The UT Dallas SPARK Grant is an internal funding mechanism designed to provide research and professional development support to establish the research portfolio of Associate and Full Professors that have not received external funding in the past 24+ months. This program is designed to spark both internal and external collaborations, gain new training, obtain preliminary data or pursue new research directions. The goal of the seed grant is to provide preliminary results and establish credibility in a new research area that will attract high-impact research funding from the state and federal government, industry, or foundations. PIs who accept a SPARK grant commit to the pursuit of external funding for the research effort within 18 to 24 months of receiving SPARK grant funding. Activities that are not eligible for support through this mechanism include consulting, dissertation completion, research/analysis pertaining to the operation of UT Dallas, and curriculum development.

Award Information

  • The maximum allowable budget for a SPARK Grant is $50,000.
  • The duration of the SPARK Grant award is 12 months.

Submission Deadline: April 30, 2024

Program Guidelines

SPARK grant funding is meant to seed research activities including the collection of preliminary data for new activities rather than supporting an on-going or established study.

A successful SPARK grant proposal will demonstrate the following:

  • The proposal must provide compelling evidence that one or more external funding opportunities exist that are relevant for the proposed work. The funding levels should substantially exceed that which is provided by the SPARK Grant mechanism.
  • The timeline for submitting a SPARK Grant application should be 18-24 months ahead of the team’s anticipated submission to one or more target external grant programs.

Eligibility Guidelines

  • The PI must have a primary, full-time UT Dallas appointment at the level of associate or full professor.
  • Adjunct faculty, affiliate faculty, visiting researchers, and postdocs are not eligible to serve as either PI or co-PIs but may participate in the proposed project.
  • Faculty with greater than $100,000 in chair, start-up, or research enhancement accounts are not eligible to serve as PI or co-PI.
  • A faculty member may submit only one SPARK Grant proposal as a PI or co-PI during each submission period.
  • Previous SPARK grant awardees (PI and co-PIs) may submit a new SPARK grant application no sooner than three calendar years from a prior award round. For example, a winner from spring 2019 would not be eligible to submit another application until spring 2022.
  • Faculty participating in the review process are not eligible to apply concurrently for a SPARK Grant.

Allowable Expenses

  • Supplies, equipment, reagents, facility use and publication costs
  • Graduate student stipend, benefits and tuition
  • Postdoctoral or Research Scientist support and benefits
  • Travel, conference/workshop attendance, or conference/workshop hosting for team-building to support the proposal submission for external funding

Unallowable Expenses

  • Faculty salary and/or benefits (neither academic year nor summer support permitted)
  • Transfer of funds to institutions or individuals outside of UT Dallas
  • Administrative or secretarial support
  • Indirect costs

Required Submission Materials

Proposal documents should have 1-inch margins and use a 12-point font. Upload one combined document (preferably in PDF format).

  • Summary. In 300 words or less describe the project, the potential impact, and the collaboration for a general audience.
  • Proposal. Limited to three pages with the following section headings in sequence. The bibliography does not count against the page limit.
    • Rationale and Vision. Explain the goal, the current state of the art and how your project is innovative.
    • Plan. Provide a description of your plan and explain what you need to accomplish during the SPARK Grant award period to be competitive for external funding.
    • Team. Explain why the PI, and if applicable the team, has the background and abilities to pursue the project and become competitive for external funding in this research area.
    • Justification. Explain why the SPARK Grant will increase the likelihood of securing external funding.
    • Participating Personnel. List participating faculty members, providing a clear explanation of each member’s role in the project. Also list any named graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and/or research scientists. If the proposal involves unfunded contributions from outside UT Dallas, describe the source(s) of support for those contributions. Letters of support may be included and do not count against the page limit.
    • Acronym and Symbol Definitions. Provide a glossary of acronyms and symbols. Does not count against the page limit.
  • External Funding Opportunities. Limited to one page, summarize the external funding opportunities for which the SPARK Grant will enable the pursuit of external funding. Include a timeline with milestones for development of one or more external proposals, names of potential sponsoring agencies and solicitations and relevant deadlines for those agencies.
  • Budget. Limited to two pages, provide a table with each expenditure category and line-item descriptions. The Office of Sponsored Projects budget template may be used.
  • Budget justification. Limited to three pages, provide a justification for all expenditures.
  • Co-funding. Co-funding from within or outside UT Dallas is neither required nor considered for priority in funding. However, if a project requires funds exceeding the stated limit, an academic unit may provide co-funding. If so, provide a description of the source and planned use of the funds to support the overall goals of the project. A letter of support from the academic unit authority should accompany the application expressing commitment to provide the funds during the SPARK Grant award period.
  • Previous seed grant funding. Limited to one page, if any team member has had previous seed grant funding through a UT Dallas program, detail the distinction between previous funding and the proposed project including prior seed funding outcomes.
  • Biosketches. Provide NIH/NSF format biosketches for the faculty Key Personnel. Include a personal statement identifying the role of the individual in the project. Biosketches do not count towards the proposal page limit.
  • Current and Pending. Provide NSF/NIH format current and pending support for the faculty Key Personnel. There is no page limit for current and pending support.

Application Review Process and Evaluation Criteria

SPARK Grant applications will be reviewed by a committee comprised of UT Dallas faculty with a range of scientific, technical, and research experience. Applicants will receive a brief list of strengths and weaknesses with a numerical rank (10=highly meritorious and recommended for funding, 1=low priority for application consideration). Awards will be announced following the completion of the reviews and funding will be available soon after. Evaluation criteria include:

  • Relevance of project goals, plans, and expected product(s) to prepare the team for future external funding opportunities.
  • The skills and abilities of the PI for the SPARK project and the pursuit of external funding.
  • The targeted funding program(s), associated funding level(s), and timeline for pursuit.
  • The extent that the SPARK grant support is vital for the collaboration.
  • The extent to which the SPARK grant funding will enhance the competitiveness in securing external funding.
  • If applicable, the extent of difference between previous seed grant funding and the proposed project; and the past success of the seed grant funding.

Awardee Requirements

Upon award, you must submit the following information to the Office of Research and Innovation:

  • Within 1 month of project end: A three- page max progress report including research outcomes, other outcomes (manuscripts submitted/presented, conferences, etc.), and progress toward securing external funding. If either research progression or plans toward submission of proposals for external funding has been impacted, a clear explanation for the delay and a mitigation plan is required.
  • Upon request: Provide a brief presentation at UT Dallas during a research symposium or other event to highlight the SPARK grant impact.
  • Recipients will serve on Seed Grant review panels, as requested. By accepting an award, recipients agree to score and provide written comments on assigned proposals before the review deadline and participate in in-person or virtual review meetings.

Other Terms and Conditions

  • Funds will not be released until all necessary compliance related approvals and/or training are acquired, such as IRB, IACUC, IBC, RCR and COI.
  • Funds expire and must be used within 12 months of award such that no carryover of funds will be permitted unless approval has been provided by the Office of Research and Innovation. Any unused funds must be returned to the Office of Research and Innovation.
  • Failure to comply with any of the Awardee Requirements will result in suspension of SPARK Grant funding and faculty becoming ineligible for future seed grant competitions from the Office of Research and Innovation.
  • The SPARK Grant award must be acknowledged in any resulting publications, exhibitions, or events, including press releases, using the following language: “This project was funded (or partially funded) by The University of Texas at Dallas Office of Research and Innovation through the SPARK Grant Program.”

Contact Us

For further information please contact Emily Lacy.