Updated: July 1, 2016
This program has ended. Applications are not being accepted.
The Chicago Biomedical Consortium’s Spark Award program offers funding of up to $400,000 for one- or two-year collaborative research projects. Spark Awards aim to fund exceptional new inter-institutional collaborations with the potential to be transformative. Bold and highly innovative proposals must have the potential to produce a major impact in basic biomedical research. Projects should focus on systems biology and address an important and relatively large biological/biomedical question. Spark projects aim to be transformative rather than incremental. Preliminary data is not usually required.
Examples of potential high impact research could include: examining a scientific question that could open a new field of research and/or lead to a major shift in understanding; establishing a powerful and unusual research resource; or launching a high-profile and cutting-edge collaboration that has the potential to bring national recognition and large-scale external funding to the Chicago research community.
To qualify as a substantial collaborative effort, research teams must be composed of Principal Investigators from preferably all three of the CBC Institutions (Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago). Proposals with Co-Principal Investigators from only two of the CBC Institutions may also be submitted; however such proposals must contain a written explanation of why there is no participant from the 3rd CBC institution. While the CBC intends to fund projects that are much more creative than what is typically funded by the NIH, the NIH multi-PI project awards serve as a convenient reference for the scale of a Spark project. The larger scale and higher impact expected in a Spark project are key features that distinguish a successful Spark application. Creative collaborative research that aims to generate data for an R-level proposal is most suitable for the Catalyst program.
A plan that describes how future support of a Spark-initiated research project will be funded with an appropriately-sized mechanism should be described (e.g. PPG-type funding, see application process below).
The Spark program is designed to be nimble and responsive to new and breaking opportunities within CBC-institution laboratories. Applicants may submit a one-page Phase I pre-proposal (concept paper) for a Spark Award at any time. Pre-proposals will be evaluated on a rolling basis, with the outcome typically communicated within four weeks. If the project is deemed appropriate for the Spark program, a three-page Phase II full proposal will be invited. Full proposals are carefully reviewed for impact and scientific merit by multi-disciplinary teams of senior researchers.
The CBC’s Spark Council meets as needed for the final step in review. The CBC reserves the right to step outside the usual constraints of federal-style evaluation procedures and work with Principal Investigators to shape proposals in a constructive and interactive manner.
- Research applicants must be tenured or tenure-track faculty with research programs at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and/or University of Illinois at Chicago who will jointly engage in collaborative research.
- Spark proposals preferably will have Co-Principal Investigators from all three of the CBC institutions. Proposals with Co-Principal Investigators from only two of the CBC Institutions may also be submitted; however such proposals must contain a written explanation of why there is no participant from the 3rd CBC institution.
- Funding will be targeted to proposals that show scientific merit, and have the potential for large scientific reward. Creative and risky projects will receive special consideration.
- Research teams should demonstrate a new collaboration or a significantly new direction in an existing collaboration.
- Research teams should not already be funded for similar research activities.
- There may be multiple applications from each institution, although Principal Investigators are discouraged from applying for more than one Spark Award in a calendar year.
- There is no expectation that Spark Awards will be distributed evenly among the CBC institutions.