Research Seed Grants

Application opens: August 1, 2024

Application closes: November 1, 2024

Period of Performance: April 10, 2025 – April 9, 2026

Purpose

The Illinois Space Grant Consortium (ILSGC) Research Seed Grants are designed to facilitate the development of research expertise among ILSGC members in aerospace engineering, astronomy, Earth and space science, and other areas of interest to NASA. Applications by faculty from non-research-focused institutions and pre-tenure faculty will be given preferential consideration. The grants will allow the award recipients to obtain the preliminary results needed to support larger proposals to NASA and other federal or non-federal funding agencies.  Emphasis will be placed on research in an area of interest to NASA.

Additional Eligibility Restrictions

Applicants may be faculty members or research scientists who are either early career (Ph.D. up to seven years postgraduate) or starting a new area of research. Member institutions (and individuals) are not limited to one proposal. Women, under-represented minorities, and persons with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

Funds available

Funding requests up to $8,000 will be considered.

Period of Performance

Funding has been allocated to these grants for the period April 10, 2025 – April 9, 2026.

You will submit a performance period based on your application timeline, which should be less than the dates above. A reasonable timeline is your project timeline plus 45 days for invoicing.  If you request the entire year, you must explain why that time is required.

Funding will be released incumbent upon authorization of funds by NASA and the established subaward.

Proposal Compliance

All proposals submitted by the deadline and satisfying proposal guidelines are eligible for funding consideration. Prior to submission, the proposer’s research/grant office or financial administrator for the institution must approve the proposal. While the PI/Project Lead may submit the proposal, they should ensure that the institution’s commitment has been approved before submission.

Requirements

  • Proposed projects should have an emphasis on aerospace, physics, astronomy, cosmology, Earth system science, and other interdisciplinary space-related science or engineering fields relevant to NASA Mission Directorates. You will have to describe this alignment in your proposal.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) should be a top priority when submitting proposals. Projects should encourage participation by women, underserved and underrepresented groups in STEM, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Grants must be matched (at least one-to-one) with funds from non-federal sources. Prior to the execution of a subaward agreement, the source of matching funds must be identified and confirmed by a letter from the appropriate authority. Waived indirect costs and faculty effort can qualify as matching funds.

Proposal Guidelines

Applications must be submitted online through the application portal.

ILSGC has created templates for submitting the required materials for each proposal – one in MS Word, which contains the narrative portion of the proposal, and one in MS Excel with budget information.

The proposal should contain the following sections:

  1. Program Summary/Statement of Work: Provide a brief overview of the program (not to exceed 500 words).
  2. Program Description: Describe the proposed project and how it will engage Illinois students, educators, researchers, and/or the public in NASA’s activities. If proposing a research project, the proposers should present the project proposal in plain language so that individuals who are not experts in the proposed research area will be able to effectively evaluate the research plan.
  3. Purpose and Impact: What is the purpose of the program? What is the intended impact of the program?
  4. Program participants: Who will participate? Provide the projected number of participants per year. How will your program engage individuals typically underrepresented in STEM fields, including, but not limited to, women, first-generation students, rural students, low-income students, and others? The proposal should describe specific actions planned to involve individuals typically underrepresented in STEM.
  5. Alignment with NASA’s activities, interests, or programs: The proposal should demonstrate how the program aligns with NASA’s interests/activities. As much as possible, please identify the specific NASA Mission Directorate (See Appendix A), program, activity, office, or NASA Center aligned with your project. You may also want to review the list of NASA Space Grant Performance Goals in Appendix B and Illinois Space Grant Goals in Appendix C
  6. Program Timeline and Period of Performance: Provide a program timeline. What is the duration of the program? Will funding require the entire period of performance? If so, please explain.
  7. Past evidence of program success (if applicable): This section should include a summary of accomplishments from your previous ILSGC award, including participants, goals achieved, proposals submitted, papers/presentations, or collaborations with NASA, the aerospace industry, or other partners in Illinois. If your past award had some challenges, what do you plan to do this time to mitigate those challenges?
  8. Future plans: Do you plan to seek out other (Non-NASA ILSGC) funding in the future? If so, what funding mechanisms are you planning to seek out? If you do not plan to seek out other funding, why not?
  9. Measuring success and impacts: The proposal should discuss how you plan to measure the impact and/or success of your program. It should also summarize the program’s timeline, milestones, and metrics.
  10. Project management: The proposal should address how the project will be managed and staffed. This section should identify any possible challenges associated with the project’s implementation and how the project will address those challenges. It should also include information on invoicing and who will submit the invoices.

Sections A through J combined should not exceed 5 pages. Sections K through O have no page limits.

  • CVs/Resume of Project Lead/P.I. and Co-investigators: The P.I./Project Lead can have a 2-page CV/Resume. Any additional Co-leads/Co-Is can have a 1-page CV/Resume.
  • References, if needed (no page limit).
  • Collaboration Letters/ Letters of Support/Additional Support: While not required, if your team has collaborators from NASA, industry, an ILSGC affiliate, or other organizations, you may include information about the collaboration with your proposal. If you have received additional financial support or anticipate any additional support for this project, include information such as the name of the funding agency, award amount, and the anticipated award date if not yet awarded.
  • Budget Justification: The budget justification should explain details related to each expenditure and any sources of cost share. The justification should align with the activities proposed in the program description and be consistent with the detailed budget table.
  • Budget: The budget must use the provided template in MS Excel. It should provide sufficient details on the planned expenditures in table form to allow proposal reviewers to assess the reasonableness of the proposed budget.

