Seed Fund sees impressive return on investment
Since 2014, Duke University's Energy Research Seed Fund has kickstarted new interdisciplinary research teams to launch innovative projects—sparking collaboration among scholars from the basic sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and other disciplines. The fund helps Duke researchers obtain important preliminary results they can use to secure external funding or otherwise expand future scholarly collaboration.
Proposals for 2020 Seed Fund grants due February 14
Thanks to generous support from the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering, we are pleased to invite proposals from Duke faculty for the seventh annual round of Energy Research Seed Fund grants. Proposals are due Friday, February 14, 2020 at 5 p.m. ET. Download guidelines (pdf) or review information below.
Duke faculty can submit 2020 proposals in these categories:
- Stage-One Grants will provide up to $45,000 for Duke faculty embarking on new interdisciplinary projects. At least two members of the proposed research team must represent different disciplines, schools, or departments. The performance period for Stage-One Grants is 12 months.
- Stage-Two Grants will provide up to $35,000 to carry projects currently supported by the Energy Research Seed Fund into their next research phase. Applications for Stage-Two grants should indicate successful completion of work conducted under the current grant and outline how additional funding will help make the team’s research more compelling to external funders.
- Proposal Development Grants will provide up to $25,000 for past Energy Research Seed Fund grantees to develop proposals for external funding. Applicants for these grants should provide a one-page proposal indicating how the funds will be used (acceptable uses include travel to meet with potential sponsors, support for Ph.D. student assistants, etc.), and how those uses will improve the likelihood of external funding.
The Seed Fund program is open to proposals on energy-inspired research topics from researchers across a full spectrum of disciplines. In 2020, we particularly welcome proposals in the following areas:
- Energy humanities
- Energy data analytics and big data, especially projects that build on results from previous/existing Data+ teams or that are well-positioned to develop data that can be analyzed in a future Data+ project
- Energy materials, advanced alternative fuels, and renewables
- Energy markets, regulatory tools, and standards
- Grid reliability and resilience
- Energy access and inequality
The Principal Investigator must be a regular-rank faculty member at Duke University, but other investigators on the proposing team can be Duke faculty, staff, or students. Likewise, the proposed team may include external collaborators, but funding may only be used to cover the logistics (travel, etc.) of the collaboration.
The budget for an Energy Research Seed Fund research team (or working group) can include supplies, salary support for research assistants, students, and technicians, and other justifiable research expenses. Faculty salary, tuition remission, and indirect costs are not allowable expenses. Travel expenses are allowable only if essential to conducting the proposed research activities and cannot include travel to scientific conferences. All proposal budgets must be submitted using this template provided or they will not be considered.
Please combine these required elements into a single PDF document and submit via email (with ERSF Submission in the subject line) by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 14, 2019 to Will Niver (email@example.com):
1. Cover Page must include:
- Proposal title
- Name, title, departmental affiliation, address, e-mail address, and telephone number of all proposed investigators
- Designation of a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigators
2. Abstract (250 words maximum)
3. Research plan (3 page maximum, single-spaced, 12-point font, 1” margins all the way around) must include the following information:
- Statement of research objectives and their significance
- Work already completed related to the proposal, and any relevant preliminary results (Stage-Two Grant proposals should indicate how the project’s second year will build on results of research supported by the prior Stage-One Grant)
- Description of the research team (working group) and research setting
- Proposed methods and plans for data analysis
- Potential for sustained collaboration beyond the project term (Stage-Two Grant proposals should discuss the likelihood of external funding.)
4. Appendix materials (1 page maximum each– single spaced, 12 point font, 1” margins all the way around) must include the following information:
- Research schedule and milestones
- Collaborative nature of the project
- Relevance to mission of the Duke University Energy Initiative (energy.duke.edu/about)
- Budget and justification (1 page maximum)
- Curriculum vitae OR NSF/NIH biosketch including current grant support, limited to 4 pages for each investigator
We require a one-page proposal describing the project and indicating how the funds will be used to increase the likelihood of external funding.
Submit this as a PDF document via email (with ERSF Submission in the subject line) by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 14, 2019 to Will Niver (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Proposals will be reviewed by an ad hoc review committee consisting of faculty with a broad range of expertise in energy-related fields. The reviewing committee’s goal is to identify the proposals that best meet the objectives of the Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund: interdisciplinary collaborative research projects that will address crucial questions related to energy. The review process will consider: (1) the significance and potential impact of the research program; (2) the degree of innovation; (3) the scope of the interdisciplinary collaboration and relevance for the goals of the proposed research; (4) feasibility of the research project: (5) likelihood of development into a sustained collaboration; and (6) (for Stage-Two and Proposal Development Grants) likelihood of obtaining external funding. Final selections will be made by the Energy Initiative Director in consultation with the faculty review committee and other stakeholders, with the goal of applying the fund (approximately $200,000 for this round of awards) toward a diverse group of projects with a strong likelihood of success.
Awards will be announced in April 2020.
Recipients will be expected to report on the project’s status and any related outputs (journal articles, conference presentations, external grants, etc.) at the end of the performance period.
