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UVA’s quick and simple funding program boosts cross-discipline research

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 7th, 2018

A research fund that requires faculty members to work with colleagues from separate disciplines is proving to be more popular than the creators ever imagined, making quick and easy funding available for projects that might never have been attempted without it.

The 3 Cavaliers program at the University of Virginia (UVA) helps faculty members connect and pursue new research with the potential for significant external funding. It serves as a connection point in a rapid seed funding program designed to enable creative, collaborative and consequential research, says Cheryl Wagner, chief of staff with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The program was created in partnership with all 11 of UVA’s schools and provides early-stage funding of multidisciplinary teams in the amount of $15,000 or $60,000. Applicants must consist of groups of three faculty members from at least two disparate disciplines, located in different units or schools at UVA.

The three faculty members cannot be working simultaneously on an existing sponsored research project, and the 3 Cavaliers funds cannot be used for extending existing, externally funded projects. A project also cannot have sufficient preliminary results that would make it competitive for funding by external agencies.

Wagner says the goal is to provide a quick, easy way for faculty to find counterparts in other UVA schools to work with and then apply for a source for seed funding that would be much more accessible than standard options.

“There is no review of the specific science behind the project. The idea is that you can quickly receive the money, as opposed to the normal grant process where it takes you months to apply, then it will be reviewed, and you’ll get the money next year,” Wagner says. “It’s a quick engagement. If you have a great idea and you can partner with someone outside of your department you haven’t worked with before, we’ll fund it now. We announced the selected projects on September 17, and 10 days later they had the money to spend.”

The recipients have an initial 12 months to use the funds, which can be extended one time for six months, making a maximum 18-month funding period for each grant. The goal initially was to fund 50 projects. The 3 Cavaliers program received more than 100 submissions and funded 77 of them in September with $4.6 million.

UVA wanted to encourage cross-discipline collaboration because so much research is done in the silos of the schools, or even within sharply defined areas of a single school, Wagner says. The 3 Cavaliers program is designed to foster more creative approaches.

“We want them to reach out to someone other than the usual suspects, the people you work with in your area,” Wagner says. “It brings a new perspective and often sparks a really new idea. We’re trying to help seed that kind of collaboration and leverage it for external funding.”

A detailed article on the 3 Cavaliers program appears in the October issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, plus gain access to the entire 11-year archive of the publication’s case studies and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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