Spark Grants

UVA Rotunda with sun flare

The Spark Grant program is designed to provide seed funding for the creation of interdisciplinary teams that will go on to conduct solutions-focused research on specific sustainability related issues. Individual researchers at UVA seeking to create such teams are eligible for Spark Grants.

Harnessing the energy of ‘champion’ researchers

Interdisciplinary research teams often form organically from informal interactions between researchers, yet financial support is needed for activities to help focus in on specific projects. The Spark Grant program provides funding to individual researchers who are ready to lead such efforts and build new research teams.

The grants support multi-departmental projects (two or more) harnessing and amplifying the unique strengths found across Grounds. Spark Grants will jumpstart team formation in new projects that have the potential lead to longer-term collaborations and sustainable funding.

The Environmental Institute funds transformative interdisciplinary research projects within the sustainability and resilience space at UVA. Priority is given to projects are that align with the University’s 2030 Strategic Plan for environmental resilience and sustainability research.

Submission Deadlines

  • Midnight May 17, 2024 (funding to begin July 1)
  • Midnight October 18, 2024 (funding to begin Jan 1)

Funding Available

Awardees are eligible for up to $30,000 over one year. In addition to direct funding support, awardees will receive EI staff support upon request to assist with team formation, definition of research agenda or project, and external funding proposal development. The Institute expects to fund five Spark projects each calendar year.


Examples of Spark Grants

Proposal Details

Proposals must describe how funds would be used to:

  • Create a research team that might not come together absent a spark grant.
  • Create a team and identify projects that would advance EI research and scholarship
  • Identify and develop projects that have the potential to attract external funding

Proposed activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Workshops on emerging multidisciplinary research areas
  • Seminar series to promote networking for innovative project formation
  • Support for release time, travel, workshops, and other expenses associated with conceptualization and preparation of large grants
  • Proof-of-concept funding for early data collection
  • Research expenses (funds may not be distributed in the form of a sub-grant awards process)
  • Student (graduate and undergraduate) and postdoctoral support
  • Travel to establish partnerships and to interact with federal and industry program officers
  • Identification and recruitment of partners (industrial, academic or government)
  • Concept development and white papers for large scale efforts
  • Development of industrial research collaborations
  • Creation and support of resources such as websites, research collaboration sites, or other social networking tools to facilitate large scale research projects

Eligibility and Selection Process

All full-time, PI-eligible faculty can apply. To be considered for a Spark Grant, proposals must include an interdisciplinary approach. Proposals that include opportunities for place-based or community-engaged research are encouraged. Proposals will be reviewed by the EI’s Seed Funding Award Review Committee with recommendations for funding made to the Institute Director approximately two weeks from the submission deadline.


Successful Spark awardees will be expected to:

  • Author high-impact publications, patentable technology, open-source data sets and models, and high-level job placement of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
  • Submit proposal(s) to external funding agencies for continued support.
  • Submit brief annual progress reports (mid-term and final), describing project activities and outcomes under the direction of EI staff.
  • Provide material that can be used for communicating outcomes to broad audiences, for example, through a newsletter, website, white papers or policy briefs.
  • Translate findings to policy and practice with external stakeholders such as agencies, industry, and non-governmental organizations
  • Foster an enhanced sense of community among faculty and staff across UVA broadly related to sustainability research through activities such as research-focused events and mentorship of junior and/or DEI team members. Funded recipients from the first round of awards will be invited to help mentor recipients in the second round.

Instructions for Submitting an Application

Please submit proposals as a single PDF document. To apply, fill out the form below, and upload the proposal. Proposals are limited to three pages (excluding references and CVs) and should include the following:

  • Title and Abstract (no more than ½ page)
  • Research area of focus and relevance to institute’s mission and/or priority area
  • Brief qualifications of PI and how the qualifications put a prospective team in strong position to successfully launch a project team or large-scale collaboration.
  • Project description, including research merit, research plan, and anticipated timeline.
  • Specific opportunities for external funding, and how the investment of seed money will increase competitiveness of the team.
  • Budget and brief justification. See list of possible proposal activities above.
  • Two-page CV for faculty leader

Proposers are encouraged to indicate in the project description the extent to which, if any, generative AI technology was used and how it was used to develop their proposal. Additional guidance on the use and attribution of Generative AI at UVA can be found online.


Please contact Jonah Fogel (, Program Manager, with questions.

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