Grand Challenges Research: Faculty Opportunities and Next Steps

Monday, April 11, 2016

You are aware of the campus-wide process that identified a set of five interrelated Grand Challenges where we are well positioned to have major impact as a research campus. These areas capture exceptional strengths that build directly on the expertise of our faculty. We now look to continued faculty leadership in shaping University investments that will advance the transformational research goals of our Strategic Plan.

This month, we will convene five Grand Challenges Interdisciplinary Research Work Groups with the ambitious goal of developing, this summer, multiple high-potential collaborations in our five Grand Challenges areas: feeding the world sustainably; advancing health through tailored solutions; fostering just and equitable communities; enhancing individual and community capacity for a changing world; and ensuring clean water and sustainable ecosystems.

We are also rolling out opportunities for all faculty to apply for exploratory research grants to seed and foster the development of projects consistent with the Strategic Plan and its vision of a more integrative, vitally engaged campus collaboratively addressing Grand Challenges.

Each of the five Interdisciplinary Work Groups will bring together roughly a dozen faculty in broadly related areas of research—but generally with no significant prior collaboration. Involving many faculty who contributed ideas to the work of the Grand Challenges Research Strategies Team, the groups are intended as “convening bases” for identifying exciting opportunities to expand and integrate research across disciplines and colleges, enhance creative interdisciplinary approaches, and strengthen productive research collaborations within and beyond the university. To ensure strong interdisciplinary collaborations, the Work Groups may also invite additional faculty to participate.

Each group will be explicitly charged with producing one or more research proposals that, following review, may be recommended for funding from substantial one-time monies previously made available through reallocation for strategic plan implementation. Supported projects will aim to leverage the potential to secure research awards from external funders, though we recognize that the opportunities for external funding will vary.

I invite you to visit the Strategic Plan website for more information on these initiatives, and to watch for opportunities for campus engagement and discussion. I invite faculty to consider collaborating with colleagues across disciplines to apply for the exploratory research grants to foster Grand Challenges research. You can also learn more about the goals we have for Grand Challenges research and curriculum among the multiple components of our ten-year strategic plan, “Driving Tomorrow”—our aspirational roadmap for accelerating academic excellence over the next decade.


Karen Hanson
Executive Vice President and Provost

This message, in modified format, was emailed to all Twin Cities faculty and academic/administrative leaders (AEL) on April 11, 2016.