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Seed grants available to support faculty international collaborations

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Call for Proposals
Global Incubator Seed Grants
Amount: up to $25,000
Deadline: August 15, 2022

The McDonnell International Scholars Academy is pleased to announce the second cycle of its Global Incubator Seed Grants Initiative. Our goal is to stimulate high-impact research projects in any discipline linking WashU faculty and international collaborators.  Proposals should include at least one international collaborator, with preference given to projects involving faculty from McDonnell Academy partner institutions (other institutions beyond that are welcome).  For this year’s application cycle, additional preference will be given to projects in one of these three thematic focus areas: 1) public health; 2) environmental research; 3) digital transformation.


Seed grants of up to $25,000 each are available to support faculty research initiatives responsive to this call.

  • We anticipate funding 10-12 proposals.
  • Funding is for one year only.


  • The principal investigator must have a full-time faculty appointment at Washington University in St. Louis.
  • Research projects must include at least one international faculty collaborator.

Project Requirements

  • Collaborative research, involves at least one highly engaged international partner. Projects that leverage McDonnell Academy partner institutions to cultivate deep, meaningful ties or that could help establish new strategic partnerships will be given preference.
  • Proposals can be on any topic, with preference given to projects that are at the intersection of the following thematic focus areas from the university’s strategic plan:
    • Public health: driving equitable, evidence-based public health solutions.
    • Environmental research: energy and environmental solutions, biodiversity, environmental justice, climate change.
    • Digital transformation: digital solutions to advance studies in a range of issues, including computational therapeutics, precision agriculture, AI and human interaction, socioeconomic mobility, and digital humanities.
  • Innovative, with potential for high impact, publications and ability to secure future funding from external sources.
  • Must include a credible plan to make substantial progress toward the project’s aims within one year of funding.
  • Projects can be either early-stage or next-phase research that builds on an existing collaboration.

Deadline & Submission Requirements

All proposals must be submitted by email to by noon (CST) on Monday, August 15, 2022, with “Proposal Submission” in the subject line.

Proposals must be a single PDF or word file including the following:

  • WashU applicant information: principal investigator’s name, title/position, school, terminal degree and field of study, and email.
  • International collaborator’s information: name, title/position, institution, terminal degree and field of study, and email.
  • Title and abstract: synopsis for a lay audience, limited to 150 words.
  • Description: maximum 1,000 words including the following:
    • Specific aims: State concisely the goals and expected outcomes of the proposed project.
    • Significance & impact: Explain the project’s significance, novelty and potential impact.
    • Collaborative approach: Describe the overall approach and methods, and explain the collaborative aspects of the proposed project. Provide evidence and details of the collaborator’s role in the agreed-upon collaboration.
    • Plans for next-stage funding: Explain how this grant might help support future grant applications, and if there are specific additional external funding sources you plan to apply for within the next year.
    • Protection of human subjects (if applicable): For any research that involves human subjects, describe the plan to obtain appropriate Institutional Review Board approval. 
  • Budget: specify the dollar amount for which you are applying and a breakdown of how the funds will be spent over a one-year period.


Questions about this Call for Proposals can be directed to Roumy Theunissen,


About the McDonnell Academy         

Since its founding in 2005, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy has forged partnerships with more than thirty premier research universities around the world. The Academy has a dual mission. First, we recruit top scholars from partner universities and mentor them as they pursue graduate and professional degrees at Washington University, preparing them to become future global leaders. Second, we leverage the Academy’s international partnership network to incubate new ideas and foster collaborative research across countries and disciplines. Through our global seed grant initiatives, in the last two years we helped launch 42 new research projects in 25 countries.     



Does my international collaborator need to be from a McDonnell Academy partner institution?

Projects involving any international collaborator will be considered. However, strong preference will be given to projects that include faculty from McDonnell Academy partner institutions.

What should my budget include?

Funding will be provided for items essential to conduct the project. Allowable expenses include, participant’s incentives, IRB applications, consultation fees, travel to and from a collaborating institution, lodging and meals for PI/Co-PIs and supplies.

  • We discourage faculty from putting their salary/allocation on the proposal.
  • The expectation is that the funds should stay at WashU. Payment to other institutions should be through a sub-award or agreement.
  • Indirect costs should generally be limited to 10%.
  • We reserve the right to modify budgets or deny funds for certain expense types if they do not meet university policies.
How will projects be evaluated?

Applications will be assessed based on: (a) the project’s significance and potential impact; (b) collaborative approach; (c) ability to secure next-stage funding; (d) clarity and completeness.

What is the timeline for the current application cycle?
  • Deadline to apply: August 15, 2022
  • Decisions expected: late September/early October, 2022
  • Project start date: October 15, 2021
Do I need to include a letter of support from my international collaborator?

A letter of support from your international collaborator is not required but recommended as evidence of the agreed upon collaboration. If you provide one, it will be considered as part of your application.

Should I provide a bibliography, and will it count towards the word limit?

A bibliography is not required. If you include one, it will not count towards the word limit.

Do I need to submit biosketches for all investigators?

No, but all collaborators must be clearly identified with the following information: name, title, institution, terminal degree and field of study, and email. Additional details about your collaborator’s expertise relevant to the project can be provided in the description.

Does my project need to be completed within one year?

This grant’s duration is one year and non-renewable. All grant recipients are expected to report on progress at the end of the year and be prepared to present research findings at the next McDonnell Academy International Symposium. Your stated aims should be feasible to accomplish within this one-year timeframe.  No-cost extensions require approval. To continue the work beyond the seed grant period, you will need to secure funding from other sources.

Can I submit multiple applications?

Yes, you can be a co-PI on multiple applications, provided that the projects are sufficiently different.

Am I eligible to apply for this cycle if I have been previously funded by a McDonnell Academy seed grant?

Yes, if this is a new collaboration for a different project or for phase two of a previously-funded project.

What types of projects have you funded in the past?
  • In July 2020, ten research teams received a total of $250,000 in seed funding from the McDonnell Academy to initiate projects with international partners tackling far-reaching issues related to infectious diseases and the impact of COVID-19.
  • In partnership with the Africa Initiative, Institute for Public Health and the Social Policy Institute, the McDonnell Academy has funded seventeen additional projects on the African continent, in the areas of global health and international social policy.
  • In July 2021, the McDonnell Academy launched a new mechanism, Global Incubator Seed Grants, which helped kick-start 15 new projects on five continents.

Driving research through seed grant initiatives

2021 Global Incubator Seed Grants

Recipients included 15 research teams from five WashU schools working across different disciplines, collaborating with international faculty from around the world. 

Positive outcomes from Seed Grants

A catalyst for collaborative research across countries and disciplines, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy’s seed grant initiatives, in the last two years, launched 42 new research projects in 25 countries.

McDonnell Academy Highlights

The McDonnell Academy continues to advance high-impact research collaborations linking WashU faculty and international partners.