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The Illinois Energy Scholars maintain an email list for sharing opportunities for research funding, industry partnerships, student funding, and education and outreach activities. If you are a faculty-level researcher who would like to be counted among the Illinois Energy Scholars and receive these updates, please email us at with the subject line, “Add an Energy Scholar.”

Grant and Other Opportunities ...

Recent calls for proposals from major funding agencies, as well as speaking opportunities and other announcements for Illinois faculty-level scholars.

September 2020: Illinois Innovation Network

The University of Illinois System, its Office of the Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation (OVPEDI), and Northern Illinois University, are committed to advancing the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) by providing supplemental (operational) funding for several projects. IIN hubs are encouraged to partner/collaborate with each other and the IIN will do its best to support and facilitate. As an organization, the IIN Council will facilitate collaboration that can be incorporated into a unifying theme with the umbrella concept of “Sustaining Illinois.” Sustaining Illinois has multiple meanings, including the broad economic, health-related, and social-well-being of the state and its communities, and environmental sustainability of its food and water ecosystem, which includes addressing issues affecting groups who are underserved, experiencing racial and/or social injustice or living in segregated communities. 

Due Date: Dec. 1, 2020. Questions to Kyle Harfst >>>

Within Sustaining Illinois, several important elements need to be considered: 

(a) Education and Workforce Development: developing and sustaining the education of its citizens and developing a productive and inclusive workforce for the 21st century; 

(b) Economic Development: sustaining and developing the economy of the state, including understanding how best to support growth of diverse entrepreneurship and business formation in Illinois; 

(c) Health and Wellness: sustaining and improving the general health and social wellness of all Illinois citizens, including local and regional communities. 

(d) Water, Food, and Agriculture: sustaining the water supply, with the 20% of the world’s fresh water supply in the shores of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin, the largest in the US and 2nd largest in the world, and enhancing the home to a national leader in food and agriculture. 

(e) Computing and Data: under the umbrella of Sustaining Illinois, there is a foundation of computing, big data, and artificial intelligence. This is an important area in its own right as Illinois develops its high tech industry, but in this context it is seen as an enabler for all other aspects of sustainability as articulated above; and 

(f) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: identifying and addressing key issues for underserved populations, groups experiencing racial, ethnic and/or social injustice, and groups living in segregated communities. 

Funding projects will be considered according to the following criteria: 

Sustaining Illinois must be the dominant theme. 

• Proposals addressing multiple sustainability elements are preferred. 

• The project name, scope of work, budget and timeline need to be provided. See attached document for additional details. 

• At least two hubs (universities) must be involved in the project. 

• The project must be completed within one year of funding and will be executed on a cost reimbursement basis. 

• Upon completion of the project, a written report will be submitted to the University of Illinois System VPEDI Office. 

• Up to $30,000 will be available for each project. Match of least 50% is strongly encouraged. Matching funds may be in the form of cash or personnel time. 

• No more than 30% of the requested funds may pay for full-time researchers/professors’ salaries and benefits. 

• This funding will be limited to no more than $100,000 from University of Illinois System office in FY 2021 and $20,000 from Northern Illinois University during this same time frame. Funding total will not exceed $20,000. Proposals will be accepted to the OVPEDI office via email at no later than close of business December 1, 2020. 

A review committee consisting Working Committee Chairs and others as needed will evaluate all proposals received and will make recommendations to the University of Illinois Vice President of Economic Development and Innovation for funding. Recipients of the awards will be notified no later than mid-January 2021. 