Please keep in mind the following restrictions when preparing your budget:

  • All individuals (including students) directly funded with ILSGC funds or contributing cost share must be U.S. citizens.
  • Direct Labor costs shall be separated by titles (e.g. professor, graduate research assistant, undergraduate assistant, etc.) with estimated rates and total amounts of each.  PIs should seek to leverage other sources of support for their direct labor costs (e.g., non-federal matching funds, other grants) to maximize funding provided to students.  However, support for the PI is possible with strong justification citing the absence of administrative support for the grant, and is limited to $4,000.
  • Domestic travel shall include the purpose, the number of travelers, the number of trips and expected location, the duration of each trip, transportation costs, and per diem. Foreign travel is not allowed.
  • Unallowable items include, but are not limited to, cost overruns, retroactive funding, renovations, and any expenditures subject to Uniform Guidance, including furniture, hosting, office supplies, or “equipment”, including computers.  Computer programs may be considered if specialized and directly related to the proposed project. Applicants are encouraged to contact the ILSGC staff with specific questions about the allowability of specific types of expenses. Note: The Federal Government defines ‘equipment’ as tangible personal property with a useful life of more than one year and a purchase price of $5,000 and above.
  • Purchases of items considered “souvenirs” (e.g., trophies, t-shirts, etc.) are not allowed.
  • Purchases of food is not allowed. (Some exceptions exist, such as per diem during travel.)
  • Indirect costs for higher education institutions are limited to the federally negotiated rate of the institution.
  • The amount and source of cost-shared funds must be identified.
  • Proposals can include requests for Principal Investigators (PI) who are United States citizens may include direct support funds (e.g. salary, travel etc). Principal Investigators who are non- US citizens may be selected for funding provided there is NO salary, stipend, travel, or any other form of direct support is proposed.

Selection Criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by the ILSGC Director and Affiliate Principal Investigators and selected based on adherence to the above criteria, merit, and equitable distribution of resources across the Consortium. Women, under-represented minorities, and persons with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply. Proposal submission is limited to faculty/professional staff (research and professorial) at ILSGC affiliates and the lead institution.

Notice of Award:

If a proposal is approved for funding, the applicant will be notified by e-mail once the committee has had an opportunity to consider all applications. An award letter will be sent containing a start date, which is anticipated to be April 10, 2025.  Funding will be released incumbent upon authorization of funds by NASA, and the affiliate subaward is in place.

PLEASE NOTE: Funds will be paid through the affiliate’s subaward with Illinois Space Grant.

Post Award Expectations:

NASA’s STEM Gateway Requirement

All students and project leads/principal investigators will need to register in NASA’s STEM Gateway System.

Budgets:

The awardee and their respective department/institution will monitor funding activity and expenditures. Awarded funds are limited specifically to the expenses itemized and approved as part of the original application and may not (without ILSGC approval) be utilized for any other expenditure not previously identified. Any residual funds at the close of the project will be returned to the Illinois Space Grant Consortium.

Invoicing:

  • Awarded projects should be prepared to invoice the ILSGC at least quarterly but not more than monthly for project expenditures, even if no funding is used.
  • Cost share should be reported on each invoice
  • If you have multiple projects funded, please indicate the project that is spending the funding (can be in an email or on the invoice)
  • Expectation is to send invoices to SPA spasubinvoices@illinois.edu  and cc Heidi hbjerke2@illinois.edu   and Missy mbeckle@illinois.edu  
  • Must be compliant with Uniform Guidance 200.332

Required Reporting:

The principal investigator on the awarded proposal will be contacted to complete the data collection sheet required for NASA’s data collection and reporting. The due dates are in the timeline. Here is the template of the data collection file.

  • Progress reports and final reports are required for all funded programs. You will receive the spreadsheet file in the Fall, Spring, and Summer to be completed and returned.
  • Comply with ILSGC, NASA, and our External Evaluator’s data requests.
  •  Students over the age of 18 who receive significant awards that meet one or more of the following criteria: receive $3000 or more in financial support or 160 hours of participation or greater, are considered significant. Students who are significantly funded by the project must be willing to provide their information and participate in the NASA longitudinal tracking program. Longitudinal tracking is required for all students until they take their next step. For example: if a student is a junior who receives significant funding from ILSGC, we will ask for the student’s information yearly until they enter graduate school or take a position in their career field.
  • If possible, please include any photographs relevant to the program, involving participants, with captions. Each person with a recognizable face must have signed a photo-release form found here. (Heidi will contact the students and get the signed form if you provide their names and contact information).

Peer-Reviewed Presentations and Publications:

  • Any publications or presentations related to the project should be submitted to ILSGC.
  • Researchers submitting NASA-funded articles in peer-reviewed journals or papers from conferences now shall make their work accessible to the public through NASA’s PubSpace at Submit to PubSpace – Scientific and Technical Information Program (nasa.gov). PubSpace provides free access to NASA funded and archived scientific publications. Research papers will be available within one year of publication to download and read.
  • Papers and presentations should acknowledge ILSGC funding using this statement: “The material contained in this document is based upon work supported by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant or cooperative agreement. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NASA. This work was supported through a NASA grant awarded to the Illinois/NASA Space Grant Consortium.”

Timeline

August 1, 2024Applications Open
November 1, 2024Applications Due
Mid DecemberAwards selected
By late January 2025Awards announced
March 15, 2025Subaward paperwork due
April 10, 2025New grants begin
August 1, 2025Summer data forms sent
September 15, 2025Summer data forms due
December 1, 2025Fall data forms sent
January 15, 2026Fall data forms due
April 9, 2026Grant year ends
May 1, 2026Spring data forms sent
June 15, 2026Spring data forms due
June 15, 2026All Yr 1 funds spent and invoiced

Send questions to Heidi Bjerke at hbjerke2@illinois.edu