Apply for StART

Apply for StART

The Science Alliance is now accepting proposals for the FY25 Support for Affiliated Research Teams (StART) program.

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 Support for Affiliated Research Teams (StART) and other UT-ORNL grant programs.

StART was established in August 2019 to stimulate the development of new UT-ORNL research. Since the program started, 13 joint research projects have been funded, totaling more than $1.4 million. The StART program differs from other UT-ORII funding opportunities in that it is the primary mechanism for funding nascent research teams and gives preference to investigators that are establishing their first collaboration between the institutions.  

The StART program is managed and funded through UT-ORII’s Science Alliance. StART has a single call, with semiannual deadlines. Typical awards are $100k. The number of awards is dependent on the quality of proposals submitted, as well as available funds. Projects will be funded for one year, with a chance for second-year funding if the project shows strong promise of receiving new external funding as a result of the collaborative activities leading to preparation of a joint proposal for external funding that is deemed meritorious in the second year’s proposal evaluation process.  

The deadline for FY 25 proposals is May 15, 2024, with funding anticipated to begin on August 1, 2024. Award notifications will be sent out after June 30, 2024. Appliactions are currently open on InfoReady.


StART was established to foster collaboration between UT and ORNL researchers. Therefore, each research team must include a principal investigator from UT and 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. Post-docs, research scientists, and lecturers are ineligible to apply for this program. Preference will be given to junior faculty who do not have a joint appointment and/or are establishing a new collaboration with ORNL scientists.

Expectations of Awardees

A primary focus of the StART program is to generate new funding for collaborative teams of scientists and engineers. Therefore, each funded StART team will be expected to have either submitted a new external proposal by the end of the first year or to provide the Science Alliance with a draft proposal that will be submitted within three months of the end of the performance period for the award. This proposal must include support for all UT and ORNL principal investigators. Second-year funding will only be available to teams that provide the above mentioned proposal to the Science Alliance team. These proposals will count as the proposal submission for year two internal funding as well.

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: 

  • Technical merit of the proposed research 
  • Potential for the establishment of a meaningful and sustainable collaboration with ORNL, including joint publications, student mentoring, team development, etc. 
  • Inclusion of graduate students in the research 
  • Likelihood for future external funding and target funding call/notice 

First Year Application Instructions

A complete year-one application will include the following: 

A. Research Proposal (3-page max, add additional pages for references) 

  • Project summary written for a general audience (150-word max) 
  • Description of the proposed research 
  • Description of specific funding opportunities that will be targeted for future support inclusive of funding agency, program manager/officer and prior interactions with funder 
  • Description of all of your 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. 

B. Appendices 

  • Appendix A: Budget and budget justification* (template available via InfoReady listed under the Competition file section – top right side) 
  • Appendix B: A letter from the ORNL PI supporting the partnership and outlining the level of commitment 
  • Appendix C: A one-page bio for each UT/ORNL PI that includes most recent grants, professional awards, and recent relevant publications 

Second Year Application Instructions

A complete second-year renewal application will include the following: 

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

B. Appendices 

  • Appendix A: Budget and budget justification* (template available via InfoReady listed under the Competition file section – top right side) 
  • 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) allowed up to a maximum of $5,000 per year, inclusive of benefits 
  • Benefits for all personnel 
  • Individuals’ accrued benefits before participating in the StART program with a department head letter covering accrued annual leave 

Unallowable costs include: 

  • Membership fees 
  • Conference registrations 
  • Equipment is discouraged and is unlikely to be awarded. 
  • 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 Science Alliance director. 
  • F&A charged to the project 

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 at if you have any questions about the application procedure.