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FY20 JDRD Funding Opportunity

Program Description:

The Science Alliance was formed to build and enhance relationships between University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) faculty and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) scientists and engineers. To that end, the Science Alliance established the JDRD program to catalyze new collaborations between UT and ORNL researchers with an emphasis on new scientific or engineering areas of research and largely in concert with the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) projects.  In its reconceptualized form, the JDRD program focuses on a narrowed field of strategic research interests. Though encouraged, University faculty are no longer required to select a collaborator from a pool of existing LDRD projects, and may instead work with any ORNL scientist to address a research problem with far-reaching potential impacts for both the university and the lab.

Key Dates:

The Science Alliance is now accepting proposals for the FY20 JDRD program.  The deadline for proposals is 5 p.m. on July 12th, 2019. Funding is anticipated to begin August 1st, 2019.  

Award Amount and Duration:

Typical awards will be up to $125k and we anticipate funding up to six awards. Projects will be funded for one year and awardees will be eligible for a second year of funding up to $125K, if the project shows strong promise of receiving new external funding as a result of the collaborative activities.   We expect that an external proposal will be generated as a direct result of the JDRD award and will be a key factor in determining possible second year funding.


Each research team must include a principal investigator from UT and a confirmed collaboration with an ORNL scientist. All UT faculty members are eligible to apply, including faculty who have had previous ORNL collaborations and/or have existing joint appointments. If you do not currently have collaborators at ORNL or wish to expand your partnership in the technical focus areas please contact the initiative lead listed below. For general information regarding the topic contact Dr. Ken Tobin (, 865-241-3966). Preference will be given to junior faculty who do not have a joint appointment and/or are establishing a new collaboration with ORNL scientists. UTSI and UTIA faculty members are not eligible for JDRD funding.

Technical Focus Areas Descriptions

The JDRD topics will be focused on three areas where we envision future research growth, namely Artificial Intelligence, Resilient Cyberphysical Systems, and Quantitative Biology and Genome Security.  Interdisciplinary approaches as well as the application of these research areas to different fields are encouraged.

Artificial Intelligence

Initiative Lead: David Womble (, 865.576.9087)

Significant increases in the amount of data that can be collected and stored, combined with rapid increases in computational power, have resulted in high-profile “artificial intelligence” technologies in areas such as autonomous vehicles, voice recognition and computerized service agents, recommender engines, and automatic content generation. To explore and discover data analytics algorithms where the model or rules are not known and must be learned, FY 2020 proposals were requested to focus on (1) physics-informed ML, including reinforcement learning, representation learning, and transfer learning with next-generation neural networks; (2) scalability and performance on next-generation accelerated node architectures; and (3) confidence and assurance, including uncertainty quantification (UQ), and validation.

Resilient Cyberphysical Systems

Initiative Lead: Mason Rice (, 865.576.2452)

To develop technologies to enhance and characterize the resilience of cyberphysical systems, including energy delivery, mobility and transportation, and industrial operations, FY 2020 proposals were requested to focus on developing technologies to enhance and characterize cyberphysical system resilience for the security of the US electrical grid; however, development of foundational security technologies for indus­trial control systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) that are applicable to US critical infrastructure is expected. This initiative will focus on (1) methods to improve resilience of critical infrastructure/indus­trial control systems; (2) visualization techniques that optimize situational awareness and enable pre­ventative and forensic analytics; and (3) methods to quantify the risks faced by cyberphysical systems.

Quantitative Biology and Genome Security

Initiative Lead: Paul Gilna (, 865.576.0567)

To bring a stronger biomedical focus to the development and application of new approaches to advance predictive models of biology, FY 2020 proposals were requested to address the integration of multiple characterization and experimental techniques with computational methods and data analytic techniques to achieve novel capabilities for quantitative biology. Proposals that have a direct application to a targeted set of human diseases (e.g., opioid use disorder, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and cancers of relevance to East Tennessee) are especially encouraged. Specific applications and research areas of interest include (1) expansion of capabilities in microbiome research as applied to human health and disease; (2) building new capabilities for the integration of -omics technologies to underpin research in health and disease; and (3) harnessing the power of computing at ORNL for health and disease data analytics, with a view toward surveillance of medical data for real-time assessment of emerging disease trends.

