MRI Seed Grant

New Seed Grant Opportunity in Multiple Areas – Manufacturing, Living Materials, Sustainability, Humanitarian Materials, Architectural Materials, Recycling, and Convergence - Funding 2021-2022

The Materials Research Institute (MRI), in collaboration with its partners, has identified a set of research themes that meet our strategic goals and have the potential for impactful research and outreach. We are asking faculty to develop high risk, high impact, transformative ideas that will enable Penn State faculty to obtain preliminary data that can be used to pursue larger grants and to encourage early-career faculty to establish new research relationships outside their own unit in the areas of:

  1. Sustainability and Manufacturing
  2. Living Multifunctional Materials Collaborative Research (contact livingmaterials@psu.edu for more details TBA)
  3. Humanitarian Materials Engineering
  4. Disruptive Concepts in Materials Recycling and Circular Economy
  5. Convergence at the intersection of Materials – Life – Health – Environment and combinations of the above themes

We are targeting these areas to enable our researchers to generate new ideas and new teams to have impact in these areas.

Sustainability and Manufacturing

This thrust is aimed at collaborations in advanced manufacturing, sustainability, and advanced characterization. Topics of interest include additive manufacturing, materials characterization, architectural materials, and sustainability. Ideally, collaborations will include processing and characterization tasks with well-justified technical and sustainability goals. We are especially interested in seeding collaborations between Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory and Penn State’s MRI faculty linking manufacturing processes (such as additive manufacturing in CIMP-3D) and materials characterization (including work in MCL). Central facilities usage combined with big data and modeling directed towards developing new collaborative teams between faculty and staff researchers is a key goal of this seed grant. Each joint project between ARL and investigators with other PSU faculty/research staff affiliations will require co-PIs from each organization with clear descriptions of publication and joint proposal goals that will be seeded in this program. A workshop to provide introductions and foster ARL/on-campus project collaborations will be forthcoming in mid/late November. Please email Mike Hickner (mah49@psu.edu) with your interests/questions for further announcements.  (Grant range $10,000 - $30,000, limit one PI)

Apply Here


Living Multifunctional Materials Collaborative Research

The Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems (LiMC2) and the Cluster of Excellence Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) are seeking to fund multiple collaborative research projects at the Pennsylvania State University and University of Freiburg. This Living Multifunctional Materials Collaborative Research Seed Grant Program 2021 will provide funds to faculty groups for 12 to 18 months, with the goal of fostering long-term collaborative and multi-disciplinary research integrating researchers and students from both universities. Proposals that have excellent intellectual merit, are aimed at broad and significant impact, and have strong potential for external funding will be given priority. (Grant range $40,000 - $50,000)

This seed grant program is led by the Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems. Please note that this seed grant does not have the same restrictions as the rest of the grants listed here. For more details please contact Zoubeida Ounaies at livingmaterials@psu.edu.

Apply Here


Humanitarian Materials Engineering

MRI has had a history in funding materials projects that benefit humanity, including projects aimed at improving physical and learning disabilities, health, food security, housing and clean water for under-resourced populations. Under resourced populations are considered domestically and internationally. We are seeking new projects in Humanitarian Materials that leverage materials innovation, characterization, outreach, and social good. Successful applications will be expected to have ties to under-resourced populations and have a demonstrated record of partnership and translation. (Grant limit $10,000, limit two PIs)

Apply Here


Disruptive Concepts in Materials Recycling and Circular Economy

MRI has recently partnered with the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center (https://pennrmc.org/) to initiate new projects that will help to translate technical solutions and expertise into the marketplace that reduce real or perceived barriers leading to expanded end use of recycled materials. Based on this new collaboration of multi-disciplinary view, we seek materials scientists, business experts, life cycle analysts, and investigators with industrially-relevant problems to propose new projects that can have short and long-term impact in Pennsylvania dealing with: (1) enhancement of the processing, sorting, or purification of recycled consumer materials or packaging such as 1-7 plastics; aluminum; steel or bimetallic cans; soda lime glass; fiber (paper and cardboard); compostable or anaerobically digestible organics; and other commonly recycled materials; (2) in manufacturing or use of recycled materials as feedstock in a new recycled content product(s); (3) manufacturing processes research that could solve an existing manufacturing inefficiency or problem which leads to increased use of an externally sourced recycled feedstock; (4) use of recycled materials as bulk material in agriculture or construction applications. Although other projects may be considered, emphasis will be placed on projects in agriculture and construction applications where new recycling technology and approaches will also have measurable economic and climate change impact. Projects to expand or enhance the highest and best use of a recycled material will be prioritized. (Grant range $30,000 - $40,000, limit two PIs)

