The Maryland Catalyst Fund

The Maryland Catalyst Fund program – formerly known as the Faculty Incentive Program – is the University of Maryland’s internal faculty research support program and a key resource in the university’s overall effort to expand its research activity, visibility and impact. The program is designed to enable innovative research, incentivize the pursuit of large, complex, and high-impact research initiatives, and help UMD faculty to be more competitive for extramural research awards.

The Maryland Catalyst Fund program is overseen by the Vice President for Research (VPR) and managed by the VPR’s Research Development Office, in coordination with UMD academic units and the Provost. All awards are supported by Designated Research Initiative Fund (“DRIF”) contributions from both faculty organizational unit(s) and central resources from the VPR and the Provost, and all award decisions are made subject to the availability of funds.

Universal Funding Form


Funding Categories

The Maryland Catalyst Fund is undergoing some changes. The current programs available are:: 

New Directions Funds

The New Directions Fund aims to enable important new lines of research and creative work with high potential for impact. There are three competition tracks:
  • Track A: Proof of Concept awards support researchers pursuing a new line of research or collaborative partnership to help them be competitive for external funding.
  • Track B: Limited External Grant Opportunity (LEGO) awards support particularly innovative research, writing, and/or creative work in fields where external funding is scarce.
  • Track C: NEW: Racial & Social Justice Research awards supports research on the underpinnings of, consequences of, and/or solutions to address systemic, institutional, and structural racism and injustice.

Big Opportunity Funds

The Big Opportunity Fund (BOF) offers proposal preparation support to incentivize faculty to pursue and be more competitive for large, high-visibility, externally-funded research opportunities (typically ≥$2M/year for multiple years). Such awards contribute to the university’s overall research volume, impact, and reputation.

Reinforcement Grants

Provide operating support to cover activities critical to the execution of a proposed large-scale externally-funded research award, when grant funding is not available to cover certain operational expenses. Such operating support is intended to help build infrastructure for new center-level research awards whose establishment improves the university’s overall impact and reputation. Reinforcement Grants aim to make major funded research programs more productive and more competitive for future renewal.



Only tenured/tenure-track and professional track faculty (at the rank of assistant research scientist or higher), whose full-time, home position is at UMD, are eligible to be the Principal Investigator of any Maryland Catalyst Fund award. Visiting, adjunct, and affiliate faculty are not eligible to apply; postdoctoral fellows are also ineligible.


New Directions Fund - Past Awardees

The inaugural competitions for campus-wide New Directions Fund awards took place in the fall of 2018, with work beginning in January 2018.

Brief abstracts for awardees are linked below.

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2020 New Directions Proof of Concept awardees

2019 New Directions Proof of Concept awardees

2020 New Directions LEGO awardees

2019 New Directions LEGO awardees

Abstracts from the "Tier 1" program that preceded the New Directions Fund are listed here.



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University of Maryland
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