In the current climate of declining federal funding and impending reductions in state support, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is taking measures to provide faculty with critical additional assistance to guarantee that UConn proposals have the best chances of success. I wanted to share a few new initiatives with you as you prepare to submit new grant proposals.
Reduction of Overhead Costs
In order to provide faculty with more buying power on proposals, reduced overhead costs will be charged to grants of up to $50,000 where total costs are inclusive (i.e., direct and indirect costs capped at $50,000). This policy will be in place at UConn and UConn Health. The effective overhead rate for such grants will be capped at 20% instead of the standard 59%. This reduced rate will apply to future grant proposals, and is not applicable retroactively. Existing grants will continue to be charged the standard 59% rate. In the case where agencies, such as NSF, view a reduced F&A rate as cost share, faculty should apply the full rate and the OVPR will return the F&A back to the PI. Additional guidelines will be forthcoming on how to incorporate this lower rate on new proposals.
Faculty Grant Mentorship Incentive Program
Faculty members with a history of grant success have valuable expertise that can benefit faculty colleagues. Through this program, experienced PIs will be eligible to serve as mentors for three untenured faculty in return for a stipend of $10,000. Faculty mentors will provide untenured faculty with strategic insight and guidance to more successfully navigate the grant submission process. Activities will include introductions to program managers, review of proposals, guidance and support, help to establish individualized goals and professional development plans for each mentee, and insight on how to learn about grant solicitations that may not be announced through standard methods. In the coming weeks, we will announce an open call for senior faculty to nominate their colleagues or themselves to serve as mentors. The selection process will include an evaluation of nominees’ previous experience as a mentor for untenured faculty, as well as a review of their success winning extramural funding. Additional guidelines, mentor/mentee applications, and program requirements will be forthcoming and available on the OVPR website.
Funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Each year, Federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 3.2 percent (FY 2017) of their R&D budget to these programs, and agencies with research budgets over $1 billion are required to set aside a portion of these funds for STTR. SBIR/STTR grants range from $300,000 to $1 million each and can be a valuable source of non-dilutive funding for startups and eligible small companies. Under SBIR, the PI must be primarily employed with the small business at the time of award and for the duration of the project period, but subcontracts often occur with collaborating research institutions. Under the STTR program, primary employment is not stipulated, so the PI may be primarily employed by a collaborating institution.
These programs can be an effective tool for entrepreneurial faculty and the university’s efforts to boost our industry sponsored research portfolio. The OVPR is initiating several support programs to increase the number of successful SBIR/STTR awards submitted with UConn/UConn Health PIs or co-PIs.
First, we will host a series of workshops to expose faculty to the programs and how to successfully apply. The first workshop is sponsored by CTNext and will be held on November 29 & 30 at 400 Farmington Ave on the UConn Health campus. For more information and to register, visit the CTNext site.
The OVPR is also piloting an effort to connect faculty to SBIR/STTR program managers, as well as existing companies seeking R&D partnerships to support SBIR/STTR proposals. In order to do this we are developing a team able to offer assistance directly to faculty, their startups, and outside industry partners that are eligible for SBIR/STTR support. If you are interested in learning more about these support services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collaboration with the UConn Foundation
Finally, in partnership with the UConn Foundation, we will continue to seek creative solutions and establish innovative programs and initiatives to increase philanthropic dollars for student and faculty research.
For existing and new initiatives to support research, we will establish metrics and methods to track success to ensure that our investments result in returns for our faculty and the university.
We will be in touch again soon to share additional information and more specific details about these new programs and initiatives as soon as they become available. In the meantime, this message serves to reassure faculty and students that we are dedicated to helping UConn’s world-class researchers succeed despite the fiscal challenges we are currently facing. We are committed to supporting UConn’s vibrant research community, and we thank you for your invaluable contribution to the university, the state of Connecticut, and the global scientific community.
Dr. Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research