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Apply for UT-ORII Seed Program

The University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) established a Seed Funding program to support new and highly innovative multidisciplinary research projects designed by ORNL-UT research teams. Teams funded must commit to develop highly competitive large-scale (>$1 million/year for 3-5 years) proposals targeting federal agencies like NSF (e.g. ERCs*, MRSECs†), NIH (e.g. RM1‡ grants), DoD (MURI), DOE (EFRCs and Hub projects), DHS (centers of excellence), or large-scale industrial collaboration opportunities like IACMI and AMRC.

The initial target areas for this program include:1. Autonomous, Smart, Secure and Resilient Energy Systems; 2. Electrochemical Energy Systems; 3. Advanced Science and Engineering of Materials and Manufacturing; and 4. Predictive Systems Biology for Circular and Sustainable Economies. Proposals should articulate interdisciplinary approaches and include advances in developing the knowledge and skills that integrate data science, engineering, and technology with contextual applications.

Funding provided to successful teams will support the development of preliminary data, and will provide UT-ORII graduate students with enriching, rewarding team science experiences. Proposing teams must include at least two ORNL scientist PIs and two UT faculty PIs.

Initial awards will be funded in the $150-200K (total costs) range for one-year. In addition, funded teams will receive support for up to three GRAs. PI’s accepting a GRA on an UT-ORII seed project must commit to mentor and financially support the student beyond this seed funding period. Opportunities for one-year funded extensions will also be provided as described below, dependent on successful performance review.

The application deadline for FY23 proposals is May 31, 2022 at 5pm.

Eligibility: All UT faculty and ORNL staff members are eligible to apply. Foreign national PI’s or GRA’s are not permitted on projects. Projects proposed should not duplicate or simply augment ongoing research programs at either UT or ORNL.

Expectations of Awardees: Competitive proposals will focus on the development of new multidisciplinary research programs that: 1. target large-scale extramural funding opportunities; 2. integrate two or more disciplines; and 3. identify novel approaches to support graduate student training and talent development.

Progress will be assessed as follows:

  1. Six Month Progress Report: Funded teams will provide a two-page report providing preliminary results and outlining how the funding has positioned the team for funding. Eligibility for year two funding will be forfeited if the report is not submitted on time or if insufficient progress is made.
  2. Engagement with Proposal Development Team: Funded teams must work with the UTK ORE Proposal Development Team as they prepare proposals to external sponsors.
  3. Proposal Submission (End of Year One): Each team must submit at least one extramural proposal at the end of year one. Second year funding will be available only to teams that accomplish this goal.

Review Process and Criteria: A review committee appointed by the UT-ORII Leadership Team will review proposals and make recommendations for funding. The review panel membership will be drawn from ORNL corporate fellows, governor’s chairs, distinguished scientists, and subject matter experts as needed. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Technical merit of the proposed research
  • Integration of novel graduate student training activities
  • Likelihood for future external funding
  • Potential for the establishment of a meaningful, sustained collaboration between the two institutions, including joint publications, student mentoring, team development, etc.


 Proposals must include the following information:

Cover Page

  • PI names, Positions, Institutions
  • Project title

Research Proposal (6-page max with 12-point font, not including references)

  1. Project Summary written for a general audience (150-word max);
  2. Description of the proposed research (including overarching goal and specific aims, approaches to be employed);
  3. Description of how this project addresses specific topic areas of the call;
  4. Description of innovative approaches to graduate student training and inclusion of data science knowledge and skills development;
  5. Summary, including a broader impact statement of how the proposed project aligns with the missions of UT and ORNL.


  • Appendix A: One-page quad chart [PowerPoint Format]
  • Appendix B: A budget*
  • Appendix C: A letter of commitment from all senior personnel, including continued funding for each GRA supported on the project until completion of their degree.
  • Appendix D: A one-page bio for each PI and senior personnel that includes external grants over past 5 years, professional awards, and 5 most recent publications. Evidence of successful UT-ORNL collaborations should be included if available.
  • Appendix E: A one paragraph statement of how the PIs will comply with existing guidelines based on COVID19 restrictions.

To be considered for support in year 2, funded teams must prepare proposals that include the following information:

Cover Page

  • PI names, Positions, Institutions
  • Project title

Five-page summary of progress in year 1.

Research Proposal Prepared for External Funding Agency (format will vary based on target agency)


  • Appendix A: A budget*
  • Appendix B: An endorsement letter from each investigator committing to the objectives in the proposal.
  • Appendix C: A one-page bio for each PI that includes most recent grants, professional awards, and recent relevant publications of both the UT and ORNL investigators
  • Appendix D: A one paragraph statement of how the PIs will comply with existing guidelines based on COVID19 restrictions.

Allowable costs include:

  • Graduate
  • Undergraduate student support
  • Postdoc support
  • Supplies
  • Other incidentals to support the
  • Academic year and/or summer salary (applicable to all colleges) are allowed up to a maximum of $5,000 per year, inclusive of
  • Benefits for all personnel

Unallowable costs include:

  • Membership fees,
  • Conference registrations
  • Individuals’ accrued benefits before participating in the SEED program require a department head letter covering accrued annual
  • Equipment is discouraged and is unlikely to be awarded
  • Computers
  • Travel – except where travel is necessary to meet with ORNL collaborators or external funding agencies and/or program
  • Expenditures above 5% outside the budget categories require approval from the
  • F&A charged to the

Note that, if the project is selected for funding, the funds must be used as requested in your project budget unless prior approval is granted, and unused funds will be reclaimed at the end of the project year.

Apply for UT-ORII Seed via InfoReady

Please contact Lisa Lee at if you have any questions about the application procedure.