Application Format:

Online submission will include completion of the form as well as submission of the following documents: External Funding Strategy, Research Plan, Quad Chart, Budget, Current and Pending Support, and CVs

  1. Research Plan– No more than four pages, single-spaced, 12-point font with one-inch margins. [Word or Acrobat Format] Note: References are not included in the 4-page limit. Proposals should include the following sections:
    • Objectives and Significance. State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will have on the research field(s) involved. Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress that the proposed project addresses. Describe the scientific premise for the proposed project. (Related review criteria: Merit and Significance)
    • Current State-of-the-Art and Approach. Briefly explain the current state-of-the-art. Describe your overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the objectives of the project. Describe the experimental design and methods proposed and how they will achieve robust and unbiased results. Point out scientific challenges and limitations; quantify whenever possible; start broad but most importantly, get down to the root cause of the challenge you are trying to overcome and how you will approach it – detail is helpful. (Related review criteria: Feasibility and Approach)
    • Innovation/Differentiator. Highlight the innovative nature of your proposal by differentiating it from the current state-of-the-art. Point out how and why your research should overcome the challenges and limitations you stated in (b) State-of-the-Art. Be specific and quantify when possible. What’s new about your approach? Is it a first? What specifically differentiates your proposed research from your peers’ research at other institutions?  How might it revolutionize research and advance your field? Why hasn’t it been done before and what leads you to believe that now is the optimal time (ex. an observation, a recent discovery, or a breakthrough in your lab)?(Related review criteria: Merit and Significance)
  2. ORNL Collaboration – No more than 2 pages: PI(s) should connect with ORNL researchers and confirm buy-in for the collaboration.
    • Describe the ORNL project or area of mutual interest and how your work will result in mutual and reciprocal benefits;
    • Describe of all of your prior affiliations, collaborations, and publications with ORNL
    • Describe how this project represents a new interaction in a new scientific/engineering area and how each group leverages the other to advance science
  1. External Funding Strategy– No more than three pages: PI(s) should attempt to identify at least one agency that they have not received funding from in the past. [Word or Acrobat Format]Strategy should address the following questions:
    • What specific funding opportunity will be targeted for subsequent funding? Specific program? 
    • Who is the intended Program Manager/Officer? 
    • What correspondence or interaction has been made or is planned with the Program Manager/Officer or federal agency (include emails and a description of interaction when possible). 
    • What is the proposed timeline and target deadline (if applicable) for applying for external funding?
    • Related review criteria: Sustainability and External Funds

Projects that do not indicate a specific opportunity will be returned without review.

  1. Quad chart– One page (see quad chart example template) [PowerPoint Format]
  2. Budget with breakdown of cost categories [Excel Format]
  3. Current and Pending Support for PI and senior personnel (see PI Current and Pending Support List template) [Excel Format]
  4. CVs– No more than one page per individual investigator [Word or Acrobat Format]

Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed by UT faculty, staff, and may be extended to federal funding agency program managers for feedback. Evaluations will be based on these major criteria:

  1. Merit and Significance: Will the proposed advance research in the field? Does it challenge the current state of art? Will it overcome a barrier to advancing research in this field and broaden the horizon for future research? Is this a major question or problem?  Does the proposal leverage new theories, tools, or applications that will advance the field? Will the proposed project shift the current paradigm in the field? Are technical or intellectual innovations included in the proposal? Does the PI leverage individual or institutional differentiators? (Criteria double-weighted in review.)
  2. Feasibility and Approach: Are the research plans, methods, and analyses proposed appropriate? Will the methods and analyses achieve the objectives of the project? Are adequate resources (expertise, tools, equipment) included in the proposal?
  3. Sustainability and External Funds: Does the project align with the funder identified? Is it reasonable to expect that in addition to alignment, funds will be available in the future (i.e. targeted program is not sun setting and is of continued interest to the funder)? Is the PI viable from target funder’s perspective? Is there potential alignment with other funders not mentioned in the proposal?
  4. ORNL Collaboration: How does this project benefit both ORNL and UTK? What new science is enabled by this collaboration that couldn’t have been accomplished alone?