Apply for PACT

Applying for PACT

Building upon a 75-plus year partnership, the University of Tennessee (UT) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) came together in 2021 to launch the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII). In collaboration with its constituents, UT-ORII strives to enable meaningful advances for all aspects of the STEM ecosystem (research, education, outreach and workforce development).  

With generous state and federal support, the institute has become home to new and existing UT-ORNL innovation-driven programs, such as the Science Alliance, allowing these programs to be reinvigorated. The Science Alliance, a Tennessee Center of Excellence, was started in 1984 with the mission of expanding cooperative ventures in research between UT Knoxville faculty and ORNL scientists and engineers. Today, the Science Alliance oversees the Program for Advancing Collaborative Teams (PACT) and other UT-ORNL grant programs. 

PACT was established in 2021 to accelerate UT and ORNL joint research aimed at securing large extramural funding. Since the program started, three joint research projects have been funded, totaling $848,000. The PACT Program differs from the other funding opportunities by providing a mechanism for joint teams of investigators to develop a collaborative program over several years. Teams that are ready to submit a competitive large-scale proposal in a shorter time frame should consider the UT-ORII Seed Program. 

Each team is expected to participate in collaborative ecosystem-building activities in one of UT-ORII’s current or emerging Convergent Initiatives (see below). Funded teams must also commit to developing 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.  

Awards will be made approximately 24 months before the anticipated submission of an external proposal. Investigator-identified opportunities will also be considered, if they are brought to the attention of Science Alliance with sufficient lead time to issue a university-wide call.  

Typical awards will be $200-300k, and 1-2 awards are expected to be made per project proposal period. Projects will have staged funding for one year as long as performance metrics are achieved. A chance for second year funding will also be available if the project shows strong promise of receiving new external funding as a result of the collaborative activities and is deemed meritorious in the second year ‘s proposal evaluation process. 

Managed and funded through the UT-ORII’s Science Alliance, preference will be given to proposals that align with the current or emerging UT-ORII Convergent Initiatives listed below: 

  • Electrochemical Energy Systems and Transportation 
  • Autonomous, Smart, Secure and Resilient Energy Systems  
  • Predictive Systems Biology for Circular and Sustainable Economies 
  • Environmental, Occupational, or Human Health

The deadline for FY24 proposals was June 30, 2023, with funding anticipated to begin August 1, 2023. The next application deadline will be announced soon.


The PACT program was created to bolster collaborations between UT and ORNL by leveraging the strengths and talents of both institutions to accomplish research that cannot be achieved by a single PI or small collaborative team. Therefore, each research team must include multiple principal investigators from UT and have strong support and involvement from ORNL. All UT faculty members are eligible to apply, including faculty who have had previous ORNL collaborations and/or have existing joint appointments.

Expectations of Awardees

A primary focus of the PACT program is to generate new significant funding for larger collaborative teams of scientists and engineers. Therefore, each funded PACT team will be expected to work with the Science Alliance and UT Knoxville’s Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development (ORIED) proposal development team as they prepare proposals for external sponsors.  

Progress will be assessed as follows: 

  • Six-Month Report: The PACT team will provide a two-page report providing preliminary results and outlining how the funding has positioned the team for funding success. Funding for months seven-nine will be released upon submission of the report. This document will be reviewed internally to determine whether the funding will proceed in months ten-twelve. 
  • Engagement with Proposal Development Team (Month Nine): If funding is continued for month ten-twelve, the PACT team will be expected to meet with the Proposal Development Team to prepare submission of an external proposal. 
  • Proposal Submission (End of Year One): Each PACT team is expected to successfully submit an extramural proposal at the end of year one. Second-year funding will only be available to teams that accomplish this goal. 

Review Process and Criteria

A review committee appointed by the director of Science Alliance will review the proposals and make recommendations for funding. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria: 

  • Team strength and likelihood of funding 
  • Merit and significance 
  • Inclusion of graduate and undergraduate students in the research 

First Year Funding Application Instructions

A complete year-one application will include the following: 

A. Cover Page 

  • UT PIs name, faculty status, department, college 
  • ORNL collaborator(s) name, title 
  • Project title 

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

  • Project summary written for a general audience (150-word max) 
  • Description of the proposed research 
  • Description of prior interactions with funder or program manager/officer 
  • Description of all prior affiliations, collaborations and publications with ORNL, and how this project represents a new interaction in a new scientific/engineering area 
  • Description of expected extended collaborations with your ORNL colleagues, for example: joint faculty opportunities, student mentoring, team development, publications, etc. 

C. Appendices 

  • Appendix A: A budget* 
  • Appendix B: A letter from the ORNL PI(s) supporting the partnership. 
  • Appendix C: A one-page bio for each PI that includes most recent grants, professional awards, and recent publications 

Second Year Funding Application Instructions

A complete year-two application will include the following: 

A. Cover Page 

  • UT PIs name, faculty status, department, college 
  • ORNL PI(s) name, title 
  • Project title 

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

C. Appendices 

  • Appendix A: A budget* 
  • Appendix B: An endorsement letter from the ORNL investigator stating the specific impact of the previous year’s partnership and their desire to continue with the partnership 
  • 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 

*Budget Allowable Costs

Allowable costs include: 

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

Unallowable costs include: 

  • Membership fees 
  • Conference registrations 
  • 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 officers 
  • F&A charged to the project 
  • Expenditures above 5% outside the budget categories require approval from the Science Alliance director. 
  • Individuals’ accrued benefits before participating in the PACT program require a department head letter covering accrued annual leave. 

IMPORTANT: 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. 

Please contact Amber Mathes, if you have any questions about the application procedure..