UT-ORII Seed Program

UT-ORII Seed Program

The University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) Seed Funding program invests in promising new and highly innovative multidisciplinary research projects designed by UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory research teams. Funded teams must 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 within a year. Teams that need more time to develop the research infrastructure and ecosystem to be competitive for large-scale funding should consider the Science Alliance PACT program.

Preference will be given to proposals that align with the current or emerging UT-ORII Convergent Initiatives listed below:

  • Autonomous, Smart, Secure and Resilient Energy Systems
  • Electrochemical Energy Systems
  • Advanced Science and Engineering of Materials and Manufacturing
  • Predictive Systems Biology for Circular and Sustainable Economies

Proposals should articulate interdisciplinary approaches and include advances in developing the knowledge and skills that integrate data science, engineering, and technology with contextual applications.

Funding provided to successful teams will support the development of preliminary data and will provide UT-ORII graduate students with enriching, rewarding team science experiences. Proposing teams must include at least two ORNL scientist PIs and two UT faculty PIs.

Initial awards will be funded in the $150-200K (total costs) range for one-year. In addition, funded teams will receive support for up to three GRAs. PIs accepting a GRA on a UT-ORII seed project must commit to mentor and financially support the student beyond this seed funding period. Opportunities for one-year funded extensions will also be provided as described below, dependent on successful performance review.


All UT faculty and ORNL staff members are eligible to apply. Foreign national PI‘s can submit proposals, but need to submit required documents for DOE approval when submitting this proposal. Please contact Lisa Lee, llee41@utk.edu, for details. Proposed projects should not duplicate or simply augment ongoing research programs at either UT or ORNL.

Expectation of Awardees

Competitive proposals will focus on the development of new multidisciplinary research programs that: 1) target large-scale extramural funding opportunities, 2) integrate two or more disciplines and 3) identify novel approaches to support graduate student training and talent development.

Progress will be assessed as follows:

  • Six-Month Progress Report: Funded teams will provide a two-page report providing preliminary results and outlining how the funding has positioned the team for funding. Eligibility for year two funding will be forfeited if the report is not submitted on time or if insufficient progress is made.
  • Engagement with Proposal Development Team: Funded teams must work with UT Knoxville’s Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development (ORIED) proposal development team as they prepare proposals to external sponsors.
  • Proposal Submission (End of Year One): Each team must submit at least one extramural proposal at the end of year one. Second-year funding will be available only to teams that accomplish this goal.

Review Process and Criteria

A review committee appointed by the UT-ORII leadership team will review proposals and make recommendations for funding. The review panel membership will be drawn from ORNL corporate fellows, governor’s chairs, distinguished scientists, and other subject matter experts, as needed. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Technical merit of the proposed research
  • Integration of novel graduate student training activities
  • Likelihood for future external funding
  • Potential for the establishment of a meaningful, sustained collaboration between the two institutions; including joint publications, student mentoring, team development, etc.

First Year Application Instructions

Proposals must include the following information:

A. Cover Page

  • PI names, positions and institutions
  • 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 (including overarching goal and specific aims, approaches to be employed)
  • Description of how this project addresses specific topic areas of the call
  • Description of innovative approaches to graduate student training and inclusion of data science knowledge and skills development
  • Summary, including a broader impact statement of how the proposed project aligns with the missions of UT and ORNL

C. Appendices

  • Appendix A: A budget*
  • Appendix B: A letter of commitment from all senior personnel, including continued funding for each GRA supported on the project until completion of their degree.
  • Appendix C: A one-page bio for each PI and senior personnel that includes external grants over the past five years, professional awards, and five most recent publications
  • Evidence of successful UT-ORNL collaborations should be included, if available

Second Year Application Instructions

To be considered for support in year two, funded teams must prepare proposals that include the following information:

A. Cover Page

  • PI names, positions, and institutions
  • Project title

B. Five-page summary of progress in year one

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

D. Appendices

  • Appendix A: A budget*
  • Appendix B: An endorsement letter from each investigator committing to the objectives in the proposal.
  • Appendix C: A one-page bio for each PI that includes most recent grants, professional awards and relevant publications

*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) are allowed up to a maximum of $5,000 per year, inclusive of benefits
  • Benefits for all personnel

Unallowable costs include:

  • Membership fees
  • Conference registrations
  • Individuals’ accrued benefits before participating in UT-ORII’s seed funding program require a department head letter covering accrued annual leave.
  • 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
  • Expenditures above 5% outside the budget categories require approval from the program 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. Unused funds will be reclaimed at the end of the project year.

Please contact Lisa Lee, llee41@utk.edu, if you have any questions about the application procedure.