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Request for Proposals: Grand Challenges Institutional Grants

Grand Challenge Institutional GrantsRequest for Proposals:

The University of Maryland invites Grand Challenges Grant proposals from the faculty to forge new and creative institutional initiatives to help address some of the most pressing and vexing societal challenges of our time.

Grand Challenges Institutional Grants: Efforts in this category will propose solutions for new institutional structures (interdisciplinary institute, major center, or school; or a new public-private partnership/consortia, etc.) that catalyze cross-disciplinary collaborations around a grand challenge focus or theme.

Institutional Grants LOI Deadline: July 1, 2022

Eligibility: Tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, and professional track faculty are eligible to apply as principal investigators (PIs). Proposals should draw upon expertise from across the campus. Proposals submitted exclusively by one college are not encouraged.

Institutional Grant Awards will provide up to $500K per year for 3 years of one-time funding. A 1:1 match is required from participating colleges and/or departments that includes cash and in-kind resources. Up to three Institutional Grants will be awarded. High performing and successful institutional grant awardees have the possibility of converting to base funding.

Funding Priorities: Proposals for new institutional structures, such as the creation of a college, school, interdisciplinary research institute, or public-private partnership must highlight the importance of how the proposed effort can and will significantly impact an enduring or emerging challenge of societal impact. Proposals should not focus on incremental or piecemeal advances, but must rather put forward a compelling, transformative and forward-leaning approach that will make meaningful advances through new and creative partnerships to address a major societal challenge. Representative examples for a grand challenge focus area can include (but are not limited to):

  • Climate Change (includes clean energy, sustainability, food and water insecurity)
  • Social and Racial Injustice (includes poverty, education disparities, structural inequity)
  • Global Health (includes health equity, pandemic preparedness, mental health, and wellness)
  • Threats to Democracy
  • Ethical, Fair & Trustworthy Technology (includes bias-free artificial intelligence, privacy, transparent uses of data, etc). 
  • Other Grand Challenges welcome

Successful Proposals will:

  • Articulate a highly compelling need for the proposed institutional structure
  • Detail the proposed reach, impact and potential of the proposed novel structure to address a grand challenge
  • Describe internal and external partnerships that will enable, scale, and expand the impact and visibility of the effort
  • Provide innovative and new opportunities for students’ learning and classroom experiences 
  • Demonstrate a path to financial sustainability (including, if appropriate, how internal funding will be leveraged to secure new grants, contracts, or other external funding and revenue sources, etc.) 

Proposal Process and Requirements: There are multiple steps required for the Grand Challenge Institutional Grants Program, detailed below:

  1. Letter of Intent: A three to five page letter of intent is required for submission by July 1. A subset of the LOI submissions will be selected to progress to the required workshops (step 2) and presentation (step 3) phase of this process. LOIs will be reviewed and evaluated in response to the questions and criteria listed under “Elements of a Successful Letter of Intent” (see below).
  2. Grand Challenges Information Sessions, Accelerator Workshops: Optional information sessions and workshops will be available to interested participants following the issuance of this RFP to provide assistance to teams that seek such support. Workshops will be required of teams whose letters of intent are selected to move forward to the second stage of this process. Additional information regarding the information sessions and workshops can be found here: 
  3. Presentation to University Leadership: A 20 minute presentation to University Leadership is required. Additional details on what must be included in this presentation will be provided to invited teams that are selected to participate following LOI submission and workshop participation. 
  4. Invited Final Proposal: A select number of teams that make presentations will be invited to submit full and final proposals. Final proposals will require a significant refinement and expansion of the preliminary LOI, and incorporation of feedback from University Leadership into the final proposal. A detailed budget, business plan and projected path to revenue and financial sustainability is required at this stage. Additional information will be provided to the teams selected for final invite proposals. Up to three proposals will be supported for funding. 

