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University-Industry Engagement Week

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UL Research Institutes opens $7M grant program

A detailed article on the just-launched grant funding program from UL Research Institutes appears in the January issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here.

An opportunity for significant grant funding across a range of research areas is now available from UL Research Institutes (ULRI), a non-profit arm of Underwriters Laboratories dedicated to advancing public safety through scientific discovery. ULRI has opened its Discoveries in Safety Grants Program to applicants from non-profits, for-profits, and institutes of higher education.

Based on a three-year grant cycle in which recipients would receive up to $600,000 over the lifespan of the award, funding is provided on a cost-reimbursement basis. The competitive grants program will promote research that comports with ULRI’s six institutes and addresses its three grand challenges: building resilience for a sustainable future; advancing individual and societal health in the 21st Century; and promoting safety at the human-digital interface. Funded research projects are set to launch in Q4 2024.

Envisioned as a way to find novel veins of research that ULRI has yet to mine within its focus areas, notice of the Discoveries in Safety Grants Program has been sent to vice presidents and vice chancellors of research at universities and research institutes across the U.S. and Canada. While it remains to be seen what the applicant response will be, the feeling among ULRI leaders is that the call for submissions will generate a healthy response.

While the announcement was made in the middle of the holiday season for a tight-turnaround February application deadline, aspirants are expected to have plenty of time to respond since most serious researchers already have proposals — or the information needed to quickly create a proposal — in their files. Each of the six institutes will make two awards, each one for $600,000 spread evenly over three years. Deadline for the initial submissions is February 16, 2024.

While ULRI has funded outside research for years, this is the first time it has structured a competitive grant program on a global scale. Awareness of the initiative is being promoted with a massive e-mail campaign, earned media, paid media, social media, message boards and word-of-mouth. Organizers are expecting to receive as many as 50 to 100 submissions in each of the six categories, giving ULRI an opportunity to choose from a large sample, thus increasing the chances that top-tier proposals that tightly align with ULRI’s research interests will emerge.

But applicants will initially only be asked to submit a three-page white paper, or letter of intent. Personnel at ULRI will then review the LOIs and inform applicants if they are no longer in the running, or if they need to send in more detailed information and advance to the next level of consideration. By September 2024, according to ULRI, funds will be disbursed and research will begin.

“This is our effort to start learning the things we don’t already know,” says Chris Cramer, ULRI’s senior vice president and chief research officer, referencing the wide net ULRI is casting. “If there’s research that aligns with what we’re interested in, we should fund it, but what if we don’t meet that researcher and don’t know what they’re doing? This is our effort to begin soliciting for research, to go after the unknown unknowns. We’d like to generate the broadest possible level of awareness so we receive proposals that cover the full spectrum, that we’re confident there’s not something we’re missing that we’d really like to invest in.”

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week