Challenge Grants

The CNSI Challenge Grants will provide funding to support the initiation of new large-scale and high-impact collaborations by UCSB faculty. These high-risk Challenge Grants are meant to:

  1. Help UCSB faculty initiate and strengthen partnerships with academia and industry.
  2. Increase flexibility and responsiveness to new research directions and opportunities.
  3. Develop the next generation of scientific leaders at UCSB.
  4. Incubate large multi-PI centers and programs within CNSI.

Joint programs across UC campuses, or with other Cal-ISIs – CNSI at UCLA, CITRIS, QB3 or CalIT2 – are highly encouraged.

Application Process

Application Deadline: May 24, 2019

Applications should be submitted online prior to the published deadline and include the following components:

1. Two-Page Project Summary and Description

Project descriptions should list the grant type being pursued (see Funding) and detail:

  • Quarterly milestones
  • Program development plan
  • What funding agency or agencies and mechanism(s) will be targeted
  • For Program Development Challenge Grants: the potential for larger-scale funding / likelihood for long-term impact
  • For New Partnership Challenge Grants: the catalytic impact of the funding; how do the Challenge Grant funds enable a partnership that would otherwise not be possible

2. One-Page Budget

3. Two-Page NSF or NIH-style CVs for the Lead PI and Co-PIs.


Potential applicants for CNSI Challenge Grants are strongly encouraged to first consult with Tal Margalith (CNSI Executive Director for Technology) or Andrea Stith at the Office of Research before preparing and submitting a proposal.


In this funding cycle, we will be considering two types of Challenge Grants:

1) Program Development

As with previous Challenge Grant calls, these grants focus on enabling teams to strategically position themselves to compete for large center-scale funding.  These awards are very flexible and may be used for a variety of purposes ranging from travel (to foster partnerships with institutions in academia or industry) to teaching relief (to provide time for multi-PI center proposal planning and preparation). Fund allocations to researcher salaries should not exceed the equivalent of one-half of a postdoc in each year of the grant, and should be justified as critical for the success of the effort. These awards can support direct costs of up to $50,000 over a period of 12 months for a maximum of $100,000 over two years.

2) New Partnerships

These grants are focused on catalyzing new interdisciplinary collaborations within UCSB that may require a few key experiments to provide the preliminary data needed to apply for a collaborative research grant. We define new partnerships to be collaborations with no prior joint publications. Any researchers covered by these funds should be co-advised in the scope of the project. These awards can support direct costs of up to $50,000 over a period of 12 months, and successful teams can apply for a follow-up Program Development Challenge Grant. Early career faculty are encouraged to apply.

Please note that prior engagement with CNSI is not a prerequisite for applying for the Challenge Grant.

Review Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated by a committee according to the following criteria:

  1. Capabilities of the proposed team
  2. Plan for initiation and strengthening of aforementioned partnerships
  3. Scientific and technical merit
  4. Potential impact of the funding

Funding decisions will be announced by June 21, 2019.

The anticipated award start date is July 1, 2019.

Reporting Requirements

Progress will be assessed via quarterly meetings or written reports.

Future funding is contingent upon the successful completion of proposed milestones and approval of required reports.