Proposal Outline 

1. Cover page (Project Name, Lead Researcher with contact information, Co-Investigators with contact information) 

2. Sustaining Illinois Abstract (no more than 250 words) 

3. Project Description ( no more than 2 pages, single spaced, 12 font) 

4. Scope of Work (no more than 1 page, single spaced, 12 font) 

5. Describe potential for future work and sources of follow-up funding (no more than one-half page) 

6. Team bios (no more than one-half page per team member) 

7. Budget (if matching funds, include here, no more than one page) 

Illinois Innovation Network Scoring Matrix for Supplemental Funding Proposal Section 

Evaluation Points* 

Total Max Points 

Total Score** 

A. Project and activity alignment with IIN principles 


B. Project addresses Sustaining Illinois area(s) 


C. Scope of work 


D. Collaboration component with other hubs and/areas throughout Illinois 


E. Budget/Matching Funds 


F. Demonstrates potential for further work 



September 2020: NSF Sustainable Regional Systems Research Networks

The United States is made up of regional systems comprising interdependent urban and rural systems and every community category between urban and rural. Urban systems are dependent on rural systems for the provisioning of food, energy, water, and other materials and natural resources, while rural systems are dependent on urban systems for markets, manufactured goods, and medical resources. These systems are also connected by ecological processes that both influence and are influenced by human behavior. The vital interconnection of urban-rural systems underscores the critical need for the advancement of sustainable regional systems (SRS). The goal of this solicitation is to fund convergent research and education that will advance sustainable regional systems science, engineering, and education to facilitate the transformation of current regional systems to enhance sustainability. To further the advancement of SRS science, engineering, and education, NSF will support Full Scale proposals and Planning Grant proposals for Sustainable Regional Systems Research Networks (SRS RNs).

Sustainable regional systems are connected urban and rural systems that are transforming their structures and processes collaboratively with the goal of measurably and equitably advancing the well-being of people and the planet. The purpose of the SRS RNs competition is to develop and support interdisciplinary, multi-organizational teams of investigators and stakeholders working collaboratively to produce cutting-edge convergent research, education, and outreach that addresses grand challenges in sustainable regional systems. SRS RNs will study multiscale regional systems to further SRS science, engineering, and education. Key elements will include new data, methods, and models to understand interactions between natural, human-built, and social systems; improved understanding of interdependencies, mutual benefits, and trade-offs of different wellbeing outcomes for humans and the environment; new and generalizable theories of change relevant to SRS; the co-production of knowledge; and exploration of concepts of social equity in sustainable regional systems across spatial and temporal scales. SRS RN outcomes will have the potential to inform societal actions for sustainability across urban systems and the connected rural communities that make up regional systems.

Subject to availability of funds and quality of proposals, this SRS RN solicitation will support projects in the following categories:

  • SRS RNs Full Scale Awards (Track 1). These awards will support fundamental convergent research, education, and outreach that addresses engineering, environmental (biology, chemistry - including sensing, chemical analytics, and recyclable plastics, atmospheric sciences, hydrology, geology), computer and data sciences, and social and behavioral sciences of sustainable regional systems in partnerships that may embrace universities, colleges, practitioners, non-profit organizations, local governments, industry, and community groups. The award size is up to $15 million total with a duration of 5 years.
  • SRS RNs Planning Grants (Track 2). These awards are for capacity building to prepare project teams to propose future well-developed SRS RN Full Scale (Track 1) proposals. Each of these Track 2 awards will provide support for a period of one year and may be requested at a level not to exceed $150,000 for the total budget.

SRS RNs will conduct innovative and pioneering fundamental research and education that is of a scale and complexity that would not be possible within a single organization, center, or through the normal collaborative modes of NSF research support in core programs.


Read the full information >>>

September 2020: Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR)

WASHINGTON (September 16, 2020) – Scientists predict that climate change will lead to higher temperatures, as well as greater temperature variability. These changes will dramatically affect agriculture systems, decreasing crop productivity, harming farmers’ livelihoods and threatening global food security. To address these challenges, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is seeking research proposals providing transformative approaches and solutions to increase a crop’s tolerance for higher temperatures. The resulting research will improve crop’s climate resilience. This Request for Proposals (RFA) is part of FFAR’s Next Generation Crops Challenge Area, which is accepting applications starting today.

“We have a pretty good idea what increased temperatures will do to global farming, and it’s not good,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “FFAR is looking for the next generation of climate-resilient crops that can actually produce more food with fewer inputs in more variable temperatures.”