Assistant professor of biology Amy Schmid has been awarded a $750,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study metabolic pathways of microorganisms who live in some of the most extreme conditions on earth, research with bioenergy applications. This work was launched by a Seed Fund-supported project with Mike Lynch, assistant professor of chemistry and assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Learn more.
Duke researcher Avner Vengosh received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to evaluate potential human health impacts and sustainability of using produced water from oilfields to irrigate crops. A Seed Fund grant launched the project, funding study of the volume, source, management and treatment of oilfield wastewater. Vengosh is a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. Learn more.
Stefan Goetz and Angel Peterchev (School of Medicine) teamed up with Josiah Knight (Pratt School of Engineering) to develop a new approach to batteries for electric vehicles, adapting techniques designed for noninvasive brain stimulation. Now a $500,000 NSF grant will support their collaboration with an NCSU researcher to refine this Seed Fund-supported work. Angel Peterchev is an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, and neurosurgery. Stefan Goetz is an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, electrical and computer engineering, and neurosurgery. Josiah Knight is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science
Duke researchers David Mitzi and Volker Blum received a $299,800 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to tackle performance issues in a promising class of thin-film solar energy materials. A Seed Fund grant kick-started the project. Mitzi is a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and a professor of chemistry. Blum is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and associate professor of chemistry.
In 2018, the Energy Research Seed Fund supported a Duke team led by Christine Folch (Cultural Anthropology) to conduct a “listening tour” on the future of the massive Itaipú Binational Dam; Paraguay and Brazil will be renegotiating the dam's energy pricing and distribution agreements in 2023. The Duke team sought to learn about Paraguayans’ visions for how their country could leverage energy generated by Itaipú to drive sustainable development. The team shared its findings in a policy brief and white paper and presented to the media, government officials, and diverse stakeholders in Paraguay. This work has since garnered significant media and public attention in Paraguay. By August 2019, Folch’s testimony to the Paraguayan Congress had garnered more than 100,000 views and about 5,000 shares on Facebook, with even more views on WhatsApp. And this success story is far from over: Folch will continue to advise the Paraguayan congressional energy negotiation commission as 2023 approaches.
Seed Fund awards to date
Research projects that explore connections between energy and health, improve the performance of renewable energy sources such as solar and thermoelectricity, and expand energy access through innovative and clean methods received funding in 2019 from the Energy Initiative's Energy Research Seed Fund. The program awarded six grants to projects involving 21 faculty members from five Duke schools, investing a total of $215,186 in promising new energy research.The Energy Initiative—Duke's interdisciplinary hub for energy education, research, and engagement—offered three distinct grant categories of research funding: Seed grants (up to $45,000), stage-two grants (up to $35,000), and proposal development grants (up to $25,000). In this—the sixth annual round of funding—the Energy Initiative awarded four seed fund grants and two stage-two grants. The 2019 round of awards was co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering.
Research projects that explore advances in energy materials, novel perspectives on resilience and sustainability, energy storage solutions, and more received funding in 2018 from the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund. The program awarded eight grants to projects involving 21 faculty members from four Duke schools, investing a total of $336,956 in promising new energy research. The Energy Initiative—Duke's interdisciplinary hub for energy education, research, and engagement—expanded its program in response to faculty feedback, offering three distinct grant categories of research funding: Seed grants (up to $45,000), stage-two grants (up to $35,000), and proposal development grants (up to $25,000). In this—the fifth annual round of funding—the Energy Initiative awarded six seed fund grants and one grant in each of the two new categories. The Initiative also increased the maximum requested amount for seed fund grants by $5,000. The 2018 round of awards was co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Pratt School of Engineering, and the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (Rhodes iiD).
Research projects exploring new possibilities for energy storage, reliability, and sustainable development received funding in 2017 from the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund. Seven projects involving 14 faculty members were selected to receive a total of $240,000 from the fund. The 2017 round of awards was co-funded by the Energy Initiative, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Pratt School of Engineering, the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (Rhodes iiD), and Bass Connections.
The Energy Research Seed Fund's third round of awards supported six research projects that examine energy materials, the water-energy-food nexus, and renewable energy policies. The 2016 awards were co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (Rhodes iiD).
Seven energy research projects involving 15 Duke University faculty members and featuring a sub-focus on the intersection of energy and global health will share in the 2015 round of awards. The 2015 Energy Research Seed Fund grants were co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), the Provost's Office and the Pratt School of Engineering.
The 2015 RFP had a special focus on energy research topics aligned with the goals of the Energy Initiative and DGHI. Examples include addressing the role of energy in human development and health, energy conservation and efficiency in health systems strengthening, health consequences of cookstoves, and harnessing energy in sanitation.
The fund's first round of awards supported six projects that touched on energy materials, solar energy, water and shale development, and industrial energy efficiency. Funding was provided by the Energy Initiative, the Pratt School of Engineering and the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (Rhodes iiD) through an RFP process.
Learn more about the projects that earned funding in 2014:
- Awards announcement, April 2014
- Increasing efficiency, reducing pollution from hydrogen fuel
- Addressing global water availability for shale gas development
- Novel materials can reduce solar power costs
- Duke researchers pursue new ways to store solar power
- Duke team using novel materials to create hydrogen fuel
Have questions about the Energy Research Seed Fund?
Contact the Duke University Energy Initiative.