The Seed Program to Advance Research Collaborations (SPARC) provides funding to catalyze development of interdisciplinary research teams and projects that involve scholarly research in more than one department, research center, college, or institution. Successful SPARC proposals will require mutual effort by faculty and researchers from multiple disciplines, and provide outcomes that will enhance USU faculty success in securing new, large-scale, interdisciplinary externally funded grants.

SPARC grants provide one-year seed funding of up to $35,000 that will result in the submission of at least one proposal to an external funding agency that satisfies all of the following criteria:

  • Develops an interdisciplinary team that will be able to competitively address the target RFP.
  • Solicits at least $1 million in new research funding at USU (total project budget, less any off-campus sub-awards) through a single, targeted external  proposal. Projects that enhance the likelihood for success of grants that pay full F&A costs are especially encouraged.
  • Recruits and supports additional research faculty, postdoctoral researchers, or PhD students to the USU campus.
  • Engages undergraduate and/or graduate students in the pursuit of research and scholarly activities.

Questions? Contact Jerilyn Hansen at or (435) 797-3437.


Proposal Process


All USU tenured or tenure-eligible faculty, research faculty, or other research professionals are eligible to apply. Research professionals with short-term commitments (e.g., adjunct faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate research assistants) are not eligible. Projects must have at least 3 faculty (PI plus two co-investigators) representing cross-disciplinary areas of expertise consistent with criteria established in the target RFP.

Effective FY16, applicants must complete the one-day faculty grant writing seminar to be eligible for a seed grant award.

If an application is turned down by the seed grant review panel, an applicant is allowed one re-submission of a revised proposal on the same subject in a subsequent grant cycle. Revised proposals must include the panel summary and a line-by-line description of how the review panel comments were addressed as an attachment (Appendix G).

Externally submitted proposals that received good peer review panel comments but were not funded are eligible for SPARC funding consideration. Proposals that have already been submitted to an external funding agency and a funding decision is pending, or those already reviewed and found to be non-competitive, are not eligible for consideration of SPARC funding.

If a SPARC application is funded, the PI is not eligible to compete for another SPARC grant for 3 years from the start date of the successful proposal.

Evaluation Criteria

All SPARC proposals will be reviewed by a panel of USU researchers and administrators. In evaluating proposals, particular consideration will be given to the following criteria:

  1. Scholarly merit and relevance to the targeted external program announcement or RFP.
  2. Strength of project investigators’ expertise, resources, and research records as it relates to providing the necessary leadership for the effort.
  3. Effectiveness of the research plan in addressing specific issues that must be resolved to develop a strong research proposal for the targeted external funding agency.
  4. Degree to which the project will engage graduate, undergraduate, or post-doctoral researchers.
  5. Likelihood project will extend USU’s research capability and increase external funding for scholarly research activities.

Additionally, it may be advantageous for projects to consider many, but not necessarily all, of the following issues:

  • Likelihood of long-term, active participation by faculty who will constitute a “critical mass” for the proposed program.
  • Potential for the project to gain national and international recognition.
  • Potential to build Utah’s economy through new intellectual property or industrially sponsored research.

Reporting Requirement

Grantees must produce and submit a new external proposal, directly facilitated by the SPARC award, within 3 months of completion of the project. If funding is not awarded for the external proposal, the PI will provide the RGS Office with reviewer comments as well as a written plan for resubmission.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The USU faculty member of the SPARC project may serve as PI or co-I on the external proposal, but USU must be the lead institution controlling the submission of the external proposal (i.e., USU cannot serve as a subcontractor on the project).

PIs who do not submit the required proposals will be ineligible for future RGS funding of any type until this requirement is met.

Proposal Formatting

Each SPARC proposal is limited to 14 pages:

  • Single-spaced text
  • 12-point font, 1-inch margins, page numbers
  • Page limitation includes figures and tables
  • Page limitation excludes cover page, references, summary budget, budget justification, and appendices

 Proposal Submission

An electronic (PDF) copy, plus a hard copy, of the entire proposal should be submitted to the Dean or Associate Dean for Research, as directed by the college. Applicants are advised to check with their colleges regarding internal submission deadlines. After internal review, the college will submit proposals to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies by April 15/October 15 for final review.

Cover Page (required)

Research Plan (required)

1. External Funding Target(s)

Provide a summary of the primary and secondary external funding targets (RFPs), including the name of the specific funding agency and program, URL for the RFP, maximum budget amount (if known), proposal process (e.g., is there a letter of intent or pre-proposal required?), and submission deadline(s). Describe the research or creative activity to be proposed in the external proposal. Contact with the Program Officer is strongly encouraged. Include a statement about any feedback received as a result of discussions with the Program Officer. Include brief descriptions of any supplemental documents that are required by the target RFP (e.g., NSF and NIH require data management or data sharing plans, and may require additional documents depending on the nature of the work; the National Endowment for the Arts requires artistic documentation in a specific format).

If – and only if – the external funding target has a cost-sharing requirement, describe college/department/PI plans to address the match obligation.