Apply Here


Convergence at the intersection of Materials – Life – Health – Environment and combinations of the above themes

MRI has had incredible success supporting researchers at the intersection of materials science, life sciences, human health, and environmental sciences. We continue to seek new teams and new ideas in this area that build on Penn State strengths in materials. We are interested in seeding teams that include medical and clinical researchers to promote translational activities between Penn State campuses. (Grant limit $40,000, limit two PIs)

Apply Here

Seed Grant Eligibility

All Penn State faculty members (tenured/tenure track, and fixed term research faculty) who hold an appointment of half-time or more at any Penn State location are eligible to submit a seed grant proposal as a Principal Investigator (PI). ARL researchers with a demonstrated track record of external funding and publishing are also encouraged to participate. Researchers, students and staff from Penn State may be included as collaborators in seed grant proposals. Please note that while most proposals are expected to include multiple investigators, there can only be one responsible PI for each application. In addition, investigators may only participate in a single proposal.

Submission Instructions

All pre-proposals must be submitted electronically to InfoReady via: https://psu.infoready4.com no later than 5:00 pm on Dec 18, 2020. Each pre-proposal is limited to a 4-page project description and additional pages for an appendix.

The project description must include the following:

  • Title of project
  • List of PI and collaborators
  • Short description of the project/why this is a significant opportunity
  • Short description of how this project will leverage seed funding
  • Nature of collaboration (new/existing; mentorship opportunities)
  • How will you promote/leverage this work for significant external funding?
  • Total funding to be requested, including short description of anticipated expenditure

The appendix will include a list of all collaborators, their campus, colleges and/or departments, and 1-page resumes for the PI and all co-PIs.


InfoReady Quick Start Guide for Applying to Opportunities

  1. Go to https://psu.infoready4.com and log in to the site using the link in the upper right of the page then click the button for Penn State Login.
  2. Click on the title of the opportunity from the list on the home page
  3. On the details page, click the “My Application” button to the right to start or resume the application.
    NOTE: If someone will be submitting the proposal for you (i.e., your college research administrative staff) you must add them as a Proxy in your user profile prior to submission.  See the instructions below.
  4. Complete the application forms and upload the documents required by the Call for Proposals.  The application is saved as you go.  You will be prompted to resume the next time you log in.

When completed click “Submit Application.”  You will receive confirmation when the submitted application has been received.

Adding PSU employees as proxy for InfoReady

In order for another PSU employee to submit an application on your behalf you need to set them as a Proxy.

  1. Click your name in the upper right of the infoReady window when you are logged in.
  2. Complete profile information (Optional)
  3. Go to the section of the profile titled Designate an Applicant Proxy click the “Add Proxy” button.
  4. Enter your designates PSU email address in the form [AccessID]@psu.edu (i.e. abc123@psu.edu).  You must use the Access ID form of the email for the permissions to be granted.  Do not use an email alias.
  5. Click Add, then click “Save Changes.” An email will be sent to the person designated as a proxy.

Your proxy will log in to the system and follow the Application steps listed above. They will list you as the Applicant.

For assistance and submission questions contact: mah49@psu.edu  Also, help and FAQs are available on the InfoReady main page.

Review Criteria

Proposal reviews are based upon the following criteria:

  1. Intellectual merit of the proposal, including relevance to the call; creativity and innovation; significance of goals and results; soundness of research plan; and likelihood of successful project completion.
  2. A credible and clearly articulated strategy for leveraging this seed grant investment into exceptional scholarship and/or significant external funding. Potential for additional/continued activity beyond the seed grant phase may include plans for continued activity such as applications for external support from federal, state or local government agencies, industry, private foundations, and other sources of external funding.
  3. Appropriateness of the budget request for supporting the proposed research. The intent is not to fund tenure-track faculty supplemental salaries, but staff salaries are allowable.
  4. Use of central facilities is especially encouraged and the budget should detail the facilities to be used and the approximate budget for facility spending (including facility staff time).

Please direct any questions regarding the proposal process to Mike Hickner mah49@psu.edu