Specifically, FFAR is seeking applications that increase the basal or acquired thermotolerance of crop plants, allowing them to better survive when exposed to high temperatures. This funding opportunity is focusing on solutions that can be applied to one or more of the following crops: maize, rice, sorghum, millet, wheat, sweet potato, cassava, banana, yam, common bean, cowpea, chickpea and groundnut. Matching funds will be provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and are not required from researchers. 

Information about this funding opportunity, including application criteria, deadlines and eligibility requirements are available on the Climate Resilience RFA webpage.


August 2020: EPA Studies of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands

CHICAGO (Aug. 27, 2020) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking applications to monitor ecological conditions in the coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes. Approximately $10 million of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding will be made  available to one applicant to implement the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program for five years. The deadline for applications is Oct. 26, 2020.

“EPA hopes to gain a better understanding of the health of Great Lakes coastal wetlands through this GLRI funding opportunity,” said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “Sampling data collected from wetlands throughout the basin will give us important insight on the trends and conditions of these ecologically rich habitats.”

The Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program is a collaboration of federal agencies, states, and U.S. and Canadian academic partners in the Great Lakes. Under the Program, major coastal wetlands throughout the Great Lakes basin are sampled for bird, amphibian, fish, macroinvertebrate and plant communities, as well as for water quality. The data helps gauge the health of Great Lakes coastal wetlands and provides information on trends and habitat conditions. Since the Program began in 2010, over 1,000 coastal wetland sites have been visited, resulting in more than 150,000 hectares of coastal wetland habitat monitored.

EPA is seeking applications to continue the monitoring of biological communities and water quality in coastal wetlands across the Great Lakes. The agency expects to provide funding for one cooperative agreement of approximately $10 million over a five-year period.

Qualified non-federal entities eligible to apply for grants include non-federal governmental entities, nonprofit organizations, and institutions. This includes state agencies; any agency or instrumentality of local government; interstate agencies; federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations; colleges and universities; non-profit organizations; and other public or non-profit private agencies, institutions, and organizations.

For more information, visit EPA’s request for applications.


CONTACT: Allison Lippert,, 312-353-0967

July 2020: NOAA Climate Program Office Competitions

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office (CPO) has released its fiscal year (FY) 2021 competitions supporting approximately 90 new awards with a total of $10 million in available funds, pending budget appropriations.  This series of annual competitions support research through the CPO’s three major divisions and their subprograms including Earth System Science and Modeling (ESSM); Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI); and Communication, Education and Engagement (CEE).  The FY 2021 competitions are to be centered around four initial high-priority risk areas: (1) Coastal Inundation, (2) Marine Ecosystems, (3) Water Resources, and (4) Extreme Heat. Unlike past years which have held 10 competitions, there will be only six in FY 2021. The six competitions and their organizing program office(s) are:


