New opportunities to fund cutting edge research

By Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Vice Chancellor Marsha Mailick

Innovative research has always been at the heart of what we do at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. For decades our innovation has been fueled by support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), and there are some exciting new opportunities coming this year from our valued partner.

WARF has pledged to increase support for research programs by more than $9 million this year, including a new program from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (VCRGE), called UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative. The program will provide $5 million in grants to faculty and academic staff with permanent principal investigator status who are conducting high-risk, high-impact research with the potential to fundamentally transform a field of study – in short, we want this to fund the research projects of your dreams. UW2020 is open to all areas of study, including the physical, biological, and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities. It is called UW2020 because the program aims to bring research at UW-Madison to a new level by the year 2020.

UW2020 awards will average approximately $300,000 over two years (up to a maximum of $500,000). The deadline to submit abstract proposals is Oct. 1, with a Nov. 15 deadline for the full proposal. Abstracts for the second round are due Feb. 1 and full proposals submitted by March 15. Applications can be submitted to Instructions and FAQs are posted on the VCRGE website.

In addition, WARF will increase the funding for the Fall Research Competition by $2 million by increasing the awards in the physical and biological science divisions, as lab-based research often is more expensive to carry out. WARF support for graduate students will also increase by $2 million, creating roughly 60 additional graduate student fellowships.

The Bridge to the Future program, designed to fund multi-investigator projects with a record of campuswide impact that experience a gap or significant reduction in funding, will be continue to be supported by WARF and funds from the university. These dollars allow research teams to keep their project’s momentum going even when there are delays in federal support.

WARF grants also play a significant role in our ability to recruit and retain the best faculty. In 2014, more than $8.5 million in recruitment and retention funding from WARF via the Office of the VCRGE leveraged nearly $30 million from other units of the university. This funding resulted in the successful recruitment or retention of 91 of the 127 faculty members where the Office of the VCRGE was asked to make a commitment. This year (FY16), WARF will offer even more support to help in faculty recruitment and retention.

We’ve had some bad news on the fiscal front this year, but it is important to remember that research on our campus is largely funded by federal and private dollars. As a result, we have some great opportunities in the coming years. With help from friends like WARF, UW–Madison will continue to expand our world-class research enterprise.