expenses associated with the award.

For more information or questions, please contact

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