CALL FOR PROPOSALS: W.M. Keck Foundation Research Program

The W. M. Keck Foundation supports groundbreaking fundamental research in the areas of biological and physical sciences and engineering that could not be funded in its current form by federal agencies.  For a Phase 1 submission the foundation asks a basic question: “What new science will this work enable?”  Basic research that seeks to establish new paradigms, develop innovative new technology and/or methodology, remove roadblocks that restricts progress in a field, or answer intractable problems is given priority.  As big questions seldom fit into traditional silos, interdisciplinary research, such as an engineering-based approach to a biological question, is encouraged.  Where interdisciplinary teams are involved, appropriate expertise should be included.  For example, biological research should include biologists to ensure the approach is biologically appropriate.  Where data analysis is an integral component of the project, a computer scientist as a research partner is important.  Young investigators are encouraged to apply or to be included in research teams.

Budget requests should be around $1 million +/- and may be expended over three to five years.  The Foundation has relatively few grant dollars compared to the federal agencies, hence proposed research should not be fundable by federal or state agencies.  Some evidence of this is helpful (a conversation with a program officer, a declined proposal, lack of appropriate RFPs etc.) and should be included in the LOI. The Keck Foundation does not pay indirect costs, nor does it support tuition and fees for graduate students.

Projects Not Funded
Research that is the next logical step for an investigator’s program, or that is incremental, will not be successful.  Translational or clinical research, vector and drug development, miniaturization of existing technology and alternative energy and biodiversity studies are generally not considered.   Research that could be funded by a federal agency (NIH, NSF, DoD, etc.) will not be competitive.

Internal Application Process

Interested applicants are asked to submit a preliminary concept paper to the VCR’s office by Friday, January 5, 2018, via the UCI Review competition management system with the following information:

  1. One-page project summary (consistent with Keck’s requirements for a Phase I app.) containing:
  • Overview:  Provide an executive summary written for a well-educated lay audience. Include summary of the goals, any pilot studies or data, unique aspects and significance of the project.  Clearly define what “new science” this project would enable.
  • Methodology: briefly describe your approach – “how” not just “what” you will do.
  • Key Personnel: Name the key personnel and describe their expertise, role in this project, and any collaborations/partnerships.
  • Budget: State total cost of this project, amount requested from the Keck Foundation, and the amount of institutional support if any. Briefly describe how funds requested from Keck will be allocated among capital, personnel and equipment.
  • Justification for WMKF support: Explain why support from the Keck Foundation is essential for this project (i.e. this project cannot be, or is not likely to be supported by NIH, NSF or other typical funding agencies).
  1. Brief Biosketch or CV (no more than 2-pages) of the PI

After the internal deadline, if necessary, an ad hoc committee will convene to review the preliminary proposals.   After the Office of Research consults with Keck in January-February 2018, the selected PI(s) will be notified in time to meet the W.M. Keck deadline of May 1, 2018

For the complete W.M. Keck criteria for these awards, please refer to  Questions about the Keck Research Program may be directed to Executive Director of Foundation Relations, Roxanne Ford at  Questions regarding the UCI internal review process should be sent to Greg Ruth at or x4-0372.


W M Keck Foundation summary Dec 18 cycle

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