  1. Atmospheric Chemistry Carbon Cycle and Climate (AC4) – Emissions, Air Quality, and Heat in Urban Areas
    • This competition will support research on how emissions and chemicals change and alter the urban atmosphere including pollutants from everyday human activities, energy generation, industry, and landfills in addition to urban meteorology. This is a continuation of a similar AC4 program from the FY 2020 CPO competitions.
    • Proposals should budget for up to $200K per year over 2-3 years.
  2. AC4 and Climate Observations and Monitoring (COM) - Atmospheric impacts due to changes in anthropogenic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic
    • This competition is broad in its scope, inviting projects on topics such as the development of observational datasets or emission inventories since the pandemic began, assessing the long term effects of anthropogenic activity change, comparative studies across sectors and regions, and identifying atmospheric markers of particular human activities, among others.
    • Proposals should budget for up to $200K per year over 1-2 years.
  3. Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) - New Climate Monitoring Approaches and Products for Areas of Climate Risk
    • This competition seeks novel approaches and tools for climate monitoring to assist with improving NOAA’s Fisheries, Ocean, Satellite, and Weather services.
    • Proposals should budget up to $150,000 per year for up to three years. Approximately 7-10 projects may be funded totaling $1.5 million.
  4. MAPP – Process-Oriented Diagnostics for Climate Model Improvement and Applications.
    •  This competition is seeking proposals to advance model diagnostics activities and integrated climate and Earth system prediction capabilities. Individual (type 1) and team (type 2) proposals are solicited through this competition; see full solicitation for further details on project type expectations.
    • Proposals for type 1 should budget up to $180,000 per year for up to three years.  Proposals for type 2 proposals should budget up to $750,000 per year for up to three years. Only one type 2 proposal will be funded, approximately 7-9 projects may be funded all together totaling $2 million.
  5. COM; Climate Variability and Predictability (CVP); and Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO) - Innovative Ocean Dataset/Product Analysis and Development for support of the NOAA Observing and Climate Modeling Communities
    • This competition is accepting two types of proposals aimed at increasing the usefulness of NOAA observation data to the broader scientific community. Type one involves developing new ocean synthesis datasets, methods, or tools. Type two involves examining current methods for ocean observation and modeling to better understand the accuracy and biases of observed versus modeled data.
    • Proposals should aim for a budget of $150,000 per year with a maximum of $450,000 for the combined three years. All funded projects are anticipated to total $1.2 million per year over three years.
  6. Adaptation Sciences (AdSci) - Advancing Climate Adaptation and Coastal Community Resilience
    • This competition is focused on interdisciplinary projects to expand the effectiveness and scale of resilience and flood planning in coastal settings. This program is particularly interested in addressing the challenges faced by vulnerable populations and climate-sensitive flooding areas.
    • Proposals should not exceed a total of $300,000 over either one or two years.


Deadlines:  Letters of Intent are due on Aug. 17, 2020, and full applications are due by 4 p.m. CDT on Nov. 30, 2020.  For the AC4 only competition, full applications are due on Oct. 19, 2020.

Award Information: The full solicitation states that NOAA anticipates granting 90 awards across all six competitions with a total of $10 million in funding, pending budget appropriations. Most awards are anticipated to fall between $50,000 and $300,000 per year unless otherwise noted. Notably, the budget for these competitions is lower than the FY 2021 ($13 million) and FY 2019 ($11.25 million) budgets.

Eligibility: Any U.S. institution of higher education, non-profit, or state and local government is eligible to apply. Applicants are highly encouraged to explore the CPO’s past funded competitions and utilize partnerships with NOAA Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes. There is no cost-sharing requirement.

Sources and Additional Information:


Naomi M. Webber, Ph.D.

Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC

Cell: 202-600-6122


May 2020: International Joint Commission — Great Lakes Board

Please be advised that the IJC Great Lakes Boards are tentatively planning to post solicitations for projects listed below on a U.S. GSA schedule by July.  The most likely GSA schedule will be the Environmental Services Schedule

To be able to respond to these IJC RFPs, potential vendors must be registered as a vendor on the GSA schedule. Registration is free, but the process may take 30-180 days

If you are interested in submitting a proposal(s) for the projects, please register using this link:

Please also see email below for additional information about the registration.


Tentative Great Lakes Board projects:

  • Envisioning Our Great Lakes Future: Scenarios, Opportunities, Threats and Responsive Governance
  • Third Binational Great Lakes Basin Poll
  • Operationalizing an Early Warning System for the Great Lakes
  • Synthesis of IJC Nutrients-related Projects
  • Development of Surface and Ground Water Integration Model and Management Framework


Thank you for your support of the IJC’s work in the protection of the Great Lakes!


Lizhu Wang, Ph.D.

