UMN Driving Tomorrow Research Investments

Thursday, September 29, 2016

From Provost Karen Hanson: I am pleased to announce that the first Grand Challenges Research grants, totaling $3.6 million in support, have been awarded to 29 teams of faculty from across the Twin Cities campus. The two-year grants will seed ambitious interdisciplinary collaborations addressing critical challenges facing Minnesota and the world--in alignment with Driving Tomorrow, the campus strategic plan.

The projects were selected through a multi-tiered faculty-based review process, with the expectation that the funded projects would capitalize on existing University research strengths, leveraging them to break new ground in addressing the University's five interrelated Grand Challenges areas of special focus:

• Assuring clean water and sustainable ecosystems
• Fostering just and equitable communities
• Enhancing individual and community capacity for a changing world
• Feeding the world sustainably
• Advancing health through tailored solutions

The Driving Tomorrow research investment we are making this fall includes $1.48 million for 21 exploratory research grants and $2.15 million for 8 collaborations shaped by interdisciplinary work groups we launched to build on the “Call for Ideas” process last year. Nearly 100 proposals were submitted by faculty; submissions overall were of very high quality. Proposal evaluation was guided by eight criteria detailed in the strategic plan, including local relevance and global impact, disciplinary diversity, interconnection with education, and sustainability.

The areas of focus for the funded collaborations are wide-ranging—e.g., high-tech strategies to mitigate water pollution, understanding the human stories behind the global immigration crisis, and precision medicine to fight cancer. In the aggregate, the project teams draw on the expertise of faculty from every college and school on the campus—as well as Extension, the Institute on the Environment, the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, and Athletics.

The GC Research grants are intended to jumpstart new research collaborations, enabling faculty to collaborate more broadly and deeply and to compete successfully for additional resources. This advances Strategic Plan recommendations to seed and support such collaborations through a bottom-up, inclusive process that builds on existing faculty strengths and leadership. This should complement work under way through MnDRIVE and the initiatives of the Office of the Vice President for Research and the GPS Alliance. The University of Minnesota Foundation is also shaping some of its work to align with these efforts.

I invite you to learn about the various funded projects elsewhere on this site.

I want to thank all the faculty who submitted proposals as well as those who served as reviewers. I extend a special thanks to members of the Grand Challenges Research Strategies Team--and especially to Professor Raymond Duvall, who chairs this Team--for ongoing work to advance the research goals of Driving Tomorrow.


Karen Hanson
Executive Vice President and Provost

This message, in modified format, was emailed to all Twin Cities faculty and staff Sept. 29, 2016.

More on the Driving Tomorrow research initiatives:

GC Research Phase 3 Opportunities (March 2018)

GC Research Phase 1 awards--Fall 2016

GC Research Phase 2 awards--Fall 2017