Elements for a Successful Letter of Intent:

  • Grand Challenge Idea. Provide an introduction to the grand challenge problem that the new institutional structure will significantly impact in its first years; detail the specific sets of stakeholders your grand challenge solution will impact and benefit, how the grand challenge problem is affecting the daily lives of those stakeholders, and how your impact and benefit will be delivered to those stakeholders. Articulate clear objectives/goals in plain terms, avoiding jargon.
  • State of the Art. Describe the new institutional structure: How is it innovative and why is it needed? Why will this structure make a difference? Is what is being proposed redundant with existing institutional assets? Is it an extension of an existing effort?
  • Scalability. Detail the potential strategies and partnerships (internal and external) that are needed to help execute and scale the effort. Identify the leadership team and key partners. Identify risks to successful execution of the proposed project.
  • Metrics & Milestones. Highlight initial goals and outcomes that can be expected in the first three years. Describe how you will measure success throughout the life of the project. The identification of milestones is strongly encouraged. 
  • Impact. Describe the impact the new structure will have in addressing a grand challenge at UMD, in the region, and more broadly. Describe how this new institutional structure could ultimately improve the lives of millions of people.
  • Budget. Provide a preliminary budget for the three-year grant (that does not count against the page limit).

Important: A letter of support from the Dean and the Department Chair of the PI is required with the submission of the Letter of Intent. The letter of support must include a statement of financial commitment from the relevant Dean(s) & Department Chair(s) to support the project if it is selected for funding. The letter of support does not count against the page limit.

Budget Guidelines:

  • An annotated budget template is available at this link to guide your submission.
    *Note: This budget template was updated on June 5, 2022. If you began entering numbers into the budget template prior to June 5, 2022, please download it again — the previous version contained an error. If you have already populated it, you can correct the error yourself by adding the value in line 11 to the sum in line 25.
    For questions about the budget template, please contact Betsy Beise, Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Programs, at
  • Assuming an award date of March 2023, build your budget with an indication of the first month in which actual expenditures would be incurred and the planned ending date.  With that start date, the funds should be planned to be expended over 3 years.
  • Eligible expenses include well justified requests for salary support (including for temporary positions, research associates, graduate students), laboratory equipment, software, and program development. 
  • Faculty and students' stipends may vary depending on the amount of work involved for each person involved. 
  • Pro-rated fringe benefits must be included as a cost of the project in the proposed budget. Student wages must be calculated according to the unit’s or program’s guidelines. 
  • No overhead should be included in the budget. 
  • Budgeted items should be at or below the total amount of funds available per proposal. 
  • Proposals must include information about the roles and duties of each team member (including students if appropriate) and how they will collaborate.
  • Some contribution must be made by all participating colleges/schools; specific allocations are left to the discretion of each team.
  • Equipment purchased through the GC Initiative will remain at UMD even if a PI or team member were to leave the university.

Additional budgetary guidelines will be shared as teams move through the RFP process.

Grant Recipient Requirements: PIs/awardees who are supported by the Grand Challenges Initiative agree to the following:

  • Participation in an annual GC symposium or event that showcases results/outcomes 
  • Regular submission (semi-annual) of metrics, outcomes, financial expenditures, sharing of results 
  • Participation in media training with the Office of Strategic Communication
  • Cooperation with Maryland Today and/or other media inquiries to promote the work of the GC program

Timeline and Key Dates:

    RFP Released: April 21, 2022

    Information Session: April 26, 2022

    Optional Participation in Ideation Sessions and Workshops: May 13 - June 30, 2022

    Letter of Intent/Preliminary Proposal Deadline: July 1, 2022

    Participation in Required Workshop/Ideation Sessions: September 2022

    Presentation to University Leadership: Late October/Early November 2022

    Invitation for Final Submissions: November 2022

    Deadline for Final Submissions: January 20, 2023

    Funding Decisions Made: February 2023


Letters of Intent must be submitted through the university’s Infoready portal: Letters of intent will not be accepted after July 1. Questions or concerns regarding the Infoready platform should be addressed to Hana Kabashi at

Additional Information, Questions: Please direct questions to Eric Chapman, Associate Vice President for Research ( and Betsy Beise, Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Programs (



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