2020 DPI seed grant program

Call for Proposals
Research and Development Cluster Seed Grants
Due: May 29, 2020  |  11:59 p.m. CT
Funding available: up to $125,000 per proposal

Apply here

Informational webinar:  Video  |  Slides


The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) is a collaborative center advancing a new model for education and research that will cultivate, retain, and attract new economy talent; expand the diversity of the tech workforce; and increase the impact of research and development on the economy. The primary R&D goal for DPI is to connect top researchers and research assets with industry to solve pressing, complex challenges in high-value areas that impact employers and society on a local and global scale. To realize its objectives, DPI must establish specific clusters of activity that align DPI university partners’ key research competencies with industry and society needs to create centers of excellence.

Last fall, DPI and the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) developed plans that were key factors in Governor Pritzker’s release of the $500 million in state capital funding to support development of DPI and IIN. These reports, the DPI business plan and DPI/IIN economic impact report, provide information about DPI’s programs, areas of focus, and economic impact goals. These documents are available here.

DPI invites you to join your colleagues in helping to build DPI’s research and development agenda and portfolio by applying for a DPI R&D Cluster Seed GrantDPI research and development clusters are groups of researchers whose expertise has a focus on the application of computing, data science, and/or analytics across sectors of strength and opportunity in the Illinois economy. For this funding opportunity, DPI is seeking proposals in DPI’s initial areas of focus: food/agriculture/environment/water; health and wellness; finance and insurance; and transportation distribution logistics. Proposals should demonstrate the ability to build external connections (with industry, federal agencies, civic organizations etc.) to broadly impact the economy and support the land-grant mission of the University of Illinois.

Successful DPI R&D cluster seed grant proposals will have these characteristics:

  1. Minimum of two researchers with a principal investigator (PI) from the UI System. Proposed clusters are strongly encouraged to include members from multiple partner universities. PI has at least a 0.5 FTE appointment on a U of I campus.
  2. Focus on the application of computing, data science and analytics in one of DPI’s initial areas.
    1. food/agriculture/environment/water
    2. health and wellness
    3. finance and insurance
    4. transportation distribution logistics 
  3. Proposed research and related activities that will lead to the submission of external grant applications and/or proposals for industry-funded R&D partnerships. The cluster demonstrates strong potential for sustained external funding and economic impact. Areas to consider:
    1. External grant opportunities and funding
    2. Industry demand and funding
    3. Potential for an eventual commercialization leading to a new venture creating jobs in Illinois
  4. Meaningful external engagement with private, public, or non-profit entities
  5. Proposed cluster’s distinction and leadership in the field
  6. Budget accurately reflects the needs of the proposed activities
  7. Research team that is well organized and qualified to conduct the proposed activities
  8. Reasonable timeframe and milestones

Resources offered: In addition to award funding, DPI will provide services and support for cluster seed grant research including, but not limited to administrative support, proposal development support, connections to faculty and researchers from DPI partner institutions (identified below), connections with industry, and access to downtown Chicago space. 

While the use of funds is not being limited to specific types of expenses, they are not intended to substantially cover faculty salaries. Rather, their aim is to cover the costs necessary to jumpstart activities that will be supported by external funds. The review process will closely examine expenses, such as salaries/wages, materials and supplies, travel, and other participant support costs for proposed activities. PIs may not receive more than $5,000 from this program.

Faculty from DPI partner institutions (external to the UI System) are encouraged to participate but cannot receive salary/wages from this program.


R&D Cluster Seed Grant Proposal Preparation

Cover page must include the following:

  1. Project Name
  2. Name and Title of Lead Researcher
  3. University, College and Department of PI
  4. Names and Titles of Co-Investigators
  5. Institution(s), College(s) and Department(s) of co-PIs

Proposal Sections:

  1. R&D Cluster abstract (maximum 250 words)
  2. Description of cluster and activities including timeline and milestones (not to exceed four pages)
  3. Brief description of cluster/DPI alignment and potential for economic impact (not to exceed one page)
  4. Statement of work and timetable for the seed grant activities (not to exceed one page)
  5. Statement on external (governmental, foundation, corporate, NGO, etc.) funding. Please provide titles and links to specific proposals/partners (if known):
    1. List any existing external funding commitments which currently support the applicants’ research activities that relate to the proposed cluster
    2. List any identified external funding programs/prospects that the proposed cluster intends to pursue
  6. Faculty and team members, include short CVs of investigators (not to exceed two pages each)
  7. Letters of support from partners (if any) that describe their role on the project
  8. Bibliography of relevant scholarship that is related to the project
  9. Budget for requested funding, up to $125,000

DPI University Partners:   

  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Springfield
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • Cardiff University
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • MS Ramaiah Medical College
  • National Taiwan University
  • Northwestern University
  • Tel Aviv University
  • University of Chicago

DPI is a hub of the Illinois Innovation Network.


Apply here