NOTE: If the external funding target requires a letter of intent, a pre-proposal, or is a limited submission program, a second external funding target must be included.

2. Introduction and Seed Grant Project Description

Describe the proposed research or creative activity of the seed grant, including a summary of relevant literature, specific objectives/primary questions to be addressed, expected outcomes/products, procedures and methods utilized, novel/cutting-edge aspects of the project, and broader impacts of the research. Provide an explanation of possible pitfalls/risks of the project and how these will be mitigated. Include a statement about how the seed grant and the external proposal will advance the career of the PI.

3. Relationship of Seed Grant Project to External Funding Goal

Explain how the seed grant’s project outcomes/products are relevant and necessary to the development of a strong and successful external proposal to the targeted funding opportunity. Describe how the seed grant work will enhance or be incorporated into the external proposal, including how a less than satisfactory outcome of the project will be mitigated in the external proposal. For example, seed projects targeting NSF can incorporate the involvement of Extension specialists to help improve the Broader Impacts requirement of the external proposal.

4. Management Plan

Describe the scope of work and responsibilities of the key personnel of the seed grant project. If the project includes multi- or interdisciplinary partnerships, describe how data, responsibilities, and information will be coordinated and how communication will be managed. Provide a timeline for major activities, including the preparation and submission of the external proposal.

References (required, no page limitation)

Summary Budget (required)

Budget Justification (required, no page limitation)

Provide a summary budget and justification for all proposed expenses, including faculty, student, postdoctoral researcher, and Extension specialist support; fringe benefits; supplies; equipment needed to generate preliminary data for the external proposal; and travel required to complete the research project.

Unallowable costs include conference travel, literature review costs, and funding used to support research activities at other institutions.

For faculty receiving 10 or fewer months of base support, 1 month of additional salary support plus benefits is allowed.

Explain any departmental or college contributions to the project (not required, but could include providing student help, travel or administrative support, or other expenses associated with external proposal development).

Appendices (required, no page limitation)

Appendix A. Curriculum/Curricula Vitae (required) (2-page maximum per person)

CV information is required for the PI and any co-Is.

Include as part of the CV a record of grant writing experience and role (PI or co-I). If no funding has been received, indicate any grant writing training received.

Appendix B. Current and Pending Support (required)

List the current and pending support for the PI and any co-Is.

For any current or pending projects that are related to the proposed seed grant project, include a separate description of the specific objectives and how they differ from the objectives of the seed grant.

NOTE: An applicant who is a new Assistant Professor (within first 2 years of appointment) must include a separate description of his/her new faculty start-up funding.

Appendix C. Conflict of Interest (required)

Disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest is required for the PI and any co-Is.

Appendix D. Education and Training Plan (if required by external RFP)

If the targeted external funding opportunity requires a major educational or training component, describe how these elements will be addressed. Outline any plans for recruiting, retaining, or educating students from underrepresented groups.

Appendix E. Special Requirements of Project (if applicable)

Identify any special requirements of project (human participants, animal use, hazardous materials, etc.).

Appendix F. Supplementary Documentation (if appropriate)

Letters of support from individuals not named as co-PIs or outside entities whose collaboration is integral to the execution of the proposed seed grant project.

Appendix G. Review Panel Comments (if applicable)

If seed grant proposal is a resubmission, attach previous seed grant review panel comments and address comments line-by-line.

If the research outlined in the application is intended to support resubmission of an external grant proposal that was not funded in a recent cycle, but did receive favorable scores from the agency review panel, a full copy of the review panel comments must be attached.

Appendix H. Results of Previous Seed Funding (if applicable)

Provide a one-page description of the results of any previous RGS seed funding the PI has received.

SPARC projects are funded semi-annually, with start dates of January 1 or July 1. Applicants should select the timeline that best ensures they can develop and submit an external grant proposal within 3 months of SPARC project completion. See schedule below for the semi-annual timelines of SPARC submissions, awards, and outcome delivery.

An electronic (PDF) copy of the entire proposal should be submitted to the Dean or Associate Dean for Research, as directed by the college. Applicants are advised to check with their colleges regarding internal submission deadlines. After internal review, colleges should email an electronic copy of the fully signed proposal (as a single PDF file) to Sharece Cox ( in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies by April 15/October 15 for final review.

Schedule for SPARC Submissions, Awards, and Outcome Delivery

Steps For January 1 Start Date For July 1 Start Date
Applicants confer with their Dean or Associate Dean about eligibility March – May August – October
Proposals are submitted to college office At Dean’s discretion

(allow ample time for review and signatures by the Department Head and Dean)

At Dean’s discretion

(allow ample time for review and signatures by the Department Head and Dean)

College reviews proposals for eligibility and quality September – October February – March
College submits proposals to the RGS Office October 15

(if this is a Saturday or Sunday, proposals will be due on Monday)

April 15

(if this is a Saturday or Sunday, proposals will be due on Monday)

Notification of awards by the RGS Office December June
Grant period January 1 – December 31 July 1 – June 30
External proposal submission Within 3 months of project completion date Within 3 months of project completion date