Environmental Science Advisor/Secretariat of SAB-RCC

International Joint Commission

Great Lakes Regional Office

100 Ouellette Ave, Windsor, ON N9A 6T3

Tel: 519-562-4980

April 2020: National Science Foundation — Coastlines and People Hub

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a new multi-directorate solicitation for Coastlines and People (CoPe) Hubs for Research Broadening Participation. The purpose of the CoPe Hubs is to conduct basic research to improve the understanding of interactions among natural, human-built, and social systems in coastal, populated environments at multiple scales. Project topics can cover a wide range of issues including disaster resilience and decision making, interactions with the built vs. natural environment, or natural coastal ecosystem processes, among other areas. Hubs should establish partnerships that can lead to the development of practical planning and adaptation methods for responding to sea level rise, climate change, and natural disasters. 

There will be two project funding tracks, Focused and Large-Scale: 

  • Focused Hubs will serve a specific geographic region or scientific question with smaller budgets. These projects will be funded at up to $1 million per year for three to five years. 
  • Large-Scale Hubs will have large regional or national coverage and a broader scientific question. These awards will have larger funding amounts, between $2-4 million per year, and may be carried out by either continuing grants or cooperative agreements for up to five years. 

Applications should also address plans for broadening participation in STEM within the Hub and the surrounding community. Proposers are encouraged to form partnerships and define an organizational structure to engage with stakeholders including other institutions, non-academic organizations, and community groups and demonstrate how such partnerships will contribute to the Hub’s objectives. In addition to prioritizing broadening participation to foster a more inclusive scientific workforce, the CoPe program also focuses on stakeholder engagement through efforts such as “citizen science, stakeholder partnerships, community engagement,” and more. The solicitation points to the NSF Committee on Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) report Investing in Diverse Community Voices for recommendations that could be integrated into proposals. 

The CoPe Hubs solicitation is the largest and final mechanism unveiled as part of the CoPe program. NSF has previously awarded Conference grants, EAGER (exploratory) awards, and Research Coordination Networks (RCNs) as part of the CoPe program. A list of all these awards is available below. In addition, four scoping sessions were held to drive the direction of the CoPe program and the whitepapers and background on the sessions are also available below. 

Due Date: Letters of intent for Focused Hubs are due Aug. 10, 2020, and full applications are due Sept. 9, 2020. Letters of intent for Large-Scale Hubs are due on Sept. 28, 2020, and full applications are due on Oct. 28, 2020.

Eligibility: Proposals may be submitted by U.S. based nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher Education, or research labs. Institutions and organizations are not limited in their number of submissions. An individual may only be a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI on one Hub proposal. 

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF anticipates granting a total of $29,500,000 for 8-10 total Hubs. It is not indicated how many of each kind of Hub will be granted. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

March 2020: NSF Gen-4 Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program new solicitation (NSF-20-553)

Dear Colleagues,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) has announced a new solicitation (NSF-20-553) under the Gen-4 Engineering Research Centers (ERC) Program.

With its long history and proud tradition, the ERC Program continues to be a landmark program in federal support for large-scale center-type university research. These centers provide an interdisciplinary environment where academe and industry focus together on transformative fundamental research to advance complex engineered systems that are important for the Nation's future. NSF has continually refined the goals of the ERC program to meet evolving needs. The NSF-requested 2017 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) “A New Vision for Center-Based Engineering Research” recommends that NSF place a greater emphasis on forming research centers focused on convergent research and education approaches that address challenges with significant societal impact. Building upon the NASEM’s recommendations, the new Gen-4 (fourth generation) ERC Program has been created.  The Gen-4 ERCs will continue to focus on advancing engineered systems through inclusive cross-disciplinary and cross-sector partnerships, while placing emphasis on basic research with high-risk/high-payoff ideas that will lead to societal impact through convergent approaches, engaging stakeholder communities, and strengthening team formation.  This new solicitation (NSF-20-553) is the second Gen-4 ERC solicitation. 

Thank you for your kind attention and please spread the news!



Kon-Well Wang, Ph. D.

Division Director

Division of Engineering Education and Centers

Directorate for Engineering

2415 Eisenhower Avenue

National Science Foundation, Alexandria, VA 22314