The last day to submit proposals to be eligible for the first round of funding is Monday, Dec. 24. Proposals submitted after this date will be considered once this round of reviews is completed, on a rolling basis.

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) invites you to join your colleagues in helping build DPI’s research and educational vision, agenda, and portfolio of activities.

To do so, DPI is making available support, space, and funds to faculty in the University of Illinois system and partners to help initiate inaugural work and engage a broad array of faculty with the Institute. Applicants may request up to $15,000; space; and administrative support for their proposed activities.

DPI’s mission is to establish collaborative partnerships that address 21st century societal grand challenges, promote entrepreneurship, and educate the next-generation workforce, which will grow the state’s economy. It will do so through:

  • Guidance from and partnerships with industry; governmental, non-governmental agencies, and community-based agencies; and cultural and philanthropic organizations
  • Purpose-driven research that creates actionable results
  • Accelerated transition of results through partnerships and entrepreneurship
  • Targeted thematic and cross-cutting education and workforce development

In doing its work, DPI is guided by principles of inclusivity (in all forms), transparency (in both process and governance), ethics and accountability, and engagement with the local community.

Building upon our many collective successes, we aim to improve the quality of life for all, drive the State of Illinois’s economic growth, and have global impact.

Scope and breadth

DPI solicits a broad set of proposals for educational and research activities that could be carried out at the DPI. DPI is currently operating in downtown Chicago at 200 South Wacker Drive, with approximately 25,000 sq. ft. of space available, including offices, classrooms, collaboration space, and meeting space available for DPI activities. Proposed activities also may leverage the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) hubs. The IIN is a system of connected university-community-industry based hubs of activity throughout Illinois that will work together to drive innovation, as well as economic and workforce development, across the state.

Four DPI themes and four cross-cutting areas have been identified (see the DPI website for a page describing each theme and cross-cutting area, and a list of its Working Group members):

DPI Themes:

  • Computing and data
  • Environment and water
  • Food and agriculture
  • Health and wellness

DPI Cross-Cutting Areas:

  • Culture and society
  • Education and workforce development
  • Entrepreneurship and technology transfer
  • Public policy

Other thematic and cross-cutting areas may be added in the future.


Immediate and longer-term activities will be considered. The Wacker Drive facility is up and running and activities (workshops, courses, meetings with industry or community partners) can start there immediately. Space also is available at the Wacker facility for certain types of laboratories (that could be built in a normal office environment), to establish centers within DPI, and to house faculty and staff. Longer-term activities will take place in the permanent DPI building (anticipated to be ready in three years), and will include space for more specialized laboratories compared to what is available at South Wacker Drive.


DPI can offer space (office, event, and certain type of laboratory), staff support to facilitate the pursuit of outside funding, and administrative support without cost to projects. In addition, small amounts of seed funding to cover costs (up to $15,000 per project) is available to initiate projects. Support can also be given to cover costs related to teaching courses at the DPI.

While we are intentionally not limiting the use of these funds to specific types of expenses, they are not intended to cover the cost to conduct research or for faculty salaries. Rather, their aim is to cover the necessary expenses to bootstrap activities that will be supported by other funds.

Characteristics of research projects and courses sought

DPI activities are those that support its mission and guiding principles (given above), and have some, but not necessarily all, of these characteristics:

  • Address a key grand challenge and/or the critical needs of industry, governmental and non-governmental agencies, community and community-based agencies, foundations, and/or cultural and philanthropic organizations
  • Attract and encourage external partnerships with industry, governmental and non-governmental agencies, foundations, community or community-based agencies, and philanthropic organizations
  • Have potential for receipt of external funding or commercialization of technology (for research)
  • Create innovations in thematic, cross-cutting, and/or interdisciplinary teaching (for teaching)
  • Are interdisciplinary and include faculty/students/staff from multiple departments and/or colleges and, if appropriate, multiple universities
  • Have the potential to add jobs and grow the economy of the State of Illinois
  • Are courses that support some other aspect of DPI’s mission and make use of its locational advantages

It is not necessary to propose completely new programs. As such, teams can develop and translate an existing successful program or activity to the DPI.

Review process

The information you submit will be sent to the DPI/IIN leadership team. A group composed of DPI/IIN staff, thematic and cross-cutting group leadership and members, and the DPI Interim Director will review the proposals received on a rolling basis, with an initial deadline of December 14. You will receive confirmation of receipt of your proposal right away and receive an update on the status of your submission within one month. Proposals for projects that could start immediately will be evaluated quickly so that they may begin promptly following approval. Longer-term activities may start at any time, and also will serve as input to the working group’s planning process. The working groups will solicit additional input in other ways as well.

If you have questions, please visit the DPI website, send an email to, or call (217) 300-1645. Please submit proposals as a single PDF document to

Requested Proposal Outline:

  1. Cover page, including:
    1. Project Name
    2. Name and Title of Principal Investigator/Instructor
    3. University, College and Department of PI
    4. Name and Title of Co-Investigators/Instructors
    5. University, College and Department(s) of co-PIs
    6. Whether the proposal is for research, teaching, and/or engagement
    7. What thematic or cross cutting area the proposal relates to (list all that apply)
  2. Project abstract (maximum 250 words)
  3. Description of project (not to exceed three pages)
  4. Description of how project it fits into mission and thematic and cross-cutting structure of DPI (not to exceed half of a page)
  5. Statement of work and timetable for the activity (not to exceed one page).
  6. Faculty and team members, industry, governmental and non-governmental agencies, community agencies, foundations, and philanthropic organization who would be involved in the teaching, research and/or programmatic activities. Include short CVs of investigators and/or instructors (not to exceed one page each).
  7. Letters of support from partners (if any) that describe their role on the project
  8. Budget for requested funding, if any; up to $15,000. (not exceed half of a page)
  9. Bibliography of relevant scholarship that is related to the project


Submit An Activity