Seed Fund sees impressive return on investment

Duke University's Energy Research Seed Fund kick-starts new multidisciplinary research teams. This helps Duke researchers obtain important preliminary results they can use to secure external funding. Projects must engage at least two Duke faculty members representing different disciplines, schools, or departments, and preference will be given to new interdisciplinary collaborations of investigators across Duke. Proposed projects that include investigators from multiple schools within the University are especially encouraged. Proposals will be reviewed based on the quality of proposed research and potential to leverage seed grants to secure external funding.

Seed Fund success stories

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. 

Seed Fund awards to date

The deadline for applications and budgets for the fourth annual round of awards was Monday, January 16, 2017. Awardees will be announced in mid-spring 2017.

This round is co-funded by the Duke University Energy Initiative, the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD). The maximum award per project is $40,000, although awards may be smaller than this amount, based upon review of selected proposals. The project performance period is 12 months, and we anticipate funding approximately six to seven proposals.

Topics of Emphasis for 2017: 

  • Energy data analytics: With co-funding from the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD), this year’s Seed Fund places special emphasis on research topics related to energy data analytics, including those that integrate big data applications, machine learning techniques, or the broader intersection of energy and advanced computation.
  • Data+ : Special consideration will be given to proposals involving energy data analytics that integrate or lead to the development of a Data+ project as a component of the research. Data+ is a ten-week summer research experience that welcomes Duke undergraduate teams interested in exploring new data-driven approaches to interdisciplinary challenges. 
  • Bass Connections: The Energy Initiative is also interested funding a research project on an energy-related topic that integrates the core elements of Bass Connections. Specifically, the scope of research would be cross-disciplinary in nature and the project would be supported by a team composed of one or more graduate and undergraduate students. 
  • Other areas: Co-funding is also available from the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering for energy research involving their respective faculty. Other potential areas of interest include energy materials, energy access and inequality, energy decision-making and behavior, energy efficiency, grid security, advanced alternative fuels and renewables, and the nexus of energy with other strategic resources (water, food). Research oriented toward solutions, rather than solely problem identification, is especially encouraged.

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 Information Initiative at Duke (iiD).

Learn more about the projects that earned seed funding in 2016.

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.

Learn more about the projects that earned seed funding in 2015.

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 Information Initiative at Duke through an RFP process.

Learn more about the projects that earned funding in 2014:

Have questions about the Energy Research Seed Fund?
Contact the Duke University Energy Initiative.

Mailing Address

Duke University Energy Initiative
Box 90467
Durham, NC 27708

Street / Delivery Address

Duke University Energy Initiative
140 Science Drive
Gross Hall, Suite 101
Durham, NC 27708

 
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